INTERVIEW: Peter Tapp

Peter Tapp was a popular figure during his time with Blackburn Hawks. Never afraid to drop the gloves, ‘Tappy’ could play a bit too, with the big defenseman often skating ‘coast to coast’ before popping home a vital goal. Now based in Switzerland, he took time out to talk to C2C about his new life abroad:

C2C – Why did you go to Switzerland and are you enjoying being there?

PT – My wife is Swiss and most of her family live out here. Before we were married we visited on numerous occasions and the country won me over. The pace of life is much slower and the weather is better. Ice hockey is the main sport and it’s given me an opportunity to get away from working shifts.

C2C – What are you missing about England?

PT – Family, friends and ale! I’ve searched high and low for ale, but can’t find it anywhere at the minute! On the whole though I can’t really say I miss too much. Skype, Facetime and Facebook make it really easy for me to keep in touch with people. I’m still in touch with former team-mates like Michael Brunton, Gordon Whyte & Chris Gracie.

C2C – Tell us about your team in Switzerland and the season just gone.

PT – I’ve just finished my first year with the Bätterkinden Flames. We are in the Swiss 4.liga which is the bottom tier and we finished 5th out of eight teams. The season is five months long and we play 14 times. I played 12, scored 8 with 5 assists and had 16 PIMs. It was a roller coaster season but it took me a couple of games to find my feet. We beat every team above us, but the team below us beat us twice. At one point we were second, but we let it slip. I found the team on the internet, contacted the manager and got invited to a training session. I think it’s fair to say they were dubious about an Englishman playing ice hockey as most of them didn’t know we have leagues in England. The team is made up of a good bunch of lads and the club paid my ITC card which was very kind of them.

C2C – How does the standard compare with the NIHL?

PT – It’s quite good on the whole and I’d say the top six would all compete in NIHL1. My team would probably be somewhere in the middle, although it’s hard to really say as the style of play is different. Ice hockey here is very offensive and most teams I’ve played against are very well drilled. Another big aspect of the game which is missing here is fighting. There are sometimes handbags, but if you drop the gloves and go toe to toe it’s a game penalty and a 300CHF fine! I’ve ended up with the lowest PIMs I think I’ve ever had. It’s definitely an aspect I miss. As for the sport on a whole here it’s extremely popular and is a higher standard. The A & B league in particular are brilliant to watch. I’ve been to a couple of games and the pace is extremely fast, and I can see why NHLers were tempted here during the lockout.

C2C – Rumour has it you nearly signed for the Hawks last year. What did you make of their run to the play-off final?

PT – When I returned to the game last season with the Raptors I started training again with the Hawks. A lot had changed since I played with them. Jared and Dangy had training well structured and the lads seemed to have a lot of respect for them. I wasn’t planning moving here until later this year, but we had an opportunity we couldn’t turn down. Had it not been for that I would like to think I would’ve been able to play for the Hawks for one last season. Making the play-off final last year was an absolutely brilliant achievement for everyone concerned. Seeing the size of the crowd was something special and brought back memories of when I used to watch as a kid. Every single one of the lads played their hearts out.

C2C – What are your thoughts on this season?

PT – I have to say I was concerned the Hawks would flop this year. To now see them sitting in fourth is great. From what I’ve read some of the results haven’t been pretty, but these are the ones that count; winning when it looks like you’re not going to. Solway joining the league has definitely strengthened it making a top four spot harder to attain. It’ll be interesting to see what happens in the off-season should Deeside not get promoted. The standard of hockey in NIHL2 isn’t the best, so some of the Dragons may be tempted back to Blackburn should their promotion attempt fail. Having said that I do hope they make it as it would be good to see another North West club in NIHL1.

C2C – Ex-Whitley star Karl Culley has returned to the game this year at Billingham. What do you remember of your battles with the Warriors?

PT – To be honest I don’t really recall many personal battles with Karl, but I do remember his line was formidable and used to bag the majority of the goals. Whitley were an aggressive side who always played to their strengths. I’ll never forget the long trips up there with a short bench and it was always an intimidating place to play. The majority of times we played there we left without the points and a visit to the hospital. One time one of the Sheffield twins suffered a concussion and couldn’t remember anything from the previous two weeks. For three hours on the way home we filled the void with rubbish for him!

C2C – How about their former boss Simon Leach? Any memories of him?

PT – We were playing in Whitley in 08/09 and losing heavily in the third. I picked up the puck in the neutral zone, skated past him and he tripped me up. I wasn’t in the best of moods and asked him to dance. We had a scrap, which I think I edged and went to the box where he asked if I wanted to go again. I told him you’re in our barn next week, so how about we go again there in front of my crowd? He wouldn’t agree so we decided to go again after our penalties. As soon as we left the box we went again and this time he edged it. We went to the box, shook hands and that was that. Although we lost it’s a fond memory as that’s what hockey is all about. Unfortunately we ended the season losing a relegation play-off game against Manchester.

C2C – Have you got any plans to return to the UK in the future?

PT – I’ll be back to visit friends and family, but I’m happily settled here and can’t see any point in the future where I’ll return full time. I’m hoping to arrange a trip over with my team in a year or two in the off-season to play a few friendlies.

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