Stewart pleased to end hockey drought

Coventry Blaze coach Danny Stewart is glad to return to hockey normality (PHOTO: Scott Wiggins)

Coventry Blaze coach Danny Stewart is finally glad to be back in a hockey arena after going without hockey for the longest period in his life.

The countdown is well and truly on as Blaze get ready to begin the Elite Series against Manchester Storm on Saturday afternoon.

And Stewart, who saw his team lose 6-1 in a warm-up with Nottingham Panthers on Thursday, reckons it will be less hectic now the action is finally about to begin.

“It’s the longest I’ve gone without hockey by some way,” he said. “It’s been frustrating at times, probably for all people in situations and the biggest one was the fact we had a really special team that had the possibility to win trophies.

“When that was cut short, once the frustration had died down, it was more about focussing on how to live with this thing then it was when we could play again.

“It’s been stop and go over the last year with the uncertainty over whether we would play or not.  The full season was shut down then there was the talk of a competition like this.

“I’ve taken advantage of it too in my personal life and having that time off from the pressure has given me the chance to do other things.  We’re all recharged and ready to go.

“After the last three weeks, it’s been hectic and it’s all about getting everything in place so when the action finally starts, it will be nice to watch what’s happening, cut video and do what we’re born to do.”

Blaze could arguably feel aggrieved over the timing of the coronavirus lockdown as they were the form team at the time, sitting in third place and in a great position to push for the title in the final weeks of the season.

Stewart reached out to the members of that team to gauge interest in getting them back together and admits for some, it would have been better for them to stay where they were.

Janne Laakkonen is one of the 2019/20 team to come back for Coventry Blaze for the Elite Series (PHOTO: Scott Wiggins)

“I had 14 of the 2019/20 team due to come back for a regular season and we spoke them ahead of this event to see if there was any interest,” he added.

“In the cases of Justin Hamonic, Johnny Curran and David Broll, we felt they were better off where they were.

“They’re playing well and have the chance to play all the way into June so to try and convince them to come over for a five-week series was difficult.  We just felt it was best for them to stay.

“But I think all the team will use this as an opportunity to look at possible players for next season and there’s probably things already going on behind the scenes.

“It’s a shop window for sure, but definitely for next year, this is step one to getting back to some kind of normality and we’re certainly glad to be back.”

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