A game changing signing
Talk about saving the best for last.
Belfast Giants certainly did that when they announced former Växjö Lakers captain Liam Reddox as their final signing…and what a player to bring in.
This isn’t just a signing that changes the game for Belfast as they look to retain their league crown, this is a signing that’s a game changer for the Elite League as a whole.
When did you ever see the captain of a top, top SHL team make a direct move to the UK in the past, who, two years ago was a Champions Hockey League runner-up?
Reddox’s move to the UK is an exciting one that really got the fans excited in Belfast last week and rightly so, as a player with 100 games of NHL experience as well.
Fans of Cardiff dreamt of being able to lure him to Wales while, perhaps more fancifully, Glasgow Clan fans were hoping his Scottish family ties would have been enough to see him in purple.
Instead he’s gone for teal and in a year where coach Adam Keefe has basically had to start from scratch after seeing his title-winning team decimated, it’s one hell of a cherry for the top of the cake.
Having interviewed Reddox on numerous occasions, I knew the Elite League was one that interested him after coming up against both Devils and Clan in the CHL in recent years.
But what positive message does it give about the league as a whole when players of his calibre are coming here to play? I’ll tell you what message – a huge one.
Add to his signing, the arrival of KHL stalwarts in Martin St Pierre and Chad Rau has also upped the game this year in the EIHL as the season looms into view.
We’ve seen big name players come here and not live up to the billing their resume would suggest, but you get the feeling these three and Reddox in particular will live up to their reputations.
We can only hope this is the start of a new and exciting era of British ice hockey where names that carry weight in the sport can hit the ice here.
Why King laid down the gauntlet
Sometimes it’s never a good idea to have notifications on especially when you write and post something that got people talking like I did last week.
Last week, I interviewed Cardiff Devils co-owner Steve King in a two-part feature to mark five years since he, Kelly Hughes, Brian Parker and Craig Shostak took over the club and the success they’ve had since.
One comment piqued a lot of interest when he said: “It’s very evident the other clubs are tired of us winning and are really going for it with their chequebooks.”
My phone didn’t stop to the point I had to turn the notifications off and every time I checked in on it, there was always new comments about what had been said.
Firstly, to see that amount of people talking about is fantastic and I don’t think we talk about the sport enough when it comes to these kinds of things.
Secondly, so many people seem to know what teams have to spend and what their budgets are that they can dismiss what King said.
Now, Steve may have been a little tongue in cheek in what he said and if his intention was to cast a cheeky fishing line into the Elite League waters, I hope he brought his net because he would have cleaned up.
Everything from people dismissing his claims about running the club within their means to those with an irony klaxon in a summer where they’ve recruited strongly this summer as they look to win the title back.
I’m not here to get into what was said and how he said, or to dismiss what others said, but on the eve of the new season, King managed to get the competitive juices going, which is healthy.
Belfast may have been more successful last season in terms of trophies, something their fans were more than quick to point out, but if you look at the last five years, two leagues, two play-offs, two Challenge Cups and three Conferences is not a club that have got lucky.
They won the play-offs last year so still had something to show for the season. Sure, the league went to Northern Ireland, but the play-offs were an adequate consolation.
There’s a plan there at Cardiff and it’s clear from what King told me, they’re in to for the long haul. If he’s going to brandish the “chequebook” line again in an attempt to get people going, then that’s all good.
The league is as competitive as it’s ever been and with respect to Edinburgh Capitals and MK Lightning, we’re going to see all the league places fought for right to the death so if a throwaway line in a lengthy interview is going to get people hot under the collar, then I can’t wait to see what we’re going to see on the ice.