INTERVIEW: Wayne Slater

Wayne Slater spent over a decade with Blackburn Hawks – as both player and coach – before leaving for Germany in 2010. The popular defenseman was a product of Hawks’ junior set-up and went on to play 160 games for the senior team – scoring 42 goals with 67 assists. Coast to Coast caught up with Slater to talk about his new life abroad and the Hawks:

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

WS – I moved out to Germany through work. I’ve been out here for 2½ years now and so much has happened in that space of time – from getting married to the birth of my son. It’s a completely different lifestyle; very family orientated and I love it. The weather also helps.

C2C – What do you miss about England?

WS – When I first moved out here I missed so many things from home. From my family and friends, to little things you just take for granted like bacon, Bisto, Ribena and English sausages – and Darwen Street Kebabs! Now we’ve found alternatives for most things. I’ve got to say I miss my family and friends the most now though.

C2C – Are you still in contact with any former team-mates?

WS – I’m still in touch with many of the lads I grew up with through the Hawks – Neal Haworth, Adam Fuller, Scott Barnett, Adam Leaver & Ric Hughes to name a few. When we used to play together we weren’t just team-mates, we were friends who’d grown up together through the Juniors.

C2C – Tell us about your team in Germany – how does the standard compare?

WS – When I first moved here I found it very difficult to find a team to play on, as they’ve all got a one import only rule. I managed to join a team in the Bayernliga, which was similar to my time in the SNL with Solway when we use to play teams like Fife and Dundee – but all the teams were to that standard. However with a son on the way it was too much of a commitment. We trained three times a week and played on Friday and Sunday. I dropped down a league to what was like the average teams of NIHL1. It was good fun but I had to share ice time with another import, so didn’t play many games and found it hard to be match fit. This year I’ll play for ASV Dachau Woodpeckers in a different league, so we’ll have to see how that goes.

C2C – Do you still follow the Hawks?

WS – I do keep up with them and how they’re getting on. I played for them since I was 14 years old and I’ll always be a Hawk, despite spending a couple of years away at Solway and Flintshire due to various circumstances.

C2C – Given the size of Hawks’ fan base and history at higher levels, many people believe the club continually underachieves. What are your thoughts with regard to the Arena’s role in this?

WS – The Hawks’ fans are the best set of fans I’ve had the honour of playing in front of. The question as to why the Hawks are not in a higher league is a difficult one. You could say the club are lucky to have the backing of the Arena and if it wasn’t for them the Hawks may no longer exist as we know it today. As a result I think they’re nervous of stepping out of their comfort zone. It’s not just a case of throw a few imports around your good local Brits and we have an EPL team. The main factor is always the cost.

C2C – But there are clubs of a similar size who easily sustain higher level hockey – surely the Hawks should be aspiring to that?

WS – I’m not sure what some imports earn these days but I’d imagine four good ones could cost in excess of £40-50K per season. On top of that you’ll have to fill the team with the best Brits you can find if you want to be competitive. You’ve currently got players playing at what is effectively a semi-pro level and you’d be asking some of them to make a commitment which is almost professional – it all costs money. I’m not saying the EPL is beyond reach, but a proper plan on how to achieve it would need to be set out and supported by everyone including the Arena.

C2C – What are your thoughts on the Hawks at the moment?

WS – Last year was great and Owen & Brittle managed to do a fantastic job. I honestly thought it would be a platform for the Hawks to build on, but was shocked to hear of so many experienced players leaving. It’s normal for some players to move on, but to lose so many was a major blow. I wonder if the real questions as to why it happened have really been answered. Moving on to this year’s team, with no disrespect to any of the players there, in my opinion things have taken a step backwards. They’ve some great local young players who’ve been on the team for quite a few years now, like Chris Arnone, Sam Dunford & Dave Meikle and they’ve managed to bring in some very good young players from other teams, but the lack of experience throughout the top lines concerns me and I think this shows in some of the results so far this year.

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

WS – My secondment of three years comes to an end May next year, although I’m hopeful I’ll be given an extension for a bit longer. Only time will tell.

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