Could Tigers NIHL trials point way to professional career?

Tigers Head Coach Tom Watkins believes next month’s NIHL trials could be the first step towards a career in professional ice hockey.

The club will be holding open trials on May 3rd at Telford Ice Rink, as part of preparations for the new Moralee Conference campaign.

Last season saw The Tigers NIHL win promotion from the Laidler Conference, as Telford’s Pathway Of Talent strategy began to bear fruit.

And Watkins is looking for potential future stars of the EPL side to take their first step on that ladder next month.

He said: “There will be a lot of moving up and down between the EPL and NIHL teams next season. Guys will be coming up to practice and playing alongside professional guys will be part of their development.

“They will have to buy into that and push themselves. We want the best players, with the best attitude and work ethic.

“They should want to be professional ice hockey players, who want to take advantage of the great opportunities on offer here in Telford.”

Watkins, who won both the EPL title and British Challenge Cup with The Tigers last season, remains a firm believer in keeping depth players within a squad.

That ability to call on youngsters was a hallmark of Telford’s success last year, as they negotiated a succession of mid-season injuries.

“I like the look of the players we already have here in Telford,” he said,

“There’s a lot of young guys who can make the step up, but we’re still looking for the right players, who can help us succeed.

“They need to have the potential to step into a EPL team in a few years.”

The Tigers have used trials in the past to recruit players, most notably during the Supporters’ Trust years, when almost half the squad joined after a two-day camp.

And for Tigers General Manager Paul Thomason, it will be a chance to spread the organisation’s net wider, in the search for new talent.

He said: “There’s no harm in coming to a trial and seeing if you’ve got what it takes. If players are hungry enough they should contact us.

“The Pathway of Talent has already been a huge success, and there are a lot of very talented players on our team.

“Denis Bell, for example, came to us last year and had a breakout season. He was the best netminder in the Laidler Conference by some way, while James Smith was the top scorer.

“They are just two examples of players who have taken advantage of the chances on offer here in Telford. I want more youngsters to follow their example and develop into professional players of the future.”

The trials on May 3rd will start at 3.15pm and finish at 5.45pm.

In the first instance please email your interest in attending to The Tigers NIHL GM Mike Washburn at mike.washburn@btinternet.com

The Tigers NIHL presentation evening, meanwhile, takes place at the Park House Hotel in Shifnal on May 3rd. Tickets are £20 – for more information email Jaime Warwick: Jaime@redhockey.co.uk

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