Take note North America
Saturday October 2nd will forever be a date remembered in UK hockey history. It was the day the fabled big bad Bruins came to town.
The original six side played a Belfast select as part of a preseason tour of Europe. Not only marking 10 years of top level ice hockey in Northern Ireland but hopefully dawning a new era of enlightenment in which north America take note of British talent.
I had hoped the NHL premier games at the o2 between the kings and ducks would make NHL scouts take note but it did little than highlight how bad or naive research into British ice hockey was. But this time it was a Belfast side with British talent swelling the ranks. A cricket score would have been predicted but with the likes of GB internationals Stephen Murphy, Jonathan Philips, and Jonathan Weaver the scoreline was kept to a very respectable 5-1 in the new englander’s favour. And NHL and north American scouts no longer have an excuse for poor research on young British talent. Our next NHL draftee must surely be round the corner.
Whilst all hockey fans eyes were on this game. Mine were not. I fill my summer months with my hometown sport. Rugby league. A thirteen a side onside offside sport similar to (American) football. October 2nd saw the playoffs come to it’s finale at soccer team Manchester United’s Old Trafford stadium. 71,000 watched Wigan play arch rivals St Helens in a superbowl esque match. A rivalry that is as tribal as Montreal and Toronto, Yankees and Sox or Aves and Wings boosted this year by talented local youngsters on both teams. It was a emotional final for the sports biggest team. Wigan hadn’t won a league title for 12 years and lost one of it’s most beloved former players the previous Saturday.
It was a tense affair that Wigan edged 22-10. A win that really does mean everything to Wigan.
To bring this back to hockey seeing 6 hometown players play staring roles in a championship team did make me question the NHL draft system. Wouldn’t it be great to see young French-Canadiens wearing the Habs jersey or young Minnesotans in the wild team playing for the pride of the shirt, history of their team and glory of their town as those Wiganers did on Saturday night?