Team Ireland jet to Turkey this Friday to compete in this year’s IIHF World Championship, IIHA Editor Martin Grant previews the team.
Packing sweaty ice hockey gear into the kit bag, taping those sticks, last minute preparations being made and a huge buzz of excitement around the ice hockey scene. It must be that time of year once again when The Senior Irish National Team head to the IIHF World Championship.
After a tough and gruelling tournament last year in Croatia, when the team was relegated to Division III, the green army must line out again but this time in Erzurum, Turkey for the 2012 IIHF World Championship Division III where they will face off against Greece, Luxembourg, Mongolia, DPR Korea and hosts Turkey.
It feels like yesterday when Ireland celebrated our historic gold medal performance in Luxembourg 2010 and the delay in greeting our team home due to mother nature’s horrific ash cloud that cancelled the team’s flights.
But the celebrations are well and truly over as its back to the drawing board for the team. This year, some changes have been made to the management and coaching staff who hold that board.
Kenneth Redmond will take over from Jim Tibbetts as Head Coach of the Senior Men’s team having been involved with all three of the Men’s Irish National Teams over the past four seasons. Kenneth, or Kenny as he is more commonly known, brings a wealth of experience to the position. Kenny has been involved in ice hockey all throughout his life and is a very experienced coach. He is also very familiar with the Irish players and the international scene having served as both the Head Coach and Assistant Coach of the U18 Men’s team at two IIHF U18 World Championships while also serving as the Assistant Coach for the Senior Men’s team in both the 2009/2010 and 2010/2011 seasons. Kenny has also been previously involved in a playing and coaching capacity with the Dundalk Bulls. In recent times Kenny has spent his time coaching in the UK.
Coach Redmond has called Rob Schistad and Rob Stewart to work alongside him in Turkey.
Rob Schistad is one of the most experienced individuals that has ever been involved in Irish Ice Hockey having played in a number of World Championships and Olympics for Norway. For the last three seasons he has been helping the IIHA develop its national team programmes and Irish Ice Hockey in general.
With years of experience and dedication to the sport, Rob has coached the Senior Men’s Irish National Team during the last two seasons, including the gold medal team in Luxembourg. He was also part of the coaching staff for 2011 U18 Irish National Team that travelled to Mexico. He was even in Scotland with the Irish Select Team that finished third at the Dundee Stars Tournament back in May 2011.
His commitment and determination is evident when he speaks about his playing career. The IIHA is proud to have him as part of the team developing ice hockey in Ireland as Rob’s coaching is second to none. You can read a Questions and Answers session that I had with Rob some time ago in which he talks about his time in the Olympics, playing in four other countries, his view on Irish Ice Hockey, its future and the potential of players here at http://www.iiha.org/news/572/rob-inspires-the-players-of-tomorrow.
The IIHA is happy to have Rob Stewart on board and he brings a wealth of coaching experience and in depth knowledge of the sport of ice hockey with him.
Jim Pepper will take over from Tony Griffin as General Manager of the Senior Men’s team. Jim has been heavily involved with the IIHA since the opening of the Dundalk Ice Dome several years ago. Jim has previously served as General Manager for both the U18 and U20 Men’s Irish National Teams and will bring a wealth of experience to the Senior Men’s team. Last season, Jim was General Manager for both the U18 and U20 Men’s teams and has organised numerous trips abroad for the teams throughout the years. He has also actively assisted other officers of the IIHA in their roles throughout the years, particularly with fundraising. The IIHA is also happy to have Aeidamar Sally on board as team staff, bringing a wealth of experience and knowledge of ice hockey.
Unfortunately, a last minute change has been made to the team staff as Mr. John Crawley is unable to travel with the team as equipment manager due to work commitments in Canada. John’s years of fixing helmets, preparing dressing rooms for international stars and sharpening skates have all come in handy for the boys in green over the years. Although John is irreplaceable, Vytautas Lukosevicius will take the role of equipment manager. A player himself, Vytautas knows what it takes to be a good equipment manager and will offer his services in Turkey.
On the medical side of the team, Ivan Grant returns as physiotherapist of the team. Ivan travelled to Croatia and Mexico with the Irish U18’s and Senior Team last year where he was a great benefit to the team ensuring that the players were healthy. He also assisted Rob with the fitness of the team during warm-up and warm-downs.
It will be a tough championship for Team Ireland, mainly due to the continued closure of the Ice Dome in Dundalk and very limited slots available in Dundonald or The Odyssey Arena in Belfast. But what ice time was available to the team was taken and the limited resources have been used effectively.
Some old faces have returned to this year’s team and some are new, bright and young players that will create the future of Irish Ice Hockey.
In between the pipes this year we have a healthy selection of two goaltenders in Scott Bickerstaff and Adam Pepper.
On the blue line in defence we have Dean Kelly (A), Robert Leckey, and the return of Niall McEvoy, Gareth Martin (A), David Morrison, Adam Patience and Ross O’Driscoll. Trevor Kennedy returns to the squad this season, having been absent in recent years. Each of these players have worn the green jersey in the past, some of them being part of the Luxembourg Gold Medal Team.
A mixture of old and young make up the forwards of this team. Chris Adams, Stephen Adams and Steven Balmer will line out with Steven Ewen and Adam Jackson-Wyatt. The Adams brothers are solid forwards with Steven Balmer, while Ewen is no stranger to international competition and he too will be looking to score goals with and Gareth Roberts.
Young active legs come in the form of Ross Bickerstaff and Philip Catherwood. Both have played with each other in U18’s level and are a great combination together. Conor Redmond makes his Senior Team Ireland debut this year having played with the Ireland U18’s in Mexico City in 2011. Redmond, when he’s not at home in Ireland, is playing ice hockey in the UK. I’m sure Redmond will realish the experience and will make the most out of the opportunity, definitely a player to watch out for in the future.
Last, but by no means least, Stephen Hamill returns to the team. This Irish veteran has proven himself on the ice as a solid forward. Hamill, who played with the Belfast Bruins when the Dundalk Ice Dome first opened, will captain the Irish side this year and will lead his country with pride on the ice. Congratulations to Steven on being selected captain and we wish him and the team the best of luck this week.
The team first face off against Luxembourg this Sunday at 3.00pm local time. This will be a tough game for the Irish side, as memories of the shoot-out frenzy in 2007 at the Dundalk rink offer themselves to me. No words could describe the tense atmosphere in the rink at that time. It will be a gruelling opener for both sides.
As per usual the team will have days off and will have tough training session at the rink every day.
For more information on the tournament visit http://www.iihf.com/channels1112/wm-iii/statistics.html and during the Championship the IIHA will cover the team’s progress throughout the week along with the latest news and provide links for webcast if there is any available.
There is an electrifying atmosphere in Irish air at the moment. Let’s all cheer on the Boys in Green. We wish them the best of luck.
All there is left to say – ‘Let The Games Begin’.
Senior Irish National Team Final Roster
#25 Scott Bickerstaff, #1 Adam Pepper
#13 Dean Kelly (A), #3 Trevor Kennedy, #16 Robert Leckey, #12 Gareth Martin (A), #11 Niall McEvoy, #19 David Morrison, #9 Ross O’Driscoll, #22 Adam Patience
#15 Christopher Adams, #23 Stephen Adams, #17 Steven Balmer, #7 Ross Bickerstaff, #6 Philip Catherwood, #8 Steven Ewen, #14 Stephen Hamill (C), #5 Adam Jackson-Wyatt, #18 Conor Redmond, #24 Gareth Roberts
Coaching & Management Staff
Jim Pepper – General Manager, Kenneth Redmond – Head Coach, Rob Schistad – Assistant Coach, Rob Stewart – Assistant Coach, Vytautas Lukosevicius – Equipment Manager, Ivan Grant – Physiotherapist, Aeidamar Sally – Team Staff.