Archive: March 10 – Greg Chambers

Another archive post originally published in Ignite Magazine.

Greg Chambers is currently the third highest points scorer in the Elite League. His role on Coventry Blaze’s ‘Basingstoke line’ is irreplaceable and his passing has been compared to NHL quality by coach Paul Thompson.

Unfortunately, in February we Blaze fans have missed out. Chubbs was out of action for four games due to an ankle sprain. I spoke to Chambers after his first game back, an important 6-4 win over Belfast.

“I skated in warm up and it felt pretty good” he explained. “Then it started getting sore as the game went on. I’ll just keep going through the pain barrier. In this sport there’s going to be injuries, little knocks, stuff that takes a while to heal. Every team goes through it, when one of the guys goes down on our team, it’s followed someone else pretty soon.”

As we speak Chubbs’ ankle is wrapped in ice, but it doesn’t seem to bother him as he talks about his eagerness to get back into the swing of things. “It was just something Thommo’s been talking to me about. He wanted to know even if I could just come back and play a little bit. Play powerplay, and if I could help out the team in any way.”

“It’s very frustrating, you see it a lot different from being up in the stands. You see all the little things you can do and the little things that go wrong but at the end of it you just want to be healthy and get back and help out the team.”

With one goal and one assist, Chambers certainly helped us out with Belfast, despite not being fully fit.

“Belfast being one of the top teams in the league, they were gonna bring it at us and I think everyone responded really well tonight” he said. “Every player contributed. A few more wins and hopefully we’ll win the trophy soon.”

It’s fair to say February was a rocky month for Blaze. The night before our crucial win over Belfast we lost to bottom placed Hull Stingrays. Throughout the year it’s been proven any team really can beat any team but Chubbs didn’t seem too worried.

“There’s been a few games where we’ve played lower teams in the league and the results haven’t gone our way. At the end of the day, you come into the rink on a match day, you come to play hockey so you’ve just got to put that behind you and hopefully get the form back together.”

“You know all year long there’s going to be a little mistake here and there, but you’ve just got to bounce back.”

With a locker room full of guys aiming for the top Greg was confident Blaze’s form will return. But I wanted to know why his line with Owen and Cruikshank, works so well.

“It’s just chemistry from three and a half years together. We’re lucky when Calder went down Brad Cruikshank was available to step in for us right away. It was a move that was great for the team. You know all the little things, you know if someone has the puck, you know where the other guys go to get open. If he’s open we’re just gonna give each other the puck and hopefully it’ll work out for us.”

Since joining the Blaze, Greg has seen his hard work pay off with some great results whereas at Basingstoke it was hard to reap the rewards.

“Being top of the league, I haven’t been there for a long time. It’s definitely a step up. It was a long two years, those last few at Basingstoke. It’s just one of those things where if you settle somewhere for a while you just take the bumps with the bruises.”

Although Thommo narrowly missed bringing Chambers here last season, he didn’t make the same mistake again.

“The deal was done last Christmas time and I just tried to keep it quiet until the end of the year. With all the problems we had with a few of the owners there they pretty much told us it was going to be the last year in the Elite League. Everyone knew there were going to be job opportunities somewhere else for some guys, fortunately I was one of them to come here.”

For Chambers the differences between the two clubs are clear, both on and off the ice.

“The main thing is the organisation. It’s the best organisation in the country to play for. You talk about British ice hockey, one of the team names that comes up is the Coventry Blaze.” He went on to explain what attracted him to the side.

“Over the last ten years they’ve won the most trophies. Everything about them from the guys in the room, to the coaches, the trainers, the management, the owners, everything is just first class here.”

“It’s definitely the place to play in the country and so as long as I’m in the country I’ll try and be with the Coventry Blaze.”

Playing for Blaze this year has allowed Greg to concentrate on what’s happening on the ice rather than worrying what’s happening behind the scenes.

“You come in, you’ve just got to play your game. A few of the other clubs you’ve got to worry about everything, from little things beyond the rink and all that. And there’s nothing you can do about it.”

So close to the end of the season, Greg and the rest of the team only have one thing to worry about now – to make sure it will be Blaze lifting the trophy.

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Archive: Feb 10 – Dan Carlson

As featured in Ignite Magazine.

Dan Carlson is the type of player any coach would dream of signing. Hard working, dependable and consistently a great all round player, he’s one of the key guys you need when putting together a team aiming for the top. As fans, we expect a lot and Carlson is someone who delivers. Week in and week out we watch him on the penalty kill, winning face offs and racking up the points.

In his five seasons with Blaze, he’s been there to lift the league trophy three times but success hasn’t gone to his head. Speaking after Blaze’s 6-1 win over Hull Stingrays at the end of January, he seemed quietly confident about the rest of the season.

“At the end of the day, it was a pretty straightforward result. We played a solid game, didn’t give them any opportunities and took advantage of the ones we got” he said. “We’ve been a bit up and down so it’s nice to win. This weekend we’ve put in two solid performances so hopefully we can carry that over to next weekend.”

After a few patchy results in January, a couple of decent wins saw Blaze return to the top of the table. Carlson explained what Thommo has been grilling the team on to ensure they stay there. “One of the things we need to focus on is playing a full 60 minutes. Other games, we’ve played well for a period or two periods, then sort of let it slide a little bit.”

Nonetheless Dan has still had some great form the past few months. The fans have shown their appreciation in the form of December’s player of the month award. And since then he’s still been chipping in with the goals and assists. Full of praise for his teammates, Dan was pleased with just how many players are contributing to the score sheet. He knows it’s hard to take advantage of chances against us, especially with Peter Hirsh in goal.

February is an important month for Blaze. Unfortunately having been hit with the injury of Adam Calder, Carlson explained the impact of losing your captain at such a crucial time in the season. “Obviously, it’s tough, you can’t really replace a guy like Calder. Consistently scoring goals for us and he’s good on the powerplay. But we’ll certainly try and make do.”

With Brad Cruikshank as a replacement, it certainly seems better than just making do and Dan seemed happy with the new guy’s first weekend in blue.“It’s always a little bit different to come to a new club but I suppose you adjust pretty quickly. You don’t really have a choice.

“From the look of it Cruikshank’s going to contribute to the team. He’s a good player and he played well for us this weekend. He’s played with a few other guys before so that always helps, sort of eases him into it.”

Carlson doesn’t give too much away during the interview but his ambitions couldn’t be clearer. “I’d like to say I see us at the top at the end of the year, obviously that’s our goal so hopefully it’ll happen. I think if we keep playing well then we’ll be there. It’s tight right now. It’ll come down to us, Nottingham and Belfast and hopefully it’s us that’s making the push to the end of the year. Right now, both of them are chasing us and I’d like to stay in that position, definitely.”

I get the impression he doesn’t spend too much time analysing his game, preferring to just get out there and do what he has to do to win.

With the club celebrating ten years in the city, he did, however share some proud memories from his time here.“You see the level of professionalism has increased over the years as we’ve grown as an organisation. We’ve got great fan support, I can never complain about that. The grand slam would be hard to top, my first year here. And then back to back league titles is pretty impressive as well.

“It’s hard to defend, look at Sheffield, they managed to make a push last year and win it. This year they’re struggling at the bottom of the table. It’s hard to maintain that high level for two years in a row.”

Coventry are a club determined to succeed and even a second place finish last season was a defeat for Carlson. “We weren’t at the level we expected and I guess that was a little bit of a letdown” he said.

Hoping to make up for it this season, however, he has silverware firmly in his sights. “Again, the goal is just to keep winning trophies. To stay in the position to at least give us a chance to win. Obviously it’s hard to do, it’s getting more and more competitive every year.”

I ask him how long he expects to stay here for. “I don’t know, good question. I’m sure Thommo would ask the same thing!” he laughed. With that I left him to catch up with some of the old faces from the Blaze who were hanging around the locker room. He assured me it wouldn’t be a big night out, but I’m not so certain, not with Tasker hanging around.