We have almost completed the signings for the upcoming season and the team has come together rather quickly. Recruiting is maybe my favourite part of coaching, building the team is challenging because it’s my responsibility to put the team together and make it work as one.
The process of recruiting is not just done in the summer, as a coach you are always keeping an eye out on players throughout all of the leagues and speaking to other coaches and friends about certain players. Also, other players help source guys out as well, it’s not uncommon for a current player to ring me and say they know a certain player that is looking for a spot. I usually then follow that lead up with a phone call and sometimes the player is interested and then sometimes they are not.
I must admit, recruiting the teams is not as challenging as it used to be. The team is now an established NIHL team and players want to play on the island, it wasn’t too long ago that I was having to persuade players to join our team. A lot of that comes down to how Geoff and Steve run the team, the players are taken care of and makes my job a lot easier. Also, our record helps when bringing in players, these guys don’t want to give up 4 nights a week to play on a losing team.
Another reason why we can attract players now is our fan base and supporters club, looking back at the play-off final and seeing the arena packed was one of my Raiders highlights. Playing in front of a great crowd each week is a big selling point when I speak to these players, they want to play in a rink with character and supportive fans.
There are a range of players I like to look for, young guys like Ben Lock that I feel need some ice time to better themselves and then move up the ladder, he is a great example of someone that I hope to move up to the EPL in the next year or so. He gained some valuable ice time last year with the Basingstoke Bison and I’m sure this year he will get the same opportunity while playing important minutes for us when the season starts. Another type of player I like to bring in are young players that have played in the Elite League or EPL and are looking to come down and get ice time and then after playing with us they get another shot at going back up. Finally, the last type of player is the type that is a bit older and want to win, these players bring valuable experience with them that they can pass onto the younger players. These guys have played with very good imports and top British trained players and bring what they see at higher levels and this is one of the reasons why our club is maybe a bit moe professional then some of the other teams in the league.
This years team will have 4-5 new guys, not as much turnover as the last few seasons, I know we were close to winning the league and play-offs, but in my eyes we weren’t good enough. By adding a couple more top end forwards and keeping most of the core, I’m hoping we will be better off come September. I want this year’s team to be fitter, more skilled, bigger and more prepared when we play away games. We always have a great record on home ice, but playing on the big ice on the Sunday’s has always been a problem.
Now I will be shifting my attention to the import situation, I won’t be making any decisions early.
There will be two payer announcements this week, so keep your eyes on the site.