By Ryan Goodwin, Sport & Health Editor
Ice Hockey continues to be a sport that grows and grows in the UK. With a professional league that continues to attract players from Canada and the US who have played in the NHL, and a unique match day experience complete with passionate fans, the sport looks to make serious headway in becoming much bigger this side of the Atlantic. It does however, still provide opportunities to local talent, and having caught up with Glasgow’s local team, the Braehead Clan, I sat down with recent debutant and Netminder, Gary Russell:
We’re going to have to talk about the debut! How did it feel to get on, and replace Chris Holt?
I’d say I was nervous when I found out. I said I wanted to play games, but to be given the opportunity, I felt honoured. It meant I had been doing something good in training. It was a big choice, Ryan [Finnerty, the Head Coach of the Clan] risked quite it a bit to say “on you go, Gary, have a shot!”
Having played with the Solway Sharks previously, was it good to get that step up and play for the Clan?
Well at the time with my circumstance, Solway suited me because I’d work. Braehead is more of a full-time job due to training, so it is difficult to balance, though it is good.
And did you start at Solway? what was your journey to the Clan?
I’m a bit of a hockey gypsy, to be honest! Started up in Glasgow, then went to Paisley and spent about eight years there. Coaching was really good, Peter Russell was there, who is the GB coach now. From there I went to Dundee Stars, spent six months there but found it difficult to travel. Then spent time with the Capitals, and went to Dumfries [with Solway] and spent seven years there. It was especially fun there, because it’s a small time, with a huge family feel. You could almost name everyone in the stands.
Was the step up to the Clan a huge opportunity for you?
Well I was looking forward to progressing myself as a goalie, and although the league Solway is in is really underestimated, and it’s harder to break in [with the imports] I was assured I’d get starts. I really liked the sound of it, and being from Glasgow I liked the idea of having family coming to see me.
Having the NHL players around must be really good to learn from, though?
It is good to have the imports in the league. Obviously they’ve had a lot of experience and at a high level in the NHL and you can pick up things here and there. I get to admire Chris Holt and ask certain things, which is good.
Ice Hockey really is a unique experience when you take it in. There just seems to be a buzz about the place! What do you accredit that to?
We’re really lucky we our arena in a shopping centre, so you have all these restaurants and then Soar across the road. You can spend your whole night here, and what would rather do, sit home and watch the X Factor?
And would you say the sport has grown?
I would say it has grown. I’m not really sure in what aspect but the crowds are really growing, especially in Scotland. When I was in Edinburgh it was only them in the league, but with Braehead, Dundee and Fife all in the league the support has grown. From having one team to four teams in the top league, it has transformed.
It definitely seems to be the case! And with more and more people going to a game to give it a try, it’ll surely grow.
It’s a good night out. You can come here [to Braehead shopping centre] and have your dinner, go see the game and if you’re a student you can go across the road [to Soar] and then maybe even hit the town.
And following on from your debut, do you have a further goal?
Well, my next one is to get a win. I had an aim at the start of the season that I wanted to get a start and also win a game. Definitely starting and winning a game is my next aim.
Speaking of students then, do you have a final word for all the different athletes we have at Strathclyde?
Miracle workers. To balance everything up, to study and then go to the gym or train. Miracle workers, I would say.