Coventry Blaze

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Coventry Blaze
2013-14 Coventry Blaze season
CoventryBlaze.jpg
City Coventry, England
League Elite Ice Hockey League
Founded 2000
Home arena SkyDome Arena
Colours

Black, dark/light blue & white

                   
Owner(s) Coventry Blaze Ltd.
Head coach Canada Marc Le Febvre
Captain United Kingdom Ashley Tait
Media BBC Coventry & Warwickshire
Affiliates Coventry Blaze (ENL)
Franchise history
1996–2000 Solihull Blaze
2000–present Coventry Blaze
Championships
Regular season titles 4 (2004–05, 2006–07, 2007–08, 2009–10)
Challenge Cups 2 (2004–05, 2006–07)
Playoff championships 1 (2004–05)

Coventry Blaze are an ice hockey team based in Coventry, England. They currently compete in the British Elite Ice Hockey League (EIHL).

Club history[edit]

Originally from the neighbouring town of Solihull, the Coventry Blaze evolved from the Solihull Barons to become the Solihull Blaze in 1996. In order to attract a new and larger fanbase the team moved to Coventry in 2000 and continue to occupy the 3000-seat SkyDome Arena.

The Coventry Blaze head coach is Paul Thompson, who also coaches the Great Britain men's national ice hockey team. Thompson is assisted by Luc Chabot and, from 2011, former player Mathias Soderstrom.

1996–2000: Solihull Blaze[edit]

The Solihull Barons evolved into Solihull Blaze before the start of the 1996–97 season, finishing second in the Premier Ice Hockey League. The 1997–98 season was one of the most successful on record as Blaze were victorious in the English National League and the ED1 North League. Nine goals in each leg of the play off final against Chelmsford Chieftains gave Blaze their third trophy of the season.

The club moved into the new nine team English Premier League for the start of the 1998–99 season. In November 1998, they were losing finalists in the English Cup, but the side were once again crowned league champions in March with a victory in Chelmsford on March 20. Play-off success followed in April with a 5–3 two-legged victory over season-long rivals, Milton Keynes Kings.

The following season, Blaze made a semi-final appearance in the 1999–2000 British National League play-offs, losing to eventual winners Fife Flyers, having finished in seventh position in their first year back at British National League level. In May 2000, the club announced that they would be heading to new surroundings, the Coventry SkyDome Arena for the 2000–01 BNL campaign.[1]

2000–2003: Coventry Blaze[edit]

With eight new players on board the Blaze started their inaugural season at the Skydome with a decent run in the Benson & Hedges Cup and, after losing in their opening BNL game, proceeded to set an impressive pace in the league competition throughout October and November. The loss of key players, Craig Chapman (returned to USA) and Steve Chartrand (injury) at the turn of the year were possible contributions to a dip in form which resulted in an eventual fourth place finish. In the playoffs Blaze were unable to repeat the previous years semi-final appearance. However, the most important factor of the year was the growth in fan base from a few hundred at the start of the year to over 2000 by the end of the play-offs.

Season 2001–02 saw few changes in the line up (Canadian Ian Burt replacing Henrik Sjodin in goal, Andrew McNiven joining in place of AJ Kelham and Steve Carpenter returning to Blaze colours being the main changes.) The Season started with a run of good results in the Findus Challenge Cup which saw Blaze qualify for the Semi-Finals. This run included the first return visit to Hobs Moat Road in Solihull to take on the reformed Barons (both games saw Blaze victorious). An injury to Andrew McNiven saw ex-Steeler/Panther/Giant Steve Roberts join up with the Blaze. An impressive October/November saw the Blaze matching new-boys Dundee Stars all the way. The Finals weekend of the Challenge Cup saw Blaze comeback from 3–0 down in the semi-final to beat Basingstoke Bison and go on to meet Fife in the final, which the Flyers went on to win. Returning to the league, and the Blaze continued in fine form throughout splitting results with the Stars. Stars greater consistency, and their ability not to drop points against mid-table teams left them top of the league with the Blaze runners-up again. The Play-Offs saw the Blaze top their qualification group and then beat Guildford Flames over the two legged semi-final. The Final saw them take on the Stars and lose out by the narrowest of margins, 8–7, over the two legs, and for the third time in the season Blaze were runners-up.

Season 2002–03 saw another evolution not revolution in the playing staff with Jody Lehman replacing Burt in goal, Joel Poirier replacing the departed Roberts, and GB forward Ashley Tait joining the team. Blaze entered the Ice Hockey Superleague (ISL) Challenge Cup at the start of the season, and ran a couple of ISL teams close. The Findus Challenge Cup saw Blaze into the Finals where they met the Newcastle Vipers, but the result was a 0–3 loss. A run of form following the defeat saw the Blaze wrap up the league title with a victory in Dundee. This was followed up with an unbeaten play-offs run, the Final being contested against Cardiff Devils, and a narrow victory in Cardiff was followed by a first ever capacity crowd (2750) at the Skydome for a triumphant night that saw Blaze lift their second trophy of the year. Shortly after the final, Blaze announced their move into the newly formed Elite Ice Hockey League, and commenced preparations for their first ever season in the top flight of British ice hockey.

2003–04 season[edit]

Season 2003–04 saw another major change in the club’s progress as they took part in their first season as a top-flight club in the newly formed Elite League. Coach Paul Thompson stayed true to the team which had won the double in the BNL the year before, replacing only three players; defencemen Steve O’Brien and Steve Gallace coming from the ECHL to replace Andreas Moborg and Ron Shudra and college-graduate Graham Schlender replacing folk-hero Kurt Irvine. The first game of the league saw another first for the club as they flew to their game in Belfast and beat the previous year’s Superleague playoff champions. A 6–1 win over Sheffield in October and an 11–0 thumping of Manchester Phoenix in December were highlights as the team stayed close the leaders at the top of the table up until Christmas.

In the New Year, Blaze fell back and wins were hard to come by, but they still finished third in their first year in the top flight. The playoffs however, got off to an awful start as they lost in Cardiff minus coach Thompson, serving a one match ban following a bench clearance against the Devils the weekend before. With only four games in the group stage, Blaze were unable to get going after that loss and ended the season by finishing winless in the post-season.

2004–05 season[edit]

The SkyDome Arena in Coventry, home of the Blaze

If the previous season had finished disappointingly, season 2004–05 ended in the best possible way after the greatest seven months in the club’s history. Although stalwarts such as netminder Jody Lehman and new captain Ashley Tait returned, coach Thompson changed many, bringing in more size, more speed and more quality. His greatest coup was signing former-Superleague defenceman Neal Martin, who went on to become the league’s Player of the Year and selected to the EIHL All-Star Team. The brand-new first line of Dan Carlson, Adam Calder and Andre Payette proved potent all through the season, as Carlson’s speed and vision proved the perfect set-up for Calder’s finishing and play around the net, while Payette angered many by clocking up almost 500 penalty minutes. The season started well as they qualified from their group for the semi-finals of the Challenge Cup, kept with the early pace-setters at the top of the league and even got over the disappointment of losing out on NHL forward Eric Beaudoin on a lock-out deal by bringing in high-scoring centreman Chris McNamara.

The turning point in Blaze’s season came in November, as Thompson cut Slovak Michal Vrabel and brought in Toronto Maple Leafs’ NHL defenceman Wade Belak, sparking a run to the end of the regular season where they only lost once in regulation time. A Doug Schueller goal against Nottingham Panthers sent Coventry to their first Challenge Cup final with a 5–4 aggregate victory, before they beat Cardiff 6–1 in the first leg of the final. A fight-strewn second-leg a week later saw Coventry battle under pressure to win the game 5–4; securing their first trophy of the season, 11–5 on aggregate. As Cardiff faltered, the league eventually became a two-horse race between Coventry and Belfast. Blaze eventually they had the chance to wrap up the title with three games to go in front of a new record crowd at the Skydome, Coventry dispatched of London Knights 5–1 and secured their place as the number one team in Britain.

Now the bid was on to add the Playoff crown to their trophy cabinet. After qualifying from their playoff group for their first finals weekend, a Jody Lehman shutout helped Blaze beat Sheffield Steelers 3–0 in their semi-final. The Playoff Final against the home-town Nottingham Panthers was tight and eventually went into sudden-death overtime tied at 1–1. But just over three minutes into the extra session, captain Ashley Tait scored the game-winner, securing Coventry Blaze’s place in British Ice Hockey history as winners of the elusive Grand-Slam.

2005–06 season[edit]

In the 2005–06 season, Coventry Blaze faced the enormity of trying to emulate their grand slam success, but before it had even begun they had suffered losses, with their entire first line and netminder moving on, as well as three key players retiring. With replacements acquired, the team began slowly, edging into the Challenge Cup semis whilst trying to keep with the early pace-setters in the league. The season high came when Blaze were British representatives in the Continental Cup group stages, winning and drawing their opening two games before falling to French hosts Grenoble in the final, deciding game. Blaze took a three-goal lead in a repeat of the previous year’s Challenge Cup final against Cardiff, but could not defend this in the second leg. The Devils wiped out the advantage, with the final goal 20 seconds from time, and were the only team to score in the deciding penalty shootout to win the competition.

The remaining months offered little success as the team finished fourth and then failed to make the playoff semis. Their last chance at success came in the final of the newly created British Knockout Cup in front of a new record Skydome crowd, but resulted in another shootout loss.

2006–07 season[edit]

With a wholesale revamp of the team, the 2006–07 season saw Coventry taking to the ice vastly more experienced for the challenge from back to front. League All-Star Trevor Koenig to goal proved to be the team’s key signing, and the partnership of the Grand-Slam year was reformed as Adam Calder and Dan Carlson both returned. They were combined with proven past winners like Sylvain Cloutier, Samy Nasreddine, former NHL player Rumun Ndur, Reid Simonton and Danny Stewart.

Despite reigning champions Belfast pulling away at the top of the league, Blaze quietly qualified for both cup finals without defeat and maintained a steady pace behind the Giants. Come early February, Blaze had cut the 11-point lead Belfast held at Christmas, and when the two met at the Skydome, an 8–0 win in Coventry’s favour proved a massive turning point. They were run close, but a home win against Edinburgh with a few games remaining secured Blaze’s second Elite League championship in three years. A week later a second trophy was in the cabinet – a 5–1 win in Sheffield brought the Challenge Cup back to Coventry. The other two trophies eluded them thanks to the Cardiff Devils, with a 3–0 shutout on SkyDome ice in the Knockout Cup final followed up by a 3–2 success in the playoff semi-finals.

2007–08 season[edit]

Blaze entered the 2007 season with the majority of the Championship team retained. Captain Ashley Tait departed after a five-year stay and was replaced by fellow British international Jonathan Weaver in the team’s big transfer story, while sniper Curtis Huppe arrived from Belfast and past-servants of the club, Russ Cowley and Matt Soderstrom, returned to Coventry for the 2007–08 season. Despite relinquishing the Challenge Cup early on with failure to escape their group and make the semis, Blaze started strong in the league and kept going throughout the season. They were the British representatives in the Continental Cup once more, this time in Aalborg, Denmark, and although they ultimately missed out on a place in the next round, they produced one of the greatest results in the club’s history – a 3–2 overtime comeback win against Austrian champians Red Bull Salzburg. Domestically, Adam Calder, ably assisted again by partner Dan Carlson, proved to be Blaze's main weapon. The Canadian scorer had a career season, hitting 58 goals and 125 points in Elite League competitions as he ended the year the club’s and the league’s MVP.

Blaze held off their challengers to finally seal a second successive, and third overall, Elite League title. By this time Coventry had also reached the Knockout Cup final against Basingstoke, but they needed a four-goal burst in the final period of the second leg to seal a second trophy of the season – one which had proved elusive on two previous occasions. In the playoffs Blaze reached the final against league runners-up Sheffield, but a 2–0 shutout backstopped by Blaze's grand-slam goalie Jody Lehman eluded them of another treble.

2008–09 season[edit]

The 2008–09 season resulted in the club winning no major silverware for the first time in three years.

The club reacted to losing key members of their team, in All-Stars Trevor Koenig and Neal Martin and captain Sylvain Cloutier, by building a young, mobile roster designed to last the distance. However, they lacked consistency in key areas and went through periods of poor form. All of Head Coach, Paul Thompson's new signings were familiar to British hockey bar two – Scott Kelman and Corey LeClair – who both arrived from the East Coast league.

The first half of the season saw good progress, with the club taking the Charity Shield in overtime against Sheffield and qualifying for the Challenge Cup semi finals. A third representation by the club at the Continental Cup saw a winner-takes-all final game against hosts Bolzano, where a disallowed Coventry goal proved the major turning point in an eliminating 1–0 defeat.

Come January 2009 though Blaze started to falter – Kelman and LeClair were replaced after failing to adapt to the British league and the Knockout Cup was relinquished against Belfast over two legs. The changes in personnel failed to bring enough of a change in fortunes, with Coventry falling over two legs to the Giants again in the Challenge Cup semis before finishing 11 points behind Sheffield to take second in the Elite League title race. The last hope of a trophy came in the playoffs, but Nottingham provided a final devastation with a 6–2 defeat.

2009–10 season[edit]

Coventry Blaze celebrated their 10th anniversary season in 2009–10 with a third Elite League title in four seasons, making it 10 trophies in 10 seasons since the move to the city in the summer of 2000.

Coach Paul Thompson’s new signings were key as Coventry recovered from being runners-up the previous year to title winners again. Peter Hirsch was added as netminder, Brian Lee was installed on the blue-line, whilst Greg Chambers and Luke Fulghum brought goals up front.

The season started with a Challenge Cup run that fell at the group stage, but the Elite League’s newly created 20–20 hockey tournament proved more of a success and Blaze were losing finalists to the Sheffield Steelers. With the cups removed from the priority list, the league became Coventry’s main focus for six months, and the race for its title was to become one of the closest fought for years, going all the way to the final weekend.

To avoid a final day showdown with second-placed Belfast, Coventry as narrow leaders needed to win their penultimate game in Edinburgh. Blaze gained a two-goal lead, but with a minute to go found themselves a goal down and the big title-decider against the Giants looked likely. But Captain Adam Calder tied the scores with only 28 seconds remaining and took the game to OT, before his hat-trick goal sealed the comeback and the league championship. However, despite making the Playoff Semi-Finals for a fourth year running, they were well-beaten in Nottingham by the Cardiff Devils.

2010–11 season[edit]

Blaze face-off against the Belfast Giants at the SkyDome Arena in October 2011.

The 2010–11 season resulted in no silverware for the Blaze.

There were not many changes from the team that won the league championship the previous season. Brett Jaeger replaced Peter Hirsh in goal whilst Canadian blueliners Brad Zanon and Jeff Smith were signed in place of long-time defenceman Tom Watkins, who moved to Telford Tigers as player-coach, and the retiring Jason Robinson. Up-front Owen Fussey was signed from rivals Edinburgh Capitals to replace the teams highest goal scorer Adam Calder.

The season did not start well with four consecutive defeats against Belfast and Nottingham leaving the Blaze at the bottom of the league table, but even a club record 12 game unbeaten run between the end of September and middle of November did not help them catch up with the leaders. From then on Blaze lost more games than they won and the result was 6th in the league standings – Coventry's worst finish in their 11-year history. Injuries were blamed for the downturn, particularly to key imports, with defenceman Jeff Smith, Brian Lee and Jonathan Weaver all requiring lengthy lay-offs which resulted in Blaze calling up inexperienced players from their ENL team as well as bringing back Jason Robinson from retirement in America to help plug the gaps on the blueline. The situation was just as bad in attack with goalscorer Owen Fussey sidelined after 34 games with a knee injury and Brad Cruikshank forced to serve a lengthy ban for his involvement in a bench clearance against rivals Nottingham in a game at the SkyDome.

Away from the league there was just as little success. A strong start in the Challenge Cup soon faltered and Blaze failed to progress from the group stage, and in the playoffs the team failed to reach the finals weekend in Nottingham after suffering a 3–4 overtime loss against Belfast in the quarter finals. As defending league champions Blaze once again were Britain's representatives in the Continental Cup, and made a strong bid to reach the superfinals of the competition with 6–1 victories in their first two group games before falling 3–7 to the hosts in Rouen.

2011–12 season[edit]

In December 2011, it was announced by the club that the Blaze were in financial difficulties due to the economic climate and events outside of their control. The Blaze issued a press statement announcing Blaze Action Month, asking the fans to get behind the club by purchasing game tickets and buying merchandise in order to raise funds.[2]

2012–13 season[edit]

The 2012–13 is the 10th season for the Coventry Blaze in the Elite Ice Hockey League.

Club roster 2014–15[edit]

The Coventry Blaze roster for the 2014–15 season.[3]

Netminders
No. Nat. Player Catches Date of birth Place of birth Acquired
41 Canada Brian Stewart L (1985-02-19) 19 February 1985 (age 29) Burnaby, CAN 2014 - EV Landshut (GER)
31 United Kingdom Connor Ranby R (1995-10-26) 26 October 1995 (age 18) Nottingham, UK 2014
Defencemen
No. Nat. Player Shoots Date of birth Place of birth Acquired
5 Canada Mark Smith L (1983-04-19) 19 April 1983 (age 31) Edmonton, CAN 2014 - Cardiff Devils (EIHL)
6 Canada Mike Egener L (1984-09-26) 26 September 1984 (age 29) Lahr, Germany 2012 - Esbjerg (DEN)
15 United Kingdom James Griffin R (1993-04-08) 8 April 1993 (age 21) Swindon, England 2011 - Swindon Wildcats (EPL)
28 United Kingdom Steven Chalmers L (1992-08-21) 21 August 1992 (age 21) Kirkcaldy, Scotland 2012 - Telford Tigers (EPL)
Forwards
No. Nat. Player Shoots Position Date of birth Place of birth Acquired
14 Canada Cale Tanaka L - (1986-05-31) 31 May 1986 (age 28) Stouffville, Canada 2013 - Hull Stingrays (EIHL)
16 Canada Kyle Bochek L LW (1988-03-11) 11 March 1988 (age 26) Port Severn, Ontario, Canada 2014 - Tulsa Oilers (CHL)
17 United Kingdom Russell Cowley (A) L LW (1983-08-12) 12 August 1983 (age 30) Edmonton, Alberta, Canada 2007
18 Canada Steven Goertzen R RW (1984-05-26) 26 May 1984 (age 30) Stony Plain, Canada 2014 - Sheffield Steelers (EIHL)
21 United Kingdom Ashley Tait R RW (1975-08-09) 9 August 1975 (age 38) Toronto, Canada 2013
22 Canada Ryan O'Marra R C (1987-06-09) 9 June 1987 (age 27) Tokyo, Japan 2014 - Val Pusteria (ITA)
23 Canada Derek Lee R C (1990-03-23) 23 March 1990 (age 24) North Vancouver, Canada 2014 - Vipiteno Broncos(ITA)
27 Canada Jereme Tendler L RW (1983-10-03) 3 October 1983 (age 30) Viceroy, Canada 2014 - Hull Stingrays (EIHL)
59 United Kingdom Ross Venus L C (1994-04-28) 28 April 1994 (age 20) Birmingham, England 2010

Season-by-season record[edit]

For more details on this topic, see Coventry Blaze seasons.

Honours[edit]

Below is a list of all the major titles and honours for the Solihull/Coventry Blaze since 1996.[4]

English Division One North Champions

  • 1997–98 (as Solihull)

English National League Champions

  • 1997–98 (as Solihull)

English National League Play Off Champions

  • 1997–98 (as Solihull)

English Premier League Champions

  • 1998–99 (as Solihull)

English Premier League Play Off Champions

  • 1998–99 (as Solihull)

British National League Champions

  • 2002–03

British National League Play Off Champions

  • 2002–03

Elite Ice Hockey League Champions

  • 2004–05, 2006–07, 2007–08, 2009–10

Elite Ice Hockey League Play Off Champions

  • 2004–05

Elite Ice Hockey League Challenge Cup Champions

  • 2004–05, 2006–07

Elite Ice Hockey League British Knockout Cup Champions

  • 2007–08

Elite Ice Hockey League Charity Shield Champions

  • 2008–09

Elite Ice Hockey League First Team All-Stars

Elite Ice Hockey League Second Team All-Stars

Honoured players[edit]

  • #12 Canada Steve Chartrand – Jersey retired for services to the club.
  • #55 United Kingdom Stephen Cooper – Jersey retired for services to British Ice Hockey.
  • #26 Canada Dan Carlson – Jersey retired for services to the club.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Coventry Blaze history". Coventry Blaze. 
  2. ^ "WE NEED YOUR HELP". Retrieved 6 December 2011. 
  3. ^ "Coventry Blaze 2013–14 Roster". Coventry Blaze. 
  4. ^ "Coventry Blaze honours". Coventry Blaze. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Sheffield Steelers
Elite League Champions
2004–05
Succeeded by
Belfast Giants
Preceded by
Belfast Giants
Elite League Champions
2006–07, 2007–08
Succeeded by
Sheffield Steelers
Preceded by
Sheffield Steelers
Elite League Champions
2009–10
Succeeded by
Sheffield Steelers
Preceded by
Sheffield Steelers
Playoff Champions
2004–05
Succeeded by
Newcastle Vipers
Preceded by
Nottingham Panthers
Challenge Cup Winners
2004–05
Succeeded by
Cardiff Devils
Preceded by
Cardiff Devils
Challenge Cup Winners
2006–07
Succeeded by
Nottingham Panthers