We at Y-Ddraig would like to thank Cardiff Devils Goalie Ben Bowns for agreeing to answer some questions and would also like to thank Devils Director of Corporate Development, Neil Francis, for making this interview possible.
1. As a Northern lad and having played most of your hockey for teams in Sheffield, did you ever get an offer from the Steelers to play for their Elite league team.
Answer:- No I never had an offer from them, I had a bit of an “enquiry” about my availability a few years back but that was as far as anything went.
2. Did you always want to be a Net Minder?
Answer:- Yeah! Right from the start I wanted to play in goal, my parents thought it would just be a short-term craze I was going through and didn’t want to fork out all that money on goalie gear if I was to get fed up after a few weeks. Unfortunately for them, I spent more time getting in front of pucks than the goalies on my team did, so they gave in and bought me goalie gear after all. I think I spent 4-5 months as an outfield player if that.
3. Is there a particular Net Minder who was your Idol/Inspiration?
Answer:- Patrick Roy at the Colorado Avalanche was my all time favourite. Since he retired, I’ve never really had that one goalie that I loved, but instead, I have a handful that I love to watch and keep track of.
4. Why number 33?
Answer:- Well I was always number 21 from being 6 years old right up until leaving the Steeldogs in the EPL. I got to Hull and Jason Silverthorn had 21, which meant I couldn’t wear it. So my choice of 33 came about because Patrick Roy wore it and also one of my biggest influences on my career, and a goalie I spent my first full year in the EPL with Pasi Raitanen and he wore it. So I thought if its good enough for goalies like that then its definitely good enough for me.
5. You are arguably the best Netminder in the Elite league, how do you keep yourself at the top of your game?
Answer:- Its always nice to hear that but I’m pretty certain there are 12/13 other goalies in the league this year that will argue otherwise! There are some awesome goalies this year and the tandem in Nottingham has to be one of the strongest goalie pairings (Garnett/Galbraith) that this country has ever seen. But those guys are a big part of how I keep myself at the top of my game. Each year the league gets better, and this year, I think we have seen a major jump in the quality of goaltending as well as players, so I have to make sure I’m improving as much as the league is year on year.
The Devils played a huge part in that in sending me out to Calgary to work with David Marcoux each summer, and then we are the only EIHL team that has a goalie coach. I and Thomas Murdy work with Dan Brabon every week. We have contact with him daily but he only comes to training once or twice a week, which is perfect because I think if he was there every day, then we would start maybe taking him for granted and we wouldn’t take in as much as we do on the days he comes in because we would be sick of hearing his voice! That little break is great because you’re then excited to have him come to the training and work with us.
All this plus the off ice work every summer help give me the best chance possible to be at the top of my game and over the past two seasons, it’s definitely done that.
6. The design of your goalie mask this season features the characters from the TV show Gavin and Stacey. Are you a big fan of the show and have you introduced any of the import players to this great comedy?
Answer:- Myself and my fiancé Jade are huge fans of Gavin and Stacey, plus we now live by Barry Island and around the areas of Barry where it was filmed, so I thought it would be pretty cool to have it on my mask this year. Some of the import players are big Inbetweeners fans, so once they’ve had their fill of that, I’ve told them to watch Gavin and Stacey and see what they think.
7. How do you feel this seasons squad compares with last seasons and do you believe the league is more competitive this year?
Answer:- I think the squad is a lot better than last year. I loved last year’s squad for obvious reasons but this year we’ve upgraded, we have more depth, more skill, more speed and an even tighter locker room than last year. The league, in my opinion, has had it’s bigger ever jump, in terms of improvement this season. It’s just unbelievable how much better it is this year. Ourselves and Nottingham proved just that in the CHL this year. Nottingham went on that amazing run and then the wins that we picked up, especially the one against Vaxjo shows just how far this league has come since the first year that Nottingham was in the CHL, and even when you compare it to the results from the previous two seasons.
8. Do you feel that your participation in the Champions League has had an adverse effect on your form in the domestic competitions?
Answer:- No, not really. Yes, it’s hard switching from one style of play to another for the first month or so and the fact that teams see what you do, and how good we could be, and they know already they have to step up big time rather than realising that 10 minutes in to the first game against you. At the end of the day though, hockey is hockey, and to be able to win, you must be able to adapt your game at the ‘flick of a switch’ and if you don’t you can’t be surprised when you get beaten.
9. At the end of last season, Denny Kearney and Guilliame Doucet decided to make the move to new side Milton Keynes Lightning. Are you surprised how strong the new teams are?
Answer:- Not at all, you could tell how competitive those teams were going to be in the summer. I think they both had a plan and didn’t underestimate this league so I think its great to see them doing so well.
10. Which side do you look forward to playing the most?
Answer:- It’s a tough one this year, I always used to look forward to the Sheffield, Belfast and Nottingham games because they were always a lot more challenging, but this year every team is tough, so every game is even more exciting than the last. Having said that though, the intensity of games within our conference is another level to any other games, so those three teams are still the games I look forward to the most.
11. Which arena, other than IAW do you look forward to playing at?
Answer:- I really enjoy playing in Sheffield because there’s usually a lot of my family that go to watch those games and it’s always nice to play in front of family. Nottingham is always a great rink to play in too. Corey has his teams well drilled so it’s always a challenge, the crowd is always big and it’s a nice big bright arena. The only fault with Nottingham is on Play-off finals weekend, the temperature on the ice is unbelievably hot!
12. In the close season, do you go back to the North of England or is South Wales your home, for now?
Answer:- South Wales is home now. Barry Island to be more precise. I and Jade made the decision to make it our home because we love it down here, and no matter where I play in the future, we’d always come back to Barry during the off-season.
13. What has been your greatest achievement in Ice Hockey so far?
Answer:- Winning the league in Cardiff and then the Gold medal with GB are two achievements that I cant split. The league is something I’ve worked towards my whole life, and to finally win it during a game in Sheffield where it all started, and in front of mine and Jade’s family was unbelievable. It’s also nice to join Stephen Murphy up there as a British goalie who’s won the EIHL title and prove the people wrong who said British goalies weren’t good enough to do so.
Then we go away with GB and finally get that gold medal and the promotion. GB is like a big family when we’re together and it’s one of the most fun parts of the year, so to win a medal for your country and to do it with that group of guys was amazing.
14. What goals or ambitions do you have for the rest of your career?
Answer:- I’d love to win the EIHL title again along with the Play-Off Championships so I can say I have won everything in British Hockey at the top flight. My big aim is to play in Europe though. My dream has always been to play in Sweden and Germany, so to be able to get over there at some point in my career would be amazing. You soon learn it’s a lot more complicated than you think though as you get older as you realise there is a lot more riding on your job than you expect. But if I ever got an offer from a league in one of those countries or the EBEL then it’s something I would seriously consider and look at taking that leap towards achieving what I’ve always wanted to do.
15. Do you believe that you will again be lifting silverware at the end of the season?
Answer:- I believe we have the right guys and the right team with the ability and the potential to win everything but I’m sure the other teams will all think that too and if hockey was that simple then it would be boring. All I do know is that it’s going to be one hell of an exciting season again.
16. All Devils fans know how much your dog Stitch means to you. If you were to buy him a ‘Doggy Devils’ jersey, what name and number (other than yours) would you have put on it?
Answer:- I would probably get him Number 30 ‘Murdy’ because they’re both ‘Mad Dogs’ so it’d be a good jersey for him.
17. And finally, What would be the one piece of advice you would give to any young Goalie out there?
Answer:- Enjoy it. If you don’t enjoy it then there’s no point in playing. You need to work hard, compete hard and push yourself as hard as you can every time you are on the ice. It’s almost like a ‘catch 22’ because for a sport to be fun, you can’t just go through the motions, you need to work hard and get better. Getting better, competing and winning is the most fun things in the world.
Many thanks again to Ben for spending the time to answer our questions and good luck to him and the Devils for the rest of the season.
Visit http://www.cardiffdevils.com for fixture information.
Feature Picture Credit: helenbrabonphotography.co.uk