Chris Burbage – Jan 2018

“Peterborough hockey has always been about so much more than just the games ……”

So tell us how you first got involved with Peterborough hockey ………

“On my 10th birthday back in December 1983, kids were always told by their parents that they can take a few mates to the cinema and out for a burger or out bowling or whatever. So, I chose to take my mates to the Wimpy at Bretton Centre for a burger, followed by my first ever hockey game.

I had seen hockey on the back pages of the Evening Telegraph that used to be delivered at that time so me, Dad and a few of my friends went along ……. and me and Dad got hooked from the very first second and Sunday nights continued to be father and son nights for many years to follow from that point !”

A lot of fans will have heard your name announced on match nights so what does your role entail and what is a typical match night for you ?

“I’ve done many roles over the years for Phantoms, from helping to set up a Supporters Club to what I do now. I am now an EIHA registered off-ice official. On NIHL2 games I predominantly goal judge and for NIHL1 and many junior games I complete the online score sheet for FixturesLive – on behalf of the league.

My evening normally starts about an hour before face off for NIHL1 games. I will meet Irene Amos (who still completes a paper version of the gamesheet) and we will go through the team line ups. I download the night’s gamesheet prior to my arrival at the rink and then make sure the teams are correct and ‘not icing’ players are removed, number changes made, off ice bench staff added for both teams, match officials listed and get the team lists set up and ready for face off.

The gamesheet can be completed offline and then uploaded later or it can be updated live as the game is played …… I choose to do the latter so if you are not at a game and I am doing the sheet you can see what happens in real time if you look at FixturesLive.

During the game I will keep the gamesheet updated with all events, goals, penalties, shots on goal and timeouts, etc. At the end of the match, I will go to the referee who will inspect the gamesheet, and take any notes for any reports he has to make to the league. Once he is happy, he will add his sign off to say he agrees with it.

Finally, I then upload the final sheet to FixturesLive and the league table gets automatically updated from my final upload. After that, I can then retreat either to the bar or to the pub for a much needed pint before heading home !!!

I am also very honoured to represent Phantoms as an off-ice official at the Coventry Play-Off weekends where I can be carrying out any off ice task from gamesheets to goal judging and even manning penalty boxes !!!”

That’s some schedule ! Going back to your early days of watching Pirates, who were the players that first grabbed your attention ?

“Ellwyn Dawkins for starters ! When big, bad Ellwyn stood up and came on the ice, you just knew it was all about to kick off …… and he was such a genuinely nice guy off the ice too !

Rob Carnegie ….. early memories of Rob going coast to coast. When he picked up the puck he was only ever heading one way !

Netminder John Tague. In the early years before migrating to Animal Korner, me and Dad used to stand behind the goal at the Cafe end and the puck used to hit the netting right in front of us all night (no plexi glass in them days !). I remember thinking he must have a screw loose getting in the way of those pucks all night ….. something I still think about netminders nowadays. They are all a special breed of person !”

So by whatever definition you choose, who were the three greatest Peterborough players that you saw ?

“Bloody hell ….. that’s a tough one !

Okay ….. Jesse Hammill ! Such a passion for the game and for his team mates. Jesse’s ‘in the zone’ game face was enough to fire up any fan as the team came out at the start. Again such a nice guy off the ice too and always had time for people.

Cam Plante …… that guy just oozed class ! In my opinion, one of the most complete players I have ever seen play in Peterborough.

Doug McEwen ….. again oozed class on the ice but off-ice, Peterborough hockey will never know just how much debt they owe this man !

And a notable mention if I can run to a fourth choice ….. Taras Foremsky. I believe we only ever saw Foremsky at about 60%. At full tilt, no one in that league could have lived with him !”

Moving on from great players, you must have witnessed some real ‘barn burners’ at Bretton but which one stands out most for you ?

“That’s easy ! Durham Wasps when the rink re opened in 1993. Cant remember the score – maybe Paul can remind me – (we lost 5-9) but every time I walk in the building now a sense of pride fills me knowing that along with so many others we managed the impossible and brought ice hockey back home. Take a look at the plaque at the bottom of the stairs to the bar. Every name on that list is a part of a special band of brothers and sisters !”

Being a fan of the Pirates and the Phantoms, how did you feel in 2002 when it became clear it really WAS over for Pirates and how did you deal with the transformation to Phantoms ?

“I heard the news on Hereward Radio that Pirates were officially no more. As a grown man I have no shame in saying I cried when it sunk in. Twenty years of my life had just been ripped from me …… what was I going to do for the next twenty ?!!!

For several days I spoke to no one …… it was like I felt numb. The world was going on around me and yet it was just passing me by but then a ‘fans forum’ was called at the rink and Phil Wing and Rob Housden announced that they could not afford the old BNL level team we were accustomed to but WERE willing to try an EPL team and announced Luc Chabot as player coach.

I wasn’t sure at first. I feared the EPL would be dull and boring but hey, hockey was hockey and Phantoms were now my home team. I watched as player announcements were made and thought to myself that maybe this was not so bad after all.

Okay, it wasn’t Pirates but maybe it was a close second !

Fast forward to the opening games and it was really hard to shout ‘Come on Phantoms’ after twenty years of screaming for Pirates but as the season progressed, players played for the shirt with real passion and pride and that rubbed off on the fans. I started slipping into my old routine and planning my weekends around travelling home and away to all the games.

Pirates will always be in my heart and nothing will ever change that but Phantoms are now there as their equal. Peterborough hockey has always been about so much more than just the games …… the friendships, the camaraderie, the hockey family and that will live forever no matter what league or team badge we have.”

I guess on a related note, its apt to ask how you feel about this season’s transformation to NIHL hockey and how you think it is going for the club ?

“Hmmmm ….. it is what it is I guess !

I still think we could have formed an EPL equivalent out of the remaining EPL teams from last season but getting it sanctioned by the league may have been very difficult. Without that sanctioning, we would not run ….. we would have to start a league from scratch and that’s not as easy as it may sound.

The games have been on the most good and entertaining. A lot of the old NIHL teams have suprised me and teams like Invicta, London, Streatham and MK come here wanting to beat us and take a scalp home which, in turn, makes for some very exciting games.

I’m disappointed that the crowd numbers appear to be down a bit but I guess it was always going to happen with the drop to NIHL. It happened when we dropped to EPL after the BNL but hopefully people will drift back. Off the ice we are as professional as we have been in recent years and we work hard to get new supporters through the door every week …… its a thankless task but, none the less, an essential one.”

How would you sum up your hopes for Phantoms in terms of the immediate future ?

“I think this season, cliche or not, is a transitional season due to the league changes but, none the less, I would expect us to be in the finals for trophies. Any less and that will be very disappointing.

Off the ice, the links between all Peterborough teams are continuing to get stronger and that is good thing. Juniors are now seeing a clear pathway through to playing senior hockey, There are some very talented kids coming through the system at the moment and the future looks very bright on that front. If you haven’t been to a junior match, give it a go. See some of the talent coming through for yourself.

We appear to be pitching ourselves well to potential sponsors and that is great ….. new deals are happening all the time. We just need to keep pushing forward. Would I want to go Elite league ? Not really. I prefer the passion of watching local kids realising their dreams of pulling on a senior Phantoms shirt ….. not a bunch of imported journeymen.

Would I like a shiny new arena ? No, I like our barn …… its a hockey barn and teams come here and hate it ….. long may that continue. It has a great history !”

Last but not least, in one sentence, what message would you spray on the wall of the rink for all match night fans to see on arrival ?


Thanks Chris and keep up the good work !