The recent departure of netminder Craig Lindsay shocked many Pirates fans and signalled for certain that things really were as bad as we were starting to fear ! Now back home, Craig has kindly taken time out to talk EXCLUSIVELY to Twisted Sock ……..
Where have you actually returned “home” to ?
“I am living with my parents in Toronto right now (in -40 degree weather!!) but I have signed with the Amarillo Rattlers in the Western Professional Hockey League along with Jimmy (Andersson) and we are both flying there tomorrow to play out the remainder of the season.”
Having spent a couple of “eventful” seasons in the UK, will it be difficult to tempt you back to UK hockey ?
“The two years have been quite eventful as this is the third team I have played on to have financial problems (Sheffield went bankrupt while I was there and Paisley struggled throughout the year). It will not be difficult to tempt me to play in the UK next year but I will definitely have to be convinced that the team is financially secure. This year was heartbreaking because we had such a good chance to win it all on the ice, only to lose that chance off of the ice.”
For sure, there were one or two events uniquely impacting on the Pirates but general opinion suggests that we’re just another casualty of a non-viable “professional” hockey league. How do you see it ?
“I am really not in a good position to answer this question since we (the team) were never addressed as to what went wrong and why, or as to what the actual financial situation was. I can only speculate based on the same rumours that the fans heard. If money raised for this team was used to pay off previous teams, then it is probably safe to assume that the team would have survived had they not started the season in debt. I also feel that if the financial situation was revealed upon Troy’s departure then the team could have been saved. The supporters club did a great job in what little time they had to raise money and two more months would probably have made the difference. I don’t know why the team and the fans were, and are still, kept in the dark.”
We’re still working on that one ! If you were brought back as an adviser to the British National League, what do you think would be the first things you would try to change ?
“I know that I am supposed to say that we should reduce the number of imports, but since I am an import, telling people to take my job away would not be the first answer that I looked for (obviously). Perhaps the league should have all teams pay an entry fee for the season which is then used to help the less wealthy teams. It would be similar to a profit sharing scheme or at least a subsidizing scheme which the NHL currently uses to help out the small market teams. While teams like Guildford and Basingstoke would be against such an idea (since they are the teams that would be helping to support the others) in the long run the survival and growth of the league is really in the best interest of each individual team.”
Sounds like a good idea ! Much of the shock here in Peterborough stemmed from the fact that the fans actually believed that the club was financially secure. Did the players have any idea of what was looming on the horizon ?
“When Troy left it should have sounded alarms for everybody but the management were silent and business went on as usual so nobody panicked. In hindsight this should have been an indicator, but it was not. The first I learned of the teams dire straits was on Christmas Eve when I read the Evening Telegraph. The players were as shocked as the fans to learn that the team was bankrupt !”
Many fans that I talk to clearly have no idea of what life off the ice is like for Pirates players. You hear talk of hotels, nice cars, nice houses, etc, when the reality is a little different isn’t it ?
“Life off of the ice is not as extravagant as people may think. I am not complaining about our living conditions but it would be wrong to class us in the same category as football players or professional hockey players in the NHL. The real advantage to our situation is not our living standard but our lifestyle – which carries with it a lot of free time. This year I lived with Andrew Milne, James Grimstead and Neil Liddiard in a four bedroom flat. We had a good time together and ‘Reaper’ kept me laughing from August onwards !!!”
On the ice, despite the upheaval, the team pulled out a superb performance and result against Slough last week. That really gave the fans a big lift.
“The win may have given the fans a big lift, but it was really the fans that gave us a big lift. The noise level upon skating onto the ice at the beginning of the game sent shivers down my spine. It was really great to play in that atmosphere and despite the fact that we were short on the bench, the crowd gave us the lift we needed to get the result.”
Following on from that one, the Basingstoke game was always going to be a tough one but nobody would have forecast the brawl at the end of the second. How did you see events and how come you ended up trading blows with their NM ?
“During the stoppage in play Jimmy (Andersson) argued with the ref about the off-side call (which by the way Jimmy, I thought was off-side). I was watching that and then turned to see Randy down and a Basingstoke player winding up to punch him. Because it was so long after the whistle the Bison players had already started a line change and had seven players on the ice. When all of the players went into the scrum I left the net to grab somebody and help to even the numbers out. Obviously once one goalie leaves the other has to as well so Watkins left to grab me. When he did that I did not know if he wanted to fight or not and was not about to wait until he hit me to find out so I dropped the gloves and threw a punch or two. I then found out he wasn’t in the fighting mood so I stopped and we stood there laughing at Reaper who forgot to drop his gloves for his fight ! Liddiard and Grimstead left the bench for the same reason that I left the crease, we were outnumbered on the ice and things could have turned really ugly for the boys out there if we let it stay that way.”
Recent press suggested that next week was going to de decision day so far as Pirates survival was concerned. Many fans will be puzzled by the timing of your departure and that of Jimmy’s particularly as it was on the eve of such a big game.
“Once I read on Christmas Eve about the team going bankrupt I called my agent and had him try to find me another team just in case. He did well and found a few within twenty four hours. I was able to put them off one week until the deadline came and I would know what our future was. That deadline was extended until the following week and most teams were unable to keep waiting. I was able to delay one team until the deadline last Wednesday. When that deadline was also extended for ‘at least a week or two’ I was forced to give them an answer. In the meantime the players had made a number of concession off of the ice in order to reduce the budget. I approached Randy and requested that he ask Tatum on my behalf (throughout the entire time Kevin did not speak directly to any of the players) for a few assurances that we would be getting paid for playing and that the team would not go bankrupt on the next payday. I know that fans think we must be rich but I cannot afford to play for six weeks and then not get paid for it. Tatum was either unwilling and/or unable to meet any of the requests. The facts that he would not give us any assurances that we would get paid, that we had no idea what our current financial predicament was, that he would not speak with us directly, and a few other incidences involving details and other players which I cannot reveal on their behalf really gave me no option but to accept Amarillo’s offer.”
Did you say that Jimmy would be joining you at Amarillo ?
“Yes, Jimmy was part of a package deal with the Rattlers and we are going to be flatmates down there.”
Let’s leave the current crisis behind for a moment. When Troy left the club, many thought it would be the start of a decline, which financially it probably has proven to be, but form wise the team strung an impressive run together. What would you put that down to ?
“This is an easy one. The good form that we showed can be summed up in two words: Randy Smith. Without a doubt he is the best coach I have ever played for and many of my teammates (if not all of them) feel the same way. He also gave the single best pre-game speech that I have ever heard.”
Many fans around the country still refer to Pirates as having a weak or “thin” D. You have had to play behind them, how do you see it ?
“I’m surprised to hear that that is still the general consensus. I knew that at the beginning of the year people thought that because Liddiard and Grimstead would be playing a much larger role than usual. Both of them, however, rose to the occasion and Liddiard may well be the best British trained defenceman in the league. (No offense to Porter but Lids blocks more shots! (Sorry, that was an inside joke that ‘Beef’ will understand if he reads this.)) As far as the imports are concerned, there is not a lot I should have to write about Andersson and Granqvist as both of them are excellent defencemen. I had no worries playing behind any of these guys as I knew they would get the job done.”
It’s also been good to see some of our young local talent gaining more ice time recently. How promising are these guys ?
“I’ll tell you, that game that Lewis Buckman played against Slough was very, very impressive. I told Porter beforehand that ‘Bucksaw’ deserved ‘Man of the Match’ and it was great to see that the feeling was mutual with just about the entire crowd. When throwing a young guy into the fire like that you hope that he just keeps it simple and gets the job done. Buckman did that well in the defensive zone but when he was moving the puck up on offense he looked very confident and he made things happen. I see a lot of good things on the horizon for him. I’d also like to pick out David Whitwell for a special mention. To be completely honest, he has a quicker and more natural glove hand than I do (and it pisses me off!!). There is no tougher situation in hockey then to get thrown into a game after sitting and watching it for two hours and he did well every time he was thrown into that position. Getting more game experience to gain more confidence out there is really all that he needs now and I wish him all the best.”
It’s not always easy when sitting in the stands to pick out the real characters in the camp. Who are the guys that make the changing room buzz and who are the guys to avoid on coach trips ?!!!
“Let’s see, Andrew Milne talks just as much off of the ice as he does on it. Every time Randy Smith opens his mouth he makes people laugh. On the coach trips ‘Beef’ is the one everyone wants to hang out with and play cards. He has gone this entire season without winning ONE HAND and has subsidized a number of my road trips. Good thing he has that second income.”
What will be the Pirates game that sticks in your memory most and why?
“There are really two games that I will always remember from this year. Oddly enough they were the last two games I played (Slough and Basingstoke). Slough simply because the atmosphere was electric and the team played so well and Basingstoke because of the fisticuffs. I have always said that I needed to get into a fight and score a goal before a can retire so it looks as if I am half way there.”
What about your biggest on-ice nightmare moment ?
“I have been thinking about this one for a while and I really can’t think of one. I’ve had terrible games and allowed some unbelievably bad goals, but thankfully I have never had anything seriously ‘nightmarish’ happen out there (knock on wood). I watched an NHL game once where the goalie was sliced across his jugular by a skate and almost died, and a player in my college conference went head first into the boards and was paralyzed for life. After watching incidents like those bad games and bad goals don’t really seem too bad at all.”
As I guess you realise, there will be some tough times ahead for Pirates fans who look like they are going to have to not only run the club themselves but part finance it. Do you have a message of support for them ?
“Once again I don’t know the financial position of the team or of the fans. I know they have dipped into their pockets quite a lot already and I don’t know how many more times they can do it. My only message for them is to wish them the best of luck in their efforts to save the team, not only for this year but for years to come. They are great fans and they deserve to have a team play and I can only hope that things work out.”
Last but not least, if the club pulls through and finds it’s financial feet once again and we find ourselves looking for a netminder……. can we give you a call ?!!!
“There are really two things that need to happen for me to return to Peterborough. First of all, the new owners would have to assure me that the team is financially stable and that we wouldn’t have a repeat of this season. If that happens and if it was Randy Smith that made that call then there is a good chance I would be back in Peterborough again.”
Thanks Craig !
“I would just like to thank all of the fans for their e-mails of support and encouragement. It was really nice to see and to know that I have not left behind any hard feelings. You can know that I have not taken any with me and that all of my memories of Peterborough and its fans are good ones.”