Let’s start on a recent high …… you must be pleased with the recognition Lids has received in gaining his call up to the senior national team.
“Yes, I was extremely happy for Neil. This was a well deserved reward for some fine performances as of late. I know Lids was hoping for a chance like this and I know he will make the most of it. This just goes to show you that with the right attitude, preperation, and work ethic, good things will happen. This call up was strictly on merit and Lidsy should be proud of himself.”
When you came back to Pirates, you expressed a desire to move towards coaching. Now you’re there …… does it give you the buzz you hoped it would ?
“This coaching thing is even better than I thought it would be. I am really enjoying all the new challenges that this job throws at you. I can honestly say that I have the same passion for coaching as I have had for playing. I really didn’t think I would find anything that would create the same buzz as playing, but I have.”
Putting aside recent events, has there been any particular aspect of coaching that has proven more difficult than you expected ?
“I don’t think there is one thing about the job that is tougher than the other. At this point I am still very much enjoying everything that goes along with the job. Ask me again in 5 years and I might have a different answer !”
I’ll make a diary note ! Some fans are forever claiming that your coaching role has adversely affected your performance on ice, whereas others feel the complete opposite. How do you see it ?
“I think when I first took over that my game suffered slightly. I had to learn to not only prepare myself for the game but also 18 other players as well. I became responsible for the play of everyone not just myself. I have been able to sort this out and to be honest I don’t feel I am playing any differently than I have in the past.”
How would you summarise the differences in your coaching style when compared to Troy Walkington’s and what do you see as your key principles/beliefs so far as coaching is concerned ?
“I’m not going to get into all the differences that me and Troy have as coaches. Everyone is different and can be equally as successful by doing different things. I think it is safe to say though that our styles are quite different. My beliefs are that you must put players in situations that they can succeed at, this in turn will build their confidence. I see no reason in giving players jobs or roles that I know they can’t handle and then yelling and screaming at them for not getting the task done. The only things I ask from my players is 100% effort, concentration, prepare themselves properly for games and training. I can accept mistakes if 100% is being given, if full effort is not there I can’t accept that. I also go on the reward /punishment system. Work hard and win and you will be rewarded. Slack off and lose and you will be punished. Last but not least I try to treat my players as human beings first. If I treat them honestly and with integrity I think they will go to the wall for me.”
Without scaring Pirates fans (I’m not sure they can take many more frights this season !), do you see yourself moving into a non-playing coaching position in the future and, if so, when ?
“Yes, I will definately be hanging up my skates to hopefully move into coaching full time. Not even I know the answer to when this will happen ! Currently I still enjoy the dual role.”
That’s good news !!! Looking back at the troubled weeks post Christmas, it must have been quite a shock to be hit by such a crisis within weeks of taking on your first coaching job !
“Shock would be an understatement. Everything was running smoothly, or so we thought. We were winning ,the guys were happy ,the supporters were happy and then the bad news hit. I think when we all sit back and review what happened we will all agree it was charachter building for everybody concerned. I don’t think life would be very interesting if everything was easy and ran along smoothly. I know I am probably a better person after having to deal with the crisis we were in.”
A lot of Pirates fans found it hard to understand why so many players moved so quickly to leave a “top of the table” side when the troubles hit …… do you sympathise with those that left or do you share the fans frustrations ?
“I guess I see it from both sides. I had plenty of conversations with all the players as this scenario was unfolding and their major concern was that they would work for 4,5, maybe 6 weeks and recieve no pay. Every person was in a different financicl situation , some of these guys may have had student loans, mortgages, car payments etc.etc. I guess you would have to ask yourself if your employer came to you and said you might not be paid and the company you work for may not be around but will you still stay and work for us? What would you do ? Each player made his own decision and did what they thought was best for them. The players who stuck it out should be commended. But I don’t condemn the players who left. I was though extremely frustrated because we had such a good thing going at the time. It would have been interesting to see what great things that team could have pulled off.”
I think there’s a few of us who would echo those thoughts ! Of all the departures, Danny Granqvist’s move to Hull seemed to attract most criticism. This was partly due to a feeling of betrayal that Granny had left moments after pledging his loyalty to the club and in the full knowledge that the club was pulling through it’s crisis. There has also been a lot of, not always pleasant, rumour surrounding the circumstances of his departure, namely that he was “poached” by Hull. Can you set the record straight once and for all on this one ?
“Granny was definitely not poached by the Thunder. He asked for and was granted his release. His reasons being that for his development as a hockey player Peterborough was not the right situation for him. Don Depoe contacted myself first after the news of Granny’s release were made public.”
Everybody take note of that one ! You may not want to answer this one but there appear to be vastly contrasting stories doing the rounds about whether those that departed were owed money or not. Is this one you can put to rest ?
“My job as Head Coach of the Pirates is to run the day to day events of the on-ice activities. The financial side is left to the directors. They would be better prepared to answer any questions about money matters.”
One of the positives from the crisis was the huge response from the supporters in rallying round and generating much needed financial support. Were you surprised by this ?
“I wasn’t surprised one bit. The fans in and around Peterborough are the best there is. They are totally committed to their team. What they did for us was incredible but it didn’t surprise me because I know how passionate they are towards the Pirates. They are truly great people for what they have done for us. Thanks again.”
Another plus was undoubtedly the exposure that some of our up and coming youngsters gained from increased ice-time. There’s a few stars for the future coming through !
“Definitely. Our young players have been thrust into a more prominent role and have responded well. They have played extremely well under some difficult circumstances. This will only help them in the long term. Ice time is needed if they want to continue to improve and our corrent situation has given them this.”
It has to be said that “forever young” Doug McEwen has risen to the challenge with a few awesome shifts as well ?!!!
“Forever young, don’t let him hear you say that !!! I continually give it to Dougie about his age. I think he’s like a fine wine, he gets better with age ! He is a tremendous talent, great skater, great stickhandler good shot, smart, he pretty much does it all. The best thing about Dougie is he just loves to play hockey.”
Of the three recent signings, only Scott Stephenson could remotely be classed as a “predictable” signing. What was the story behind signing up Shannon and John ?
“In the end the story behind any signing is to improve the team. I always liked John Oddy and thought he would be a good addition to our team. Once he gets his feet wet again after his long journey back I think he will add a lot to our team in the stretch run. As far as Shannon is concerned his experience will be invaluable to us. I’ve also told Shannon that playing is like riding a bike, once you know how you never forget !”
There is an inevitable danger that many Pirates fans, who remember Shannon from his previous visits to Planet Ice (and even from his first time at Pirates), may expect the Shannon Hope of old and, to a degree that must be why Shannon himself is a little hesitant in returning quickly. What can fans reasonably expect from him ?
“Shannon was one of the top defenceman in the British game and you just don’t forget that sort of thing overnight. I think the fans can expect a good solid game from Shiney. He will be able to rush the puck when needed, make good passes to our forwards, play the powerplay and kill penalties. Also, as I said before, his experience in crucial situations will be invaluable.”
On the subject of come backs from retirement ……. do you foresee Randy Smith emulating Chris Kelland (and his recent signing for Hull) and returning to ice for Pirates at the age of 42 ?!!
“Not a chance ! My skates will be collecting dust long before then !”
Shame ! The recent victory over Solihull and strong showing at Basingstoke suggests that Pirates season is far from over. What would you consider now to be a realistic target for the team this season ?
“By no means is our season over, our goals are still the same as they always have been, to win every game we play. I still firmly believe that we can do very well in the playoffs, the playoffs is a short series of games and any team can beat another on any given night. I think we can be that team that wins some of those games. Effort, commitment, desire all play an important role in a crucial time like the playoffs. I think you would agree that the players that remain with us all have these qualities.”
Sure thing …… how big a role will Pasi Raitanen play in all this ? There seems some confusion amongst fans as to whether he will or won’t be available to us ?
“Pasi will be a key player for us in the stretch run. His work commitments should only keep him out of one match for the rest of the season. He is a top quality goaltender and if he plays well he has the ability to turn a game in our favour very quickly.”
If he were to be unavailable, would we not seek special dispensation from the BNL to sign a new netminder …… as has been done by many clubs in the past ?
“As far as I am aware this only applies due to injury. Unfortunately his is work related and we knew what we were getting into. I think the league would probably tell us you knew this might happen why did you bother signing him? But as I said he should only miss one of our remaining games. If he said he would have to miss 5 or 6 we would probably look into an alternative plan.”
Looking ahead now, are you aware yet of the sort of playing budget you will be working to next season and are you already looking at shaping next season’s side ?
“At this moment I have not been told what type of budget will be available to me. I have lots of ideas as to the players I would like too see wearing the Pirates jersey next season. I am continually speaking to players, coaches, agents about certain players who may be available to us next year.”
It would be nice if some of these were seriously big defencemen ……. a lot of Pirates fans, including myself, have been screaming out for several seasons in support of bringing in one or two of these sort of guys. One of the things we seem to have consistently lacked over recent years is size. What would an ideal Randy Smith side look like ?
“I think that is on everyones wish list. I know I got up early this year to look under my Christmas tree. You need all types of players to be successful. I definitely like speed and skill both in the forwards and on defence. You also have to throw in some muscle and size (ie. Andy Milne) I heard rumours that some people weren’t impressed with Andy. I for one disagree, every team needs people who are willing to do the dirty work. These players allow the goalscorers and playmakers to do their job. A good goaltender is very important, this is one position that really can win or lose you games. Trust me if there is a couple of big defenceman out there that can help us I will do all I can to get them here. In short I would like a fast skating highly skilled team with good size. I think you would be hard pressed to find a coach who didn’t want this type of team. Sometimes due to player availability, cash restrictions etc. this is easier said than done !”
Off the ice, I guess by now you’ve probably had a chance to see the recent Channel 4 documentary covering a couple of weeks with Pirates. What did you reckon to it ?
“I thought the documentary was quite good. It showed the players doing some things the public might not normally see them doing. By the way who was that guy in the Randy Smith mask doing all the swearing ?!!!
I did wonder ! Is it true that Milney’s rapid departure was down to the fact he knew he was going to appear on National TV in a gold lycra bodysuit ?!!!
“If it wasn’t ….. it should have been ! I have never seen anything so ridiculous !!!”
I heard that Milney was last seen heading to Moose Jaw to take up an assistant coaching position. Is that right ?
“Andy is actually back in Swift Current working with his old Junior team. I’m not sure of his official title.”
Last but not least …… sum up your first few months in coaching in three words !!!
“Enjoyable, rewarding, interesting !”
……… Thanks for your time Randy.