Focus on the University of Manitoba Bisons

20 August 2017

Tuesday 29th August - 7.30pm face off
Edinburgh Capitals vs University of Manitoba Bisons
Tickets: https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/edinburghcapitals

A week on Tuesday, the 29th of August (just NINE days time) the Edinburgh Capitals welcome the University of Manitoba and their hockey team, the Bisons, to Murrayfield Ice Rink. The Bisons are in Britain to play four games against EIHL opponents, the Giants next weekend before facing the Capitals and finally Brahead Clan two days after our match up.

Mark Easton took time out to understand more on the University's history, and spoke to a number of people with connections to the Bison, including former Cap Taylor Dickin. 

The Bisons play in the Canada West Conference and last season finished 5th in an 8 team league, winning 14 out of 28 regular season games. They play their home games out of the Wayne Fleming Arena in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The arena is named after the late Wayne Fleming who played then coached the Bisons for 9 seasons from 1980-89. He then went onto be an assistant coach in the NHL with Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames, Philadelphia Flyers, Phoenix Coyotes, New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning. He also served as a head coach for Leksands IF, EV Landshut and Avangard Omsk in Europe and as both an assistant and head coach for Team Canada winning Olympic gold in 2002.

The Herd as they are also known are currently coached by Canadian Mike Sirant. Mike is now heading into his 22nd season in charge of the Bisons. For British hockey fans of the early 90's his name may well be familiar having coached Milton Keynes Kings for two years from 1990-92 in the then British Division 1. It was the following year he started his coaching career in Manitoba. He has also coached the Canada National Student team winning two bronze medals at the Winter Universaide (the 2014-15 student team he coached included ex Cap Craig McCallum). He has also coached at VEU Feldkirch (Austria) and the Denmark National Team. I spoke to him recently to talk about his teams European tour:

"The University of Manitoba Bison Men's Ice Hockey team has regularly travelled to Europe for competition during my term as Head Coach. We typically tour every 4-5 years and have previously competed in Great Britain, Sweden, Germany, Austria and Italy with our most recent tour being in 2013. The decision to travel to the United Kingdom for our 2017 Tour was initiated through a connection with former University of Manitoba Bison Ice Hockey great Kevin Saurette and the Belfast Giants where Kevin completed his impressive professional ice hockey career. Once the games in Belfast were confirmed through Steve Thornton, we completed the tour schedule with the assistance of Gareth Chalmers in Braehead and Scott Neil in Edinburgh. As the former Coach in Milton Keynes and Director of Coaching for the British Ice Hockey Association, I am very familiar with ice hockey in the United Kingdom and knew that playing games against Elite Ice Hockey League opponents would provide excellent competition for our players and a fantastic culture experience visiting Northern Ireland and Scotland.

The University of Manitoba Bison Ice Hockey team is very excited about our 2017 United Kingdom tour. The excellent calibre of competition that we will receive competing against the Belfast Giants, Braehead Clan and the Edinburgh Capitals will provide an outstanding development opportunity for our Bison players and greatly help in our team preparations and team building for the Canada West university regular season. The games also represent an opportunity for our current players to make an impression for future possibilities to play in the EIHL following their university ice hockey careers. The EIHL has an excellent reputation and many of our players would be proud to continue their ice hockey careers in the EIHL after graduation from the University of Manitoba. Also very importantly, this tour will provide a tremendous cultural and learning experience for our student athletes who will see the beauty of Northern Ireland and Scotland and experience the amazing hospitality.

Taylor Dickin was a very good player for the Bisons and I am pleased to see that he is having a successful professional ice hockey career in the EIHL. There is a strong connection between the University of Manitoba Bisons and the EIHL. Bison Alumnus Kevin Saurette and Paul Deniset had outstanding playing careers with the Belfast Giants, and several Bison Alumnus are actively coaching in the EIHL: Todd Dutiaume, Fife Flyers; Rob Stewart, Belfast Giants; and Rick Strachan, Nottingham Panthers. Another Bison Alumnus Peter Woods, played an influential role in the growth of ice hockey in Great Britain serving as the GB National Team Coach from 1996 to 2000."

Taylor Dickin is mentioned by Sirant, the current Dundee Star and former Cap (he iced for a club in 2015-16) spent his two years prior to joing the Capitals at the University of Manitoba pulling on the Bisons jersey. He played 60 games in his two years there scoring 18 goals and 29 assists. I contacted him to speak about playing for the Bisons and Capitals: 

"I really enjoyed my two years with the University of Manitoba. It gave me an opportunity to not only continue to play hockey at a high level but to get a very good education that I can use when hockey is all said and done. It's exciting to see them making the trip overseas to experience not only a different culture but a different brand of hockey that may shock them a little bit. I think the Bisons will put up a good fight against some teams over in the UK and that maybe the first game will be a little of a feeling out process for them. The Bisons do have some high end players that probably could be playing pro hockey now but chose to do what I did and get an education first as a back up plan. I know one of their games is against one of my old teams in Edinburgh and I believe it will be a good matchup for them. The biggest adjustment for the Bisons will be the size of Edinburgh's ice as it is massive and requires a lot of skating and lots of room to make plays. Edinburgh is a great city and I enjoyed my time there and I know the Bison team will have fun playing there and experiencing what the city has to offer."

In terms of the Bisons current roster, one of the more experienced players is forward Brett Stovin. Canadian winger Stovin has been with the Bisons for two years having previously played in the WHL with Saskatoon Blades (reaching the Memorial Cup in 2012-13). He has briefly played pro hockey prior to attending University when he played 8 games in the ECHL with Missouri Mavericks grabbing an impressive 5 goals and 1 assist. Whilst with the Bisons, to date he has played in 54 games and bagged 18 goals and 32 assists. #28 Stovin will be one to watch out on the ice here at Murrayfield, he said:

"Our Bisons team consists of a lot of players who have not only never been overseas to play hockey, but have never been overseas for any reason at all. For many of us this will be our first time leaving North America so that creates huge excitement to begin with. Adding the opportunity to play against some elite professional teams in Europe while touring the countries and learning about the league is extremely important because there are a number of us who would love to play professional in the near future.

A small number of our players have a tiny bit of experience with professional hockey in North America but none of us have any experience with the European game overseas and many of our players have no professional experience at all. This trip is incredibly exciting for so many reasons for each and every player and we appreciate Edinburgh, Belfast, and Braehead giving us the opportunity to come and play them.

For myself, I have had a bit of experience in the ECHL with the Missouri Mavericks but I am one of those players who has never been overseas for anything. This will be my first time travelling to Europe which is extremely exciting. I also am hoping to turn professional in the next couple seasons so this is a huge opportunity for myself to get a taste of the European game and see what I might be in for in the future.

There are a few North American names on a couple of the rosters that some of us recognize but for the most part we will be facing new opponents with a new style of hockey which will help us grow as players and as a team. We are really looking forward to every minute of this tour and looking forward to meeting you in Edinburgh!"

I hope this provides insight on our first pre season opponents.

Capitals first game of the season is Tuesday 29th August - 7.30pm face off vs the University of Manitoba Bisons. Get your tickets here: https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/edinburghcapitals

Mark Easton

For more interviews by Mark his site is at the following link: https://eastycatchesupwith.wordpress.com/