After seven years playing in the British National League the Edinburgh Capitals decided to step up to the top level of British hockey and participate in the Elite League for season 2005-06. This was enough to lure Edinburgh legend Tony Hand back once again to the club after a season away in Belfast. Tony came in to lead the team as Player Coach against the best sides the country had to offer.
With the club running on a very tight budget it was always going to be a tough job for Coach Hand and GM Scott Neil to recruit a team that could compete with the big boys. Imports Martin Cingel and Dino Bauba both resigned from the previous campaign. Cingel sadly missed a chunk of the year with a knee injury but still grabbed 20 goals. Brits Neil Hay, Ross Dalgleish, Grant McPherson and Iain Beattie all relished the chance to play at the highest level. 18 year old Matthew Rich a British forward who had spent time over in the USA at Notre Dame College was a great find and done well in his first year at the club. With the import level up on previous years a number of new guys to these shores arrived. Slovakian netminder Martin Kucera came in but failed to impress and was put on two weeks notice at one point although ended up staying for the whole year. Ryan Ford again played as back up stopper. Canadian power forward Neil Stevenson-Moore arrived straight from college hockey and had a very productive year scoring 22 goals and 19 assists. His former college teammate Neil McCann was a really impressive Dman who arrived after a year in Germany. He had to return home to be with his seriously ill father and missed a part of the season but returned for the Play Offs. Club captain was Jim Vickers who had played with London Racers the previous year. Jeff Marshall was a steady blueliner who came in from Dundee Stars. Toughness was brought in through the late Freddy Oduya, brother of NHL star Johnny Oduya. Freddy was as tough as they come and fought many of the enforcers in the league. Sadly Freddy passed away a few years back in a motorbike accident. ECHLer Travis Lisabeth came in with high credentials but sadly things didn't work out and he left after only 18 games. Canadian duo Mike Sandbeck and Mike Kiesman were signed mid season and fitted in really well with the team. Both were hard workers with Kiesman used on both forward and defence. Slovakian forward Peter Konder again returned to the club after a few years away when he also appeared mid season to help out. Italian forward Paddy Lochi helped the team out early season as he was nearing the end of his career and Slovak Jaroslav Prosvic came in for a spell throughout also. Tony Hand led the team scoring and finished 5th overall in the league.
The EIHL season started with 9 teams but sadly lost London Racers in November. The Caps ended the year in 8th spot grabbing the wooden spoon with only 9 victories out of 42 games. Belfast Giants won the league title and this was the season they signed former NHL legend Theo Fleury. Fleury came in and led the league in scoring at the ripe old age of 37. His first game was against the Caps on October 15th over in the Odyssey, Giants winning 11-2 with Fleury scoring 3+4 and fighting Freddy Oduya ! With all 8 teams qualifying for the Play Offs the Caps finished bottom of their group with only one draw against Belfast. Newcastle Vipers with former Cap Jan Krajicek in their line up won the trophy. The Challenge Cup was no better as we only won one game in our group to again finish bottom. Cardiff Devils lifted the cup with ex Cap Gerad Adams leading the team as captain. The Knockout Cup was formed and Caps lost to Belfast 11-5 in the 1st round. Sheffield Steelers picked up the silverware to make it four different teams winning the honours that season.
Overall it was a tough first year in the top league as we were rooted to bottom in every tournament. The only way was up they say !!!
Mike Sandbeck had this to say about the season "I loved every minute of playing there. We struggled a bit at times but we had a great group of guys and the fans were awesome. Everything about playing over there was different and unique but it was so much fun and something I will cherish and never forget."
Club Captain Jim Vickers was happy to chat to me about his year in Edinburgh, listen here - https://soundcloud.com/user-452609960/jim-vickers
You can read interviews from past players from the 2005-06 season and all other years at my website - www.eastycatchesupwith.wordpress.com