Listen here as Caps Legend Martin Cingel talks through that first year in Edinburgh: https://soundcloud.com/user-452609960/mc-1
Edinburgh Capitals decided to go down a new route on player recruitment in season 2002-03 when they brought in an influx of Eastern Europeans to add to three Canadians and the local homegrown lads. It worked in the clubs favour as we had our best season in our short history finishing 6th in the 10 team league and were as high as 4th spot going into the last weekend of the season. Sadly we lost both games and fell two places. Only four points split 3rd to 6th position. Coventry Blaze went on to win the league crown.
Again Scott Neil found some diamonds in the rough when he brought in three Czech Republican's. Netminder Ladislav Kudrna and impressive defencemen Jan Krajicek and Vladimir Holik. Ladi and Jan both went onto have great careers at the Caps and in Britain. Ladi was a top netminder and won games on his own some nights. Big Jan stood at 6ft 5" and was a very offensive Dman coasting from one end of the ice to the other with ease. Holik was also very skilful on the blueline and chipped in with big points over the campaign. Both Dmen had also been capped by their country only years before. Slovakian's Martin Cingel and Peter Konder also came in with Cingel proving to be very skillful and a great skater. He picked up a broken ankle mid season that stopped him finishing higher up the clubs scoring charts. I wonder whatever happened to that guy Cingel ???
Konder finished as the clubs top scorer with 65 points. 21 goals and 44 assists was a decent return from a guy who had only played in the top leagues in his homeland Slovakia. Two unknown Canadian kids also arrived fresh from four years at Elmira College in America. Adrian Saul and Steven Kaye became fan favourites with their style of play. Both guys gave everything out on the ice and proved to be two of the best forwards in the league. Saul was a leader and had a great eye for goal with Kaye a livewire who was not scared to mix it up and get his nose dirty. Fellow Canadian Paul Howes completed the import line up. He had played junior in Canada and also a few years at the University of Ottawa before coming to stay in the capital and try out for the team. Captain Steven Lynch was again back on the roster and the 'Green line' was reformed as Craig Wilson again re signed and veteran Iain Robertson came back after a spell with his home town Fife Flyers. John Downes was back also but had started the season playing with Superleague team Ayr Eagles who went bust after only 14 games. Reliable Brits Alan Hough, Paddy Ward and Ross Hay again all returned. Ward like Downes had started off playing with Ayr. Geordie Stuart Lonsdale came in and was a decent British signing for the season along with youngsters Neil Hay, David Beatson and Daniel McIntyre. Lithuanian Dino Bauba pulled on the Caps jersey and played two games for the club after the demise of Ayr Eagles but he still wanted to play in the top league and went to sign for Bracknell Bees. It wouldn't be the last we saw of Dino though here in Edinburgh ! Playing the role of back up netminder was again Ryan Ford with Fraser Croall, Ally Flockhart and Grant Pollock all seeing some ice time early season before the arrival of Kudrna.
19 league wins saw the Caps gain 40 points and claim an impressive 6th spot. Peter Konder finished 10th in the league scoring and goalie Kudrna finished joint second with the leading goalies in the league. Czech Krajicek was named Defenceman of the Year in the FBNL and was voted in the First All Star team. Sadly in the Play Offs the Caps only won two games from there six and did not progress past the group stages. Coventry again picking up the title to grab a double for the season. The Findus Cup saw two groups of five with the top two moving onto the semi finals. The Caps finished bottom of the North group with only two wins and a draw. Newcastle Vipers claimed the trophy beating the high flying Coventry Blaze in the final. The Caledonia Cup saw Newcastle make up the fourth team along with Caps, Fife and Dundee. After six group games Caps had lost all six games so faced Dundee in the semi finals but went down 10-2. Fife beat Dundee in the Final to bring back the trophy to Kirkcaldy. There was more success for the SNL Caps as they retained the league title for the second year.
The fans enjoyed the season after the first game losing 16-3 up in Dundee nobody would have thought how entertaining the year would pan out. Czech Jan Krajicek picked up the Player of the Year and Players Player of the Year awards at the club with Steven Lynch winning the British Player of the Year.
I asked Caps legend Martin Cingel about that first ever game he played for the Caps when we lost 16-3 "I remember this game still. The local boys mentioned Tony Hand's name a lot and we couldn’t understand why. After the game we knew why as he scored maybe 8 points that night. I never thought that I would spend the next 14 years in the UK. I had a lot of offers (Sweden, France, U.S. or other UK teams) but stayed in Edinburgh for one or two reason's."
You can read interviews from past players from the 2002-03 season and all other years at my website - eastycatchesupwith.wordpress.com