In looking back at the Eagles, the 2013/14 season is certainly one of the best seasons to date and definitely the best in my tenure as Head Coach. I wanted to get this post out now, because I truly believe this current crop of Eagles can surpass what was achieved in that season - but let's reflect back on the 2013/14 season first.
We came into the season on the back of winning the BUIHA Division 1 North Conference the year before - after being narrowly beaten by the London Dragons in the Division 1 Final. That very same team had put us out of Nationals in the Nationals semi-final too.
I am not going to go re-hash the whole season; but if you are interested in the regular season, you can read my reflection piece after it was all said and done here
Something that I do not hammer home enough about that season was how much of a family the whole club was. I remember every trip feeling special; because you were going away with friends so close to you.
Prior to Nationals that year, I had announced that I would step away from the bench and operating the club at the end of the season. Whilst I loved the team, the season had exhausted me to the bring, as it was also the last season the Phoenix and Eagles would be a club together (editor's note: for those who is reading this for the first time, players from the Eagles were allowed to play games with the Edinburgh Phoenix in years past). The Pheagles (composite name between the Edinburgh Phoenix and Eagles) would essentially have to be torn apart through no doing of the teams themselves. Having long suffered from depression, the guilt I felt at what transpired made it necessary that I step down. It has paved the way for Matt Dible, who is a truly fantastic hockey mind, to take the reigns as head coach - so it is not necessarily a bad thing.
Going into Nationals, the Eagles welcomed back Neil Dolan after setting his roots into his new career in London. The club were placed in a group with Nottingham, London, Manchester and St Andrews. Our performance through the group stages set up a decider with our rivals, the St Andrews Typhoons. Up until this point, the Eagles had yet to claim a win against St Andrews, having played them since the inception of the Jonny Wookey Memorial Game 2 years prior. During my pre game team talk, I had highlighted that Eagles Hockey would end for a lot of us that day. However, more importantly, that our experiences and relationship didn’t end there - as I succumbed to a wave of emotion; knowing that this family's time together would be coming to an end soon.
What followed was the most dominant Eagles performance over St Andrews to date. The team came together to deliver an incredibly impressive performance; claiming a 6-1 victory. They never left St Andrews with a sniff.
The pressure was off as we went into the semis with a tough test against the Sheffield Bears. The Bears proved to be a challenge but it was us that came away with a 2-1 win - leading us to the club's first ever Nationals final. The game winning goal in the semi final was scored by Beth Scoon - though the stats have never been updated.
Going into the final, we had an uphill battle on our hands in the final facing the Southampton Spitfires. Southampton had previously beaten us in the group stages and were made up of players from the EPL (England Premiership League: England's top domestic league). Couple that with the fact that they had played the first semi final and so been lucky enough to have rested before the final, the advantages were in their favour. Unfortunately, it was too much of a mountain for us to climb; having lost 5-2 in the final with a spirited performance. Interestingly, we left the ice as the happier team celebrating the last time many of us would play in Eagles colours.
After the game, there were beers in the changing room followed by pints paid by your's truly at the rink bar upstairs. It was the best value round I have ever paid for. The evening would continue with beers, pizza and ping pong in our hotel that night. It was a momentous occasion and reminded me why I love team sports: because the bonds you make will live with you for the rest of your life.
We’ve been lucky at the Eagles to have parents of players who continue to support our endeavours - especially those who commit themselves to travelling to our away games. My own parents, the Scoons, and the Rickettis, to name a few, have all been great backing for us and I cannot thank them enough for their kindness, generosity and support. At Nationals for this season, my parents, the Scoons and Victor Reinerstam’s dad, Jan, were all present. It was the latter who I would face in the most epic game of ping pong ever - which even featured him committing to and connecting with a diving shot to claim victory. If there was anything to demonstrate his willingness to succeed, whether it's with his son or the Eagles, he had shown it.
After Nationals, we faced the Oxford Blues (not the current incarnation) in the Division 1 Cup play-off final. Due to a player shortage, we were on the unfortunate end of the game - having lost to a significant goal differential. It wasn’t a fairytale ending, but I got to don the tartan trousers and trilby for one last time behind the bench, so all wasn't lost.
I look back at that season with fond memories only because of the people I shared the time with. Thank you to all of you for all you gave.
I had asked Jan to comment on his memories of the Eagles:
First a little background about Victor and hockey: I played hockey in my early days and it has always been my favourite sport. So when Victor was born, it was obvious for me that he should play hockey.
When the time came and they were forming a Team-87 (for players born in 1987) in our local club, they didn’t have someone to coach. So we were faced with the fact that there was either not going to be a Team-87 or some dads had to step up and do it. So naturally, I volunteered and was sent to acquire a coaching qualification. It was myself and another dad that coached the team for the years to come.
When Victor settled for his studies in Edinburgh, he told me that there was a college hockey team. Naturally, I was very excited and followed the outcome on every Eagles game from Sweden by messages and phone calls. And of course I came over to see him and the Eagles play live.
One time I flew to Sheffield where the Eagles were playing in the BUIHA Nationals playoffs. I was hanging with him, all the guys and coach Rambo over the weekend, and I had such a great time. Eagles played very well and went all the way to the Final. Unfortunately they lost, if I remember right it was 5-2 to Southampton, but a great effort by the Eagles.
Few things beat the feeling when you see your son score in a hockey game. Of course, there was cause for celebration and I partied a bit with all the guys and we had an epic ping pong tournament were you and I went head to head for the win!
That season, I’ve also watched the Edinburgh Phoenix play the Scottish Cup in Dundee. The first time, they lost in the finals but the following year they managed to win it all and I was there to celebrate with the guys, first on the ice and then in the Golf Tavern back in Edinburgh following the game! What a night that was!