After the long awaited go-ahead to a planned new Ice Rink to be built in the Eastlands area of the Manchester, it saw the English Premier Ice Hockey League side announcing two more signing to their roster for the upcoming 2016/17 season.
Firstly is the return of the club’s longest serving Import player at the Phoenix and also crowd favourite in Czech forward Robin Kovar. The Valasske native topped the points chart in the EPL last season with 90 points with (32 Goals and 58 Assists) in 53 games and will look to help fire his side back up the table after a disappointing season for the Manchester club, of which is well documented.
Robin will be playing his 4th season in the British leagues this year, and throughout his time in the UK he has played soley with the Phoenix. The Czech man nicknamed ‘Rockin Robin’ has gained cult hero status at the team and has seen him donning the jersey and making a total of 168 appearance and scoring 110 goals over a three year span, so no doubt he’ll be hoping to add a lot more goals to that statistic next season.
On his thoughts of coming back to Manchester he had this to say to the Phoenix website:
“It is great to be back in Manchester and playing in the city. Last year was a difficult time for the club with playing in Deeside and our bad injury situation. I am really looking forward to playing in the new rink and for our great fans.”
Another returnee along with Robin Kovar is Nottingham-born James Neil who for the former Nottingham youth product this year will mark his 8th season with the club and is very much part of the furniture at the Phoenix. Neil signed for the club in 2009 when Phoenix made the transition from Elite to EPL hockey back in that summer of that year and was one of the first signing’s made Manchester’s player-coach Tony Hand.
After coming through the ranks of the Nottingham Junior programme, it saw him signing up as part of a trio that made the move from Nottingham to Manchester with Joe Graham and Robert Lachowicz on two-way deals from their parent club the Nottingham Panthers. Since then has grown into a more solid blue line player and Iced 388 times for the Phoenix and also made 155 appearances with his hometown team the Panthers in the Elite League in his career to date.
James has won two EPL championships in his time with the Phoenix and also picked up a playoff medal in 2013 along with some International silverware too, as he won a couple of Silver’s with the GB u20 squad and then finally won the Gold medal in 09. Originally he came to Manchester as a forward and was then used the next season as a defenceman and has since become a good fit in that position and has become a two-way player and help the side win trophies.
When asked about why Phoenix he told the Phoenix website:
“Phoenix is the only team I want to play for. I love the organisation and the fans. Both have been very good to me. It should be a great experience next year, back in Manchester with Phoenix.”