We are delighted here at Y Ddraig that Cardiff Fire defence man Elis Sheppard has agreed to answer a few questions from Julian Blackburn, and hopefully in the coming weeks we will be able to also interview some of Elis’s team mates.
- What teams have you played for prior to joining the Fire and how do they compare?
I started playing ice hockey at the age of eight, for the Cardiff junior Devils under 10s team. After the WNIR (Wales National Ice Rink) closed, I played in Bracknell for two seasons before returning to the Cardiff Junior set up. At the age of sixteen, I then travelled to Slough and played for Jets ice hockey team for three seasons, in the under 16s, under 18s and NIHL2 set up. Three years ago, I contacted Mark Cuddihy with regards to returning to Cardiff to play for the Fire and I’ve been with the team ever since.
- How did you end up with the number 97?
I was born in 1997, I thought it would be a good idea to take the last two digits of the year and use that as my jersey number.
- What is your nickname?
I have a few nicknames. My longest standing nickname is “Shep,” giving to me whilst playing in Bracknell. The nickname Shep is quite self-explanatory as it is just my last name shortened. My fellow team mate, Phil Manny gave me the nickname “Big E.” It is not the most popular nickname as he is the only one who calls me by this. Although I have no idea how the origin of this nickname came to play. The final nickname I have, which is used by most of the fellow Fire ice hockey players is “Ruth,” and the less said about this nickname, the better!
- You have collected a number of penalty minutes this year already for fighting. Is this league much more aggressive or have you been working on this in order to try to impose yourself on games more?
This year, I haven’t gone into any game thinking “I’m going to fight this game,” but the league is much more physical compared to previous seasons. The altercations I have been involved in this year, one came from the opposition challenging me and requesting I took my cage off. The other altercation this year came from the opposition player jumping the bench and instigating the fight. I will never go to a game seeking a fight, yet as a team player, I will always stand up for team mates, especially if the play which is made on them is questionable.
- You have obviously crossed paths with a lot of players in this league. Which forward do you find it most difficult playing against?
The league is full of talented individuals and as a result, the teams are very good. Playing against the likes of Max Birbraer, who was a long time top player for the Cardiff Devils in the Elite league, demonstrates how high the standard of NIHL 1 is. The Peterborough Phantoms forward roster was collectively, the most difficult team to play against.
- you seem to be spending a lot of time on the ice with Nicky Chinn. How does it help having his experience in your line up?
The signing of Nicky Chinn this year was massive for the Cardiff Fire this season. Chinny brings a calming factor into the changing room and has wealth of knowledge and experience will aid in the development in us younger less experienced players in improving. On the ice, it is evident that he is a talented ice hockey player, with great hands and reads the game very well.
- Who are the best players that you have played with?
I’ve played with some very talented players throughout my career. Whilst playing juniors, the best player I have played with is Ben-Ealey Newman. Ben is the complete player for any team, he can score, fight and plays both ends of the rink, not to mention he reads the game very well and whilst playing alongside him, he is a great playmaker. With regards to playing at senior level. One of the best players I have played alongside was James Manson. Manse is an incredible athlete and one of the best ice hockey players I have had the privilege to play alongside, with his vast experience and he is a complete player.
- Where would you like your ice hockey to take you in five years’ time?
At the moment, I am happy with how my ice hockey is progressing during my time with the Fire. In the next five years, I would like to impose myself as one of the Fire’s senior players whilst always improving my game and I would like to help develop the younger future prospects in the fire team.
- You played alongside Jason Stone in your first year with the Fire. How pleased were you when he agreed to join the coaching team?
In the first season, playing alongside Jason helped me improve enormously as a player; Jason is the most decorated players in British ice hockey whilst playing at the highest standard. When he joined the coaching team, I knew Stoney would push me to ensure I reach my maximum potential, whilst also helping me on areas of my game I need to improve upon. The Cardiff Fire are also lucky to have former Cardiff Devils defender Mark Smith on the coaching team this season. Mark is a great asset for the team, after every shift he speaks to players on what they had done well and areas to improve for the next time they go on the ice.
- How are you getting on with the new players?
When new players sign for a team that have been together for as long as some of the Fire boys have, it can be difficult to settle. However, the new players signed this year had no problem with this and the changing room has a great atmosphere within it.
- Who are your favorite NHL team?
My favorite NHL team is the Washington Capitals.
- Who is your favorite NHL player?
My favorite NHL player is either Brent Burns or Drew Doughty. Both players are great defenders who are both pivotal in their team.
- Who are your favorite elite league team?
My favorite Elite league team is the Cardiff Devils.
- Who is your favorite elite league player?
My favorite Elite League player is Mark Richardson. Mark has been with the Devils for as long as I can remember and established himself as the top British defender in Elite League ice hockey. He is consistent and is someone the younger players can look at for guidance and improvement.
Many Thanks to Elis for allowing me to carry out my first player interview with him. You can catch Elis back on the ice at IAW on 28th October against Basingstoke Bison, Face Off 18:30.
You can follow Elis Sheppard on Twitter: @elisshep97
CARDIFF FIRE WEBSITE: www.cardiff-fire.com