James Isaacs arrived from Canada partway through December, initially on a two game trial as injury cover, that was extended for a further two weeks and then, at the start of January was confirmed as staying on for the rest of the season.
The 6’1 d man has dual nationality – his father was born in Epsom, Surrey, before emigrating to Canada as a teenager – and he had prior experience of the Elite League before joining the Blaze, having played a season and a half for the Dundee Stars. During that time, he scored three goals and a further 11 assists, as well as helping them to win the Gardiner Conference title in his first season.
Before joining Stars, Isaacs won a championship at junior level in the British Columbia Intercollegiate League in 2010/11. He turned pro with the Mississippi Surge of the Southern Professional Hockey League and a season and a half later he signed in the ECHL with Idaho Steelheads. He played over 50 games for them before moving on to Greenville Road Warriors for a further twelve games.
As a dual national, it is a little easier for Isaacs to play over here, as he doesn’t require a visa. He explained, ‘I applied for my British passport a few years ago and got that, which made it easier for me to come over here. I’d never lived in Britain before I came to play for Dundee. I came over in grade 7 for a four week school exchange, I’ve backpacked across Europe a couple of times, stopping off in the UK, but I hadn’t stayed here for an extended period of time.’
The decision to join Dundee was a mutual one. ‘I wasn’t having fun with my team in North America, and the timing worked out with Dundee. They had been after me in the summer, but I wasn’t available then. I came over in the January and loved my time in the UK. I came back to Dundee last year and was going to go for a third year there, but the coach, Jeff Hutchins, got fired and things sadly changed, so my contract wasn’t renewed.’
As it seems to go in the small world which is Elite League hockey, it was the relationship with his former coach which helped him secure the initial trial with the Blaze. Isaacs said, ‘Jeff Hutchins helped out a bit. I was stuck for a team for the season, and came over to the UK on a whim. I found a cheap flight to the UK and I was going to go and stay with my girlfriend up in Scotland. I was on the train to Edinburgh when I got a call from the Blaze saying that they wanted me for a couple of games, and it went from there.’
Despite the Blaze management announcing that they are hunting for a forward, they have signed Isaacs as a d man until the end of the season. Isaacs is quick to praise his team mates, but can see that he fits a specific role as well. ‘I think I maybe fit a role that they were looking for that they didn’t quite have on defense,’ he explained. ‘We have a great d core, there are a lot of guys that do different things, and I just came in and tried to be that calming defensive defense man. It just worked out that I came in and we won some games in a row, I’m sure that helped as well. If we’d have lost those games I might not be here. Sometimes it’s all about timing and right now I couldn’t be happier. I like it here in Coventry, the organisation is top notch and I can’t complain at all. I’m looking forward to seeing out the season here.’