Category Archives: Other than school

What does sewing mean to me

This is my response to the question posed by Naomi – What does sewing mean to you?

 

I sew because I am (was) a Guide. This is the first sewing project I really undertook, although it is not (quite) all my own work. It was my Grandad’s army blanket – my sister has the matching pair – and my Nan sewed on the first 20 or so badges. I have had it since the age of ten, and now, at 39, it is ‘finished’. Well, it’s never quite finished, but I think it’s full. Over the years I have sewed on badges that have been swapped at local, national an international levels, those that I have bought at camps or events or places I have visited, and those that have belong to other people. It started with a ring of badges around the edge, and has worked it’s way to the middle, with many badges having been re-positioned over the years. It is a talking point on camp, a conversation starter as we compare badges, and a gigantic memory of fun times with others. It was on my bed when I was at university, as a way of staying connected to home.

My stitches have definitely improved over the years!

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As you can see, this piece was completed in the summer of 1996. I was 18, and had just started work on my Queen’s Guide Award. One of the sections required that I started a new personal skill, and developed it. My Queen’s Guide Advisor enjoyed cross stitch, and suggested this was something that I could do. I liked the poem, and designed the whole piece. Each of the images around the edge mean something and are related to that summer – Orchestra tour, first aider on Brownie pack holiday, camping with PHAB, a trip to Dominican republic and a summer romance. The mice also have a meaning, but I cannot recall (or find the piece of paper that explains it, which I thought was attached to the back. It’s probably inside the frame…). There’s a bee amongst the flowers, and finally my initials and a reminder it was for my Queen’s Guide.

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I completed a couple of large scale kits during my time at University, and then life as a teacher got in the way. About five years ago, I started taking regualar train journeys with a friend. Some days we’d sit and chat, other days we’d gaze out of the window, but most days we’d do both, which meant reading was out of the question. I found instead a small cross stitch kit that I had, and tucked that into my bag. I can sew and chat at the same time, and it feels like I’m keeping busy. This moved on to sewing on the train regardless of who I was (or wasn’t) with; it’s a good conversation starter, if that is what you are after. I find that stitching helps me to switch off, you have to be concentrating or else it all goes wrong, and feel a sense of achievement when I finish, as I have never been particularly ‘arty’. Once framed though, these cross stitches become art, and are something to be proud of.

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Russ Cowley #OnFire

With over 640 games and nearly 100 goals, Russ Cowley’s career with the Blaze spans 15 years. As well as playing, he has almost finished his PhD looking at fan response to transgression in sport at Coventry University.

For three seasons, he played alongside Blaze Head Coach Danny Stewart – how easy was it to make the transition from team mates to coach? “At the beginning it was a little strange,” explained Russ. “I think we’re both different people than when we played together – him as a coach and me as a player. We both have more experience. He handled things well when he came in and had meetings with guys that were coming back and told us what he was here to do. He also said what role he wanted me to fill as a player. For me, and the way I look at life, he’s the coach and that’s how I see him, regardless of me playing alongside him previously. I don’t look at him any different to anyone else in the room.”

Russ is known as being Mr Versatile. He is confident playing as a forward or as a defender, and has been known to switch during a game due to injuries. Is this an easy thing to do? Russ laughed, “I said I wanted to do one shift as goalie and then I have played everywhere! I think it’s tough when you swap positions. You have no time to get within your comfort zone within a position, you have to start thinking about all the set plays of what your job is, off any draw, in any zone and that’s whether I’m switching as a forward position or going back on the back end. You have to read the game as a D man to get a good gap between you and the rush that’s coming at you. Once I start playing in a position for a longer period of time it becomes easier because I get in the comfort zone, and get to know my line mates. Swapping a lot is tough, but like I say you get more comfortable being in one position. I’ve been playing defence since November now.  I guess some players wouldn’t be able to do it, the way my head thinks as a forward I think defensively. I skate well and I can read the game as a D man well. After me, the only other person who could do that would be Robbo, but he brings so much up front. In the last few years, one of the things that helps this team and one of the reasons the club has me back is that I can go back there if we get injuries. I do prefer playing as a forward, but I’ve always been one of those players -if there’s a gap I’ll fill it.”

It’s been a busy year for Russ, as well as playing he’s been working hard to complete his PhD and had to fit in family time as well. He explained “It’s been tricky this year. I’ve noticed the difference, I rarely have a day off a week. Obviously, we have Sophia, so when Rachel has her commitments I’m being a Dad. Otherwise, I’m here at the rink or working. I enjoy being a dad a lot. The joy that a child brings, it’s amazing. At home, she loves hockey. If I stick hockey on something she’ll say ‘hockey, hockey’, and sit there and watch it with me. She loves coming to the games, she talks about hockey. If I wear something with the Blaze or GB logo, she gets excited. As soon as I’ve got my gear on she’s frightened. I’ve even taken my helmet off to show her it’s me. It kills me that she’s frightened of me in hockey gear – I was hoping to take her into the room, but I can’t. I don’t know if it because what she sees on the ice makes her uncertain. I don’t smell like daddy – that could be why she’s saying no altogether!”

As ever, conversations at this time of year turn to the future, both long and short term. Russ said, “I’ve played over 600 games for the club in 15 years, I’m looking at my options for the end of the season, as my PhD will be finished by then. I’m looking at going into consultancy probably, I’m taking a long look at that route. I have enjoyed the research side of things for my PhD, I guess there’s a lot of doors open for me now. While I’m not totally certain, we’ll see what happens. When I do decide to hang my skates up I haven’t said no in my head to maybe moving into coaching, but I’ve done ten years at University and I haven’t done that to not put that to use. But never say never to having something on the side where I can help out perhaps. There will be certain priorities that have to come first!”

 

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#OnFire – Klotz

Standing at 6’5”, Garrett Klotz is one of the taller players to ice for the Blaze this season. Coming from the ECHL in North America, the Canadian brings a wealth of experience to the team. It helps, that as a forward, he is not afraid to use his size and fight when necessary. This has made him very popular with the fans, and he’s even scored a few goals as well!

How is it, playing on the fourth line? Klotz said, “It’s great, I’m more a role player, so I’ve always been on the third or fourth line, so I’m used to it. Here in the Elite League I’m getting more ice time than I’m used to, so I’m trying to take advantage of it and doing the most I can with the time. That includes a goal every once in a while, so that always helps. I’m not here to score, I’m here to take care of the boys and bring a physical aspect to the game. Whenever I score it’s a bonus.”

You’ve made a name for yourself as an enforcer. How do you feel about fighting? “I’ve been doing it my whole pro hockey career, so it’s nothing new to me. I don’t mind it. I kind of enjoy it. some nights it is not easy, but it’s my job so I accept it,” he explained.

Usually, in the Elite League, teams employ a defenseman who acts as an enforcer. Klotz playing as a forward is a slight departure from what a lot of us are used to. Does he see this as being unusual? Klotz shrugged. “It depends. Defensemen are known to more physical, but there are other forwards who are enforcers. I just do what I can. Usually they want the forwards to score, but in my case I try and do both.”

Speaking of which, how is the scoring going? He smiled, “It’s my second-best scoring season ever.  I’ve got six goals and two assists so far, I’m going to try and finish the season with ten – that’s my aim, ten goals and ten assists. We’ll see how it goes. There’s 18 games left so I’m going to try and finish strong and hope for the best.”

What made you decide to come to Coventry? Klotz explained, “My friend Garrett Zemlak played in the Elite League – he was netminder for Fife, Braehead and Belfast – and he put me in touch with Danny Stewart as he had played with him in Fife. Danny asked in the summer if I wanted to come overseas – I looked it up on the internet and had a chat with other guys I’ve played with who played here before, like Jim Jorgensen. They said it was a good city and there were lots of positives, so I agreed to come here.”

He continued, “it’s a good city with a good fan base. the fans here are a bit more intense than they are back home – they are die hard and I really enjoy it, and spending time with them.”

Like most hockey players from North America, Klotz appreciates the opportunities to travel from the UK. “Obviously, we’ve travelled with the team, that was fun, going to Belfast and to Scotland. I’ve been to London a few times too. After the season I’m hoping to get across to Europe and then maybe head over to Thailand.”

Klotz keeps busy when he’s not on the ice. “I just go to the rink in the mornings and train on the ice. In the afternoons I go to the gym and do some off-ice training, and in the evenings I hang out with the boys, play some cards or read. We went bowling with the fans recently, which was fun. It’s nice to get some downtime and just relax in the evenings.”

As Garrett has reminded us, the season is drawing to a close, and players are starting to think about next year. He said “I’ll take the future as it comes. I haven’t really thought too much into it. I’ll do what I can here, finish strong and finish on a positive note, and see what comes my way.”

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#OnFire – Renny Marr

Unedited version of this month’s article. Such a nice chap to interview.

***

Now in his second season with the Blaze, back up netminder Renny Marr has been showing us what he’s made of recently, standing in for Brian Stewart in games against the Sheffield Steelers, as well as starting in the pre-season friendly against Manchester Storm. He has also been a regular on international squads, icing for Scotland U17s, GB U18s and more recently for GB U20s.

How does it feel to be chosen to represent your country? Renny said, “Ever since I was young it’s been a dream to play for the GB seniors, so being able to play for Scotland growing up, and being selected for the GB U20s is always a really proud moment. It shows that the work I have put in is paying off and that I’m getting recognised. To be honest, up until I was 15 or so, I wasn’t really thinking about playing for GB – when you are younger you want to play in the NHL or professionally – but until I was 15 or 16 I wasn’t thinking about that, I was playing for fun. Then it got to the stage where I was training with the Flyers in Fife and getting on the bench, so I really thought that if I was improving a lot that I could maybe make the jump to the Elite league, and luckily two years ago I was able to do that.”

Renny played for GB U20s in a training camp in Slovakia, with Head Coach Tommy Watkins, earlier in the season. It included playing the Slovakia U20 team and a team from OHA Okanagan, Austria. He said “Slovakia were quite a challenge and Okanagan were also a tough challenge. It was a good test for the guys who are hopefully going to be going to the World Championships in December.”

More recently, he played another warm up match to prepare for the World Championships which are taking place in Hungary, and include Slovenia, Poland, Italy and Ukraine in the group. This time, the team took on the Hull Pirates EPL team, where Renny lined up against his brother, Jordan, with both brothers shipping three goals each.

Renny is really positive about the call up to the U20s. He explained, “I feel that it’s given me a lot more confidence, being in the mix with the other goalies. Some play in America, some play in Britain. Within the group of five or six I want to get better every day and make a push for being the number one goalie. I feel like that, along with working with Nathan Craze, the GB goalie coach, has really helped. When we were away for the week I felt like I was getting better every day, and Craze was just helping me out giving me pointers and tips, which I worked on since I’ve come back here to Coventry. Getting the call up was really good experience for me.”

Of course, he’s also working hard week in, week out with the Blaze, learning alongside Brian Stewart. “The work I’m doing with Stewy is definitely helping – it’s not lessons every day, but it’s watching him, speaking to him and learning from his experiences. Even just watching him in practice, I sometimes pick things up and trying them out for myself.”

He has had a couple of chances to put his learning into practice this season, how has having that extra ice time helped? “The first five minutes of the game against Sheffield here weren’t great, but once you get settled in and you’re playing, you don’t really think about that you are playing professional hockey, it’s just another game. I don’t really think about it too much, especially since I don’t have too much experience. It’s good to play games against Sheffield and Manchester who are going to give you a challenge. It means to me, that if I want to play at that level that I always have to get better. It’s shown that I can perform at that level, but it’s always making sure that I am pushing myself to be a starter in this league, to be better and to play more often.”

As well as sharpening his own skills, Renny spends time helping the goalies in the Blaze Academy. “Nathan Craze comes to Coventry with his goalie clinic, so I’ll help him work with some of the goalies,” he said, adding, “I come down and coach the goalies for the Academy sessions once a month or so. It’s good to speak to some of the parents and the kids, to help them get better. When I was growing up, there wasn’t a lot of that help and support for goalies in Fife, so I feel like by giving that to the kids it gives them something to aim for, so they can imagine themselves being like me or other young British goalies that are trying to play professionally.”

 

 

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Bjorn Bombis #OnFire

One of my favourite interviews in a long time…

***

Clutching his post-game protein shake, 33 year old Bjorn Bombis was very open about his hopes for the season ahead. Born in Berlin, he’s the first German player to ice for the Blaze. He’s moved from Bremerhaven, having spent the last four seasons playing for Fischtown Pinguins in DEL2, the second league in Germany, averaging over 40 points a season.

How are you feeling about your move the UK? “I’m really happy,” he said, “and my wife is so happy being here. I’m just thankful that Danny Stewart gave me the chance to enter the league and be able to play for the Blaze. The pre-season is short compared to Germany, so even though we didn’t have a lot of time together so far, I feel like the guys in the room have a good chemistry there are lots of open minded, forthcoming guys. I was very nervous on the way here but it was really easy to come here and we’ve settled in pretty good.”

When players come over from Canada and the USA they are all keen to travel, to soak up the culture and to visit our towns and cities with historic buildings. Bombis isn’t too worried about being a tourist, but he is finding some very significant cultural differences. “Well, first there is the food,” he says, laughing. “I would say that my first impression is people like to communicate more. I feel it’s easier to talk to people here, at least that’s what the dressing room is like. It’s been very easy getting into the groups.”

Anything else? “I’m driving on the left side, and everyone is parking facing whichever way they want. It makes me dizzy when there’s a car on my side facing me! In Germany when you drive on the right side you have to park facing that way also. Oh, supermarkets!” he exclaims. “They are way bigger here. They are huge and there’s way more choice. I got lost in the supermarket! The first couple of days we were here I just wanted to go grocery shopping, I felt it was so interesting and I saw so many products I’ve never seen before. The housing is different too. In Germany we have a lot of flats in a lot of bigger buildings, so the housing is built up to the sky. Here it’s flat (he waves his hand around to show houses) and everybody has a little bit of garden.”

Bjorn’s wife, Jolanda Bombis-Robben, was a Dutch international handball left-winger who played 19 times for her country and scored 11 goals. He explained, “She stopped playing professionally in May, at the end of her season. It was a big day – she had tears in her eyes, and then there was a big party for her with fireworks. She’s stopped so that she can work on her Masters thesis and be here with me. During the last couple of years it was all about sports in our house – we both had games at the weekend and that was the main point in our lives, but now it’s changed a bit for her. She’s good with it, it’s a new chapter for her. I could see the emotions in her last game, and I was emotional too. I could feel that whenever the day comes when I stop playing professional sports, it will be a tough day. I told myself I want to play as long as possible!”

Having two sportspeople in the house makes watching each other play rather tricky. “Last season I watched a handful of her games, and she saw a handful of mine. She was also captain of her team, so she was very busy but we would always talk to each other about our games. The good thing is, we sometimes had the same problems – maybe her coach doesn’t play her as much as she wants to and I have the same kind of situation, so it’s good to have the same things in common and it’s easy to talk to and help each other.”

What was the reason behind wanting to move to the UK Having played almost the whole of his career to date in Germany? “That’s a good question! I played for one year in the Czech Republic, other than that I’ve played my whole career in Germany. I’ve played DEL and DEL2 and won a couple of championships in DEL2. I felt like a needed a new motivation. I played on a really good team for the last four years, we were winning a lot and I just felt like I wanted to prove that I can be a good player in a different league and a different environment. Even though I’m in my 30s I’m eager to prove that I can be a good player in this league. I was basically looking for a new motivation. It’s nice to experience another country and the culture, but that’s not my main thing. I’m not here for travelling or to enjoy my last year playing. I would love to play as long as possible, and maybe I can be here for a few years. That would be nice,” he reflects.

Having spent so long playing in one country, there’s a lot to get used to when you step on the ice in a different place. Are there any obvious differences between the two leagues? “It’s so early in the season that I haven’t played against all the teams, but my first impression is that the league has a lot of players with a better resume than in Germany and that the league is a little bit older. The players are not past their prime, they just have more experience, so I mean older in a good way. There’s not a lot of young players in this league. Maybe in Germany the play is a faster pace, but the hockey here feels like it’s a bit smarter, and it’s also more aggressive.”

Is there a noticeable difference in the training regime between the two countries? “That’s one of the biggest differences,” Bombis explains. “In Germany we have a lot of practices. Usually we have two games a week, then Tuesday and Wednesday we skate twice on each of those days. Over here in the UK we have to play more games in a shorter time, so the practices can’t be as hard, it just wouldn’t make sense. It’s fun to play more games instead of practicing more!”

Observant fans who arrive early might have noticed Bjorn and Jordan Pietrus moving a weighted puck around in their off ice warm up. “I use a weighted puck to practice stick handling, so that when I go on the ice the regular puck just feels very light to me. That means I can move it and I can get it fast into spots and if it’s in an awkward position I can get it into my sweet spot pretty quick. It helps me to activate the muscles for shooting.”

Bjorn isn’t the only hockey player in his family. He clearly caught the hockey bug from his father at an early age, and hopes to keep playing for as long as his Dad has. At 64, Bernd Bombis still ices regularly for EC Celler Oilers, in Germany’s fourth league. Last season he took 15 points from 18 games. Bjorn is clearly very proud of his Dad. “He takes his hockey very seriously. He takes game day naps and is acting like a professional even though he’s 64. For him it’s a big challenge to keep up with the younger guys, and obviously he’s a little bit slower than the other guys. He’s also the coach, so he decides how much ice time he has…. maybe he’s not the most honest guy about that sometimes, he plays a lot no matter what! I think I’m like my Dad. I’m a hockey nerd, I’m addicted. Twelve months a year I need a stick in my hand all the time – ball, inline, pond…I love hockey. No matter if anybody pays me for doing that, I want to play as long as I can.”

 

 

 

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Jim Jorgensen #OnFire

Jim Jorgensen returns for his third season with the Blaze, and is very excited that he has been able to bring his dog with him this time!

Having been back in the country for a week Jim seems to have combatted the jetlag. “It didn’t take me long to get back into the routine and it’s nice to settle in.”

Staying with a known team or trying somewhere new is always a difficult decision for a player and their family to have to make, so what was the draw to re-signing for a further two seasons? “I’ve never felt more comfortable for a team ever,” said Jim, “so it was a really easy decision to make. My wife, Alekz, likes it here because she can work here as well. We both like to see the world and hockey gives us that opportunity. We love the country and I love playing hockey, and I’m not ready to be done yet.”

Does Jim see himself sticking around in Coventry for an even longer term? He explained “I’m signed for two more years, so we’ll have a look at the end of that and see where we’re at. We need to see if we are both still enjoying living and working here. I can’t say for certain, but I would like to probably end my career here.”

As we know, players from the USA and Canada enjoy using their time in the UK to travel through Europe, and Jim and his wife are no exception.  “At the end of last season we went to Italy and the Amalfi Coast which we really enjoyed, and we are looking to go to Croatia at the end of this season. We’ve been able to travel to Hungary, Greece and all sorts of places. We love how easy it is to travel Europe because it’s so much easier when you’re based here, and so much shorter travelling times.

And what does his wife Alekz think about living in Coventry? Jim explained “Being here fits well with married life. it’s tough, since we miss our family, but we’ve been able to bring our dog this season, so our own little family is here. It’s a big city, Coventry, but it’s got a small feeling and we like that. Like she says, as long we are together it doesn’t matter where we are. She’s been happy to follow me while I play hockey because she is a photographer so she can do her job while we are travelling. I wouldn’t make her follow me if she didn’t have a career that could move with her. She does weddings, senior high school photos, family shoots. She uses all natural light, and takes photos outside where she can, just using the sun. She had a couple of shoots in the spring before we left and she’ll pick up work again soon.” (http://juniperjamesphotography.com/)

Of course, with no studying or other job to do, there’s a lot of time that needs to be filled away from the rink. “I’m excited to be helping out with the learn to play programme a couple of times a week this season, where the kids come from school as I enjoying working with children. Sometimes it’s tough, but I like teaching the kids how to play hockey and to get them playing. I like to see them making progress. There’s still a lot of free time. I’ve watched every show on Netflix,” he laughed. “I like to take the dog for a walk and play with him. We go on day trips to Stratford and Warwick, and try to keep ourselves busy. There are times when you are bored, but it’s worth it to play hockey and it’s a good problem to have.”

And finally, does Jim see himself settling in Coventry once his playing days are over? “No. My family back home have a beer and wine distributing company, so I’ll probably get into that. My grandpa will never retire, but my Uncles and my dad are looking to retire in the next five or ten years, so it’s time for the next generation to take over. There’s no expectation that I will do it, but they would prefer it was family who took over. I’m also a trained strength coach, so I’d like to work developing kids for college and junior hockey off the ice as well as on the ice. I’ve been offered a straight job doing that at Lake Superior State University a few times, but it doesn’t pay much so I’d have to do other work as well, but it would be good to do something to do with my degree!”

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#OnFire – Ashley Tait Play off special

Ashley Tait, Blaze Captain and long time player, has lifted the play off trophy with the team no less than three times. The first was in 2002/3 in the BNL against Cardiff Devils, the second time in 2004/5 as part of the Grand Slam season, where Blaze beat Nottingham Panthers in an agonizingly tight game which went into sudden death overtime tied at 1-1. With just over three minutes into extra time, Tait raced in on goal and scored the game winner. Most recently was last season where Blaze beat Sheffield Steelers, the then reigning play off Champions.

Having won the play trophy three times with the Blaze, I asked how it felt to win each time. Tait said, “It’s weird, the first one is  obviously special, and the next one with Coventry, our first in the Elite League era,  was to make it the grand slam, so that was very special.  Last year was pretty unexpected to be fair, we beat the first, fourth and fifth seeds along the way, so it was special but for very different reasons.”

With so many games to play each year, I wondered how well Tait remembered the games leading to the play off title. He said, “Last year I remember well – the Nottingham series in particular. We played really well in the first game there and came back tied at 3-3. I was lucky enough to get a goal in the return game. I remember it was an absolute defensive onslaught, we couldn’t get out of their end but everybody held firm and we came good. I think that win went a long way towards getting us the steel we needed to get through the semis with Belfast which went to penalty shots and the final.”

When it comes to preparation, the play off games have a very different feel to regular league games. It really is a case of winner takes all, with only four games between you and the trophy. Tait explained, “As an individual you have to put it all on the line and leave nothing in the dressing room. It’s all about the bigger picture which is winning. It’s all about your team mates, being willing to go through that wall and pay the price.”

While individual players have their own ways of preparing for the games, the most important thing is that the team is ready for the challenge. First they focus on the two leg quarter final, which is an alien concept to some of the import players.  Tait continued, “As a team the preparation this week will be solely based on a two game series. It’s always a little bit difficult, having the mindset to play two games, because it’s an aggregate score over the two legs.  That’s a foreign concept to a lot of the guys when it’s their first time playing over here. I’ve been involved in two legs where you hold a decent lead going in, and it’s very difficult mentally to go in with a two or three goal lead. It’s just human nature that you know you are in the lead, that you are winning, and it doesn’t help. You’ve got to have the mindset it’s a fresh start and it’s 0-0, regardless of what the actual score the night before was.”

With it being confirmed that we face Sheffield in the quarter finals, how confident are the team that they can lift the play off trophy again? “We always said we didn’t have the start to the year we wanted and it was apparent we weren’t going to challenge for the league title, so plan B was to make sure we get to the play offs,” explained Tait. “Anything can happen from there as we learnt last year! Last year is a great lesson for the guys that we’ve currently got.”

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