Sam Gospel itching to pull on Leeds Chiefs jersey again as soon as possible

WHILE the recent ‘Streaming Series’ proved a welcome distraction for players, coaches and ice hockey fans there was also a sense of frustration for many in the UK game.

By Phil Harrison
Thursday, 17th December 2020, 2:40 pm
BRING IT BACK: Leeds Chiefs' netminder Sam Gospel, pictured in action against Hull Pirates last season. Picture: Dean Woolley.
BRING IT BACK: Leeds Chiefs' netminder Sam Gospel, pictured in action against Hull Pirates last season. Picture: Dean Woolley.

The exploits of Sheffield Steeldogs, Milton Keynes Lightning and Swindon Wildcats slugging it out in competitive fashion behind-closed-doors with games being streamed live online showed what is possible, despite the intense restrictions brought about by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

As a result of the positive streaming ticket sales during the three-week tournament - an average of 1,000 people paid to watch each game NIHL National owners, including representatives of Leeds Chiefs, were last night due to hold a further Zoom call to discuss their plans for some kind of a season going ahead in January.

Given the rapid, fluctuating nature of coronavirus infections and death rates in different parts of the UK - London and other areas in the South are today expected to join the majority of the country in being moved into Tier 3 - planning anything at this stage is a big step into the unknown.

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HOPEFUL: Leeds Chiefs' netminder, Sam Gospel . Picture courtesy of Steve Brodie

Not surprisingly, players from all 10 second-tier teams will be hoping some kind of competition can be put together to give them something to play for, with most of them being denied that opportunity since Covid-19 brought an abrupt halt to last season in early March.

Like many in the sport, Chiefs’ netminder Sam Gospel has had to make alternative plans in terms of an income, given the lack of activity on and off the ice in the UK game.

The 26-year-old, from Nottingham, is currently working for a local auto parts company as a client representative, something he picked up due to the owner being a Nottingham Panthers’ fan, Gospel’s parent club.

Gospel is pleased with the way he has taken to his new employment, but the thought of a return to hockey has never been far away, with the urge to get back on the ice only fuelled further by watching the Streaming Series.

LEADING THE WAY: The recent Streaming Series involving Sheffield Steeldogs and Milton Keynes Lightning, along with Swindon Wildcats, proved hockey could be staged behind closed doors, while broadcasting the games live online to paying fans. Picture courtesy of Dean Woolley.

“I tuned into all but one of the games, I enjoyed it and thought everyone involved did really well,” said Gospel. “It looked good quality - obviously bolstering the line-ups with some Elite League players helped but the games generally were pretty good.

“It was great to see hockey back on again but, the downside of that is that you are sat there watching it just wanting to be involved, it was frustrating in that respect. As nice as it was to see those teams playing and guys that you know being involved, I would much rather have been out there with them.

“Hopefully a league-wide streaming series is something that can follow soon.

“There would have to be some kind of pre-season, some kind of preparation, obviously.

“But if Sam (Zajac, Chiefs coach) rang tomorrow and said we’ll get all the contracts re-signed for however long the season is going to be and we’ll start practising next Tuesday, I don’t think there would be any of the players saying they couldn’t make it because everyone is so desperate to get back at it.”

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