Why North American Hockey Fans Should Care

If you’re a passionate, die-hard hockey fan like me then the idea of watching the game – no matter where it’s being played – is appealing.


HOWEVER, I know that doesn’t include most hockey fans here in Canada, which means most people wouldn’t really have much interest in hockey that’s being played in Great Britain and the

U.K.


What I’ve done here is a little digging to present to you the top five most recognizable players who’ve gone across the pond to ply their trade in the Elite Ice Hockey League.


No this is by no means a definitive list; it’s simply the top five names that jumped off the page when I went through the league history books.


I’ll start off by telling you who won’t be on the list: goalies. I didn’t intentionally leave them out, but when I went through the list of both current and former EIHL netminders there just wasn’t anyone with that name recognition. Fans of the EIHL and hockey die-hards will recognize a bunch of names for what they’ve done in the league, but they’re not going to make anyone from Canada or the U.S. start watching.


Before I get into the main list, let’s quickly review the top five players who just missed the cut. In no particular order, they are…


Jim Vandemeer

NHL (02/03-11/12)

  • Flyers, Blackhawks, Flames, Coyotes, Oilers, Sharks

  • 117 games played, 105 points, 664 PIM

EIHL (15/16-18/19)

  • Giants

  • 143 games played, 80 points, 235 PIM


Jay Rosehill

NHL (09/10-13/14)

  • Maple Leafs, Flyers

  • 117 games played, 8 points, 352 PIM

EIHL (16/17-17/18)

  • Clan, Storm

  • 82 games played, 39 points, 362 PIM


Brian McGrattan

NHL (05/06-14/15)

  • Senators, Coyotes, Flames, Predators

  • 317 games played, 27 points, 609 PIM

EIHL (16/17)

  • Panthers

  • 47 games played, 19 points, 138 PIM


Anthony Stewart

NHL (05/06-11/12)

  • Panthers, Thrashers, Hurricanes

  • 262 games played, 71 points (27 goals, 44 assists)

EIHL (12/13)

  • Panthers

  • 16 games played, 8 points (3 goals, 5 assists)


André Deveaux

NHL (08/19-11/12)

  • Maple Leafs, Rangers

  • 31 games played, 2 points, 104 PIM

EIHL (17/18)

  • Steelers

  • 6 games played, 4 points, 48 PIM


There’s one more player I want to mention before getting to the true top five list, it’s an honourable mention to someone who you might not know yet but you definitely need to; Liam Kirk.


Kirk is only 20 years old, from the U.K., and was drafted by the Arizona Coyotes in the seventh round back in 2018 BEFORE he made the jump to North American hockey.

Not only that, as a teenager he played for Team GB at the 2019 World Championships against the likes of Canada, the U.S.A. and Germany.


He’s played in the EIHL (parts of two season with the Sheffield Steelers), and will probably make it to the NHL one day. This kid is, in my opinion, the future of British ice hockey and that’s an exciting thing.


Now. As promised. Here are the top five most notable players you’ve probably heard of who have spent time across the pond in the Elite Ice Hockey League.


#5 JARED STAAL

Now unless you’re a big Sudbury Wolves or Charlotte Checkers fan you’ve probably never seen Jared played, but I can almost guarantee you’ve seen or heard of his three brothers; Eric, Marc and Jordan.


Jared is probably known most as the “Other Staal” brother, and only had two games in the NHL alongside Eric and Jordan with the Hurricanes.


In the EIHL, he only played the 2016/2017 season with the Capitals. That year, he had 12 goals and 21 assists for 33 points in 44 games.


Now again, I know he’s the most prolific player in hockey history and may not have had a huge impact on either league, but the Staal name carries a LOT of weight in the hockey world.


#4 CHRIS STEWART

Chris is the younger brother of Anthony Stewart, who I’ve already mentioned, and is statistically the better hockey player of the two.


Chris started playing in the NHL in the 2008/2009 season with the Colorado Avalanche, and since then has spent time with St. Louis, Buffalo, Minnesota, Anaheim, Calgary and is currently in the Philadelphia system.


During 10+ years in the NHL, Stewart has played in 668. He has 322 points over that span with 750 PIM.


He only played part of one season in the EIHL, when he suited up for the Nottingham Panthers for 23 games in 2018/2019. During that stretch, he posted 13 points (six goals, seven assists) and 27 penalty minutes.


Any player who plays over 600 games in the NHL is a big deal, so it was a huge win for the league when he joined the ranks even if it was only for part of one season.


#3 WADE BELAK

This is a tough one for many people. Well, not having him on the list but talking about him in general. I'd say he was one of the last true gladiators of the NHL when we lost him.


Belak only played one season in the EIHL, but I'm sure he left his mark on the league.


He spent a fair amount of time in the NHL - from 96/97 until 10/11 - playing in 549 games and putting up 1263 PIM and 33 points (eight goals, 25 assists). He dad that with Colorado, Calgary, Toronto, Florida and Nashville.


In the EIHL, Belak spent the 04/05 season with the Coventry Blaze. In 20 games, he impressively had 109 PIM and eight points (three goals, five assists).


#2 PAUL BISSONETTE

At #2 we have the man who for some reason was recently dubbed the 'most influential person in hockey', Paul Bissonette. Before anyone gets mad at me: no, I don't think I'm more influential. I just don't think he is the MOST influential.


"Biz Nasty", as he's known on Twitter, played pro hockey for just over a decade mostly in the minor leagues (AHL and ECHL).


At the start of the 09/10 season, Bissonnette cracked an NHL roster and stuck around with the then Pheonix Coyotes.


Now he never played a full NHL season, but he definitely made his presence felt both on and off the ice.


12/13 comes around and uh oh...lockout. So Biz Nasty packs up his bags and flies to...Wales.


While playing for the Cardiff Devils, Biz Nasty put up what could be his best season percentage wise with 19 points in 10 league games.


Lockout ends mid-season, so he goes back to the NHL and finishes his career in 16/17 in the AHL. One million Twitter followers later and he's not moved into a successful post-playing career.


#1 THEO FLEURY

Now if you're a hockey fan you know who Theo Fleury is and have an idea of what he did in his career. I don't need to tell you about him.


What I'll do instead is just show you his stats from his NHL career and those from his season with the Belfast Giants in the EIHL.


NHL (88/89-02/03)

  • Flames, Avalanche, Rangers, Blackhawks

  • 1084 games played, 1088 points (455 goals, 633 assists), 1840 PIM

EIHL (05/06)

  • Giants

  • 34 games played, 74 points (22 goals, 52 assists), 270 PIM


If someone like Theo Fleury thought it was a good idea to at least test the waters in the EIHL, you never know who could be next.

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©2020 Stuart Walter. Pictures provided by the Stena Line Belfast Giants.