With a NHL lockout in effect, living in Europe has some unforeseen perks. There are a lot of NHLers playing in Europe, but no one closer than Drew Miller. Drew plays for the Braehead Clan in Glasgow, Scotland; which is a very short plane ride away from me. With the lockout firmly entrenched and a resolution out of sight, I decided it was time to make the trip to see him play live.
I touched down in Glasgow on the day of the game, with a few hours to spare. I checked into my hotel and decided to head down to the arena early. To get to the Braehead Arena fans enter the Braehead Shopping Centre. My first thought was, “This is interesting.” I did not know what to make of an arena attach to a mall, because I had never played or watched a game in one.
As I turn the corner to the entrance of the Arena I was greeted by Clan fans all decked out in their gear and Clangus, the mascot of the Braehead Clan. I took the escalator to the upper level of the Shopping Centre to receive my press pass and meet Raymond, the Clan’s Media Officer. We chatted about hockey and the Clan organization for a bit as he took me on a tour of the arena.
It is not a large arena; having only 4000 seats, some of which end up being blocked off at game time, but it was bigger than I expected. I would equate the arena to the size of an average college arena in the U.S. We headed out of the rink and back to the lobby, although small in comparison to the NHL arenas it had concessions, merchandise areas, and a stocked bar. My favourite part of the arena was the window façade that faces the River Clyde. Modern hockey arenas tend to lose the traditional feel of a hockey rink, but being able to see the river enhances the experience of being in Braehead Arena.
Being able to see the river from the lobby made me wish that was a feature at the Joe as well. Imagine walking out of the seating area to buy a jersey or food and being welcomed by the Detroit River. It would make the spectator feel closer to Detroit and create a spectacular sightline; perhaps such sights could be incorporated in the new arena.
As game time got closer and the players came out for warm-ups, Braehead fans began to fill the arena and electricity started to fill the air. At game time the crowd was reared up and ready to go, hyped further by enthusiastic cheering and drumming. The atmosphere felt like a college game, where unorthodox cheering is not only accepted, but encouraged. This type of cheering turned my trip from being a reported to a fan.
While the Clan gave up an early goal to the Edinburgh Capitals, they dominated the game from start to finish. The Clan out shot and out played the Captials. Zemlak had a great game in net, and while he did not see many shots (13) he made great saves when called upon, which takes a lot of mental ability. The defence received an upgrade with Davide Nicoletti coming into play his first game. He brought a lot of strength and a good defensive aspect that the Clan had been missing from their defence. Their offence clicked very well in this game as well, but anytime your team scores 6 goals your offence has to be hot.
Drew put on a passing clinic all game, giving his teammates breakout feeds and pushing the puck to open areas of the ice. He did a great job of protecting the puck from the opposition, while keeping his head up to look for the right play. Drew was, also, one of the few players who took the puck to the net to create a scoring opportunity. His aggressiveness and smart play have made him a fan favourite.
The Braehead offence overall was too pass happy. While the Clan had plenty of shots on net in the game, most were not good scoring opportunities. The offence spent too much time looking for the perfect play rather than taking what was given to them resulting in numerous turnovers. The offence tended to favour playing deep in the zone and were not always aware of their defensive responsibilities, which created lanes for the Capitals to work in. These defensive lapses allowed the Capitals to hold the puck in the offensive zone for extended periods of time. When the Clan had control of the puck, they were tough to knock of it and controlled most of the game because of it.
The defence played a very offensive during the game. While an active defence is good, there were too many odd man rushes by the Capitals because of poor judgement. Clan defencemen were looking to pinch in order to create scoring opportunities, but the forwards were slow to cover the holes and the other defenceman did not compensate for the loss of his partner. When the plays worked it looked like a genius move, but when it didn’t it gave the Capitals’ players a great chance to put the puck on net. Perhaps part of the Clan’s game plan is to implement their defencemen in an aggressive offensive strategy, but they cannot lose sight of their defensive responsibilities. There is a saying in hockey, “Offensive skills get you to the NHL, defensive skills keep you there”.
The Braehead Clan not only take care of their fans and community through their play on the ice, but of the ice as well. In October had a Think Pink promotion for breast cancer, where Elizabeth Hurley promoted the event. A special Clan jersey was made for her and was auctioned off along with all of the other jerseys worn that day by the players. In November they have been supporting Movember charities and had a teddy bear toss day.
Overall for a team and organization that has been around for three seasons they have done a lot to welcome fans and bring in solid talent to their team. Every team needs to smooth a few kinks and the Clan are no exception, but once everything falls into place they could become a real powerhouse in the EIHL. The Clan organization is a class act and they made me feel very welcome by answering questions, chatting about hockey, and making sure everything was in order. I will be looking forward to seeing another game sometime this season, NHL or no NHL, they have made a fan out of me.