The YKK sponsored Widnes Wild can boast another international player in their ranks after Daniel Fay played for the Great Britain Universities team at the World University Winter Games (XXIX Winter Universiade) in March.
He follows in the footsteps of Wild team mates Matt Croyle and Mike Mawer who featured in the 2017 University tournament in Kazakhstan and former Wild netminder Nicole Jackson who was and still is the top choice in goal for the GB women’s team in the World Championships.
The Wild women’s team has also provided some internationals at varying levels in recent years with former players Sarah Hutchinson and Abi Culshaw both playing for Team GB while in Wild colours and current players Sophie Sinclair Reeks and Katie Fairclough both having played for the GB women’s under 18 team. Wild women’s Leen de Decker has also played over 60 times for her native Belgium.
The games this year were held in Krasnoyarsk in Siberia, northern Russia, and featured over 2500 participants from 50 countries. The GB University team comprised of 58 athletes and support staff in six disciplines across four sports: Curling, Ice Hockey, Speed Skating and Snowsports – Ski Cross, Ski Slopestyle and Snowboard Cross.
In their Group B games, the men’s GB Universities team lost 12-0 to Canada, 3-7 to Switzerland, 17-1 to Kazakhstan and 11-0 to Latvia, before sensationally beating Sweden 5-4 in their final game.
We caught up with Daniel to find out more about his GB experience and how the whole thing came about:
Dan: “I originally heard about GB Uni from a mate of mine back home in Bracknell, so in September after first moving up to the Wirral, I sent them an email stating that I would be interested. I got an email back saying that they were holding trials in Sheffield. After three trials I received another email saying that I was in the team and we had a preparation game against the Steeldogs prior to the Universiade Games.”
Q: How did you feel when you first heard you had been selected to go?
Dan: “I had just got home from Widnes after training when I received the email confirming my place in the team. I was very excited as I have never had the opportunity to represent my country before.”
Q: What was it like playing for your country against teams like Canada and Sweden?
Dan: “It was a great honour to pull the GB jersey on in all the games but especially when playing against some of the best ranked nations in the world such as Canada and Sweden. We went into the tournament knowing that it was going to be tough. But we had a good team and we battled throughout all the games, so when the final buzzer went in our final game against Sweden, we were all ecstatic when we had won the game 5-4.”
Q: How did you find the level of hockey in general and what was the tournament venue like?
Dan: “The level of hockey was high out there with players from other nations playing in leagues such as the KHL and one of the Russian players playing in the NHL. The game was so much faster and more physical than back home. The arena we played and trained in was amazing. Each team had their own locker room which looked like something out of the NHL with numerous other rooms coming off for physio, skate sharping etc. The atmosphere in the rink during games was something else, with 3500 spectators.”
Q: What benefits has playing at the tournament brought to your own game?
Dan: “I felt that having a chance to play at this level had helped me in my own game as it gave me a chance to see how athletes from other nations train and play. As well as watching the other nations train, I felt that, as we were training every day, it helped me build my fitness, confidence and practice aspects of the game that we normally do not have time back home to do due to the limited ice time.”
This is the first season that Daniel Fay has played for the Wild, having spent his entire junior and senior career to date in his native Bracknell, so we asked him about his experiences in his first season here:
Q: What made you choose to play for Widnes Wild this season?
Dan: “After being accepted into Liverpool John Moores Uni, I knew that I was going to have to look for a new hockey team as Bracknell would be a little too far. So, I asked my coach at Bracknell if he knew any of the coaches of the teams nearby. Following that I got messages from a few teams, one being from Ollie and the Widnes Wild. As I didn’t really know what the level of hockey was up here, I trialled at both Widnes and Deeside, being my two local teams. Following the trials both coaches offered me a spot on the team. I feel that I made the right decision choosing Widnes for as a team we have had a great season, securing the league title.”
Q: What differences have you noticed between NIHL North and South?
Dan: “There are a few differences between the North and the South mainly being the physical aspect of the game. Back home the hitting aspect of the game isn’t really focused on much so even though I took the occasional hit, I have definitely been hit much more this season.”
Q: You won the league title in your first season at Widnes – how does that feel?
Dan: “It was a great experience winning the league title with Widnes. It’s a great group of guys who have made me feel so welcome. I feel that we have built a great bond and, hopefully, it showed on the ice over the season. It was a great feeling lifting the cup on the last game of the season, this is the first league title I’ve been a part of and I will remember it as one of my favourite hockey moments for the rest of my career.”
Q: You come from quite a hockey family – tell us about them.
Dan: “Both my parents play hockey. My Mum has played for over 30 years and has played most of her career at Bracknell also playing for England and Great Britain. She is also one of the coaches at the Bracknell Junior Club. My Dad has played for over 20 years most of this at Slough. Ice hockey is how they first met. My sister also used to play hockey at Bracknell, however, she has taken a break this year in order to pursue her gymnastics and concentrate on her GCSE’s.”
It just so happens that there will be a Fay family reunion at Planet Ice Widnes this Sunday when Claire Fay, Daniel’s mother, will be playing for the Bracknell Firebees woman’s team against the Widnes Wild women’s team in the EIHA Women’s Premier League, 5.30pm face off.
Report by Paul Breeze – www.icehockeyreview.co.uk