CARDIFF, UK – Cardiff have made a great start to the season, thanks mainly to the goals from new import Sean Scarbrough. Pro Hockey News caught up with the Californian winger to find out how he is settling down in the land of Wales.
Of all the imports to sign up in the NIHL this season, Cardiff’s Sean Scarbrough probably arrived with the least fanfare. The speedy Californian headed to Wales after spending a season away from the game following two campaigns in the Australian Ice Hockey League.
After making his mind up that the UK was to be the next destination on his hockey globetrotting adventure, Scarbrough set to the task of securing a team for 2012/13.
“The decision was pretty much made for me when two other teams in the league passed on me and a few others didn’t respond to my emails” admitted the 26 year old winger.
“One team had committed to signing their imports and another team wanted a more established player. Maybe one’s whose Elite Prospects resume could be verified”
“With that said, I consider myself fortunate to have Cudds (Coach Mark Cuddihy) take a chance on me. It’s been a great deal of fun playing in Cardiff. We have a great room of guys who make coming to the rink fun”
As one of the long standing members of the NIHL or ENL as it was previously known, Cardiff are well known for their development of local talent however always make room for any quality imports that come their way.
Having played in sunny San Jose in the USA, the Australian Capital of Canberra and Port of Adelaide, Scarbrough entered Wales over the Severn Bridge and hasn’t looked back.
“We had practice the same night I landed in London” explained Scarbrough, who studied at the San Jose State University.
“Mind you, I had zero sleep on the plane and then was running around Bristol with Alastair Band while we waited for the landlord to leave the house so I could move in to my temporary home in Bath”
“I met a couple of the guys as we carpooled to Cardiff together and I was in and out of sleep nearly the entire way to the rink. When I got out of the car to meet Coach Cuddihy for the first time my eyes were in the back of my head”
“I walked into the arena and there was a giant hole in ice around the back of the net as the surface was being re-done. All I could think was, ‘What have I got myself into?’ I tried really hard to make a good first impression with the guys and have a good training, but my body and mind were in two separate places and I had one of the worst practices I could remember”
“I hadn’t done drills in nearly a year and all my shots were muffins into Brabon’s chest. I was just waiting for Cudds to cut me right then and there. But instead, we all went and had a pint after, I got to meet the guys on a more personal level and it’s been a great experience ever since”
Indeed it has been a good experience so far for Scarbrough and the Devils as they have been in good form again this year with the American leading the team with 25 goals and 16 assists in his 15 appearances so far this year.
Playing against, and beating bigger budget teams has been a source of pride for the Welsh side for a number of years and this season has been no exception with big results against Chelmsford and Invicta so far.
For Scarbrough the standard of competition has been a surprise even if the weather hasn’t.
“The league is much better than what I’ve seen on YouTube for the last two or three seasons. The quality in skill appears to have gotten much better. There’s parity in the league and the likes of Peter Vaisanen aren’t making everyone look like a pylon”
“I’m hoping the best has yet to come, but beating Invicta in their barn has been the standout moment of the season for me on the ice. Off the ice would have to be my buddy surprising me in Bracknell and spending two days sight seeing in central London”
“I really do miss walking up to the rink in shorts and flip flops. It’s November and California is going through a heat wave right now. Meanwhile, Cardiff- Baltic cold and it’s dark by 4:30”
“It’s a drastic change from what I’m used to, but it’s been a great time. I’ve been spoiled to live in warm climates my whole life. This experience will only make me appreciate it more”
California is not known as a hockey heartland but it was a lack of ability at another classic North American sport that saw Scarbrough strap on a pair of skates as a kid.
“In short, I was terrible at baseball” admitted Scarbrough, who learned to play hockey at Eastridge Ice Arena in San Jose.
“I couldn’t throw, my hand eye was terrible and when I played catcher I thought it was funny to ‘stack the pads’. Thinking back on it now, I was pretty tough on myself as an 8 year old”
“My mother also requested I play any other sport besides football (grid-iron). Don’t think she ever thought I’d ever learn to ice skate, I asked to take hockey lessons”
“Much to the chagrin of my mom trying to keep me out of heavy contact sport she backed the idea. I was placed on the Blackhawks Mite B team after a couple months of lessons and almost instantly, I knew it was something I would want to do for a long time”
After playing the majority of his junior career in the Santa Clara Blackhawks club, Scarbrough also had a spell with the San Jose Jr Sharks and the Bay Area Buccaneers AAA teams.
Five seasons with the San Jose State University team followed where a prolific Scarbrough hit 180 goals and 128 assists in 160 appearances.
Off the ice Scarbrough is clearly a man of the world however that did not stop him falling foul of the banter within the Devils camp, well not in the conventional sense anyway.
“When I landed at Heathrow and went through customs I wasn’t given a stamp on my EU passport (Irish). Nor was I stopped for the amounts of chew I brought for teammates” said Scarbrough, with the reference to chew being chewing tobacco.
“This was all very disappointing to me. First, I could have brought so much more chew and sold for hefty profit. Lastly, at the risk of sounding like a nerd, I really like getting the stamps when I enter foreign countries. It validates my travels”
“So, when I expressed my dismay to Alastair in the car, he without a hint of hesitation claimed that I would need to bring it on the Isle of Wight trip and that I would certainly get a stamp while I was there”
“Had there been a bit more communication between Bandy and Cudds, they probably could have got me to make a much bigger fool of myself. Apparently, Cudds has convinced imports to hide in the toilets avoiding ‘border patrol’ before”
“Sadly, after the game I went to the hospital to check on the status of our teammate Louis Lockwood who had separated his shoulder. No stamp was given this night”
Despite the lack of stamp in his passport, Scarbrough has certainly settled in well to life in the Big Blue Tent in Cardiff Bay. However after glancing at his CV it is difficult to predict what the future will be for the 6’ 0” forward.
“Every time I think I’m ready to call it quits, the game pulls me back” explained Scarbrough, whose old rink he played in as a junior is now demolished and is occupied by a Bed, Bath and Beyond.
“It’s hard to say no to offers that allow me to see the world while playing hockey. Right now, my hope is to stay healthy, keep playing well and possibly get invited to play for Team Ireland at the 2013 IIHF tournament in South Africa. Get that stamp”
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