2023/24 Season Preview

By Tom Pink

What a time to be a Huskies fan.

Breathe it in. Just sit with it for a while. We get so few moments like this.

There’s a lot to talk about and so much to be excited for. The bombshell that the club have made the decision to step-up to South 1 for the 2024/25 season is huge. Genuinely momentous. I think it’s eminently sensible that they’ve decided to wait a year before making the leap though. It gives the club time to prepare, and a whole season to try out any new ideas and get ready for whatever’s to come in South 1.

I don’t know what the gulf in quality will be like between a team stepping-up from South 2 and the established South 1 teams, but when top can beat bottom 22-0 I’d argue it could be fairly eye opening. We’ll have a better idea after the pre-season games against Romford Buccaneers.

The decision to delay also gives us one last punt at South 2.

I think absolutely the club, staff and players all want one last shot at it. You could see it in the celebrations after the semi-final in the playoffs last season. They all want it badly. They’ll want to win at least one of the league, playoffs, or cup (if there is one…) this season, if not more. To go up without some silverware would invite criticism, wrongly placed in my opinion, but questions would be asked nonetheless, and they won’t want that hanging over them.

Unfortunately, that is going to be harder this year, with most teams strengthening. But that’s why we love it. That’s why South 2 is so competitive and such an entertaining league to watch.

You’ve also got to think the Palace will be pushing for this move as well. We’ve seen an increase in activity from our landlady in regard to promotion; ice hockey isn’t just something that happens to be played at Ally Pally anymore. It’s becoming a main event, a destination, and a home for hockey fans new and old in North London.

To my mind, over the last couple of years the Palace has slowly cottoned-on to how potentially lucrative ice hockey can be in N22. You can do some very rough sums involving attendances and ticket prices and work out that from gate receipts alone, just shy of £100k was generated last year.

Obviously, there are major overheads with running an ice rink, especially in a cost of living crisis with ballooning energy costs. But the flipside is that the Huskies provide consistent, nearly guaranteed income for the Palace; you know there will be x amount of home games a year and based on the last two seasons at least half of these will be sellouts. This type of income stream is a dream for business owners and must be reassuring in comparison to other events the Palace puts on which rely on artist availability, scheduling, and a host of other factors.

With the prospect of at least 4 more home games and a potentially greater profile in South 1, it’s easy to make an argument for why they’d be eager for the Huskies to step-up. It makes good financial sense.

But this has to be balanced against the fan offer. I’d be amazed if ticket prices weren’t raised again this year. In fact the price of a season ticket has already increased and you can guarantee that this will happen again for the 2024/25 season in South 1. At the time of writing, Streatham charge £13.00 for an adult ticket so we can expect something similar.

All I’d say here is that the entire project only works if fans continue to come through the door in the numbers that they have done, and in a cost-of-living crisis with ballooning energy costs, it’s leisure activities that people will drop first.

So, what about the here and now? What are we staring down on Saturday September 9th? There’s been several incomings over the summer, and potentially a couple of outgoings. I’m so happy that the core of the team has stuck together during the last 2 years, and most of them are back again this year. There’s a lot of love for this group among the fans, and I’d be made up for them if they all got that first season in South 1. They’ve more than earned it.

At the moment, it looks as though we’ll be missing some big names though. Tom Avery and Ryan Payne are yet to be retained and losing them is a blow. They’re top players and between them they covered a lot of minutes last year.

Without Tom Avery, who will provide all of the assists for Sam Roberts? In all seriousness Tom had an amazing season last year with 10 goals and nine assists in the league. That’s a big deficit to make up, especially from defence. Ryan Payne has been involved with ice hockey in Haringey since at least 2005, and if we aren’t to see him again in the Black and White, a huge thank you should be extended for his many years of service, the likes of which I can’t possibly do justice to here. But thank you Ryan; a true Haringey legend.

Now for the new faces.

Defenceman John Beldecos was captain last season of the Haringey Hounds. It’s brilliant to see another young player come through from the youth team. A very welcome addition to the blue line and he can hopefully replicate Corey Taylor and Marton Szasz’s successful step-up last year.

Conner Smith is a very good signing in terms of profile; only 21 years old and several years’ experience of playing at Division 1 level already. I imagine Conner will come in and hit the ground running. Absolutely a signing for the here and now, but with one eye on our move to South 1.

Forward Joe Tearall put up some really good numbers over the last two seasons for the Streatham Black Hawks. I can’t wait to see how he does in this Huskies team and he adds even greater depth to our roster.

New Assistant Coach Peter Taylor was introduced to the fans at the awards night in May. A former player and Assistant Coach with Milton Keynes Thunder in South 1, Peter will hopefully bring lots of experience and some new ideas to our bench.

Welcome everyone and I wish you every success with the Huskies.

Regarding our schedule this year, the fixtures are out and I’m fairly happy. It’s a very different balance to last year which felt a bit rear loaded with some of the “bigger” games (there’s only big games in South 2 and maybe decisive games is a better analogy).

The season’s top and tailed by two absolute juggernauts though. Bristol at home for the curtain raiser now feels massive, in a way that it wouldn’t have two years ago. And then to finish with Guildford at the Palace. Well. The potential for what could be riding on that game is fairly significant.

There’s three doubleheaders dotted in there too: Streatham (H)/Solent (A), Basingstoke (H)/Streatham (A), and Oxford (H)/Cardiff (A). I’ll be fascinated to see how we do across these as we laboured somewhat in the second games of our double game weekends last year.

Momentum across the year will obviously be important too. It won’t be easy to go on a 10 game winning streak as we did last year, there’s so many difficult games spread throughout the calendar. If we can be in a good position after our first five games though (Bristol (H)/Lee Valley (A)/Invicta (H)/Bristol (A)/Cardiff (H)), that could set us on our way to something special. That would be last years’ champions and half of the playoff champions dealt with.

In terms of what we can expect from the other teams in South 2 this year, everyone has strengthened.

Last years’ champions Bristol Pitbulls 2 retain top scorer Oli Shone and add long time Cardiff stalwart Joe Morris to their defence from the National League Bristol Pitbulls.

Playoff champs Invicta Mustangs bring in goalie Stuart Long after some time out from hockey, as well as forward Connor Snow and Dan Rea. One of their stars from last season James Laming moves to the Dynamos with more of a focus on South 1.

Peterborough Phantoms 2 look even stronger than last year and have added to their forward line with Sun Yin Ho from the Chelmsford Warriors and Nathan Pollard, who joins from the National League Peterborough Phantoms.

Guildford Phoenix add one offensive and one defensive player in the forms of Jed Sherrington and Mark Wheeler, both after time away from the sport.

On the High Road, Streatham Black Hawks name 3 new signings, all after time away: player-coach Jack Tarczycki, former Husky Jack Lee, and Robert England.

Basingstoke Buffalo bring in forwards Paul Petts and Hallam Wilson whilst the Buffalo Bison take a year out for renovations to the Planet Ice Basingstoke rink. They lose Mark Austen and James Bryan to Milton Keynes Thunder in South 1, and Travis Penny joins Oxford City Stars. Basingstoke old boy Dan Weller-Evans comes out of retirement to help out in net, which is a really nice feel-good story.

18-year-old Tyler Chard joins Chelmsford Chieftains from Invicta Dynamos, and forward Aiden McGurk and D-man Matthew Hayward join Oxford Rising Stars from Milton Keynes Thunder and Peterborough Phantoms 2 respectively.

It’s outgoings for the Swindon Wildcats 2 as forwards James Hounsome and Daniel Williams move to South 1 Oxford City Stars, and youngster Bobby Ragan joins Bristol Pitbulls 2.

It’s going to be yet another close affair in South 2. On that you can rely.

Haringey have strengthened in some areas and have lost key players in others. We have the desire. We have the impetus. We have one more chance at this crazy league before we set sail for something completely different and unknown. Might that just give us the edge when we’re up against it, when we’re having to dig deep and persevere? Might that just focus our minds and turn that one or no points into two?

I don’t know. All I can tell you is to join us. Have faith and join us for this one last hurrah. This dice roll, this campaign, this adventure. It might just be the most crazy, beautiful, maddening thing you ever do.

See you on the 9th.

Let’s Go Huskies.