In the first fan submission on Puck it, Phil Armstrong writes about the joy he gets from watching one of his favourites in the Elite League.
This will be my first ever time writing about hockey – usually my ramblings are contained to forum posts, Twitter and other social media outlets. My interest in hockey started out as a causal fan, going with my family to Belfast Giants games, and I will admit it was the rougher side that drew me in – the fights, the hits – stuff I had never seen in any other sport.
Now I have a deeper interest in the game I still love the hits and the rough stuff, but I also enjoy watching the more technical side – which brings me to my player to watch.
Mark Garside, for me, is one of the most versatile players currently playing in the EIHL.
He started playing in the EIHL in 2006, at the age of 16, with the Edinburgh Capitals. He spent four years with the Capitals, improving his goal and assist output every year.
In 2010 he made the move to Belfast, along with his coach at Edinburgh, Doug Christiansen. Christiansen is quoted as saying
I am ecstatic about bringing Mark to Belfast. Mark is one of the top young players in the EIHL. He works extremely hard and can play in all situations. He centered our first line last season in Edinburgh and really improved. After I learned he did not plan on returning to Edinburgh, I made sure to try to lure him to the Giants. I am thrilled he accepted our offer!
Mark had a career year in 2011-12, registering 7+37 for 44 points, but it was his defensive play that made him stand out. His prowess in the faceoff dot made him invaluable on the penalty kill. He, along with Adam Keefe and Daryl Lloyd, created arguably one of the best shutdown lines in the EIHL in this season – a line Giants fans nicknamed the Heartbeat line.
Their ice time dropped the following season, but the impact this line had on the ice was not lost on the fans, with Keefe and Lloyd crashing and banging Garside was always the anchor picking up the pieces and making sure that the team never found itself in trouble defensively.
Skipping ahead to last season, the Giants brought in a new coach Derrick Walser – a player with vast amounts of experience from leagues around the world. Unfortunately, the team underperformed and finished the season with no silverware.
One bright spark that did appear from the season was the move from forward to defence for Garside. Almost straight away, he seemed to thrive in his new position. Playing alongside Walser, he brought a steady and safe style of play that the Giants defence had been missing, and with players like Walser and the newly signed Jim Vandermeer showing him the ropes, he grew with every game played.
Garside was included in the D core of Great Britain’s squad for the 2016 1B World Championships after only playing half a season at the position. He made the team ahead of some of the more experienced D in the league.0.
So far this year, Garside has continued to go from strength to strength, playing on defence whilst also filling in as the need has arisen at forward. Surrounded by more experienced import Dmen, Garside has been arguably the stand out, his play and positioning is that of someone who has played the position their entire career. He makes his partner better no matter who he plays with, and he is put out in important situations – late in games and killing penalities.
A very under rated part of his game, that has really come to the fore since his move to defence, is his skating. He often out-turns and out-skates import forwards to escape difficult situations. He is always in contention for the Giants player of the month, and is never questioned for giving less than 100 percent each game.
Often overlooked – due to not putting up the points someone like Walser does – Mark Garside has been the Giants’ MVP.
Thanks to Phil for his submission. Follow him on Twitter @weephil56.
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