The Sheffield Steeler who never was...

Ben Bowns
Ben Bowns

Swinton born goaltender Ben Bowns is a GB international at just 23 and has recently transferred from Hull Stingrays to Cardiff Devils in one of the close-season’s most interesting swoops.

Cardiff think he is an “import” class netminder- although he has never rated high on the wish-list of his local club, Sheffield Steelers.

Today, Ben agreed to take part in a question and answer session with The Star.

Tell me about your background?

I’ve lived in Hull for two seasons and next season I’ll be in Cardiff. During the summer I move back home to my parents house in Swinton.

I first got into hockey when I was six. I went to watch a Steelers game with one of my friends (Lloyd Gibson, Steeldogs) they were playing Cardiff, ironically. I wanted to be a goalie but my parents thought it might just be a craze that lasts for a few week. In the end they bought me my first goalie kit, put me on a hockey school in 1997 and then from I joined the Sheffield U10s and kept playing through all the age groups.

Who were your hockey heroes growing up?

My hero was Patrick Roy when he was at the Colorado Avalanche. I tried to copy how he played. After he retired I never really took to anyone else, but I do love how Henrik Lundqvist plays in New York. He’s the only goalie I know who can play the way he does and make it work.

Are you a Millers fan?

I’m not a hardcore Millers fan but I like to see them win; I always check on their progress. My late uncle was a big fan, I haven’t had chance to go and watch them at the New York Stadium yet though.

Have you ever asked yourself why it never worked out for you at Steelers?

No. I never really had the chance to go there anyway. I trained at Hull for the three years I was in the EPL and then moved to Hull. Clouts (Slyvain Cloutier) was the one who put the hours in and saw potential in me and I wanted to repay him.

The only time I’ve ever backed up for Steelers was one game when I was about 15/16 because their back-up was injured. Jody Lehman was the goalie at that time, weirdly that game was in Hull against Stingrays!

Could you playing for Steelers in the future?

It would be nice to see myself playing back in Sheffield for Steelers at some point, you always want to play for the team you grew up watching, but, they have a history of having import netminders, which is understandable. I think the last Brit goalie I can recall there as a starter was Marty McKay! Right now my focus is on Cardiff. I go to clubs that I can see myself at for years to come and if all goes well in Cardiff, then, who knows how many years I’ll be there for. After that if I’ve done as well as I know I can then I would like to try Europe but that’s a long way away.

Were you expecting to move on from Hull?

I kept an open mind but didn’t expect it. There were only five clubs that I would leave Hull for to be honest, the 5 in the Erdhart Conference and thats solely because I felt that I needed to make that step up the top conference to test myself further and prove that I can play on a regular basis against the top clubs. I knew I could be a valuable asset to any team in the league but I was aware that clubs might take more convincing. Dave Whistle did his homework on me as a goalie and as a person (he even talked to a Steelers player to get his thoughts), which to me is the sign of a great coach that he wants the right players to fit into his team.

Who were the top three Elite goalies last year?

In no particular order: Stephen Murphy, Craig Kowalski and Frank Doyle. Murphy has been the best British net minder for years and proved last season how great he is. He’s not your perfect technique goalie, he’s slightly unorthodox and unbelievably athletic. Sometimes his style enables him to make saves that a more technical goalie wouldn’t.

Kowalski had injury problems and when he was absent from the Panthers, in my opinion, then when their season started going the way it did. It takes a special type of goalie to play for the Panthers and succeed year on year the way that he does! They are a very offensive team and he bails them out 9 out of 10 times. He never gives up.

Doyle at Sheffield is a tremendous goalie, so quick and aggressive. His lateral movement is quite remarkable and he makes some saves that you think are sure goals because of how much net is empty, but because of his speed gets across and makes a save somehow. He proved in the final last season just how good he is.

How do you feel about leaving Hull - and how much did you learn there?

I learned a lot in Hull. It was one huge learning curve. If I’m being honest the second season was a steeper curve than the first! There was a lot more pressure to win games, plus I had a rough start to the season over my first 10 games, so I had to learn how to get myself out of a bad run of form and I battled with confidence issues at times just like a lot of goalies do, but, luckily for me I had people I could talk to, which I did on a regular basis. Plus with with Pasi Raitanen living in Hull it meant I could just pop round to his house for a chat and to take my mind of hockey if needed. All of that has made me a much better goalie in my opinion as it should do.

I’m sad to be leaving Hull as I loved my time there, the club grew into its own in the second year after it got off the ground the year before under new ownership. The fans there are great, they’re extremely loud, passionate and crazy! I became extremely attached to the club and the city, but I’m unbelievably excited at the prospect starting in Cardiff and hopefully helping the club to some silverware over the next few years.

What are your ambitions and why did you pick Devils?

Eventually I would love to play in Europe, but I know how much work will have to be put in for me to achieve and I have to prove how good I really am in the EIHL first and that I can be on a consistent basis.

As I said further above, I wanted to play in the Erdhart conference. When Dave approached me, laid out his plans and made me an offer I knew exactly where I wanted to be. Obviously I did my research and spoke to past players and they didn’t say anything negative at all that would put me off. I think its an exciting prospect to be part of a club when its in a rebuilding phase and has the added bonus off moving to a new arena after next season.”