Catching up with: Peter Hirsch
Aside from a brief stint in the ECHL with Bakersfield Condors in 2003/04, Copenhagen born netminder Peter Hirsch had spent his whole career playing in his homeland of Denmark and Sweden before making the move to Coventry in 2009.
The experience he brought to the Midlands amassed nearly 200 SHL and Allsvenskan games and over 100 appearances in Denmark which included an appearance against the Blaze in the 2008 Continental Cup where he posted a shut-out in a 3-0 AaB Aalborg victory.
In his debut Elite League season, Hirsch would lead Blaze to their fourth Elite League Championship.
1) So, what brought you to Coventry in the first place?
PH: "I was looking to come over at Christmas the season previous but Aalborg stopped the move at that time. But, I'd spoken a lot to Neal Martin who was playing with me in Aalborg about going to the Elite League and he'd told me about the Coventry organisation, the coach at the time Paul Thompson and the fans and said I'd have a great experience, the more he spoke to me about it, the more I thought let's do it."
2) You won the league Championship in your first year, how do you look back on that season?
PH: "It was a fantastic year with a great group of guys. We had so much fun! I remember coming in to Coventry feeling the expectations from everyone involved. People were excited and as the season went on everything just got more and more intense. What really stands out of course is that game in Edinburgh and Adam Calder's tying and winning goal. What a great feeling and what a relief!"
3) The singing of the national anthem – remind us how that came about?
"Haha - my god that's stuck on YouTube isn't it?!! Sometime somewhere during that year I said to Chubbs (Greg Chambers) that if we win the league I would sing the national anthem on the ice. Unfortunately, he remembered it and got a hold of JD (John Dalziel) on the ice after the Belfast game on that Sunday in the Skydome. The rest is a blur..."
4) After winning the Championship with Blaze you left for the ECHL (your 2nd time in Bakersfield), followed up by a short stop in the SPHL with the Pensacola Ice Flyers, the year didn't seem to work out too well, how come?
"No, it was a bad decision, we should have stayed in Coventry! I came from a team where everybody battled for each other to totally different "me" mentality. I never found myself or my game over there."
9) For the next season (2011/12) you returned to Coventry, however compared to your previous it was a troubled year as the club experienced financial difficulties. How tough was that season?
PH: "Both Jenny and I were very happy to come back to Coventry that following year. We all knew that there were some issues but the management did a fantastic job all the way through. In the two years I spent back with the club we probably didn't have a real chance to win the league but at least we made the final four in my final season, that was a fantastic experience."
10) You started in Rungsted and finished there, going full circle must have been a nice way to end an illustrious career?
PH: "It was a bit of a coincidence that I ended up in Rungsted my last year. But obviously great ending everything where it all began in 1983."
11) What were the highlights of your career?
PH: "There are some different highlights for me in my career. Just the simple fact of playing in Sweden. My contract with MODO in the SHL. Playing with Denmark, making it to pool A in 2002. Beating USA 5-2 (highlights) and tying with Canada 2-2 (highlights) the following year. I actually thought we should have won that game. I was frustrated because I thought I had a bad game. I was sat in the locker room being angry with myself even though everyone else was happy. But, it was a real privilege to play against some of the biggest stars in the game whilst representing my country. It was a huge honour and something I'm very proud of."
12) You played over 50 games for Team Denmark in the end. As a goalie you must have felt the pressure going up against NHL superstars?
PH: "Before the game you obviously think, 'Wow, Alex Ovechkin or Sidney Crosby', it's always in your head but then during the game you don't think about it at all, you just try to stop the puck... or pull it out of your net!!"
13) The Danish national team continues to thrive making the quarter finals of the recent World Championships. What are the main things that the UK could learn from Denmark?
PH: "That's a tough question to answer! In Scandinavia they spent a lot of resources on educating coaches on every level. The government body is extremely strong and well lead, which gives a solid foundation for everybody involved in hockey. In my mind the future is our (your) kids. If UK organise, educate and unite as a hockey nation, there are very few limits to what GB can become."
14) We've covered a lot of areas of your playing career which ended in 2014 with Rungsted, so tell us what have you been doing since?
PH: "Well, I'm a Daddy of two wonderful children, Alexander (born in Coventry) and Nathalie who is just 10 weeks old. Besides that I'm working as a full-time goalie coach in Timra IK in the hockeyallsvenskan which is the 2nd tier in Sweden."
15) How are you enjoying the coaching side of the game?
PH: "I must say I'm enjoying coaching very much. It's a really inspirational job, to try and help young talents reach their goals and dreams. As a goalie coach you really get to work closely with the individual and learn how they work and think in all situations."
16) Do you think the UK suffers from not employing goalie coaches specifically?
PH: "Short term no, long term most definitely! In Timra, I work with the goalies on the ice 20-25 minutes before the rest of the team comes on. We spend a lot of time working on the goalies technique and break down every movement, so they master the situation in games. We record the important parts of this practice and analyse it together. Furthermore, we analyse new trends in the game and have a fantastic network of goalie coaches sharing information. So in the long run, I believe it makes a huge difference to have a support like this! Looking back on my time in Coventry, we didn't have the resources to have a goalie coach nor did anyone else in the league I was pretty much left to myself trying to put things in perspective as the league went on."
17) So as we draw to the end of the interview, do you still keep in touch with anyone or still try to keep up with the Blaze results?
PH: "Yes I try to keep in touch with who I can. We made some great friends in Coventry and it has a special place in our hearts! I try to keep an eye on the Blaze to see how things are going! I'm very pleased with the goaltending, I played with Brian (Stewart) in Bakersfield and so I know what he brings. He's a fantastic goalie and a great guy!"
18) Any closing comments for the Blaze fans?
PH: "Well, as a wise man once said in the Skydome, 'I can't thank you enough Coventry Blaze! We hope to see you soon!!'
We thank Peter for taking the time to speak to us and for his contibution to our past successes. We wish him all the very best in his future coacing career.
Article: Craig Summerton (@block15blaze)