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From Across the Pond: My Hockey Journey From the U.K. to the U.S.

I come from a place where hockey isn’t a major sport. In fact, I didn’t even know what it was until I was 14 years old. So, what am I doing writing a blog on a hockey site? My name is Jordan Liddell, and this is my story.

In the United Kingdom, football reigns supreme. We grow up playing it almost from the time we take our first steps and until we are out of secondary school (some go longer than that). Hockey over here is in the same realm as American baseball: it’s not even an afterthought, it’s nonexistent to most of the population!

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Me winning the shooting challenge

My introduction to hockey likely mirrors an American’s or Canadian’s introduction to skeeball at the arcade. It all started nearly six years ago, at a local neighborhood fete (festival) held in my hometown of Peterborough when a shooting challenge caught my attention. Shooters were provided with five tennis balls and a shooter tutor-type display. At the end of the festival, the shooter with the most goals in five shots was the winner. Amazingly, despite not holding the stick correctly on first touch, I was able to score four times. After I had taken my turn at the challenge, the rest of the day was spent thinking about whether I had stayed at the top.

The day was coming to an end and, when I saw the stalls were starting to be put away, I rushed over to the stall to ask if I had won — over 100 people competed! Sure enough though, I won and was awarded tickets to the local Peterborough Phantoms game and a signed stick off Maris Ziedins – who is a highly regarded player in Peterborough.

From there, my story matches those you hear from players across the world. I attended the game, had an excellent experience and wanted nothing more than to return to the rink to start playing and watch more professional hockey.

With the team’s rink only about 20 minutes from where my family lives, we weren’t as far away from hockey as others I’ve played with. However, the closest rink outside of the one in Peterborough is about an hour and a half journey, which made hockey a little-known activity throughout surrounding areas of my hometown. The Phantoms average about 800-1,000 fans per game (which isn’t bad), but it obviously fails in comparison to the interest football gets in my area.

Despite barriers, one of them being I had never skated, I started playing at the rink on Saturday mornings to learn the basics of hockey. Once I stepped on the ice, I never wanted to leave.

The Journey Through Hockey

I joined the local Peterborough Phantoms at the under-16B level towards the end of their season. I was able only to play two games and then a summer tournament. The next season, I moved up to the under-16A and was also called up to play at the under-18A level.

Finally graduating to the under-18 level full time, I then joined the Nottingham organisation, skating with the under-20 team for 16 games in 2015-16, eventually working my way to the National Ice Hockey League (NIHL, second tier of the senior hockey league under the English Ice Hockey Association), within the same season. After eight games with the Nottingham Lions, I joined the Coventry organisation last season, where I played for both the under-20 team and the Coventry Blaze of the NIHL – my current statistics can be seen at Elite Prospects.

In 24 career NIHL games, I have tallied eight points as a forward. Although I feel I progressed well and already do my best to stay in shape in the offseason, I began searching for different strategies to improve my game even more.

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The 2014-15 champion Peterborough Phantoms

This is my connection to North America. The former player development coach for the championship-winning Peterborough Phantoms, Lee Elias (who you can read about here), is a Philadelphia native and a well-respected coach in my area. Although he returned to his home country, I decided it was best to get in touch with him and develop an offseason strategy as I had worked sparingly with him in the past.

Our plans developed into something I had only dreamed about: traveling to the U.S. for a month and not only training with an experienced hockey coach, but immerse myself in a hockey culture during the offseason. On June 29, I left my family in England to travel to Delaware and learn from Lee firsthand.

Jordan Liddell: American Tourist & Trainee

I had visited the States before, but it was more than five years ago. When I stepped off the plane this time around, which came after a grueling 8-hour flight, something hit me for which I was not prepared.

The heat. I can’t see why Americans complain about it! It’s a dream for someone who is used to the cold, and rarely gets a heatwave. In the UK, we get about 50-65° Fahrenheit during the summertime with 1-2 weeks of a little warmer weather before the rain and clouds come in and cools us down.

From working with Lee in the past, I know he prefers many activities outside. All of this swam through my head as I headed toward air conditioning. Believe it or not, I was looking forward to spending a month out in the heat. However, experiencing the heat firsthand, I thought maybe Lee would want to move a lot of our training indoors.

Nope.

Below is a video of the many training regimes Lee has put me through in the past few weeks. It’s been difficult, tiresome and, most importantly, rewarding. I can feel my endurance improving with each workout, even though they continue to be more difficult.

As you can tell, Lee developed a plan for me to mainly work on my agility, stickhandling and game sense. I’ve always been confident in my speed, but I wanted to focus on improving my ability to move the puck up ice. Oftentimes, I’ve found my hands and head work at the speed and direction of my legs; I want to be able for these parts of my game to move individually, creating more open space for myself as I weave through defenders.

Lee’s custom training regime includes 1-2 on-ice workout per week, which has helped me focus on the aspects of the game outside of skating. A lot of the xHockeyProducts lineup has come into play here, as the xPassers, xDeviators, xTargets and XHP Floor Hockey and Floorball Sticks have been instrumental in helping me train properly.

The xPassers are dreams. Back home, I constructed some cardboard to function as a return passer, but it often did not work properly. The xPasser allows me to train on my own time, whenever I want, providing me with a passing teammate. I can make the same case for brooms as attack triangles and paper plates tied to goals as targets. Working with these actual training aids is such an amazing step up from what I have back home.

As my journey continues, I will share more of my training adventures.

The American Way

On one of my first days in the States, Lee and I ate dinner at an Italian restaurant. I learned quickly that asking for what I would order in my home country is not the same as what I might order in “the colonies.”

Jordan LiddellI ordered a Stromboli, which I figured to be a foldable, small entree that I could eat in one sitting. Lee laughed as I received my food and saw how large it was! I couldn’t even come close to finishing it and had to box up most of it to eat later. We always hear about how Americans’ meals are large; I never truly understood until I arrived here.

Shopping malls are insane. We have shopping centers in England; not exactly the same as shopping malls. I had to see one for myself, so Lee took me to one and I was amazed at the size and amount of stores within it. The most amazing thing to me are armory items on display, available for purchase to seemingly anyone. You may see a knife on display at a store in England, but the sheer volume of guns and knives within some of these stores is breathtaking.

Seeing all of this firsthand is something I will never forget. I can’t wait to share what else I learn in the coming weeks.

Continue to follow my blog as I will post regularly throughout my trip. If you have any questions that you would like answered, please contact me on any of my social media accounts or by email!

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From Across the Pond

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Tags : coventry blazeenglandjordan liddelllee eliasnihlPeterborough Phantomsunited kingdom
Jordan Liddell

The author Jordan Liddell

I am a professional hockey player in the NIHL. Read through my blog at Everything Hockey to learn about my journey from playing in the U.K. to training with Lee Elias in the U.S. over the summer.