Talks to Peter Collins
ONE of the most overated phrases of recent times has been: 'You don't get a second chance to make a first impression," but one man who grabbed his chance to wow fans straight away on his debut was Storm's new blueliner Kevin Pozzo. The 25-year-old defenceman from Calgary, Alberta joined the club just two days before the home game with London Knights, and despite ending up on the losing side (as he did the following night, also against the Knights) he showed what a solid and dependable 'D" man he can be, picking up the man-of-the-match award for his no-nonsense performance. "It's never easy jumping straight into a game with new teammates and in a different league and I hadn't skated for a couple of weeks, but I really enjoyed it, It was a shame we lost but from what I've seen I'd say we have a great team, afterall it won the championship last year. We've got fast, skilful forwards, great goaltenders and when we have a full 'D' we should go a long way. Plus it's not everyday you join a team knowing you're already guaranteed a place in at least one final."
Kevin served his hockey apprenticeship with a three-season stint in the WHL from 1992-95, playing with the Moose Jaw Warriors, Spokane Chiefs, Saskatoon Blades and Brandon Wheat Kings. In 1993 he was drafted by the Buffalo Sabres. He spent the 1995-96 season in the IHL with the Chicago Wolves before moving on to the Tallahassee Tiger Sharks in the ECHL, along with further spells in the IHL with the Kansas City Blades and Las Vegas Thunder, as well as fitting in games with Team Canada. The last two seasons have been spent with the ECHL's New Orleans Brass and the AHL's Hamilton Bulldogs. The 6ft 2in blueliner explained exactly how he came to be a Storm player: "Things weren't working out for me in Anchorage, personal things, so I told them I wanted to leave and I got picked up on waivers by another WCHL club San Diego, and it wasn't until I came here to the rink that Blair Scott told me I'd been suspended by them for not turning up, it was the first I'd heard of it!"
"Don't get me wrong, the WCHL is a really good league but I wanted to come over to Europe and I'd signed a contract with a club in Italy to play there this season. But they changed their import rule in the middle of August to one per club, so by the end of August I was scratching around for a club, I'd missed my chance to go to training camps in the IHL, AHL and ECHL and so I ended up in Anchorage. I was a planning to get fixed up in England at some point anyway, so once I told my agent I'd got a European passport (courtesy of an Italian grandfather) I got picked up by Kurt, I'm glad I'm here and I hope things work out. I was told Manchester was one of the best clubs in Europe and I can see why, the coaches are great, the guys are great and I'm really happy I came."
Although any player moving from North America is making a big move, Pozzo has taken it in his stride: "In Britain it's mostly Canadian players anyway, they play the same kind of hockey I'm used to and from what I've seen it looks to be a great league, give it another five years and it'll be unbelievable. I know a lot of guys who already play over here and before I put pen to paper I spoke to them and they had nothing but positive things to say about SuperLeague and Manchester. I like to play pretty tight defence and jump up into the play when I get the chance, I'm not a flashy player, I just like to get my job done, although wherever I've played I've always been on the powerplay unit." No sooner had he stepped off the plane then he went out to meet the fans and his new teammates. "I couldn't get to sleep so I dumped my bags at Kevin Hoffman's apartment and went out to a supporters function (the recent ten-pin bowling night organised by Stormforce). I've always liked supporting the fans, after all they support us enough, plus it was my first opportunity to meet the guys before my first practice the following day. I'm younger than most of them although you could say they're all young at heart (Rick Brebant made me say that!)."
Like most North Americans he sees his move to Europe as a way not only of experiencing a different kind of hockey but also seeing a different part of the world: "You know Canada is a pretty young country, whereas Manchester is full of history, it looks a great city, plenty to see and do, the people are really friendly and I can't wait to take it all in. Anchorage was beautiful, it had the mountains, the sea, great fishing, but boy does it get cold! And I don't think I'll come across many grizzly bears or moose here in Manchester. But like I said, it wasn't the city or the league it was just some personal stuff." Kevin's brother Mike was with him in Alaska and planned to join him in Italy. So it was no surprise when the 22-year-old 5ft 11in centre decided to leave Anchorage when big brother quit, and he's re-joined his previous club, the CHL's Oklahoma City Blades, where he spent his rookie season last year, scoring 46 points. Before that he was at Mount Royal College playing in the CIAU. "He'd like to come over to Britain one day too," said Kevin. "He's a good player and although he's only a young kid I think he can go far."