BLACKBURN Hawks star Adam Brittle admits he was too young to fully appreciate the achievements of his early ice hockey career, but he is relishing the prospect of going for play-off glory with brother Daniel this weekend.
Last year’s play-off winners Hawks make their defence of the trophy when they face Billingham Stars in the Moralee Conference semi finals in Dumfries tonight, as they bid to progress to tomorrow’s final.
Hawks beat Billingham in last season’s final to win the first trophy of their 23-year history, when netminder Daniel Brittle was man of the match in the crucial second leg in the north east.
This year younger brother Adam is determined to taste the same success this weekend, after joining from MK Lightning at the start of the season.
He won the English Premier League – the second tier of his ice hockey in the country – with MK Lightning in 2010 and also represented Great Britain up to under 20s level.
“I played for Great Britain from under 14s right through the age groups to under 20s,” said Adam, who is an accountant by trade.
“We went to Denmark, Latvia, Lithuania and France, and played in the World Championships in Sheffield.
“I probably didn’t really appreciate it at the time, but I look back now and realise how great it was.
“And I won the EPL in my first season at Milton Keynes, but at the time you’re doing it you don’t really realise what a great achievement that was either.
“I was thinking about how much further I could go in hockey and also I had one eye on my career outside hockey so it was sort of second best.
“But it would be great to win something here with my brother.”
Adam, 28, and Daniel, 26, are part of a big ice hockey family.
Younger brother Luke, 20, plays for Chelmsford Chieftains, while older brother Stuart, 31, played for Sheffield Spartans against Hawks in the Moralee Conference this season. Sheffield finished sixth to miss out on the play-offs.
Adam started playing ice hockey at just three years old, after his parents were regular spectators at local club Telford Tigers.
But he admits playing alongside his brother this season has not all been plain sailing.
“It is good at times!” he laughed.
“In the matches he is great, but on the occasions he makes a mistake you don’t know where to look!
“And he’s not the best trainer, I think most people will tell you that! It’s not great when you only have two keepers and you need both of them in training!
“My mum and dad are coming up to watch the play-offs, it’s a five-hour journey to Scotland but they don’t mind that to come and hopefully see us win.”
The play-off format has been changed in the Moralee Conference this year. Last year Hawks played two-legged ties, home and away, in the semi finals and final.
This time both the semi final and final are one-off matches, all played over one weekend at the home of Solway Sharks.
“A lot of the other lads haven’t played in this play-off format before but I have,” said Brittle, who has also played for Wightlink Raiders, Swindon Wildcats and Belfast Giants during his career.
“The EPL have had this format and I played for Milton Keynes in the play-offs at Coventry last year.
“Unfortunately we lost in the semi finals then, but the year before we reached the final.
“I’ll just try to pass a few things on to Jared to pass on to the lads. It’s about not getting nervous and staying calm.
“But it’s like a festival weekend with the fans from the different clubs.
“Ice hockey is not like football with so many people watching it, so it’s great when you play in front of a big crowd.
“Solway is quite a small rink so it should be a great atmosphere.”
Hawks have the likes of Canadian import Jon Adams and Latvian Ivo Dimitrijevs on their books, but Brittle knows they could still find it tougher to win the play-offs this year than they did in 2013.
“I think it will be more difficult this time,” he said.
“They always say it’s more difficult to defend a title than to win it the first time.
“Last year Blackburn were underdogs, whereas this year people will be looking at us and they certainly won’t be taking us lightly.
“But we’ve got a good record against Billingham this year and I think there’s no reason not to be confident.”
Brittle remains based in his home town of Telford, together with his brother and Hawks player-coach Jared Owen.
He has thoroughly enjoyed his first season at Blackburn, where he has been one of Hawks’ star players.
“It’s better for my work life to play for Blackburn,” he said.
“I got a graduate job back in Telford and two years ago I was travelling down to Milton Keynes with another player from Telford. But last year I was travelling on my own.
“This year I’m travelling up to Blackburn with Jared and Daniel and it’s good. I have really enjoyed this season.
“I think I’ve scored over 30 goals, I’m not sure exactly how many.
“I didn’t really know what to expect when I came here but the standard is somewhat higher than I expected.
“Players have other jobs but they could play at a higher level if they were full time.
“We had a bit of a slow start to the season, we won our first four games but then we were a bit up and down until just before Christmas when we went on a really good urn.
“I think because we had a few new players it took a while to settle, Jon Adams came in, and it was the same for myself.
“My role here is a lot different, I was a bit part player last year but here I’m a bigger part of things and that did take some time to adapt to.
“But that’s what you want as a player and that’s why I’ve enjoyed it so much.”