Hull Seahawks get hot-shot Andrej Themar back on familiar ice to light up debut season in NIHL National
THE first time Andrej Themar played in Hull, he made a name for himself. Matty Davies expects him to do the same next season.
As part of the Hull Pirates team competing in what turned out to be the last-ever season of the English Premier League in 2016-17, Slovakian-born winger Themar finished as top points-scorer, posting a remarkable 104 points – 56 of which were goals - in just 56 league and play-off games.
The collapse of the UK’s five-import second tier briefly led to uncertainty in the sport, no doubt helping prompt Themar to look elsewhere for employment the following season. But, after five seasons away – four of them in Poland – the 34-year-old sniper has been tempted back to East Yorkshire, to spearhead Hull Seahawks’ scoring in NIHL National.
Player-coach Matty Davies believes enticing Themar back for a second spell in the UK is a potential game-changer, giving him a player he believes can prove the best import at this level for a second time.
"This is a real big one for me, this, a real statement of intent by our team I believe,” said Davies. “With this guy on our team I feel we have the best player in the whole league, import or otherwise, and certainly the best natural goal-scorer. He has a very dangerous shot and, crucially for me, the hockey IQ to go with it.
“His experience and quality will benefit our team massively. The Seahawks fans will hopefully remember his ability from five years ago when he was with the Pirates.”
Davies wasn’t around when Themar last graced Hull Ice Arena, plying his trade down in Shropshire with Telford Tigers, who would go on to finish that campaign as regular season league champions. He returned home the following year to a Hull team thrown into the restructured league format which brought about NIHL One North and South.
He recalls playing against Themar in 2016-17, but is now looking forward to icing alongside him, with the Seahawks eagerly-anticipated debut campaign now just six weeks away.
"I remember playing against him that year,” added Davies. “But I don’t think you truly know how good a player is until you play with them. He’s probably got one of the best shots around – some of the lads who were around at the time said it was the best shot they’d ever seen.
"He’s just proved himself wherever he has been. That season in the EPL he scored 50-plus goals when it was a five-import league, with import goalies. And he’s consistenty posted a point a game in all these top leagues he's played in around Europe.
"I feel you’re just dealing with a different quality when it comes to this guy.”
Themar is the second of the permitted imports signed by Davies for the Seahawks, joining fellow forward Emil Svec, who impressed for Swindon Wildcats last time out. For Davies it was important that both his imports had previous experience of playing in England.
"With the two-import rule, you’ve got limited chances to bring in what you hope are the best players on your team, or at least players that can compliment your best British players,” added the 32-year-old player-coach.
"The way I’ve recruited, I’ve brought in two players who have previously played in this country - that was important for me. I’ve seen it in the past – both at this level and in the Elite League – where sometimes, imports with brilliant resumes have been signed, they come over and then, for whatever reason, it just doesn’t work out.
"I think that is sometimes down to those players under-estimating the league somewhat but also with how intense the league schedules can be here. In this country, we often play way more regular season games than a lot of the European leagues do.
"So, although the quality here may not be as good as in Europe, it’s sometimes harder to play here because it’s a really long grind and the imports are relied on so much as a result, being your top-line players.
“If you’re a top-end player in this league, you’re not only playing power play, you’re also often asked to play penalty kill because teams want these players on the ice as much as possible.
"So, when you’re recruiting an import you’re kind of looking for more than just their points production, you’re looking for somebody with more than just that.
"And with the two lads we’ve brought in as imports, I believe we have brought in two genuine top-end players who will, yes, score a lot of goals for us but, also, they are just good, all-round players and will bring more to the team than just goals.”
Video clips courtesy of Callum Gladding