“My skin is thick now
I learnt these lessons years before
This time I’m ready for your war”
Hadouken: “Declaration Of War”
Traditionally one of the EIHL’s basement sides, the Edinburgh Capitals have spent most of the EIHL era bumping along the bottom, as a plucky little team that was secretly most people’s second squad but never really one that people remembered seeing. Even Caps fans accepted that making the playoffs and an entertaining season was the best they could hope for as bigger teams with more money and bigger crowds simply outmuscled them.
Then came Richard Hartmann-the Slovak tried to bring an Eastern European “velvet hockey” style to the EIHL, emphasising quick skating, skill and puck possession over any sort of physicality. It made the Caps wonderful to watch for hockey purists (and called “boring” by those who prefer more blood-and-thunder styles of the game) but unfortunately, in a predominantly North American-dominated league with an emphasis on grinding and tight checking, it didn’t really take off well enough.
And so the Caps decided to modify their style a little. And this year, they have, with Hartmann going for a more North American and powerful look. How’s he done it?
#53 Tomas Hiadlovsky, #31 Craig Mallinson, #31 Kevin Forshall
Returning in net is Richard Hartmann’s “crazy Slovak” Tomas Hiadlovsky-the 25-year-old from Trencin hasn’t put up the greatest EIHL stats in his two years in Edinburgh, but in his defence, a lot of that has been due to defensive lapses in front of him…when your defence is anchored by the horrifying defensive player that is Jan Safar, you’re going to face a lot of shots. The entertaining goalie will take the majority of starts-behind him is Caps SNL prospect Craig Mallinson, getting his chance at the top level after some impressive seasons at SNL level…he’ll share the duties with Kevin Forshall as backup, with Craig Holland having left for Dundee. Mallinson already has his first EIHL win after beating Dundee in preseason and has performed impressively, but it’ll still be Hiadlovsky who’ll start, most likely.
#4 Joe Grimaldi, #5 Lukas Bohunicky, #7 Jay King, #19 Marcel Petran, #22 David Beatson, #28 James Wallace, #54 Kyle Flemington (tryout)
This is the first indication the Caps are going in a different direction…Jay King and James Wallace are both young local players stepping up from the SNL-Wallace is on a 5-year deal, so clearly Richard Hartmann sees something in the young Paisley boy. Jay King is a Caps SNL product whose development has been impressive so far. But it’s in the imports we see a change…Marcel Petran is a smooth-skating Slovak with offensive skill to burn, Kyle Flemington and Lukas Bohunicky are both very large (6’7 and 6’5) defensive defencemen (Flemington is a young dual-national Canadian/Brit on a tryout and Bohunicky is another Slovak). But the big name on this group is Joe Grimaldi, the former Nottingham Panther, who lit up social media last year and is certainly a big personality as well as a useful offensive presence. The group’s rounded out by local stalwart David Beatson, who’s a Murrayfield fixture and also a big bloke at 6’4 and 229lbs…he’ll handle physical duties, too.
# Callum Boyd, #12 Greg Collins, #17 Richard Hartmann, #20 Sean Beattie, #26 Riley Emmerson, #35 René Jarolin, #36 Jade Portwood, #40 Daniel Naslund, #92 Dennis Rix
This is an intriguing forward group, to say the least. It’s also a group very different to those previously created by Richard Hartmann, not least in the massive 6’8, 249lbs frame of Riley Emmerson. The huge British Columbian is clearly the man tasked with protecting the Caps skill players, and protect he will…Hartmann has, by the looks of it, decided that the likes of Daniel Naslund and the sublime-to-watch Rene Jarolin need someone to enable them to weave their stickhandling magic without fear of intimidation. Jarolin is by far the standout player on this group, closely followed by Hartmann and Jade Portwood. It’s impossible to put just why the 32-year-old from Skalica is so glorious to watch into words-the closest I can get is that that he’s like a watching a Rolls-Royce, in that he does everything his team requires of him on the ice with such quiet, unhurried, understated brilliance, and so efficiently that it doesn’t even look like he’s trying-there are surely few better hockey minds in the EIHL than his.
Snap and snarl is provided by college product Dennis Rix along with local product Sean Beattie alongside Emmerson, but while Hartmann has looked to accept the blood-and-thunder ethic of the EIHL a little, this is still very clearly a skill-oriented team…Greg Collins is a prolific assist and setup man and Naslund and Portwood provide a balanced package of size and skill to complement Hartmann, Collins and Jarolin. Hartmann, too, can drop back to defence if required to provide some extra offensive punch-and at 38, he’s an old, calm head, too.
COACH: Richard Hartmann (4th year)
As the only coach from outside North America in the EIHL, Hartmann is something unique..a skilled player in his own right who has a very clear idea of how he wants his teams to play, and is deceptively calm on the bench. He’ll be looking to use the benefit of his experience and hockey brain to plot ways the Caps can bridge gaps to much more illustrious looking squads elsewhere…and his teams always work incredibly hard. Definitely an up-and-coming coach.
Rene Jarolin-Jade Portwood-Greg Collins
Daniel Naslund-Richard Hartmann-Dennis Rix
Riley Emmerson-Sean Beattie-Callum Boyd
Joe Grimaldi-Lukas Bohunicky
Marcel Petran-David Beatson
Jay King-James Wallace
PLAYER TO WATCH: #12 Greg Collins
Rene Jarolin would be the obvious pick for this spot, but frankly we’ve waxed so lyrically about him in the “Forwards” section that to do so again here would simply be to repeat what we said-the Sublime Slovak is something special for “purist” fans of the game. Greg Collins, meanwhile, is an intriguing pickup. He looks on paper like a taylor-made replacement for the departed Curtis Leinweber, both in stature and style of play. This is very much a recommendation-fast, skilful and with an eye for goal, if Collins does settle in Edinburgh he could be a sleeper hit, much like Leinweber was.
Nobody is saying the Caps will be title challengers, but Richard Hartmann has quietly put together what might be the most “complete” Caps squad for several years. There is exciting potential in Collins and Naslund to add to the obvious skill of Jarolin, and with Riley Emmerson the Caps finally have a genuine physical intimidator to ensure that they’ll be given the space to play. Couple that with the emerging and maturing Jade Portwood and some potential sleeper hits in Daniel Naslund and Marcel Petran, as well as the big personality of Joe Grimaldi, and this Caps team has something to attract everyone. It won’t win the league, but it’ll be a fun season in Edinburgh, and with a little bit of luck and a big season from Hiadlovsky, they could be playoff-bound once again. The Caps lion is stirring in the Scottish capital after far too long a sleep.