CARDIFF DEVILS: TODD KELMAN | INTERVIEW
With an unbeaten home record and having won the last season’s Challenge Cup, Cardiff’s ice hockey team, the Cardiff Devils, has become a cult favourite for loyal fans, counting True Detective star Vince Vaughn among them. Luke Owain Boult speaks with their Managing Director Todd Kelman about their success and what’s next.
The Cardiff Devils have kicked off this season with an unbeaten home record. A continuation of form then, considering last season’s Challenge Cup win. Managing Director, the former Canadian ice hockey player, Todd Kelman says of the recent success: “It’s down to the coaching and the team chemistry, and just getting on as a team. We have a great coaching staff and we don’t like to reveal our secrets but we have some fun and interesting methods. It’s a real family atmosphere here and these guys love the city and they love playing for the Devils.”
Mr Kelman joined the Devils after seven seasons (successful ones at that) as the General Manager of the Belfast Giants, who he previously played for. “Last season was my first involvement with the Devils,” he says. “Last year we won the challenge cup for the first time in about 9 years, it was nice for that first time holding and running a team, so it was a big thing.”
Ice hockey is seen something of a fringe sport in the UK: “I think it’s always going to be a minor sport when you’re in a nation that loves football, rugby and cricket, but I think it has its niche market for the people who follow their local teams,” he says. “It’s one of those sports that you don’t know about it until you go to it and we have a great cult following here and we want to expand that. With our new rink, there will be more seats to fill, so we’ve got to get more people involved and fall in love with ice hockey and the Devils.”
The cult around the Devils extends further than the Irish Sea and Offa’s Dyke, with Vince Vaughn photographed sporting a Devils jersey in GQ. “I actually don’t know how it happened,” laughs Todd. “Someone in our office knew the photographer, who then gave Vince the jersey.”
The Cardiff Devils currently play in a temporary ice rink, known to fans as the Big Blue Tent, but are due to move to the impressive Ice Arena Wales when it opens shortly after Christmas. “The one thing that we’re kind of held back by here is the venue. It’s old, it was a temporary building ten years ago and it’s still standing. The new one will be a brand new facility; nicer, cleaner, better facilities, better food, better everything, warmer too!”
But the venue and the fringe nature of the sport doesn’t impact upon the loyalty of the hard-core Cardiff Devils fans. Speaking about the loyalty of the fans Kelman says: “I just find that sportsmen in Wales are just more passionate about everything. They love the Devils so much. The way ice hockey is played in Wales is pretty similar to how it’s played in Canada, as there are a lot of Canadian and international players. The fans are probably more passionate though. There’s a real cult around the guys.”
The Cardiff Devils are part of Wales’ sporting success story, and deserve every bit as much pride as the Welsh rugby and football teams. With a packed fixture list ahead of them, the Devils are fighting to retain the Challenge Cup and to top the league. This season promises to be full of that typical Cardiff Devils fire that has won them legions of cult fans, perhaps they’ll breathe their icy fire into your heart too.
Cardiff Devils, Ice Rink, Sat 7 Nov, Sat 14 Nov, Sat 21 Nov, Sat 28 Nov. Tickets: £7 child, £11 concession, £15 adult. Info: 02920 382001 / www.cardiffdevils.com
photos ADO RAPPS