MK THUNDER have signalled their intentions to join the big boys of the English National Ice Hockey League by swooping to sign a vastly experienced Canadian defenceman who will be a familiar face to home fans.
Head coach Simon Howard said recruiting popular Dwayne ‘Dog’ Newman was the key signing of the summer as he builds a side with a blend of old hands and youngsters keen to progress to a higher level.
The 41-year-old was a firm fans’ favourite during his time as captain of the senior MK Lightning side – leading the team to two successive English Premier League titles, and play-off success.
He joined the former Kings roster in their final season a decade ago and stayed with Lightning for five years.
Newman said: “I’m absolutely delighted to be playing in Milton Keynes again – I have a lot of friends there. At 41 I’m no rookie and I hope my experience can have a stabilising influence on the changing room.
“Thunder have some good young players and I hope I can help turn things around. I’m excited by what Simon is trying to build.”
Newman left Lightning to become player-coach of rivals Peterborough Phantoms in 2007 – a role which was cut short after he was axed following a poor start to the campaign. But he remained loyal to Phantoms, continuing as a player and being part of the club’s triple winning side the following year.
Last season he joined former Lightning marksman Gary Clarke at Thunder’s ENIL rivals, Chelmsford Chieftains. Unfortunately a job change due to redundancy meant it was no longer feasible to commit to travelling to Chelmsford from his home in Peterborough next season.
“I was sad to have to leave Chelmsford. I like to conduct my affairs with integrity and I couldn’t give Clarkey my full commitment,” he said.
Thunder coach Howard has kept in touch with his former Lightning team-mate over the years, and Newman jumped at the chance to link-up with a team nearer home.
They will be joined by another former Lightning man who has also been plying his trade at Peterborough, Greg Randall – forming an experienced backbone to Thunder, along with Greg’s brother, Jamie.
The coach said the movement down from the EPL into the ENIL of sides like Chelmsford, Romford Raiders and Isle Of Wight Raiders made it unfeasible to continue the original intention of Thunder being purely a development side for youngsters.
Last year Thunder struggled to keep up with the top sides and ended the campaign third from bottom of the league.
Howard added: “Chelmsford, Romford and Isle Of Wight are their town’s first teams, so we need more experienced players if we are to compete with them. We don’t have the luxury of being able to pay players a lot of money as we’re the second team in the city.
“Dwayne, Greg and I will bring a steadying hand if we have a spell of bad results.”