Celebrations were in the air at MK Arena on Saturday as the clock was turned back with MK Lightning stars from the past returning to honour alternate captain Grant McPherson at his testimonial evening.
Some of the biggest names from the 14 year history of the club came back to play for the popular Scot’s All Stars team.
They included Lightning’s first captain, Dwayne Newman, as well as Scandinavians Andre Smulter, Toni Alasaarela, Jo Wiklander and one of the club’s initial import forwards Mikko Skinnari.
Buoyed by the news announced the previous day that Lightning had secured the services for next season of Anglo-Canadian, Craig Scott – son of former MK Kings’ ‘90s legend Paddy Scott – in addition to retaining Jordan Cownie, fans and players were in great mood. Scott was Peterborough Phantoms’ top points scorer this past season while Cownie claimed the same accolade for MK.
British former Lightning stars helping to complete the line-up for the game against the current team included Chris ‘Crazy Legs’ McEwen, goalies Barry Hollyhead and Alex Mettam, Ben Russell, Jacob Heron and Kurt Irvine. Some have long since hung up the skates and settled down to family life but they were happy to don the uniform once again for Grant – known as G-Man – who first signed for the club as an 18 year old in 2006.
Also returning were McPherson’s two former line mates, Michael ‘Muzzy’ Wales – now living in Dubai - and Matt Towalski. Together they formed the ‘Banana Line’ over a number of seasons, including the last English Premier League success in 2009-2010.
Grant who finished the game draped in the Scottish St Andrew’s flag – topped with a helium-filled G shaped gold balloon – told fans he was overwhelmed by the support they had shown him not only for his testimonial but over the past decade.
He said: “When I signed on the dotted line for the first time it really didn’t cross my mind that this would happen to me. Third line grinders don’t usually last that long in one team, but I can honestly say it has been an awesome ten years.”
Grant has earned a reputation for his willingness to take on opponents in fights – even when the odds are stacked against him due to size – prompting captain Adam Carr to describe him as “an absolute warrior for the club. I don’t know many people who would do the things he does.”
Lightning General Manager Nick Poole who signed Grant when player coach, said he was a fierce competitor who would do anything for the team, making any sacrifice to give the team an advantage.
The result of the game hardly mattered – but for the record it ended predictably 9-9 – the same number as Grant’s shirt. Not that there was any manipulation to ensure that final tally – Grant allowed to score the last three Lightning goals and a couple of the All Stars scores strangely being added to the home team’s total!
Following the game played over two – not three periods – there was plenty of time for former heroes to reacquaint themselves with old team mates and fans in the bar.
The previous evening Lightning held their awards evening at Jurys Inn, Central Milton Keynes where defenceman James Griffin and forward Lewis Hook dominated the trophies. Griffin, already re-signed for next term, picked up the Coach’s Award, the Best Defensive Player and the Players’ Player prizes while Hook claimed the Most Valuable Player and Supporters’ Club awards. Most Improved Player went to teenager Ed Knaggs – who was on duty for Great Britain Under 18s at the weekend – and Top Scorer was Cownie.
Poole paid tribute to the work of the supporters club who he said had raised an amazing amount of almost £80,000 for the club during the season.
“I don’t know of any other supporters club around the country that has raised anywhere near that amount,” he added.
In his review of the season head coach Pete Russell said he was delighted the season ended on a high with MK reaching the play-off final against Guildford who won 6-2. “Perhaps it was one game too far though,” he added.