Updated: Wednesday, 23rd April 2014 @ 6:48am

Manchester Phoenix players balancing EPL title hopes with day jobs to pay the bills

Manchester Phoenix players balancing EPL title hopes with day jobs to pay the bills

By Steven Oldham, Sports Correspondent

Away from the ice rink, many Manchester Phoenix players are just like you and me - working in a day job to pay the bills.

Unlike mainstream sports, not all ice hockey players in the UK are full time athletes, including the majority of the Manchester Phoenix squad.

Teaching assistant, postman, fitness instructor, psychiatric hospital warden? All these careers and more are being pursued by players in the Phoenix locker room.

Netminder Steve Fone works part time as a lifeguard and has also recently finished a Masters' in Business Administration.

He said: "It's important to have something to fall back on, I can't play hockey forever. My qualification will stand me in good stead for the future.  I got the opportunity to study at Bolton University through the club which was a great opportunity.

It can be quite hard to balance study and ice hockey, as well as work, but I work quite well under pressure, that includes deadlines!"

Away from work and study, Steve has been making use of the summer break from the game to try his best Bob the Builder impression at home.

"I've been doing some major DIY jobs in my house - knocking walls through, that sort of thing. The place is still standing so I can't be that bad at it," he said.

Forward James Archer - also a self-employed tiler - can see both the advantages and disadvantages of being his own boss.

He said: "I don't have to ask my boss for time off which is good, unlike a lot of the team. It does mean if I'm not working though, I'm not earning.

I try to arrange my work and the hockey seperately but it's difficult sometimes. We're not footballers!"

That Phoenix have finished as winners and runners up of the EPL in the past two seasons is credit to the dedication of players like Archer, who along with captain Luke Boothoyd, coach Tony Hand,  James Neil, Ben Wood and Fone have provided a strong British spine to the side in recent years. 

New signing Scott McKenzie - who scored 25 goals last season for Telford Tigers - works at Pizza Hut. He worked there whilst playing at Telford and has now transferred branches.

He said: "I enjoy working there - I've met some good people in my time there. They are really good with my shifts too - I tell them what I can do and they work around that which is great.

I have told the lads which branch I work at but I'm hoping they stay away to be honest!"

Scott enjoys playing golf and squash in his spare time.

"Squash is a hard game. I'm alright at it. There are some skills involved that can be used when I'm on the ice - footwork and quick reactions."

The next time you go to the gym or say morning to the postman, keep an eye out - you could be speaking to a Phoenix player without even knowing it.

This weekend, Phoenix start their season with games against Swindon Wildcats and Basingstoke Bison. Keep your eyes on MM for an exclusive chat with Tony Hand, and a new season preview.

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