Manchester Storm face barriers in hunt for final import

Head coach Ryan Finnerty and a players’ agent are united in assessing the challenges created by the global pandemic as Manchester Storm aim to fill the final import spot in this year’s roster.

Concerns many overseas players have about coronavirus (COVID-19) and vaccination choices allied to the October start to reformed ECHL and AHL seasons means a squeeze in supply to European teams.

According to David Imonti of Optima World Sports, incentives to stay in North America’s minor leagues and chase the dream ticket to the National Hockey League are greater than ever.

The players’ agent said: “With so many teams not able to play in the US last season, there are essentially 20-plus ‘new’ teams in the East Coast Hockey League/ American Hockey League. That is about 400 new jobs for players and gives them reason to consider staying home.

“Likewise, with a diluted international player market at the moment, players willing to play overseas are getting opportunities in leagues and price ranges that wouldn’t typically be available to them.”

A laboured opening to the season compounded by a lacklustre start in specific games concerned Finnerty enough to confirm his willingness to bring in new blood.

In an interview with Storm TV after a recent 7-3 defeat to Nottingham Panthers at Planet Ice in Altrincham, the Canadian said: “This is a team that if we feel there’s guys out there that can make us better we’ll bring ‘em in.

“We’re grinding the phones trying to fill that last import spot and looking at what’s out there.

“Obviously there’s a lot of conversations going on, but if you believe it there’s actually kind of a shortage of players right now, with the East Coast League going and the American League going.”

Imonti has recently been negotiating with the club. He said: “I’ve been close with Ryan for the past 15 years. We have tried to place several new players in Manchester the past few weeks but the deals have not worked out.”

A frank analysis from Finnerty of his side’s in-game struggles with momentum and positive attitude across the ice came after heavy back-to-back defeats in the Challenge Cup.

Fans have identified the need for a forward – preferably a power-forward – to occupy the goal-crease and get in the face of opponents. 

Andrew Wolf of the Manchester Storm Supporters Forum told Mancunian Matters: “Storm’s sole ‘fighter’ currently is one of the import defencemen…he has felt the need to protect somebody else on the ice.

“Being able to share that responsibility with a forward player may do him and Storm a bit of good.”

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