It’s a late winter day in Huntsville, Alabama. Most students were in the middle of midterms before enjoying a week off for spring break. For Chargers forward Jack Prince, there’s a lot more on his mind. Prince had just finished his accounting midterm which he dubbed as “the hardest exam you’ll ever take at UAH,” when our chat began. The junior from Leicester, England sounded exhausted, but was excited to talk about the news he received earlier in the week: being named to the initial roster of the Great Britain National Team.
“I was just happy, pleased, ecstatic, everything,” said Prince on what was going through his head when he received the news. “Ever since I was a little kid, it’s been (my dream) to play professional hockey and represent my country. Those have been my goals. I’ve been fortunate enough to do it at the U13, U16 and U20 level, but I honestly never thought I would get the chance to do it later on in my life to play for the men’s team with me being over in the States.”
Ice Hockey UK will still need to trim the roster from 31 to 23 men in the next couple of weeks, but Prince is excited to represent his country.
“Being able to be given this chance by Coach (Pete) Russell and the members of the coaching staff in Great Britain is a great honor,” said Prince. “Even to be selected on this 31-man roster, I understand I still have to make the 23-man roster which will be released in the next week and a half. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens.”
Great Britain will be playing in the IIHF World Championship Division I – Group B in Eindhoven, Netherlands beginning April 13. Other teams in this division are Netherlands, Croatia, Korea, Lithuania and Estonia. Before the championship starts, the team will take on Poland twice. The hockey season in England butts right up against the World Championship, so it’ll all move very quickly once the team is set.
“The professional season in England goes all the way to two days before camp starts in England during April,” said Prince. “Within the next two weeks, the 23-man roster will be announced and then go and have a week long training camp followed by two games against the Polish National Team. That’s the timeline we’ve been told to look at. Whether I make the 23-man roster and travel is a whole other story. For now, that’s what we’re asked to plan for, so it’s exciting.”
Out of the 31 initial names selected to be on the team, only two are currently playing in North America. Prince is the only member playing at the NCAA Division I college level. The other is Liam Stewart who is currently playing major junior hockey with the Spokane Chiefs of the Western Hockey League. The majority of the roster is currently playing in the Elite Ice Hockey League, where all teams are based in Great Britain.
“That’s one of the main reasons why it was so surprising,” said Prince.” There’s one person playing in the WHL in Spokane. He’s the only other player, which is Rod Stewart’s son, Liam, so that’s pretty cool. With me being over here, I didn’t think there would be much exposure to make the men’s team, which is why I pretty much thought that I would get my chance later on in life when I would be playing professionally somewhere. Having this chance is great.”
Prince is looking forward to the opportunity of playing for someone he’s familiar with in Pete Russell. This will be Russell’s first time at the helm for the Great Britain National Team. Russell brings tremendous experience and had great success coaching multiple junior teams out of Great Britain. He’ll now hopefully be able to do that on the senior team with some familiar faces.
“Coach Russell was my coach at the U16 and U20 level when I represented my county,” said Prince. “So, he’s had me before and knows the type of player I am. With this being his first year as head coach of the Great Britain team, he’s making it his own and putting his own stance on things. He’s giving a lot of chances to up and coming players that are younger.”
In his three season at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, Prince has compiled 31 points (14G-17A). In the 2014-15 season, he put up 14 points (5G-9A). By playing Division I college hockey, Prince thinks the speed of the game will help give him an edge should he make the final roster.
“The speed for sure sets the game apart because college hockey is one of the fastest games out there,” said Prince. “It’s struggle night in and night out for me. I’m not necessarily the fastest skater, so it prepares me more than anything, at any level, that the speed is remarkably fast. Any conference has great players with great speed. College hockey is known for how relentless it is with the fast pace.”
One of the other differences is playing on Olympic-sized ice. Luckily for Prince, he has plenty of experience in skating on the bigger sheet.
“The only difference is with the World Championship being on Olympic sized ice,” said Prince. “We played a couple of places this year (with UAH) on Olympic ice, so with the speed aspect, it’s something that is great for me. Our first games this year were at Colorado College, which is one of the biggest rinks out there. I’ve had the exposure on Olympic sheets at the speed of Division I college hockey, so hopefully it’s prepared me enough for the World Championships.”
Whether he’s able to make the final roster of 23 or not, this is a major accomplishment for Jack Prince. Not only does it show that his country believes he’s one of its best players, but it also continues to put UAH on the map. With the program continuing to rise, and players like Prince representing the organization well, it shows how hard the program, and its players, have worked to be successful.
UPDATE: As of March 25, 2015, Jack Prince has been named to the final roster for the Great Britain National Hockey Team.
Photos courtesy of UAH Hockey.