Ice hockey journalist Mark Easton regularly produces articles for the Edinburgh Capitals match programme and his own ‘Easty Catches Up With‘ website.
Mark recently interviewed veteran forward Ross Hay who has spent the last few seasons playing in the SNL with Edinburgh.
You grew up playing in the Murrayfield junior system. What memories do you have of that first time you took to the ice to learn to play?
It was a few years ago now but, yeah, I loved playing through the juniors. I remember me and Neil’s (Ross’ brother) first game, it was against Perth for the Under 12s and we won something like 19-1! I managed to score two goals and Neil got one – they were good times.
Obviously your dad, Jock, was a long serving player with Murrayfield Racers and has been involved with the club coaching ever since. How big an influence was he on your career?
My dad has been a massive influence on my career, ever since I started playing when I was about 10. From having sticks and gloves, practice sessions before we were ready to play juniors, through to coaching with the juniors, SNL and the Caps. So he’s been there to give us ‘constructive criticism’ all along the way.
Do you have fond memories of watching your dad play with the Racers – if so what are they?
I used to go to Murrayfield to watch the Racers every Sunday night with my mum, auntie and Neil and it was great to watch my dad, especially as they had some great teams and were always challenging for trophies. I remember his last game before he retired, he even got himself a goal.
Growing up watching your dad who were the players that were your heroes from the Racers days?
There was so many good players back then to look up to. My dad obviously, Tony Hand, Chris Palmer, Mike Ware, Chris Kelland, Ivan Matulik to name a few, but the list could go on and on.
You played your first pro games pro for the then Murrayfield Royals back in season 1997/98. Scott Neil was still playing! Can you remember your debut and how it went?
I can’t actually remember my first game for the Royals – I can’t imagine it went that great though. I do remember my first training session with them. I was training with the juniors and me and one of the other boys, Mike Jerome, got asked by Roger Hunt (the coach at the time) to stay on with them.
It was a bit scary cause there was guys like Paul Pentland on the ice, and he played with my dad. And Scotty had to strap the skates on a few times over the years, when we were short benched, but it was like he’d never been away.
In 1998 the Caps were formed and you played with the team for the next seven seasons in the BNL. If you had to pick the best line you played with from those days what would it be and why?
It’s tough because I played with a lot of good players over the years, but I’ll go with:
Goalie – John Finnie – really good keeper, although I think he liked to play outfield more often than in net at training. A great laugh too. Ladislav Kudrna was also another brilliant goalie to play for us.
Defence – Jan Krajicek – brilliant player, made everything look so easy. Hated one-on-ones with him at training.
Defence – Miroslav Droppa – played really well alongside Jan, some shot on him too.
Forward – Martin Cingel – always gave his all, quick, great shot. Not a bad lad too.
Forward – Jason Lafreniere – very talented player, scored for fun. Could see how he played in the NHL.
Forward – Adrian Saul – him and Stevie Kaye linked up so well together for us. Great players and good guys.
Coach – My dad, and also Roger Hunt since he gave me my first step up to the seniors.
According to the stats you scored 12 goals for the club at BNL level. Can you remember the goals and which one was your favourite?
That’s not a great return – the stats must be wrong! You’d think since there was so few of them, I should remember them all but I can only remember a few to be honest. One down in Peterborough I scored a top corner from the high slot – I think I was more surprised than anyone to see it go in.
Another I remember is one against Basingstoke and it was assisted by Neil and scored on a goalie also named Hay. I’m sure it was some kind of milestone goal for the Caps, so that was pretty cool.
You were fortunate to play alongside your brother Neil for a few seasons at pro level. I asked Neil the same question – who was the best, you or him?
Me! No, it hurts me to say but I’ve always said Neil was a better player than me. I maybe could have applied myself better at times to improve and get more ice time, but Neil did well for the Caps over the years – even played on ‘D’ for a bit. I can’t even skate backwards! We had a good few seasons in the SNL as well and we always played on the same line then.
The Caps stepped up to the EIHL in season 2005/06. You decided to stop playing pro hockey – why was this?
I wasn’t enjoying my hockey as much as before and was feeling like it was getting to be a bit of a chore unfortunately. The travelling down to Guildford and Bracknell every weekend just got too much. So I decided to step back down to the SNL to try and enjoy playing the game again and having a laugh with my mates.
As you said above you turned to SNL level hockey and have been a valuable member of the team for a number of years now. You won a treble in 2013/14. How enjoyable was it to win being part of an Edinburgh team?
Winning the Grand Slam with the SNL Caps was great. It’s always nice to win trophies obviously, but to get the clean sweep was brilliant – definitely one of the highlights of my career. That was actually the second time we won the Grand Slam – the first was about 10 years before when my dad was still coaching us.
You are now 36 – do you have plans to keep playing the next few years?
I’d like to think I could still hack it for another few seasons, but I will need to see how the old body copes first. I know I’d miss it if I didn’t play.
When it finally comes the time to walk away from hockey how tough will that be having been involved in the game since such a young age?
It would be weird not to be involved in hockey because it’s been such a big part of my life since I started playing – it certainly can take up a lot of your time. I used to think I would get involved in the coaching side of it when I stop playing, but I don’t know if I’m quite ready for that yet. Maybe one day though.
If you had to pick a highlight throughout your hockey career what would it be and why?
I’ve been fortunate enough to have quite a few highlights so hard to pick one, so winning the SNL Grand Slam twice, or scoring in a win over England while playing for Scotland would definitely be up there.
You played with and against some top players who would be the best and why?
Again, it’s really tough to pick just one since there’s so many good players that have played at Murrayfield over the years, for and against. You can’t really not mention Tony Hand. Even when he came back to us as player coach later in his career, he was still easily one of the best players in the league.
What goes on in the life of Ross Hay these days away from hockey?
Well through the summer I try to hack my way around the golf course as much as possible. I’m a member at Turnhouse and there’s actually a few ex-Racers that play there too.
Do you get much chance to come watch the current Caps team these days?
I usually get to watch a few games a season, mostly when the SNL have a game after so I come along early to watch the Caps first.
You, Neil and your Dad are playing on the same line. One guy scores a goal, one guy makes the great pass for the goal and one guy picks up a 10 minute misconduct. Who does what?
It’s pretty much impossible to separate my dad and Neil for the misconduct penalty. But I’ll go for me with the assist, my Dad the goal, and Neil with the penalty – seeing as I had to say he was better than me earlier!
Finally, do you have a message for the Caps fans?
Stick in, keep supporting the team each week and hopefully you will see them challenging for trophies again, up the top of the league where Edinburgh deserves to be.
(Image permission: Stuart Gardiner)