The Independent Free Press reports on the English adventures of one Mr. Justin Noble...
The Invicta Dynamos of the English National Ice Hockey League needed to sign the limit of two import players per team during the off-season and it turns out both of those roster spots will be filled by Georgetown residents.
Ryan Ellis, 27, and Justin Noble, 23, both played for the Georgetown Jr. A Raiders as 16-year-olds and graduated from Georgetown District High School, yet they’d never even heard of each other until last month when they signed with the Dynamos, who are based in Gillingham, about 45 minutes southeast of London.
Both left-wingers graduated from Division III colleges in New York after four solid seasons on the ice— Ellis from the Oswego State Athletics and Noble with the Buffalo-based Brockport Golden Eagles—and will embark together on their pro careers, which begins Saturday when the Dynamos travel to Bracknell for their season opener.
Neither player has ever been to England before, although Ellis’s father is British and his mother is from Scotland.
“The coach was telling me about what fixtures (games) we had coming up and I had no idea what he was talking about,” laughed the 5-foot-11, 190-pound Noble.
“It should be interesting to hear the first pre-game speech. Seriously, though, I did a fair bit of research and I know a few guys who’ve played in that league and they’ve said nothing but great things about this organization.”
Invicta finished fourth out of 11 teams last season in what’s considered Britain’s second-tier pro league. The 6-foot, 200-pound Ellis had planned to sign a contract in Britain two years ago but had difficulty getting a passport and hasn’t played for an elite-level team since then. He has been skating regularly and playing lots of ball hockey, while Noble graduated from Brockport with a degree in finance and economics after serving as captain for the varsity team for the past two seasons.
“It was really crazy how it all unfolded,” Ellis said.
“We’d never actually even met before we both signed. I was at my girlfriend’s in Vermont when I signed and the Invicta coach (Kevin Parrish) had no idea how big Georgetown was. He said something like, ‘Maybe you guys already know each other, or maybe Georgetown’s the size of London, England and you may never have met.’ Funny enough, we went to high school together and didn’t know it and now we’re roommates in another country.”
In another strange twist, ENIHL rules state that import players aren’t permitted on the ice at the same time in order to promote the development of home-grown talent. Both players will also be expected to take part in off-ice promotional appearances to help win over new fans in their soccer and cricket-crazed new home.
“It seems like it’s an ideal area to travel, which is a big reason why I wanted to play in Europe, to see more of the world,” added Noble, who acquired a Slovenian passport through his grandparents’ heritage to play there before receiving the offer to join the Dynamos.
“It’s an hour-and-a-half trip to Paris and five hours to Amsterdam and it’s great that I’ll have someone I know to travel with.”
Ellis, who has a business degree from Oswego State and a track record as a proven goal scorer wherever he’s lined up, didn’t want to have any lingering regrets later in life about not giving pro hockey a shot.
“I just looked at it that I’d be kicking myself when I turned 40 that I didn’t take advantage of an opportunity when I could have,” he said.
“You’ve got to do what you love, right?”