Ice Hockey: Blackburn Hawks boss on the success of the pathway program

The Blackburn Hawks are Lancashire’s only semi-professional Ice Hockey team and following recent success in the M58 Cup, co-chairman Graham Lomax is preparing for more glory.

The Hawks play at the Blackburn arena and are third in the EIHA (English Ice-Hockey Association) Moralee Conference, which is the third tier of British Ice Hockey.

They also play in a separate league called the Northern League and are second.

The Northern League involves three Scottish sides that the Hawks have established links through two-way contracts – which allow players to move freely between teams during a season.

Blackburn Hawks have benefitted from this system.

The three Scottish teams are Kirkcaldy Kestrels, Kilmarnock Thunder and the Edinburgh Capitals.

Lomax explained: “We had lads on two-way contracts with these sides and you could see the quality of them and how we can maximize opportunity for these lads.”

A brainchild of Lomax is “the pathway”. The pathway is based upon the American model which allows players to transfer between clubs throughout divisions and maintain a set ethos due to two-way contracts.

Lomax says this has led to two integral players – forwards Josh Crawley and Matty Cross – enjoying recent success with the club.

Blackburn Hawks co-chairman Graham Lomax

He explained: “Josh, who’s an amazing talent, will definitely step up to the next level and Matty, who’s in his second year with us, is a top player, not just making up the numbers for the club.

“If those lads leave us and go further, we’ve done our job. We have no qualms about wanting the best side. We are a stepping stone.”

But Lomax added that this lack of adoption by other teams in the league is defined by the money available with promotion, believing that some clubs are more motivated by money than growing the sport.

“We like to think we put the players first, not the club, which is more than I can say for other teams. It has to beneficial for our club and it has been,” Lomax said.

“But I think most clubs are selfish and they want to win every game as there is serious money changing hands up the food chain.

“Whether other teams are peering over the fence seeking to replicate the model, only time will tell.”