ELLIS BRINGS KILLER CAPTAIN TO BEES' HIVE
June 30, 2004
Bracknell Bees moved quickly to sign the 30-year-old defenceman after learning that JP Soucy will be staying at home in Canada to play in a semi-professional league in Quebec. Rees, who played briefly for Paisley Pirates five years ago, has been persuaded to give the British National League another try. Bees boss Mike Ellis said: "I spoke to other players that I know who have played in the Central Hockey League and said I was looking for a good stay-at-home defenceman and his name came up twice. He is a tough player, very physical and a leader. His team wanted him back, but it turns out he was looking to come over to this country and Bracknell was a team he had heard good things about. In fact, he was trying to get hold of me when I rang him, so we hit it off well and came to a deal after only a week or two. And now the Bees have a Killer Bee!" Rees was the Killer Bees' highest-scoring defenceman in the opening two months of their first campaign last season before suffering a knee injury last November which required arthroscopic surgery. But he recovered to finish with six goals and 24 assists in 59 CHL games.The Calgary-born ace started his professional career with the Fresno Fighting Falcons in 1997-98, when ex-Bees Corey Lyons and Shawn Snesar were both on the WCHL club's roster. But Rees' first full pro season was with El Paso Buzzards. He then left briefly to ice just three games for Paisley before returning for another three years with El Paso. During his four seasons there, Rees accumulated 633 penalty minutes to lead El Paso's all-time list. In the summer of 2002, he joined Austin Ice Bats, helping them to the CHL President's Cup Finals, which they lost to Memphis. And last year he was recruited for the new Killer Bee franchise where he went down in history as being their first player to fire a shot on goal. He also contributed an assist on the club's first-ever goal. Ellis admits that he is disappointed that Soucy, last season's players' player of the year, is not returning. And it is believed that Bees' top goalscorer Nathan Rempel could follow last season's captain Dave Matsos to Elite League club Cardiff Devils. "It comes down to money. I've tried hard to keep players, but you cannot win them all," said Ellis, who is not confident that fans' player of the year, Scott Allison, will be back either. Ellis added: "Scott is a great player and had a good season for us, but again it is financial." Bees' boss also intends to sacrifice the more physical side that Allison brings to the game, which can attract penalties, for a faster more skilled team next season. Ellis has not, though, ruled out bringing back Nicky Chinn, another of Bees' more physical players. "Nicky is usually a late signer," said Ellis. "I don't expect him to make a decision until nearer the start of the season." Bees' boss, though, is set to make a quick decision over who will be netminder next season. Ellis has always insisted he would prefer to sign a British goalie and free up an import slot on the ice. But Stephen Murphy, Bees' Scottish-born netminder, is believed to favour joining Newcastle Vipers if he fails to land a club while trying out in Sweden and Denmark. And Stevie Lyle remains most likely to rejoin Guildford Flames. Ex-Bee Joe Watkins, who played at Bakersfield Condors in the United States last season, is no nearer deciding his future either. And Ellis said: "I would love to have one of those three, but I am possibly prepared to wait one more week, before I will have to sign an import goalie. "The composition of the whole team depends on whether the goalie is British or an import so I can't wait much longer." British forward Mark Richardson, who has signed to play alongside his brother Lee, may not be back at the Hive, though, next season. Ellis has heard that Richardson's reputation has spread to such an extent that he is likely to be drafted by Ontario Hockey League club Sudbury Wolves. And Ellis has said he will not stand in the way should Richardson opt to go to Canada. "It's not unheard of for players to go there, play in the OHL and then get picked up by NHL clubs," said Bees' boss. "To go and play on a major junior team where all the NHL scouts are watching would be a tremendous opportunity. I hope for Mark's sake he gets drafted, but if it doesn't work out, he will want to be at Bracknell."