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Blaze Adds New Grit As Cooper Signs

Coventry Blaze have stiffened their creaky defence by signing one of the best players in the British National League after he walked out on Hull Thunder.

Stephen Cooper left the east coast side after a dispute over pay with between the players and the club’s owners.

The GB defenceman was snapped by Blaze head coach Paul Thompson just a week before the season’s transfer deadline.

He will add some much-needed backbone to the Blaze defence following three losses in a row and the team has been knocked off the top spot in the BNL.

If the paperwork is completed in time Cooper will make his debut in Saturday’s game at Guildford and will appear before the home crowd the following day when Basingstoke comes to Coventry, with face-off at 6pm

Cooper will fill the hole left by the injury to captain Steve Chartrand and the departure of Craig Chapman.

He has signed a contract to keep him at the club at the end of the 2001-2 season.

Cooper played in the same GB world championship team as new team-mate Shaun Johnson in 2000.

He is also no stranger to many of the Blaze team, having learnt his hockey with the Durham Wasps organisation, as did Johnson, Michael Tasker and Michael Knights. Furthermore, Cooper played with Hilton Ruggles at Cardiff.

The 34-year-old blue-liner broke into the senior Durham team in 1982 at the age of just 16 and remainied with the Wasps until 1988 when he and his brother Ian left to join the newly-formed Cardiff Devils.

Having won promotion to the British Premier League with the Devils, he returned to the Wasps in 1990 for two more seasons

Widely regarded as the best British defencemen ever, he then returned to the all conquering Cardiff side of the early nineties for four extremely successful seasons. With the advent of the Super League in 1996, he moved on to Manchester Storm and has also played for Newcastle and Nottingham as one of the few British players to feature in the import-dominated Super League.

Thompson said:

"I class him as, not only the best British defenceman in the country, but also as possibly the best defenceman of any nationality in the British National League.

“To secure his services for the next season-and-a- half is going to be a huge factor in the success of this hockey team.

"He adds a little size and physical presence to our defence. I'm very, very happy to secure the services of Stephen at this time!"

Operations Director, Grant Charman, added:

"This is a major boost for the team, we have struggled a little since Craig left and Stevie was injured. That we have been able to get Stephen's signature despite competition from other clubs is another sign of the growth of the sport in Coventry.

“Top quality players want to come here and play in this fantastic arena. We are delighted to have Stephen on board."

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CWN / Sport / Ice Hockey / Coventry Blaze / 25 Jan 01
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