Van­der­meer no stranger to help­ing up front

Belfast Telegraph - - SPORT - BY ADAM McKENDRY BY PHILIP DUN­CAN

AS one of their vet­eran pres­ences on the blue­line, see­ing Jim Van­der­meer tak­ing face-offs last week­end was some­thing of a sur­prise to Belfast Gi­ants fans.

Pressed back into ac­tion af­ter in­jury in the Scot­tish triple-header, from which the Gi­ants took the full haul of six points to main­tain their two-point lead at the top of the Elite League ta­ble, Van­der­meer found him­self in a slightly less fa­mil­iar po­si­tion due to in­juries else­where.

With Fran­cis Beauvil­lier, Jonathan Fer­land and Colin Shields all side­lined, and the de­fen­sive corps well stocked, the 38-year old found him­self among the for­ward lines, where he hadn’t been since his NHL days.

“My first year of ju­nior hockey I played for­ward, and through­out my NHL ca­reer I’d play for­ward ev­ery now and again as well, so I’m not a stranger to play­ing up front,” Cana­dian de­fence­man Van­der­meer re­vealed.

“We needed an­other guy to eat some min­utes and I’d done it be­fore, so that meant it was me!”

While be­ing out of the line-up meant Belfast lost a lot of ex­pe­ri­ence on their back end, and a classy op­er­a­tor from de­fence too, the in­jury did have its up­side.

Now in a role as player-as­sis­tant coach to Adam Keefe, Van­der­meer was able to sur­vey games from the bench, which has, in turn, al­lowed him to add in­put to weekly prac­tices.

“Watch­ing the game from up top or on the bench def­i­nitely gives you an­other per­spec­tive,” says the Al­berta na­tive.

“As any hockey guy will tell you, it seems so easy and slow from up top but when you’re ac­tu­ally on the ice it’s a lot faster!

“It gives you dif­fer­ent an­gles and you see stuff you wouldn’t no­tice on the ice, so I think if you’re pay­ing at­ten­tion it gives you an ad­van­tage when you come back.”

This week­end the Gi­ants will take any ad­van­tage they can get as they face their tough­est of their 16-game road trip against the Not­ting­ham Pan­thers tonight (7pm) be­fore trav­el­ling for the first time this sea­son to de­fend­ing cham­pi­ons Cardiff Devils to­mor­row (6pm).

Two wins would have the Gi­ants in an ex­tremely en­vi­able po­si­tion at the top of the ta­ble and, while all the at­ten­tion will be on the clash at Ice Arena Wales, Van­der­meer knows bet­ter than to look past the Pan­thers.

“It’s a huge week­end, it’s prob­a­bly the top three teams play­ing,” be­lieves Van­der­meer. “This week in prac­tice we’re get­ting every­body ready to go but we can’t look too far ahead. Start with one game and then, once that’s over, move onto the next.” Dif­fer­ent role: Jim Van­der­meer had to move for­ward last week­end LEWIS Hamil­ton’s Mer­cedes boss Toto Wolff in­sists he is not mo­tor rac­ing’s “Spe­cial One”, de­spite be­ing on the verge of lead­ing his team to an­other world cham­pi­onship.

Af­ter Hamil­ton wrapped up the in­di­vid­ual hon­ours in Mex­ico a fort­night ago, Mer­cedes will be­come only the sec­ond team in For­mula One his­tory to win five con­sec­u­tive con­struc­tors’ ti­tles — if Fer­rari fail to outscore them by 13 points at the penul­ti­mate round in Brazil to­mor­row.

As team prin­ci­pal, Wolff has been a per­ma­nent fix­ture in Mer­cedes’ run of suc­cess.

“The down­fall of any leader in a sport’s team is when he gets car­ried away with his own ego,” Wolff said. “You have seen in foot­ball that if you start to think you are the ‘Spe­cial One’, or that you are bet­ter than the oth­ers, that is the mo­ment when you will be beaten.”

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