Sunderland-born Paul Dixon, who has played a massive role for Guildford Flames over the last two decades, brings his Elite League team to Cardiff Bay this weekend.
Flames, who include Cardiff-born Ben Davies, take on Elite League leaders Devils at the Viola Arena this evening (Friday, 7.30pm) and return to the same venue on Sunday.
Dixon’s men face Belfast Giants in the Challenge Cup final (4pm) and Dixon says: “We are preparing for a cup final weekend and intend to enjoy it.
“We are in a good place right now and are focused on Friday’s League match against Devils.
“If we do well in that fixture the momentum can carry us into Sunday’s final against Belfast.”
Flames defeated Sheffield Steelers and Nottingham Panthers in the Challenge Cup knockout stages and now face trophy holders Giants in a one-off final.
“I’m delighted for the boys,” says Dixon. “This is massive for our club.
“We had a successful first season in Elite League. We recruited a team with speed and skills fast team.
“The target now is to keep improving. To have beaten Sheffield and Nottingham, two of the biggest and most successful clubs in Elite League over the years, shows we are making progress.
“We know what we are coming up against in Belfast. They are Challenge Cup champions, but in a one-off final it can be anybody’s on the day.”
— Guildford Flames (@flamesicehockey) March 6, 2019
Dixon’s hockey career started when, at 10-years-old, he joined the Durham Wasps youth development system, making his first team debut at the age of 16.
After two seasons in the first team, when Wasps won the British League Premier title, British Championship and Norwich Union Cup, Dixon moved on to Hull, where he helped Humberside Seahawks gain promotion to Heineken Premier hockey, and was voted best young British player.
He played for Sheffield Steelers in 1992-93, returned to Wasps and then signed for the Newcastle organisation (Cobras and Riverkings).
Dixon’s switch from the North East to Surrey happened after Flames coach Stan Marple was with Great Britain for the World Championships in Denmark.
“Stan wanted me to play for Guildford and it seemed the right move,” says Dixon. “He was putting together a team challenge for the league.”
Flames were prolific champions over the years and Dixon became captain, assistant payer-coach, player-coach and head coach.
“I had offers to play elsewhere former money, but Guildford has treated me well,” he says. “It’s a good club which is run professionally.”
They joined Elite League last season and Dixon guided his team to a top half finish. He has been behind the bench for well over 700 matches, earning 450-plus wins.
Dixon arrived at the club as a player in time for the 1999-2000 campaign and began serving as both player and head coach to start 2007-2008 when they won the English Premier League title.
Flames also won the 2009-2010 Premier Cup, 2011 play-off crown, back-to-back League and Cup championships between 2011 and 2013 plus the 2015-2016 double with cup and play-off titles.
Dixon is the all-time club leader in games played on 928 and he is fourth on the club’s historical scoring charts with 113 goals, 500 assists and 613 points.
🎟️ Tickets 🎟️
Haven't got a ticket for tonight's game? Don't worry, we still have some left and there is still plenty of seats together too 👇👇
— Cardiff Devils (@cardiffdevils) March 8, 2019
Now aged 45, Dixon is intent on adding another championship to the Guildford Flames honours board.
First, though, the Flames are intent on doing all they can to disrupt Devils’ title charge this evening.
Elite League fixtures this weekend:
Friday, March 8: Belfast Giants v Glasgow Clan (7pm), Cardiff Devils v Guildford Flames (7.30pm).
Saturday, March 9: Milton Keynes Lightning v Coventry Blaze (7pm), Nottingham Panthers v Dundee Stars (7pm), Sheffield Steelers v Fife Flyers (7pm).
Sunday, March 10: Dundee Stars v Manchester Storm (5pm), Coventry Blaze v Milton Keynes Lightning (5.15pm), Fife Flyers v Sheffield Steelers (6.30pm).
Sunday, March 10: Challenge Cup final, Belfast Giants v Guildford Flames at the Viola Arena, Cardiff Bay (4pm).
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