Jay Courtney spoke to defenceman Nick Toneys

Nick Toneys, one of the most reliable defenceman to ice for the Nottingham Panthers in recent years. There is nothing that leaves the fans dazzled in amazement, but what you do get from Nick Toneys is a solid defenceman with a great work rate who possess a work man like effort each and every shift, which pleased the Panthers faithful in his two seasons in the Lace Market.
When it was revealed that Mike Ellis wouldn’t be returning for the 2008/09 season, owner Neil Black offered Corey Neilson the task of leading the Panthers to silverware. Whilst Coach Neilson was assembling his roster he made some mouthwatering signings, sniper Branden Cook, playmakers Jade Galbraith & Dan Tessier, agitator Bruce Richardson and tough guy Rumun Ndur. However, possibly the most astute signing was Nick Toneys who hailed from Waupaca, Wisconsin, measuring 6’2 and weighing 195lb. Nick was a stay at home defenceman who had limited ECHL experience and had been a part of the highly successful Kalamazoo K-Wings roster which won the Colonial Cup. I recently caught up with him to talk all things hockey.

When you was growing up, was it your ambition to play the game you love for a living and did you always want to be a defenceman?
Yes, growing up watching the NHL, it was always my dream to play professionally. I played forward until I was around 9 or 10 before switching to defence

After spending a season in the USHL with the Waterloo Black Hawks, Nick had a successful NCAA career where he was a part of three all star rosters in four years and won two state championships with Wisconsin and suffered heart break when he was icing for St. Norbert who were the runners up in the National Championship.
However in 2005/2006 Toneys was about to make the jump from junior hockey to playing professionally with the Kalamazoo Wings in the UHL. After losing the National Championship with St. Norbert, Nick became a Colonial Cup Champion in his first year as a pro.

Did you expect to win a championship in your first season as a pro?
Not really, It was a great experience winning that in my first year, considering we lost in the NCAA National Championship no more than 2 months before I debuted with Kalamazoo. It is something that I will never forget.

After spending a solitary season in the ECHL, Toneys joined the Panthers for the 2008/09 season. After his time in the East Coast and the UHL, he had played with some familiar faces like former Blaze, Panthers and Bison defenceman Corey LeClair, former Devil Louis Goulet and former Panthers defenceman Briane Thompson.

How helpful were these guys at helping you make your decision?
When I first got a call from my agent asking me if I wanted to play hockey in the UK, these are some of the first people I contacted about what I might be getting into. They all had nothing but good things to say about the UK.

Did you want to play in Europe?
Being able to get paid for something you absolutely love to do and do it in Europe all while experiencing different cultures, meeting lifelong friends and seeing other parts of the world.

As part of your Panthers contract you undertook a degree at Derby University. How hard was it to concentrate on hockey and on your education?
After being a student athlete for four years in the NCAA, I knew what kind of sacrifices and determination it would take to excel at both hockey and school. At times it was difficult, but looking back on the past two years, it was well worth it.

When you arrived in Nottingham, was their much of a culture shock at all?
Driving on the left hand side of the road was probably one of the biggest difficulties I had faced. I hit many curbs during my 1st year.

During your two years as a Panther you won a Challenge Cup and came very close to winning the play-offs. How would describe the Panthers chances of lifting the league championship while you were here?
Both years I played for Nottingham, a few games here, a few games there and we win the league. Corey has done a great job of building a championship team the past two years and I think it is only a matter of time.

Were you surprised at how good the British players are?
After speaking with other players that played in the UK, it wasn’t a big surprise to the level of skill and ability some of the British players have. I do believe that the UK is overlooked pertaining to the level of play. I don’t think the league gets the recognition it deserves.

One question a lot of fans asked last year, was why is Nick Toneys being benched? Last season as a lot fans will remember Nick was benched to make way for Mario Larocque, who only iced 21 times for the Panthers before going back to Canada for personal reasons.

How did you react when you were benched?
It is never easy watching your teammates from the bench. However, I signed a contract with the Panthers and did what I had to in order to best serve our team. I looked at the situation as a great opportunity to understand the game from a different perspective.

After two seasons in the UK, what would you say the main differences are between North American hockey and here in the UK?
Due to most North American pro leagues adopting the smaller NHL size rink, naturally the game becomes quicker and more physical.

In doing research for this interview I came across Nick Toneys Hockey, can you tell me some more about that?
It is my hockey school that I started two summers ago to help develop young hockey players skills and understanding of the game. I can trace my successes back to hockey schools I attended when I was a kid and now I have an opportunity to give young hockey players the same benefits I had. It is a very rewarding.

How did you find your two years in Nottingham?
My time in Nottingham has been a life changing experience. The people that I had met, the experiences I have had, it is a place that I will never forget.

Final question, what does the future hold for Nick Toneys?
That is the million dollar question, I am not quite sure what the future holds for me.

Whatever the future holds for Nick Toneys, we wish him the greatest of success in the future.

The Cat’s Whiskers would like to thank Nick for his time and Jay for conducting the interview.

For more information on Nick’s hockey school visit:
http://www.nicktoneyshockey.com/index.html

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