Telford Tigers are delighted to announce the return of Vladimir Luka for the 2023/24 season.
Luka, returns for his third season with the club after having a superb season last year. Luka, an import forward from the Czech Republic scored an incredible 51 goals and 89 points last season and will continue to wear the number 94 shirt. Luka, who has one of the hardest shots in the league was given the prestigious Coaches’ Player of the Year award by Head Coach Tom Watkins at the club’s end of season Presentation Evening.
We spoke to Vladimir about his return to the team:
This will be your third year with the club. What made you return this year?
“I never thought about a different club. I was glad for the interest from Tigers. As soon as Tom said he wanted me to return I was going to come back. I love playing for Tigers and the fans have been great to me.”
Have you settled in Telford now?
“Yes, we moved to Telford before last season and we are so happy here. It’s a great place to live and we have been made very welcome by everyone.”
What made you come to the UK originally?
“I came here four years ago to play hockey. We realised that lifestyle here is great for us, but sometimes we think about how lovely it is in the Czech Republic and miss being there but we made the right decision to come to the UK.”
You were part of the league championship squad in 2021-22. What particular memories do you have of that?
“I joined the club in mid-season, and I was so happy to help the team win the league. It was amazing to end up as league champions and to be part of that roster was great. It was a fun year and to win the league was special.”
Last season for your personally was a great year for points production and goal scoring. What do you think was behind this?
“Thank you. It was a really more than I expected at the start of the season. I owe thanks to my teammates, it wouldn’t have been possible without them. Scoring goals is what I love doing and last season was a good one for me personally. I hope to do the same again next season as well.”
You scored an incredible 51 goals last season. Any particular goals that you remember that stood out?
“It’s hard to pick one out that stood out on its own but probably the last three goals I scored in the playoff Quarter Final against MK Lightning at home. I got a hat trick that night but we ended up only just beating them by one goal. The atmosphere in the rink was incredible and to beat the second placed team after such a tough season was amazing.”
You seem to have a very powerful and accurate slap shot. How much do you work on that in training or is it just natural?
I trained and practised it a lot when I was younger, but now it’s a more naturally. Honestly, I can’t practice it in training. Our Equipment Manager Andy Phillips is always complaining because of the amount of sticks I break when I shoot!”
Do you feel a bit sorry for the net minders who have to try and stop your shots?
“Ha ha, not really! We all have a role to play. All the goalies at National League level are good and it’s tough to beat them so I don’t sympathise with them at all.”
The standard of the league seemed to go up last year. How hard was it during that long bad run of form for Tigers last season?
“We had lots of injuries and we lost some matches that were very close. Unfortunately hockey is a sport where small bounces can go against you and you lose. We felt at times like everything was going against us and with key players out it was hard to win but we stuck with it and fought our way back.”
Last year the fans gave you the nickname “Bazooka”. How did that feel? Do you like the nickname?
“When I heard it first time I was laughing, I appreciate it. I really like it, my son loves it and he thinks it is a great nickname. It’s good that that the fans give me that sort of support.”
Is that what started your now trademark celebration?
“Yes, that was exactly why I first did it and the crowd seem to like it so I kept doing it! I hope that I can do it a lot next season as well.”
After the team’s disappointing league finish last year, what are your hopes for this season?
“I always aim high, so hopefully we will get back to competing for all the trophies and reward our fans with some silverware. I’m sure we will have a competitive roster and get back to being at the right end of the league table.”
Your son always joins you on the ice after games. Is he going to follow in your footsteps and play hockey?
“He loves it, and this is what keeps me going and scoring. It’s great to have him on the ice and I really hope he goes on to play the game, but the main thing is for him to do what he enjoys.”
Any message for the fans ahead of next season?
“I just want to say a big thank you to all the fans for the incredible support at home and away! You are the best in the league! I’m looking forward to next season with you all. The players need that support and when the fans are noisy it gives us such a lift. “
Head Coach Tom Watkins commented on Vladimir’s return, “You don’t see many guys with the shot that Vlad has, not just sheer power but the release, the accuracy, it is the whole package which makes his shot so deadly. To score over 50 goals last season was massive for us as a team. You know if you get him the puck in the right areas he will score, he gives you a massive threat on the power play. He was one of the guys that played consistently all season and I’m sure he can do that again. He’s an experienced professional who is well thought of in our locker room and someone who the young guys look up to.”
Vlads’ own and loan shirts are available to order now for £150 each (Home and Away). Please see the Tigers’ Online Shop for details.
In the 2023/24 season, Tigers are again offering individual player sponsorship at £500. The package will include a personalised ‘SPECIAL’ exclusive third jersey with a company name or family name patch, announcements on match nights, a small advert or logo in the match night programmes and a signed player photo. The jersey will be worn for cup games and play-off games and will not be available as a replica.
If you are interested or require more information on the individual player sponsorships, contact firstname.lastname@example.org