PAUL Swindlehurst says the manner in which Swindon treated him in his first season of senior hockey made it an easy decision to return to the Link Centre this time out.
Having spent 2009/10 and 2010/11 with the Ontario Hockey Academy, the D-man took the plunge into the men’s game last year and with some success.
The 19-year-old became an integral part of the Wildcats’ defence, making 51 appearances and endearing himself to fans and teammates in the process.
Swindlehurst, born in Blackrod near Wigan, was only to happy to return to Wiltshire to continue his development at a side he says treats him well.
“With the way they looked after me last year, I was really pleased when they asked me if I wanted to re-sign,” he said.
“With the help I got from the coaches and the support I got from the management, it really excited me to come back.
“It was the first season I played in senior hockey, I was away from home and they looked after me really well and treated me with the utmost respect.
“When I came down here I was so nervous, I didn’t know what to expect and they helped me through it.
“I knew Pete (Russell, 2011/12 bench coach) from Great Britain and he just said, ‘stick with it, you’ll be fine. You’ll get better, just make sure you listen’.”
Swindlehurst feels he coped well with what can be a difficult transition, but admitted the jump up was a shock to the system at first.
“I felt really good at the end of last season, I felt that I’d improved quite a lot with Jan (Melichar), Moorsy (Shane Moore) and Bairdy (Joe Baird) all helping out and giving me little pointers as to what to do - I think that really developed my game from junior hockey to senior hockey.
“You aren’t playing with people who are your age any more, you’re playing with men, who are a lot bigger, a lot stronger and have been doing it a lot longer.
“In junior hockey you can be a big fish, but as soon as you start senior hockey, you’re starting again.
“In senior hockey everybody’s about my height and you learn to take a hit and you learn to get hit harder.
“You just grow up.”
l Swindon drew their first match of 2012/13 at home to Slough last night.
Wildcats were 4-2 up at the end of the first period before Slough hauled it back to 4-4 after the second.
And one more goal each from either side saw matters end 5-5.