7th of June 2017
Long and Balmer Elite League boundThe Sherfield School Basingstoke Bison are sad to announce the departure of Ciaran Long and Declan Balmer from the club - as both will take up opportunites to play in the Elite League next season.
It had been hoped that both players would be back with the club for this campaign, but following the demise of the EPIHL and the re-structuring of the second-tier of British Hockey, both players have taken the opportunity to play at the highest possible level, with the chance to showcase their undoubted talents.
Director of Hockey Doug Sheppard stated "I have always said that I will never stand in a player's way of competing at the highest level. Both Ciaran and Declan are outstanding talents who need to play at a higher level, in order to continue developing their skills.
"I know our fanbase will be gutted by this news - we feel the same as a club that they won't be taking to the ice for us next season - but this is the best move possible for their hockey future and they depart with our best wishes."
26-year-old Long has developed into one of the great hockey talents within the UK, establishing himself as a top scorer, matched with incredible team play.
In his second spell with the Herd, Ciaran was able to notch up 256 points in three-and-a-half seasons with the Herd - registering his 500th EPIHL appearance during this time, which included a winter playing in New Zealand, as he expanded his hockey horizons.
"I can honestly say it has been a joy to watch Ciaran continue to grow since he rejoined the club in 2013. Not just as a player, but also as a person." added Sheppard.
"He relishes the responsibility he has been handed over the past few seasons, both on and off the ice, and had become a real part of the ethos at the club. Now, I can't wait to see how his skills will translate to the Elite League in the coming season - knowing that he will give every effort to succeed.
21-year-old Balmer also spent the past three seasons with the club, bringing his no-nonsense attitude to the blue line, in helping the Herd achieve EPIHL success in the 2015/16 season.
Overall, Declan made 156 appearances for the Herd, during which the defenceman developed his all-round game to achieve this opportunity.
"Declan came to the club as a young man, wanting to develop his awareness and understanding of the game. Not only has he achieved that, but he's also added more elements to his game - making him the complete defence man and someone I had been hoping to build our defence around.
"I believe he has the skillset, along with the same desire to learn further, that will make him a success in the top flight."
All associated with the Sherfield School Basingstoke Bison would like to wish Ciaran and Declan all the best for their futures in the Elite League. The pair will both be missed at the Basingstoke Arena, but we are sure our fanbase will be keeping a keen eye on their performances.
We will be announcing another re-signing tomorrow morning in the Basingstoke Gazette.