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  • Writer's pictureStruan Hope

Bruce McCandless: Three Decades of Excellence at Banbridge Hockey Club

Bruce McCandless, known to his teammates as 'Fufe', is stepping back from first-team commitments at Banbridge Hockey Club after a remarkable 18 years with the firsts and 30 years overall since joining in primary five at Ballydown. His journey has been one of passion, dedication, and family support that has seen him through the highs and lows of an illustrious career.

From the tender age of eight, when he first joined the club, to the seasoned player we know today, McCandless has embodied the spirit of the club. His nickname, 'Fufe', a moniker given by his brother Scott, stuck much to his initial annoyance but eventually became a term of endearment used by all.

From the beginning, Bruce was set on the right path by club legends, and his talent was evident when he broke into the first team squad just after turning 18 in the 2004/05 season. He had to earn his spot in a squad brimming with experience, a challenge he met head-on, also winning the Junior Cup with the seconds in what was a successful first year with the squad.

His achievements with Banbridge are numerous: 5 Kirk Cups, 5 Anderson Cups, 2 Premier Leagues, 1 All Ireland, 1 Champions Trophy, and 2 Senior Cups.

Bann in Europe

Bruce McCandless's tenure at Banbridge Hockey Club is not only marked by his dedication to the club but also by his significant contributions to its performances in the Euro Hockey League (EHL). His participation in the EHL across Europe has been a testament to his skill and the club's competitive spirit on an international stage.

During his time with the club, McCandless played in four EHL competitions, which were notable milestones for both him and Banbridge. The 2011/12 season saw them compete in Antwerp, followed by Barcelona in the 2016/17 season. The 2017/18 season was particularly special as Banbridge hosted the EHL, creating an electrifying atmosphere with a huge, energetic crowd cheering them on. The team's performance was commendable, and they progressed to the KO 16 in Eindhoven, a highlight in the club's history.

Banbridge Hockey Club's history in the EHL is marked by their resilience and ability to compete against some of the best clubs in the world. Their journey in these European competitions has been filled with challenging matches, showcasing the club's growth and the players' development over the years.

McCandless's experience in the EHL has been an integral part of his hockey career, providing him with invaluable exposure to high-level play and contributing to his development as a player. It's these experiences that have shaped him into the player known for his strategic understanding of the game and his ability to perform under pressure.

As McCandless steps back from his first-team commitments, his legacy within the EHL and Banbridge Hockey Club remains. His impact on the club's international presence and his role in bringing world-class hockey to Banbridge will continue to inspire future generations of players at the club.

Called Up

Bruce McCandless’s international hockey career is a narrative of global reach and tactical mastery. His adaptability and game reading were pivotal to the side, contributing significantly to many victories. McCandless’s international journey spanned five continents—Europe, North America, South America, Asia, and Africa—showcasing his skills on a world stage and underlining the universal appeal of hockey.

His debut cap came in 2009 against France in the Celtic Cup, marking the beginning of an international career that would see him earn 81 caps. McCandless’s ability to read the game and adapt to different playing styles and conditions was instrumental in his success. Whether it was the tactical nous required in Europe, the speed and agility needed in Asia, or the physicality of the game in Africa, McCandless’s versatility shone through.

His last international appearance in 2015, just before the Rio Olympics, was a testament to his longevity and consistent performance at the highest level. Throughout his career, McCandless’s parents were a globe-trotting support system, following him to international matches and providing unwavering encouragement. His father, Dr. William McCandless, not only supported Bruce but also served as the team doctor for the Ireland squad, a role that allowed him to travel with the team and contribute to its health and success.

McCandless’s international experience was not just about personal accolades; it was about bringing his insights back to Banbridge Hockey Club. His exposure to international play informed his coaching and mentoring at the club, where he passed on the lessons learned from competing against the world’s best. This exchange of knowledge has been invaluable in elevating the club’s performance and nurturing the next generation of players.

As Bruce McCandless steps back from his first-team commitments, his international legacy remains a source of pride for Banbridge Hockey Club and an inspiration to all who aspire to represent their country in the sport they love.

Looking Forward

As he steps back from the first team, McCandless looks forward to focusing on coaching with an emphasis on player development and game knowledge, areas where he has already made significant contributions. His passion for the sport will continue to influence the next generation of players at Banbridge Hockey Club.

The legacy Bruce leaves at Banbridge Hockey Club is one of a true club man, whose commitment and family values have been integral to his and the club's success. His journey with Banbridge Hockey Club is a testament to the power of passion, perseverance, and the impact one individual can have on a community. As he steps into a new role, the club, and indeed the wider hockey community, will no doubt continue to benefit from his experience and dedication.

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