If you're a member of the NHLGamer community, you've played against Rusty Blades.
I considered writing "chances are" at first, but really - if you've been around the community for more than a few months you will have come across Rusty Blades in the matchup screen.
Since the teams inception sometime before ECL 3, RB has been known - among other things - for its high level of activity. Annually at the top of the EASHL 6v6 leaderboards for games played, the Blades gradually started to climb those same leaderboards in the "Win" column as well.
Practice makes perfect, they say, and it is my firm belief that no team - North American or European - played more games of EASHL 6v6 than Rusty Blades between their debut season in ECL 3 (18-25-3) and their next season; ECL 4 Pro. That season, they surprised many in the community by finishing third in their conference behind eventual Elite promotees Sjukstugan and Carlsberg HC. By also earning their promotion to Elite that season, RB proved that they were for real and that they were here to stay.
Throughout their six-season run, the team has been led by the same man; @Tanski87 . For those of you who don't know Tanski, he's the hard-hitting, fast-passing #13 RD (and occasional C) you quickly learn to hate if you try to skate up the left wing against RB. A builder by trade, Tanski took his passion for constructing things and applied it to the construction of what eventually became a 6v6 EASHL team.
Tanski87 aggressively barking orders as he skates up the ice, with a terrified MartindalexC looking on.
With him for the duration of RB's ECL journey, Tanski has had his two lieutenants @Lamsa and @Supreex. Both known today to be top players at their respective positions RW and G, back when they started out they were just a group of guys trying to have fun by playing some EASHL.
"Well, I have always believed that there should be no drama in a team", says Tanski as he returns from one of his customary smoke breaks between EASHL games.
On this particular night - a few days before the start of ECL 8 - a disconnected matchup has paved the way for a longer break, allowing Tanski to answer some of my questions.
"We have had success in this and I do believe we have made everyone feel comfortable playing in Rusty. Much of that is due to Lamsa and Supreex."
I ask the RB captain to tell me a bit more about his two longest-tenured players.
"Lamsa I have actually known each other since 7th grade in school. So my friendship with him reaches deeper than just this game we are playing together. As a player, Lamsa loves to score those goals. And he does have some unreal talent to score. It seems like he has no space and then boom - it's a goal."
Long-time friends Lamsa and Tanski "comparing sticks"
"He is also a fun guy in voice chat while playing. I do believe everyone who has played with him can agree with that."
What about the man selected by all four Rusty Blade players interviewed so far to be the teams MVP?
"Well, when talking about Supreex it would be foolish not to mention his skills as a goalie. One of the best, if not the best in this game. It seems like many agree with this. He was actually recruited from a Finnish gaming forum without having any 6v6 experience beforehand. He learned really quickly as he was not happy allowing goals."
A man who does not like to allow goals.
"Also, Supreex is a really competitive guy who hates to lose. Hates it. He has that in common with me. But his passion for the game is unmatched. I still vividly remember the ECL4 playoffs. We had just lost game 7 in overtime and Supi said that he would be out at least a week... but there he was the next day between the pipes of the Rusty net. That's passion, that's Supreex and that's Rusty Blades."
At once, we are joined by a third player. With a voice deeper than the mariana trench, Lamsa announces his arrival.
"Hello", he gravels.
I ask the high-scoring RW some questions about previous seasons and his expectations for ECL 8. By utilizing a surprisingly effective mix of English, Finnish and profanity - with some translation help from his captain - Lamsa digs into the questions.
The time spent playing EASHL has given Lamsa plenty of grey hairs.
"Last season was quite a disappointment. The expectations were big after quite a good eSM tournament. Start of last season was really awkward for us. We didn't play as good as a team as we were able to and it kinda destroyed our chances that season. My own game was slow to get going and felt like a ride on a rollercoaster. Sometimes it felt like it was my first time on the ice and everything was new and difficult.
What about this season?
"I hope we can play a good season without too many bad phases. Expectations are high and I believe that we will be a playoff team.
Even with so many roster changes?
"Yeah. The changes have felt good. And big changes they are. I, of course, miss my old teammates but this new Rusty has been lots of fun to play with."
Tanski chimes in.
"I had a really good time with the old Rusty roster. Great guys and great times. But I am really thrilled about this new roster and change. And also really motivated off and on the ice. Only negative is that with this really short offseason we are still getting to really know each others on the ice. But still I have positive vibes."
Just like @Foppatofflan and @MartindalexC, Lamsa is asked which ECL defenders he considers difficult to play against. After mentioning @DieCutterMC, @jtorro1233, @vatalisti, @Janzuh and @FakiiR1 he admits he's probably leaving a lot of skilled defenders out.
"I'm really bad at remembering names, I can barely even remember the names of my own teammates."
Suddenly, the rest of the team is back.
It is time to return to the EASHL grind - the same grind that has turned Rusty Blades and its longest-tenured members Tanski87, Lamsa and Supreex into forces to be reckoned with in the ECL community.
The same grind that gives the trio hope that the sixth chapter in the Book of Rusty Blades will be the most successful one yet.