THE Basingstoke Bison have pulled off the biggest signing of the summer so far, by announcing top British forward Russ Cowley, will join them for the forthcoming season.

This comes in the week, when they also announced British defenceman Tom Ralph is also joining.

After a year away from the sport to finish his PhD, Cowley is eager to return to the ice with the Herd.

The 34-year-old Great Britain international is a former team mate of Bison player/coach Ashley Tait.

Cowley, who grew up in Canada, playing his junior ice hockey with Solihull and Swindon, but is better known as a Coventry Blaze player, winning the three of his four Elite League titles, the other came with the Cardiff Devils.

In his time in the top flight he played over 700 games returning 350 points.

Bison player/coach Tait is delighted with his latest addition and said: “I think he will be one of the best British forwards in this league and having played with Russ for some many years I know exactly what he will bring to this team.”

Russ Cowley said: “I had a couple of offers last year to return, but wanted to finish my PhD.

"Now I am eager to get back and can’t wait to play in Basingstoke, as the atmosphere there made by the fans, is really great. I am looking forward to playing for them.

“I would class myself as a two way player, being able to contribute offensively as well as stopping goals at the other end of the ice.”

Tait is not going to play on the same forward line as Cowley, but the pair are likely to link-up on the powerplay unit.

New defenceman Tom Ralph joins after a two years in Kent with the Invicta Dynamos and last season returned 24 points.

The 24-year-old, was born in Hull and came through their junior programme and went onto play in the Elite League for his home town team making over 100 appearances in the top flight Standing at 6ft 3in, he will add even more height to very big looking defensive unit.

Bison player/coach Ashley Tait said: " He is another great addition to the team and will be a big part of our defence. He is a player I can see who could well wear a letter for us."

Tait is tracking a few more players and two of them will to be import forwards.