On 14th July team members Graham Wilson, Scott Booth, Rob Allen and Peter Hagan travelled down to Peterborough to check out the Planet Ice British Sledge Hockey League in preparation for Phoenix’s inaugural games on August 11th at the Altrincham Ice Dome.
Graham and Rob had been given permission to guest for the Battle Back Bison as they were short of players, but after arriving and being asked to play, Peter also agreed to gear up as well, despite having not actually been in a sledge for weeks due to coaching responsibilities.
Scott, and Graham’s partner Nadia, found themselves doing the “media bit”, taking video and photos while the “big kids” went to play. The first game on ice was Bison against Peterborough, a team that had played together for years and it was always going to be an uphill battle. The final score was 7-0 to Peterborough, but the Manchester lads acquitted themselves well in their first game, especially Graham and Rob who seemed to grow in confidence as the game went on.
Manchester Phoenix coach Peter Hagan was suitably impressed: “The guys really did well. Nerves were obvious, but they really got stuck in. As for me, I think it showed why I’m sticking to coaching!”
After the first game, a very sweaty but smiling Graham said: “This was my first game experience after only five training sessions. I was apprehensive to say the least and did not by any means feel ready to be playing in a match. Within just a few minutes I felt like a very welcome part of the team even though I had only met most of the people I played with that day.”
So after a quick introduction, a trial by fire almost, it was onto the second game and the daunting task of playing the Kingston Kestrels, featuring several GB players, including Karl Nicholson, the Manchester Phoenix Assistant Coach. Karl had signed to play for Kestrels again this year before Manchester announced they would have a team. A rout was predicted and their superiority and experience of playing together for years showed. However, the 12-0 score line didn’t tell the whole story, as the Bison really pulled together and played a really strong defensive game. Quality and experience proved to be the difference between the teams.
Scott Booth commented after observing the action: “When we arrived I was told I could play but I didn’t feel ready for a game after only four training sessions and decided to watch instead. However, I wished I had opted to play! The action was intense. There were plenty of inexperienced players out there who were clearly having the time of their lives!”
So, after 2 games and a combined 19 goals scored against, you would expect the coach and the players to be down. WRONG. The players were in great spirits and knew they had played well and with so many new players, had enjoyed the experience and improved on some previous scores. More importantly, from a Phoenix point of view especially, we welcomed some new players to the sledge hockey fraternity.
With several sessions before our 11th August home debut, Manchester Phoenix Sledge Hockey team are hoping to make a big impact at the next round of games. But why would you want to come? Why would you want to sit and watch sledge hockey you ask? Well, I’ll leave that to Nadia and Graham to explain, as they have first hand knowledge of watching the game.
“I really enjoyed the sledge hockey, it was just as exciting to watch as regular ice hockey” said Nadia, “but it was nice to see that people of all ages and abilities are able to participate”
“It has all the thrills of regular Ice Hockey”, enthused Graham, “It is a full contact sport with all the same rules but with some necessary additions specific to the sledges.”
So, if you are in need of a hockey fix, and if you are wanting to support your Manchester Phoenix and the Foundation, get down to the Ice Dome on August 11th. Show the boys your support, and see if the Manchester Phoenix can emulate their EPL counterparts and make a big impact in the league.
We will end with a final word from coach Peter Hagan: “We are aiming to carry on the tradition of the Manchester Phoenix by being a main player in the league, but we need your support to help us. Whether it’s supporting in the stands on the 11th August or even by becoming part of the team, get in touch. We hope to see a good crowd on the 11th, and hope to get you cheering for us now and in the future.”
So keep an eye on the forum, e-zine and website for more information on the Sledge Hockey games on August 11th 2012.