Phoenix find new strikeforce

Wednesday, 2nd February 2005
This past Sunday, Manchester Phoenix and the British Inline Puck Hockey Association (BIPHA) staged the first of a series of inline hockey clinics at Salford University. Well over thirty youngsters took part in the day's events, which included an introduction to puck hockey, a chance to skate with former Phoenix players Dave Clancy and Brian Worrall, and two demonstration games between the North-West and Central Under 10s teams.

The day started with a 'Learn Hockey Skills' session from BIPHA's National Development Officer, Malcolm Tilley, in which the juniors received tips on skating, stick handling and shooting. Following the session, the juniors were treated to the first of the day's two games between the North-West Under 10s and the Central Under 10s, which ended 5-3 to the North-West.

Watching the proceedings from the boards was Manchester Phoenix Managing Director Neil Morris, who was very pleased with the response to the event:

"In some ways, this is more fulfilling than running the professional team! To see all these young players giving their all is very gratifying. It's refreshing to know that hockey is alive in Manchester, and who knows maybe out there is a New Strikeforce who will entertain the fans of Manchester Phoenix in the years to come".

Neil is also ready for the work that lies ahead for the Phoenix in promoting the growth of inline and ice hockey in the Manchester area. "Isolating ourselves in a big arena isn't the way forward. Being a part of the community is, and today is a community event.

"Our vision is to run five or six junior teams behind the Phoenix, and to further develop links with inline hockey. Building links with the local players at all levels is something that hasn't been done by any professional team in this area, but it's a key part of developing the sport and helping the community.

"Events like this help to promote hockey at grass-roots level. I am sure we could be watching future Phoenix players out there today!"

BIPHA's Malcolm Tilley echoes this sentiment: "The connection between BIPHA and Phoenix is a two-way street. Phoenix are looking to the BIPHA players to form the basis of the next generation of ice hockey players, and BIPHA needs Phoenix to attract new youngsters to the sport. With no rink in Manchester for over eighteen months, it's essential to forge new links at all levels, and today's event is all about that."

Ex-Phoenix forward Brian Worrall explains his views on the need for ice hockey and inline hockey to join together: "When I first started playing roller hockey, it was very difficult to get into playing ice hockey. It's good that someone is trying to generate links between the two. Inline hockey is such a skilled game, the stickhandling skills of roller players are really something to behold!"

Amongst the hockey events, the juniors and parents in attendance were able to catch a glimpse of the Manchester cheerleaders in action, as the Phoenix Flames performed at various points throughout the day.The skating session with Brian Worrall and Dave Clancy proved popular, and Dave gave his views on the event afterwards:

"I just love signing lots of autographs for the kids! That's the reason I'm here!" Dave said modestly. "Seriusly though, today is about bringing hockey back to Manchester. There's a lot of young kids here and there's a great deal of potential talent being displayed."

"I think the next stage is to get the new rink opened, and get the junior system up and running," Dave continues, "and we'll put hockey back on the Manchester map, as has needed to happen for so long. The loss of local facilities shouldn't have been allowed to happen, but that's in the past now, and we're in a position to work towards the future."

The day came to an end with the second of the games between North-West and Central, with North-West taking a comfortable 8-3 win before the novice youngsters took part in a game of their own, much to the delight of the assembled parents. Iain Gillespie from Hollingworth was one of the parents at the event, watching his six year old son Oliver take part in the activities: "It's great for the kids, they get to learn new skills and try their hand at the game in a well structured environment. Great stuff!"

by Richard Allan