It’s the fastest team game in the world, which interestingly enough is acknowledged around the world as having been started by a group of Englishmen in Kingston Harbour, Ontario in 1860. The game spread initially throughout Canada and later became popular in the Unites States. Britain had a small league in the early 1900’s and in those early years Britain achieved European success and even became Olympic Champions in the 1936 Games.
Playing the game
The game is played on ice between two teams of six players who are generally configured into a goalkeeper with two defenders and three forwards. The puck, which can reach speeds of up to 100mph is round and made of solid rubber and weighs about a hundred and forty grams. It can be stopped by a player in anyway at any time but can only be moved in a forward motion by a hockey stick or skate. A goal is scored when the puck crosses the goal line after having been hit by a stick.
The game of ice hockey is fast and furious and extremely physical. At the professional level, players have to be fit and strong and training regimes rival those of the best athletes. Backroom support staff include a whole range of fitness specialists who are there to maximise the physical and psychological development of the players and to provide recovery and remedial services as required. Players wear a range of equipment to protect their bodies and provide as much safety as possible. This includes safety helmets, padded body protection and heavy duty gloves. However even with all of this injuries are commonplace and there is a continuous requirement for treatment and replacement players.
Structure and finance
Ice hockey in the UK is administered and controlled through Ice Hockey UK (IHUK) who are responsible for setting and maintaining standards within the sport, ensuring that all designated rules and regulations are followed and administering policies on overseas players. The IHUK is responsible to the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) and runs the GB national team.
The top ice hockey league in the UK is the Elite Ice Hockey League (EIHL) which is a professional league consisting of ten teams and is commercially sponsored. The EIHL was set up after the Ice Hockey Superleague lost a number of its teams and faced significant financial difficulties resulting in a large debt being owed to Ice Hockey UK. It became apparent that obtaining debt help in the form of unsecured financial assistance became an issue due to the combination of declining revenues and the full extent of the liabilities already owed. It was difficult for many to accept that this once great league was facing ruin. The result of the debt was that financial help was not an option and they took professional advice to declare bankruptcy and so the Ice Hockey Superleague ceased to exist in 2003.
The stark reality is that finances and funding for ice hockey in the UK pale into insignificance when compared to the huge sums ploughed into the game in the United States.
The game in the UK today very much relies on ticket sales at grass roots level and whatever amounts of sponsorship it can attract. The current game is run to a great extent on a shoestring even though it now has league attendances approaching 500,000 for the season.
The future of the game
It is an exciting time for ice hockey in Britain. A top Canadian coach has taken over the men’s national team as they look to gain promotion back into Division 1 Pool A and climb back up the rankings while participation in the women’s game has nearly doubled in the past two years. Ice Hockey UK are looking forward to a bright future for the game and have stated their ambition to make the UK a centre for excellence in world hockey.
Meanwhile, the future is looking bright for the game, with a record 2,897 junior members reported regularly attending clubs. “Every year we see more and more juniors come through the ranks and progressing to our first team. It’s great to see and can only be a positive factor for the game in both Scotland and Britain,” said Coach James Fraser in Glasgow.
It is not just in relation to the competing side that is exciting ice hockey enthusiasts in the UK. Joy Tottman has now been listed on the International Ice Hockey’s Elite panel of referees. Elite International Hockey UK general secretary, Andy French, said: "Joy is one of our top referees and this is shown by the type of matches she gets to officiate in.”
While it may be a few years until Great Britain begins producing the next Wayne Gretzky or Sidney Crosby, there is nothing to stop the growth of the sport from top to bottom and there is nothing but optimism in the country’s ice hockey circles.
The sheer physicality of ice hockey means that players are exposed to a wide range of potential injuries many of which can be severe. These injuries can occur for a… Read more