This isn’t unusual as teams quite often get invited to do things like this. What was unusual was that one of the teams had never played in front of an audience before.
The Sheffield Steelkings are the newest sledge hockey team in the country and intend to take part in the 2015 Planet Ice League. Friday night was their big debut, and the first time they had a chance to show people how far they’d come in the short time they’d been together.
Kim McGreal, club chairman, was watching proudly from the bench: “Just six months ago, most of these players hadn’t even been on the ice, certainly not in a sledge. They’ve been training hard every week, sometimes without a coach or an experienced player to help them, but they’ve carried on regardless. For the first time on Friday, I truly saw a team, rather than a group of players, and that was the most amazing thing.”
With their brand new uniforms and logo also on display for the first time, the Steelkings were assisted by two other local players from the Kingston Kestrels, Matt Woollias and Matt Clarkson, who offered to come and help out. Netminder Bryan Hackworth made his official Steelkings debut, although as a GB team member and experienced Kingston Kestrels player, this certainly wasn’t his first time playing. Also on the ice, albeit on the opposing team, was Manchester Phoenix captain, Karl Nicholson, who’d been instrumental in helping get the team off the ground.
Dean Rhodes, one of the Steelkings players, loved his first experience: “I really enjoyed my ice sledge hockey debut. The thrills and spills left me wanting to play more games in the near future.”
So, congratulations to #20 Bryan Hackworth, #21 James Birchnall, #23 Ryan Lethbridge-Borden, #42 Liam Tingle, #44 David Scivill, #83 Barry Grayson and #86 Dean Rhodes.
You can follow the Steelkings on Twitter (@SteelkingsSH) or on Facebook (SheffieldSteelkings). The Steelkings practice at IceSheffield on Friday nights from 6-7pm. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.