The first thing that strikes you as you arrive at Silver Blades Ice Rink in Widnes is the drive of the organisation to institute hockey into the blood of Widnes. The Arena was setup to bring Hockey in all of its forms to the local community, a word that resonates around the rink a lot in our brief chat with Chairman of the newly formed Widnes Wild, Matt Lloyd. The ideals that Matt has brought to the rink are not just based around a standard Ice Hockey team (although with Ice Hockey nothing is standard) but the fact that Hockey in all its forms can be accessible to everyone. The aim of this organisation is to bring quality hockey to the people of Widnes and the surrounding area, but also to bring the people of Widnes to hockey – a sport which Matt and the team hold a great passion for. “We very much wanted to establish this as a hockey rink as opposed to an ice skating rink, We want people to ice skate but this is not a figure skating rink it’s a hockey rink. The guys behind this team are hockey guys”.
The launch itself was a somewhat understated affair, with the inability to sign players quite yet. Moreso, it was an opportunity for the team to show its new colours and its new logo with the help of a local favourite, Kemik the Viking. Kemik, to those of you who don’t follow rugby league, is the mascot of the Widnes Vikings Rugby League club who play just down the road and regularly attract crowds of 5900 people and offer the Wild an ideal opportunity to cross promote their new team.
One of the toughest tasks for the management team was finding a name that was suitable for the team. “We spent about 20 hours trying to come up with that name. Because we wanted the team to be gender neutral…we want girls and boys to play hockey for the Wild.”
The rink in Widnes is certainly different to others I have visited as it has somewhat unconventional benches for standard ice hockey which allows sledge hockey to be played at the rink. The benches are set with out doors and extra space while the ice can be brought up to avoid stepping down onto the ice, making the rink Sledge Hockey friendly. To those of you who (like myself) have limited or no knowledge of sledge hockey, it is a game that is primarily played to offer physically disabled people the opportunity to play ice hockey and is currently one of the most popular sports in the Paralympic Games. A 600-700 seat grandstand will be added soon for spectators.
While signings have yet to be announced, the Wild revealed their management team as General Manager Mick Caunce and Head Coach Mark Gillingham, currently one of the youngest level 3 coaches in the UK. Both Mick and Mark have come to the Wild from Fylde Flyers and the team are clear to point out that they are not simply the Flyers reformed, with Matt stating “our aim this season is to be a top 2 team…I was upset to see that there maybe no team in Fylde. That was never our intention”. In order to attract players in a highly competitive market place, Windes have taken the novel step of offering training sessions at 8.30pm during the week which Matt says “will give them a reason to play here at Widnes rather than travel and train late into the night”.
While what was offered to the public at Widnes tonight was nothing more than an open training session, this is an organisation that seems grounded and driven to bring people into the rink to both watch and participate in Ice Hockey in any way they want. This is a team of people who are looking to build links with their competitors to improve the standard of hockey in the UK with “Events such as coaching sessions with Tony Hand that we want to invite the local teams, such as Deeside and Trafford, to be involved with” Matt said.
If you are interested in taking up Ice Hockey or just helping out on game days please contact the team at Silver Blades Ice Rink Widnes for more information and training times.