It is a freezing cold February in 2021 and a man skates down the frozen canal in Amsterdam wearing nothing but his underwear. A crowd quickly gathers on dry land to watch, cheer him on, and record a video to share with their friends on social media. Suddenly the cheering turns to laughter as the ice cracks and the man falls head-first into the freezing water. Luckily, he is pulled out by a friend and skates off after taking a bow.
The footage has now been viewed by millions and, in a lot of ways, his experience is a reflection on the plight of ice hockey in Britain over the last year – it crashed and had to be pulled to safety by government funding. It has recently stood up and is skating towards recovery.
Meanwhile, the rest of the United Kingdom, those who are not sport stars or celebrities, are in lockdown still and pass the time by watching whatever sport is on, whatever is on the television (not a lot worth watching most of the time), gambling online at bookies and casinos, and reminiscing about the good old times – which we will hopefully get back to sooner rather than later.
The online gambling industry in fact is one of the industries that didn’t take a hit during the pandemic, with online traffic for sites that offer tips to bet online surging considerably. It would appear that those who enjoy a flutter on ice-hockey matches now do their research well, before committing their money.
The Spring Cup
The Spring Cup started on the 13th of February with the Sheffield Steeldogs taking on the Swindon Wildcats. These two teams will be joined by the likes of the Bess, Raiders IHC, and Telford Tigers and most the teams have their fair share of guest Brits and Great Britain players from the Elite Ice Hockey League and other great leagues. This is the first ice hockey to take place in Britain since lockdown began to try and restrict the Covid-19 pandemic. Therefore, ice hockey fans across the country, even if they do not really care for the teams participating in this tournament, will tune in to get their first ice hockey fix in nearly a year.
To give you some type of clue as to how much of an impact the guests can have, Sheffield’s Liam Kirk, who was recently playing with the Peterborough Petes in the Ontario Hockey League scored five goals in his first two games in the Spring Cup.
The main aim of this event is to give the Great Britain players who are not playing in Europe the opportunity to get some competitive ice hockey under the belts before the World Championships. Another purpose of this event is to ensure that players that aspire to reach a high level in the sport do not miss out on crucial development. Will this make much of a difference? Well, we feel that any type of hockey is better than nothing, especially since the Elite Ice Hockey League has been cancelled.
It was also recently announced that a four-team tournament in the north of England with teams from the 3rd and 4th tier of British hockey will start at the end of February. This mini-series will feature Blackburn Hawks, Nottingham Lions, Sheffield Scimitars, and Widnes Wild and the players’ mental health has been cited as the main reason for launching this competition.
Living at the Rink
The Red Deer Rebels from the Western Hockey League based in the Northwestern US and Western Canada are planning to spend the whole season living at the ice rink to lower the chances of Covid-19 infections. The players will sleep and eat at the rink for the season. It would be quite interesting to see whether British players would be happy to do that.
For some, it would probably sound like a great idea, but we imagine it might get a bit depressing for those players from teams that have less luxurious ice rinks. Waking up and not having to commute to training would be great, but a communal shower and an egg sandwich from the on-site cafe might get a bit tedious after a while. This scenario actually brings back some memories of a tournament that took place in Belgium a couple of years ago, where a Danish team lived on their bus in the car park for 3 days.