It’s been a long 11 months for everyone, but fans of Bees will be especially pleased to see their team on the ice as they enter the Spring Cup.
The club, formerly known as Bracknell Bees, saw their existence under threat as the John Nike Leisure Complex closed down due to the pandemic, forcing their resident club to find a new home.
Now based in Slough, a new era begins and head coach Doug Sheppard is happily preparing for this weekend’s double header with Swindon Wildcats and he insists the transition has gone well.
“With our ice rink shutting down in Bracknell, the transition to Slough has probably gone as well as it could have, all things considered,” he said.
“We’re still getting used to our new home and the ice pad is the biggest difference for us to adjust to, but it’s somewhere to play and a lot of the rinks in this Spring Cup are on smaller ice pads.
— Bees Ice Hockey Club (@BeesIceHockey) February 18, 2021
“The players I think enjoyed it as they didn’t have to skate so far, but we can’t wait to be playing games here in our new home.
“We’re really excited to get back at it. It’s been a long 11 months and quite a big one for the player’s mental health, to get them back on the ice.
“We didn’t start training again until last week and just getting them all back together again, you could tell the delight and eagerness to be back.
“In our fans, it’s been a long time off for them as well and training’s one thing, but everyone is looking forward to the games and the weekend.”
Like the other four teams in the competitions, Bees have sprinkled some Elite League flavour to their ranks with Guildford Flames’ Josh Waller and Belfast Giants duo Lewis Hook and Ciaran Long all signing.
Coming up against Swindon, fresh from their double loss to Sheffield Steeldogs at the weekend and having 120 minutes under their belts, presents a significant challenge for Sheppard, but he’s embracing it.
“I’m happy with the team I’ve put together for the Spring Cup and keeping up the high pace throughout the weekend is probably going to be our toughest task,” he added.
“Bringing in players like Josh, Lewis and Ciaran gives us experience as well as high skill levels. They’re all in a position where they are pushing for a place in the GB squad, while our guys can learn quite a bit from their practice habits.
“I saw Swindon play on Saturday and I was impressed with the pace of the play. Both teams (Swindon and Steeldogs) have some really skilled players and Swindon in particular have been a strong team for a few years now.
“They have a lot of firepower and their goaltending was solid so it’ll be a tough couple of games for us, but we’re just glad to be playing competitive hockey again.”