Leisure: I Went to See a Fight and a Hockey Game Broke Out

Written by: Violet Myers

Where I’m from the ice rink is merely a place to buy salvia and where teenagers go to get pregnant. It seems this apathy for the humble ice rink is shared throughout the rest of the country too. Other than during Christmas, where every other man and his dog rolls out a temporary rink, ice skating is low on the agenda for most Londoners. Ice hockey, the national sport of our extremely polite Canadian cousins is even lower on the country’s lineup with a mere ten national teams. To put that in perspective the UK have 92 premier league football teams.

One of these teams are local club The Haringey Racers who play regularly at Alexander Palace. We headed over to Ally Pally to have a chat with recreational league The London Rangers, who have been a team for 28 years, to find out a bit more about this chilly sport and to discover why the Brits just aren’t warming to it.

“I guess English people haven’t been brought up with it, they can’t appreciate the speed and toughness. They prefer football and faking injuries…” Suggests Paul from Canada, his fake front teeth glinting as he smiles (they were knocked out years ago during a game.) He’s also broken his nose and had stitches, which he assures me is ‘the usual’.

Maybe they’re put off by how dangerous it is? I suggest, whilst managaing to steal flying words from the team who, without warning, throw themselves over the barriers and back on to the ice and into the game every few minutes.

“It’s not dangerous” says Rob, another Canadian, who had just finished telling me about narrowly escaping having his face slashed with a skate the week before, “Yeah I said nearly” he rebuffs.

“It is growing in Britain, there just aren’t enough rinks. The town that I’m from in Canada has 200,000 people and there’s forty rinks. In London there’s about four.”

He’s right too, ice rinks are few and far-between in the UK, making Alexander Palace a rare gem in North London. It’s also not really a surprise to find that on the entire rec team they only have one Brit; a lone Scot who, as his teammate’s tease, ‘tried rugby but was too aggressive, so had to join the ice hockey team.’ The rest of The Rangers, to no one’s surprise, is made up of Canadians, with the odd Czech and Norwegian thrown in – cold countries seem to be the theme here.

“There is a league in Australia and in the Middle East – although they’re all full of Canadians too. First they build a rink, then they start a team. We’re not very good brick layers so this one took a while” quips Colin, who has been playing for the London Rangers since 1987.

It seems slightly ironic to me, a lowly English woman who has ice skated for a total of 14 minutes during her lifetime, that the country with the reputation for having the politest people also celebrate one of the most violent sports as their national game. But the fellas on this team just don’t seem like the fighting types.

“There’s a lot of misconceptions about the sport, people think we’re all going to be a bunch of hooligans but I don’t think we are. There’s an old joke that goes: I went to see a fight and a hockey game broke out.”

To support your local team and attend a game for the Haringey Racers go to: Haringey Racers 

 

Photos: Mike Ashdown

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