Northwest Set to Waste Its Hardware

2015-08-27 22.19.14England’s Northwest region has the hardware to develop some amazing talent but it seems destined to be wasted.

For many years one of the biggest problems with ice hockey in the northwest was the lack of rinks and with it the lack of ice time for junior players. Today there are 5 rinks. Each rink with its own junior set up. This gives the northwest the hardware to develop talent all the way through from the grass roots to the professional level in the UK.

With the return of the Manchester Storm and EIHL that pathway can be developed even better. In short in one way should flow youngsters from their junior side to the U20’s to the NIHL to the EPIHL then onto the EIHL. In the opposite direction should flow expertise in terms of coaching from coaching staff and players helping out with training sessions.

Of course not every junior player will go through but with the 5 rinks from North Wales to the Fylde coast there is a very chance to find some talent and increase the fun for everyone else.

It seems simple enough especially given the agreements between teams already in place. Manchester Storm are working with Trafford Tornados (the Altrincham based junior club) and NIHL sides Altrincham Aces and Widnes Wild. Manchester Phoenix meanwhile have ties through Red Hockey to Deeside and their juniors and NIHL outfit.

That leaves the hurdles. Only 2 rinks in the Northwest do not have any links to either the EPL or EIHL. Blackburn have always had their own development structure and stayed independent whilst Blackpool is still finding its feet. But that doesn’t mean an agreement couldn’t be found and in any case their close proximity to Manchester means it is easy for a coach to scout out any talent.

Then there are league rules. Teams have to abide by these rules and match what others are doing. That said they can set

Deeside Rink at the Leisure Centre

Deeside Rink at the Leisure Centre

their president. One of these may be committing to using full bench every game. That may mean drawing on talented juniors to fill the bench when suspensions or injuries occur. The Manchester Storm this weekend in their preseason has done such that using some Altrincham Aces players. Another might be not carrying spare imports so that when one is missing a junior can be dressed instead. It doesn’t mean they will get lots of ice time but you never know the opportunity might arise.

All that is not the biggest hurdle though. The biggest hurdle is getting the two Manchester clubs to play nice. There was the whole split at the ice dome between the rink operator and the Manchester Phoenix that was not handled well by either side but there has to be a point where you say forget the past and sit down and see how mutually beneficial you can be. Maybe even when it comes to a new rink.

Sadly though it doesn’t look like it will ever happen. As someone close to the Manchester Phoenix club put it.

They were keen to mention that was his own opinion but when you are closely related to an organisation that line is particularly blurry and it is those associated with the organisation that makes the organisations opinions.

It is disappointing aside from the fact many of those ‘plastic fans’ were also the same fans who have been at the Ice Dome for Phoenix games for the last 8 years. Unless some of these petty political issues are resolved it is going to waste a golden development opportunity.

Neil Tucker

Neil has written on ice hockey for many websites concentrating on British ice hockey mostly. Neil also covers ice hockey in other countries and organises his Blueliner Hockey Tour. A graduate of the Manchester Metropolitan University Neil turned his hand to hockey writing in 2009. As well as contributing on Blueliner Hockey Neil has contributed to Get Real Hockey and Slapshot Magasine.

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