The history of ice hockey in London is a rocky one, with many clubs folding as interest waned in the latter part of last century. Now, the sport is being reformed in London. Not familiar with ice hockey? Read on.
We have to admit, although we've dipped our toes in to the (icy) waters of ice hockey, we're no experts. So we spoke to John Scott — recently appointed CEO at London Raiders, who gave us a quick starter guide.
Ice hockey can be quite a tricky one for newbies to follow, due to the fast — and often bloodthirsty — pace of the game. The principle is similar to football in that each team aims to score as many goals as possible — except these goals are significantly smaller. The 'ball' in this case is not a ball, but a rubber puck, which, being kept at 0 degrees Celsius, is basically a compact disc of pain for anyone who comes into contact with it.
- Each match is split into three periods of 20 minutes, with 15 minute breaks in between, allowing the ice to be wiped clean.
- Six players from each team are on the ice at once, including a net minder (goalkeeper) - although up to 20 players from each team could be on the bench at any one time, allowing for plenty of rest breaks and tactical substitutions throughout.
- If the whistle blows — for example, for an injury - the clock is stopped until play restarts.
- A goal is scored when the puck crosses the goal line.
- If a player commits an infraction, they will be sent to spend two, five or ten minutes in the penalty box, depending on the severity of the offence. Their team plays a man down for this time. Each team must have a minimum of three players on the ice at all times, so if multiple players are sent to the penalty box, their times will be staggered.
- The offside rule in football can be confusing. In ice hockey, being offside is simply when an attacking team member crosses the blue line (see below) before the puck.
- Boarding = when one player pushes another into the boards surrounding the ice
- Netminder = goalkeeper
- On the fly = during play, whilst the game is taking place
- Penalty box = where players are sent to sit out the match for a specified period of time, as punishment for an infraction
- Power play = the advantage one team has when they have more players on the ice, due to the other team being short handed
- Short handed = when a team is playing without one of their players because the player is in the penalty box
London currently has four teams competing in the English National Ice Hockey League (ENIHL). Players in ENIHL teams are usually amateur, rather than full-time pros. Throughout the season, each team plays each of the other teams in the league four times — twice at home, twice away. So although there are only four London teams in the ENIHL, there are still plenty of matches going on in and around the capital. Tickets start from around £9 — very affordable.
Haringey Racers/London Racers - Alexandra Palace
The timeline of ice hockey at Alexandra Palace is a bit muddled. Originally the primary ice hockey team playing out of Alexandra Palace — the Haringey Racers — folded in 1992, letting Haringey Greyhounds assume the position of Ally Pally's main team. In 2002, the Greyhounds renamed themselves as the Haringey Racers. In 2003, the London Racers were founded and also started playing at Alexandra Palace. However, the London Racers were soon moved to play at Lee Valley, and as there was no room for both teams at that ice rink, the Haringey Racers folded.
Confused yet? The saga continues. The Haringey Greyhounds reformed for the 2004/5 season, and continued to play at Alexandra Palace until the ice rink was closed for refurbishment in 2010. The original plan was for the team to return as the North London Hounds once the refurbishment was complete, but this team never materialised. Finally, the Racers (now known interchangeably as the London Racers/Haringey Racers) relaunched for the 2013/14 season.
All you really need to know is that if you want to watch ice hockey at Alexandra Palace, Haringey Racers are the team to watch. For now.
Lee Valley Lions - Lee Valley Ice Rink
Originally formed in 1984 and disbanded in 1995, Lee Valley Lions reformed in 2005. Of all London's ice hockey teams, the Lions seem to have had the least turbulent past, with one name and one home location throughout their history.
London Raiders - Lee Valley Ice Rink
London Raiders were previously known as Romford Raiders, and played at Romford Ice Rink until moving to their current home, which they share with Lee Valley Lions. At the start of this season, it was looking doubtful whether Raiders would be able to compete in the league, due to sponsorship issues. The club is now run by a fans co-operative, led by John Scott, who "recently assembled all the willing and able fans and created a fans' cooperative to run the team for the forseable future."
Note: London Raiders is also the name of a LGBT softball team which trains on Wandsworth Common, but the two are not affiliated with each other.
Streatham Redskins, originally known as Streatham, was established in 1932. Last season the Redskins moved to their new location at the rebuilt Streatham Ice Rink (the only Olympic size ice rink in London) after being temporarily ousted to Brixton Ice Rink for a couple of seasons whilst it was under construction. When the old Streatham ice rink was closed down, there was doubt whether the team — once most of the most successful in Britain — would be able to continue. Clearly, this fear didn't come to pass.
The season is now under way, so what are you waiting for? Just a quick tip from our limited experience — wrap up! You may not be taking to the ice yourself, but you'll basically be sitting in a fridge for 90+ minutes. If you want to be really, really prepared, read up more on the rules.