Ice hockey in London? Big time. This Canadian sport has infiltrated the capital, with loads of opportunities to get hooked on this puck-ing good game. Not familiar with ice hockey? Read on for when, where and who to watch here in London — as well as how to play ice hockey yourself, if you're up for it.
London ice hockey teams: who plays?
There are four London-based ice hockey clubs playing in the NIHL (National Ice Hockey League — consisting of 46 teams). Players in these teams are 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, there are still plenty of matches going on in and around the capital. Tickets start from around £9 — very affordable — and most teams offer seasons tickets for dedicated fans.
London's ice hockey teams are:
Streatham Ice Hockey Club at Streatham Ice Rink
Streatham Ice Hockey Club is based at Streatham Leisure Centre & Ice Rink. The team was established in 1932, under a name that's deemed pejorative today, and was changed in the 2015/16 season. In 2014, the team moved to their new location at the rebuilt Streatham Ice Rink (at the time, the only Olympic size ice rink in London, though the new rink at Lee Valley has now joined it) after being temporarily ousted to Brixton Ice Rink for a couple of seasons while it was under construction. When the old Streatham ice rink was closed down, there was doubt whether the team — once one of the most successful in Britain — would be able to continue. This fear didn't come to pass, and today Streatham IHC has a solid (and from the match we went to, loud) fanbase.
Haringey Huskies Ice Hockey Club at Alexandra Palace
Known until recently as Haringey Racers (or London Racers), the ice hockey team based at Ally Pally is now called the Haringey Huskies.
The timeline of ice hockey at Alexandra Palace is a bit muddled, with teams called the Haringey Racers, the Haringey Greyhounds, the London Racers and the North London Hounds having played here over the years.
All you really need to know is that if you want to watch ice hockey at Alexandra Palace now, Haringey Huskies are the team to watch, having taken up the mantle in 2017.
Lee Valley Lions Ice Hockey Club at Lee Valley Ice Rink
Originally formed in 1984 and disbanded in 1995, Lee Valley Lions reformed in 2005. Of London's ice hockey teams, the Lions seem to have had the least turbulent past, with just the one name throughout their history. The 2023-24 season will be the first at their revamped home, the new Lee Valley Ice Centre.
London Raiders Ice Hockey Club at Sapphire Ice, Romford
London Raiders were previously known as Romford Raiders, and play at Sapphire Ice Rink (they briefly shared Lee Valley with the Lions, but they're back in north east London now). At the start of the 2014 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.
Note: London Raiders is also the name of a LGBT softball team which trains on Wandsworth Common, but the two are not affiliated.
Watching ice hockey in London: where is it played?
All teams play both home and away matches. Home matches for the London ice hockey teams are played at the four venues mentioned above (Streatham Leisure Centre, Alexandra Palace, Lee Valley Ice Centre and Sapphire Ice Rink, Romford).
The NIHL is split into four divisions; two cover the north of the country and two cover the south. All London teams are in the south divisions, so away matches take place at the home territory of other south teams, including Milton Keynes, Guildford and Slough.
Check each team's website for details of upcoming fixtures when the 2023-24 season is announced.
When can I watch ice hockey in London?
The UK ice hockey season runs September-March every year. Games usually take place on Saturday or Sunday evenings. Check the individual team websites above for specific fixtures.
Where can I play ice hockey in London?
So you've seen the experts at work, and now you want to have a go at ice hockey yourself... You won't be gliding straight into one of the teams mentioned above, as those players have been training for years, but there are other ice hockey clubs and teams around London that will let you have a go. Details of beginners' try-outs and training sessions vary from club to club and season to season, and you may need to become a member of the club before they'll let you on the ice, so get in touch with one of these for details.
- Streatham Night Wolves (Streatham Ice Rink)
- London Devils (Alexandra Palace - though not open to complete beginners)
- Westminster Statesmen (Alexandra Palace)
- London Rangers (Alexandra Palace)
- DX Bunker Boys and Girls (Alexandra Palace)
- Sobell Slappers (Alexandra Palace)
- Streatham Storm (Streatham Ice Rink - women only)
Note, some clubs state that they are either checking or non-checking clubs. This refers to whether they allow body contact during matches. If you're looking for a gentler introduction to the sport, might be worth looking for a non-checking team. And most clubs will require you to have at least basic ice skating skills before they let you anywhere near a puck, so get practising at one of London's year-round ice rinks.
The rules of ice hockey: a beginner's guide
We have to admit, although we've dipped our toes in to the (icy) waters of ice hockey, we're no experts. Back in 2014, we spoke to John Scott — then 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 10 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 line into the defensive zone (the blue line in the photo above) before the puck.