Thursday, 16th May 2013 saw the launch of the first ice hockey team on Merseyside since 1982. The Widnes Wild are playing out of the new Silver Blades ice rink situated on The Hive Leisure Park in Widnes. The team will start in the second division of the National Ice Hockey League with aspirations to win promotion to the first division.
Ice hockey is an adrenalin filled, fast, physical, full contact Olympic family oriented sport. Over the summer the Widnes Wild Head Coach, Mark Gillingham, will be recruiting players from throughout the UK and Europe to play for the team, in order to put out a team capable of delivering success on the ice and inspiring both adults and children to strap on a pair of skates and pick up a stick.
“We’re a new team but we’re ambitious. It is essential that we put an exciting team together, that can win games and challenge for trophies from day 1. The Widnes Wild are the first ice hockey team in Merseyside since the Liverpool Leopards folded in 1982, which means that we will be the first team in a generation that the people of Merseyside will get the chance to experience ice hockey from. The only way we’ll be successful long term, is if we put together an exciting team and play entertaining, skilful ice hockey, whilst showcasing the physical elements of the game”.
Behind the team is club chairman, Matt Lloyd, who grew up in Rainhill, Merseyside. Matt has a strong history of playing the Paralympic variant of ice hockey, and has represented Great Britain at the Paralympic games, as well as at World Championship and European levels.
“As a kid my introduction to sport was standing on the Kop with my cousins watching the great Liverpool teams of the 70’s and 80’s. My main memory was that I felt part of something special and it gave me a sense of being part of something and made me dream of playing sport at the highest level. The driving force behind the Widnes Wild is that it will give families an activity that they can watch together, provide excitement, and will give them a sense of belonging”.
As well as being home to the Widnes Wild senior team, the Sliver Blades Ice Rink in Widnes will be delivering a strong community programme, aimed at getting all members of the community playing sport as well as providing opportunities for people to improve their health and make friends.
Speaking about the community programmes, Matt said;
“The Wild are there to inspire, but people then need to be able to do something when they are inspired. We have secured funding from Halton Council to provide free skating lessons for 14 – 25 year olds. We will be working with local schools to provide free family skating to children who meet attendance targets. There is a strong package of “learn to skate” courses and, of course, we have programmes aimed at teaching children and adults to play ice hockey”.
“As well as the Wild NIHL team, we are also intending to have junior teams and kids can come along on Thursday nights to lean ice hockey skills, with all equipment provided. There are also women’s and sledge hockey programmes, which we are running in partnership with the Manchester Phoenix ice hockey team. All of this means that anyone, regardless of age or experience can learn to play ice hockey and be given a pathway into competitive opportunities.”
Entry to Widnes Wild games will be £5 for adults and £3 for children, with all junior players getting free entry to all home games.