Widnes Wild Club Chaplain Linda Aitken (left) with Poet-in-Residence and Off Ice Official Lucy London (Photo by Paul Breeze)
The Widnes Wild Ice Hockey Club has enjoyed a very successful first few years in the NIHL North since its founding in 2013 at Planet Ice Widnes. This is due largely to the club being run by a very dedicated and talented group of volunteers, many of whom give up their time and expertise to provide the day to day function and running of the club; and who are also able to host an excellent match night and event for the fans and the players.
One of these people who give up their time is Linda Aitken, who I recently caught up with for a chat. Linda volunteers as the club chaplain, so I wanted to ask her a few questions about her role at the club away from her regular work and get a little bit more background knowledge about her. Here is what she had to say about her important role and activities at the club.
Linda started out by telling me about her family and said she had been married for thirty three years; and they have three grown up children and two grandchildren. They are also long term foster parents for two children.
She explained that she became interested in ice hockey as a way to take the grandchildren out and she loves it. She added that a charity called Sports Chaplaincy UK approached her local Church, The Foundry; to see if anyone was interested in becoming a possible chaplain for Widnes Wild Ice Hockey Club. Her name was instantly mentioned, so the process began of her becoming club chaplain at Widnes Wild, a role she has fulfilled since Scott McKenzie’s time as head coach.
Linda said she had her first interview with Paul Johnson from SCUK (Sports Chaplaincy UK); this was followed by a reference from her church, which in turn led to another interview with Scott McKenzie. There were two candidates for the possible position; And Linda said she was very surprised but ecstatic to get the position.
Linda then went on to explain what her role was, she said that her position was one of a volunteer and that she attended practice nights and all home games and a few away games. She offers pastoral and spiritual support to everyone at the club, including people of faith and people of no faith. This generally involves being available to listen and bring support to all staff – from the players and their families, to the coaches, the kit men, the physio’s and all who need a listening ear and support.
Her regular presence and contact is a very important aspect of her role within the club, by being visible and available to be able to build relationships. She explained that when times of crisis arise, a chaplain is a trusted port of call and they are an important part of staff and player welfare.
Linda added that her position at the club is highly confidential and that building trust with all players and staff is key. Her role doesn’t give players advice on how to play, but that she can listen when things don’t go right for people. As club chaplain she is always there to support players on match nights and especially when events happen on the ice, it is her role to listen and assist.
Linda finished our chat by saying, “I really love being Chaplain to the team and they have been so welcoming and have embraced my role. I’ll be coming into my 5th season with the team and I’m looking forward to seeing everyone soon.”
I thanked Linda for her time in answering my questions; I feel it is testament to volunteers like Linda who give up their time to help others, that the club has enjoyed a number of years of success. Going forward, I believe that the club is in a good position as a result of the dedication of the volunteers at Widnes Wild.
Report by Robert Martin