The Wild’s Tom Jackson (#84) played several season in Hull before joining the Widnes in 2013. (Photo by Geoff White).
The YKK-sponsored Widnes Wild have a sense of “unfinished business” with the Hull Jets after last season’s truncated league finish and, with the latest news that the Blackburn Hawks team might not, after all, take part in the Laidler Division next season and remain in the higher Moralee Division instead, it means that – assuming both teams are able to ice similar squads to last year – Widnes and Hull are likely to be the top two teams in the North 2 division once again.
Despite being quite a distance away from each other – at some 120 miles and a good two-hour drive or more – a healthy rivalry has developed over the years between the two teams situated at opposing ends of the M62.
Although Widnes have had the upper hand overall in encounters over the past 7 seasons of competition, having won 21 of the 28 league matches – with five wins for Hull and two draws (back in the days when they still had them…) – and have won both of the meetings in the play offs, these games are very keenly anticipated in both camps.
Last season’s games between the two teams were especially tantalising, as Hull had their best ever season in terms of league position and ended up winning the Laidler Division title for the first time – a title that Widnes had won the season before and been keen to defend.
But there was a twist in that particular tale that never quiet materialised as, in what looked as if it was going to be a fascinatingly tight end to the league season, Hull actually lost their last 3 leagues games – twice against Widnes and once against Bradford Bulldogs – who eventually went on to finish as runners up in the league.
There were 5 points between Widnes and Hull and the Wild had three games left to play – against bottom pair Telford and Blackburn and then at home to Hull on 28th March – and if Hull had lost their other remaining game at home to the Altrincham Aces on 22nd March –as they had 3-6 back in December – that could have set up the mother of all title showdown games at Widnes the week after.
The 12-0 shut out away to Hull on 1st February had been a huge set-back in terms of the title race and was the Wild’s heaviest league defeat since a 14-0 defeat away at Solihull Barons in their first ever season back in November 2013.
But Widnes won the second away game in Hull 3-4 on penalty shots after the game had finished 3-3 in normal time and then beat Hull at home 5-4 in the last NIHL game to be played at Planet Ice before the league was closed down due to the coronavirus pandemic. They were finishing on a roll but, sadly, we will never know now what might have happened had that final game taken place.
Back throughout the history of the Widnes v Hull games, there have been dramatic and significant encounters.
In their first season of competition in 2013/14, the Wild had to win their last game of the season in order to finish in 5th place and secure a spot in the end of season play offs. That last game was away at Hull. They won 4-7 with Filip Supa scoring 4 times for Widnes and qualified for the Solihull-based finale tournament.
Having had their heaviest defeat for years away at Hull last season, the year before Widnes had their narrowest ever victory with a 0-1 win away in Hull in December 2018. The only goal in that tense encounter was scored by Jakub Hajek on 26 minutes in a game where both netminders were outstanding throughout.
That was the season that the Wild won the league and play off double. They only lost 4 league games all season three to the Telford Tigers 2 team and the other was a 4-2 defeat away on Humberside right at the start of the league campaign.
However, most people will remember that season for the excruciatingly nail-biting play off semi final where the two teams were level at the end of normal time, then at the end of 5 minutes overtime and still level after the initial penalty shoot out. The tie then had to go through 4 rounds of sudden death penalties before Shaun Dippnall finally shot home the decisive marker for Widnes to eventually decide a clear winner.
The 2019 play off final saw the Wild and the Jets meet up once again and, while it was a close and entertaining match, Widnes took their 3rd play off crown in a row with a 6-3 victory.
The Wild’s record appearance holder Tom Jackson learnt his junior hockey at Hull and played league hockey for the Jets for two seasons before switching to Widnes in 2013. Talking about the rivalry between the two teams, he said:
“ There have always been good games between the Wild and the Jets. They are always competitive and, recently, have been some of the toughest games to play. With the exception of one away game this season against them, both teams have always competed well.”
“When the Jets come with 2 lines and have guys skating out 15 minutes into warm ups, we always know we are going to be playing against a team that’s going to battle the whole way through the game and give it everything they can – because of the coaching and players they have. Personally, I love those types of games having a good competitive match up for 60 minutes.”
“Surprisingly I don’t think there are many left who I played with in the juniors. I played at senior level with Jamie Cobley, Andy Ward and Kieran Beach who are part of the core group that keeps coming back every year stronger.”
“I’m so looking forward to getting back to hockey, and just hope with the whole pandemic going on there’s a safe way to do so.”