[GB Women’s Senior Team. Photo from icehockeyuk.co.uk]
It’s fair to say that ice hockey in the UK is a minority sport. It falls firmly behind the likes of football (soccer to those of you in the US), rugby and cricket. It’s probably ranked somewhere after darts and snooker as a national pastime.
And, like most sports, the women’s side of things is even less popular.
That doesn’t stop the women’s teams though. With 56 ice rinks in the UK suitable for playing hockey on, we certainly have our share of ice time – even if sometimes we have to fight for our turn.
I say “we” and “our” but for clarity’s sake I should explain that I don’t actually play hockey. Having attempted too many sports before and realised I’m extremely bad at them all, I soon decided that I’m more of a professional supporter! I only discovered women’s hockey here in the UK last season but quickly fell in love with the game.
We currently have 2 senior women’s leagues in this country; the Women’s Premier Ice Hockey League, and the Women’s National Ice Hockey League, which is split into North and South divisions. There are also some under 16 teams, but these are sadly few and far between. With 9 teams in the Premier League and 9 each in the North and South divisions of the National League, we’re not doing too badly.
In addition, our National Senior Team competes in Division 2A and won the silver medal this year, out-performing the Men’s senior team! With the Division 2A games being held here in the UK in 2015, we’re hoping that the extra home ice support will help them collect the gold.
It’s a constant battle though.
The Premier fixtures list was only finalised a week before the first game this season, and I still haven’t found a National League fixture list. It’s hard being a fan when there’s no information available. While most of the teams now have Twitter and Facebook accounts, there’s no “chatter” as there is with the professional men’s teams; no discussion of who’s been selected Captain, no player profiles, no real lead-up to the games. The website for the EIHA (English Ice Hockey Association – the governing body for most ice hockey in the UK) has the fixtures and tables for the teams so deeply buried that unless you know exactly where you’re looking, you’ll never find them by accident.
I’ve made the decision though that I’m not going to rant about it any longer. I’m going to try and do something about it. My personal blog will continue to cover as many women’s games as I can get to, and I’ve set up a new Twitter account @UKWIHF (UK Women’s Ice Hockey Fans) which I’m hoping to will be able to provide a single source for news, scores and fixtures around the country.
And here, on Women’s Hockey Life, I’m intending to cover the Leagues as well as I can, doing my best to ensure that the UK Leagues can stand toe-to-toe with the other women’s hockey around the world. We have some amazing players over here, and I want everyone to know about them!