For me, this summer has been quite unlike any other I’ve had. In summer’s gone by I’ve had extended holidays courtesy of the army, spent one summer locked in the loft writing A Game of Two Halves, pointing brickwork, drinking too much, going to bike rallies, short holidays, but this year was altogether different. ‘How so?’ I hear you cry. Well, it all started like this…

In October last year, a staff mail went round in work offering the chance to go and see local Ice Hockey team, Widnes Wild – NIHL. Now Widnes isn’t too far from me, and I had no idea that there was even Ice Hockey going on in the UK to any extent, so this was a bit of an eye-opener. So I went along to a game. Having only ever seen NHL on Gamecentre, and seen Seattle T-Birds play live in 2005, it was the first time I’d even realised I could go and watch good hockey being played nearby. It was spectacular. Wild played Deeside Demons, and as well as plenty of goals, there were a couple of fights, and I loved it.

On leaving, I spotted a flier, ‘Learn to Skate’ and ‘Learn to play Ice Hockey’. Sold. The first Hockey Basics session I went to in November I was like a duck to water, if the duck had been tied to a carrier bag of bricks. After an hour of wobbling like my legs were made of elastic, Basics finished, and I left wanting to learn more than just remaining upright. I signed on to the Skate Excellence course, and started working through my figure skating grades, while going to Ice Hockey basics.

Because I throw myself face first into everything, I started looking for training to help with Ice Hockey, and so started on gymming it five times a week. This not only helped with strengthening my body and legs to help me stay upright and be a decent skater, it also meant that I didn’t smash my bones to pieces every time I fell over. And I did fall over. A lot. Both knees are permanently bruised even under armour.

I met a few superb guys through basics, Col, a brilliant figure skater and brilliant Ice Hockey D-Man, Matt, a superb Ice Hockey Forward and ace skater, Dan (Olympic figure skater) and Vaughan, another superb D-Man and skater, and between the lessons and these four chaps, they started to teach me how to skate, how to do different moves, why and how things are done. At Basics, Tony, a player for Widnes Wildcats, and Dan showed us hockey skating and different ways of training.

Around May, Matt and Col spoke with the coach/manager of the Riverside Raiders, and I managed to join the team, being rotated into the third line in friendly games. And, over the course of the past few months, I’ve been lucky to play as third line winger in a lot of games. From losing on a penalty shoot out to Sheffield Ice Tigers to victories against the Manchester Rhinos and Deeside Deemons. It was a great season, and we finished fourth in the league, making it to the playoffs, where we were beaten by the Ice Tigers.

Generally I spent my time frustrated that I wasn’t better, no one likes to beat me up more than myself, but I can see the progress, and I feel a lot more confident on the ice, and can now skate at speeds that scare me. I managed to get on the scoresheet twice over the summer, not for scoring or assisting, once taking a team penalty of two minutes, and once for crosschecking (also two minutes). The crosschecking wasn’t really, I was going pretty much flat out with crossovers at the time, and someone was stopped in the way… Still, it was two minutes sat down watching hockey, so it wasn’t so bad.

Now that the off season has begun for the rec teams, my time has freed up a little, and I can write more, and train more. I’m starting to train with the Widnes Wildcats on Friday nights, in addition to the Raiders who I’ll hopefully continue to play for. Onwards and upwards.

In addition to our ice hockey season now being over, the official leagues have started up, which means I’m able to watch some outstanding hockey from the Widnes Wild whenever they play. This year, I’m attending with R Kid, and one of our pals G, and we’re hoping to make all home games, and some away ones. There’s no Selanne or Silvferberg, but there is some brilliant players, and the games are always ace. Game on!