NEW SPORT A BIG SUCCESS !
Ice hockey came to Peterborough on Saturday night for the first time and was greeted with a most favourable welcome. New club Peterborough Pirates were well received by a crowd of over 400 spectators at the East Of England Ice Rink at Bretton and then repaid them in superb style. They beat Nottingham Trojans 7-3 in a friendly match and all the paying customers went away more than happy with what they had witnessed - an aggressive, high speed contest that oozed excitement for an hour and a half.
They watched one of the most exciting and fastest team sports in the world with players skating up to speeds of 35 mph and the puck' travelling as fast as 100 mph at times. Small wonder that the players are heavily protected with padding. Paul French, manager at the rink, summed it up: "We expected a crowd of about 50 and that Pirates would lose about 12-0 !". He went on, "Half the players in our side couldn't even skate properly until this rink was opened six months ago, yet they beat an established English League side quite easily. It's a fantastic start". "And to get 400 people here without advertising the match is way beyond expectation. At present we can only seat 600 - judging by the response tonight we will exceed that number once the season begins in September so plans are already in the pipeline to increase the seating". "I believe the sport can take off in a big way," concluded Paul as he rushed off to the Pirates dressing room with four bottles of champagne.
Tony Hunter, the Pirates skipper, was similarly full of confidence for the new season. "Trojans finished third in Division Three of the English League last season. We play in that same division this year and are obviously confident of doing well now". "A third of our team are total beginners and no way did I expect such a big win. They hadn't seen ice before this rink opened. They spent £250 each kitting themselves out and deserve every bit of success that comes their way. The crowd were great. They really got behind us and brought us on. We learned a lot from this game and expect a good. first season."
Although Pirates included a couple of impressive guests in their line-up - England winger Phil Adams from Streatham and Cambridge University's Sean Mun Liang, Hunter was adamant that the side would be just as strong once the season starts. "At the moment we are without a couple of good players from Canada. They are on holiday but will be back for the start of the season," he said. It was also revealed that a player/coach from Ontario might be joining the club.
The game itself, which comprises three 20-minute sessions, began at a fast and furious pace with the orange, black and white Pirates swarming on the tiny Trojans' goal. It soon became apparent that, as far as physical contact was concerned, there were few rules as players were ruthlessly dumped into the boards by blatant body-checking. Body-checking, I quickly discovered, was perfectly legal provided it was done cleanly with the chest, shoulder or hip against an-opposing player in possesion of the puck. The body-checking player must be at a standstill or moving only slightly.
The crowd loved the violent nature of the game and, being largely Pirates' followers, were given more to cheer about as Tony Hunter opened the scoring with a goal after only two minutes, assisted by Phil Tilley. Three minutes later Pirates were 2-0 up after a Iong-range, unassisted effort by Roger Mawditt. Another unassisted goal, this time from Kevin Hunter, made it 3-0 after only ten minutes and the crowd began to chant "easy, easy. !" Three players - Nottingham's Gary Clarkson, Pirates' John Hunter (twice) and Kevin Hunter - then spent two-minute spells in the sin-bin for a variety of offences including elbowing and holding. Just before the first break, Trojans hit back with a goal from Russ Gascoigne to make it 3-1.
Soon after the restart Tony Hunter added his second goal and then Sandy McDonald put one away to give Pirates a comfortable 5-1 lead. In the final session Trojans became frustrated and with two players in the sin-bin they fell further behind as Pekka Hakkarainen scored. Barry Cade then put the issue beyond doubt, scoring Pirates' seventh after an assist by Hakkarainen. Ian Cade - the Pirates' net-minder who had strung together several fine saves throughout - was beaten twice in the last two minutes by Gascoigne when Pirates' were a man short - Tony Hunter serving a ten-minute penalty for using abusive language. But by then the writing was on the wall and Pirates had done enough earlier to ensure that ice hockey took off in Peterborough in impressive style.
The Pirates squad was - Ian Cade, Phil Tilley, Roger Mawditt, John Burke, Sandy McDonald, Steve Nixon, Barry Cade, Pekka Hakkarainen, Phil Adams, Tony Hunter, John Hunter, Sean Mun Liang, Granville Raper, Kevin Hunter, Mikko Hakkarainen, Steven Ward, Jonathon Vyse and Dave Southwell.