….settle down with some popcorn it’s a biggy!
Well another season has come to a close and for most a mixture of frustration and disappointment, some bad luck and some bad decisions and choices often made under duress and by necessity. The occasional bright spot of an unexpected victory or an emphatic win has competed with the excitement of an overtime win and some points against top-of-the-table teams. Even the dour amongst us would have to admit it has been exciting and the doers amongst us would say it has been even harder as a result of the problems.
For the most part it was clear to see that those on the ice were putting heart and soul into the games but all too often there were not enough of them or they were playing under the influence of long term niggles. It has been said before that this ranks as one of the worst seasons for injury and illness for any Romford based team. That takes a toll on results as well as moral. Some players clearly struggled to get back to pre-injury fitness and some injuries leave a long lasting concern about that extra stretch or impact. Thanks guys, and we appreciate it takes even more to get up and do that week on week when results are not coming. Some serious mental strength to keep that up so well done.
But we are still here to complete another season whilst planning the next and the gradual build as a viable organisation continues in a geographical area where getting fans to adopt the sport has been difficult for decades, and player development and availability is limited due to a low concentration of rinks. Notable on the fans front was that the biggest (paying) crowd of the season was the very last game which has some positives but also some associated frustration. Why does that happen every season?
We would like to thank the players that pull on the Gold and Blue Jersey and give their all during the hours of training, playing, travelling and therapy to get back to fitness. All with the additional grief of Covid testing/caution and protocols. They are no doubt still stinging from the final game hopes being snuffed out but ultimately we know narrowly missed points in previous games were our undoing and no one should really be relying on the “last chance saloon” of the final weekend. Despite the negatives we have really seen some great hockey at the Sapphire and some memorable moments for the players and fans. We just need more of them.
So thanks to Sean and his team, backed up by Alan, Erin and Sam sticking players back together and Graham keeping the equipment in order.
Sean’s commitment and dedication doesn’t just border on infatuation. It is well beyond that line and we consider ourselves very fortunate to have such a talent working with the team for these past 5 seasons. We do seek someone to work with Sean to help ease his load in a team management role and hopefully that will be an announcement during the summer when we are successful.
It is for me so sad Alan Blyth is leaving to move closer to home and it was a brave move from both of us to give him the coaching role back in Lee Valley and he didn’t back away from any of the significant challenges thrown at him. His commitment to this club can never have been doubted and his motivation never anything but team orientated. He will do well at Chelmsford and he deserves no less.
Alan’s involvement is clearly part of the reason that the development system is starting to feed players into the Raiders and there have been some great performances from those playing up this season so well done to them and the development system.
Erin joining the club was an inspired pick up and she enjoys the admiration of those she treats as well as her fellow physios. I still think she needs a few more spare parts in her bag to keep the guys going when bits break off and she seems to speak a different language until we have had the chance to Google what we hear. A true professional and we are very pleased to have been fortunate that you were available and willing.
The off-ice team headed up by myself, Dave Leach and Alan White with more active involvement this season from Paul Windebank continue to make strides in the match night product but of course we plan to improve year on year as the fan base hopefully grows. That effort includes engaging more with local businesses and trying to get Romford back to being the “hockey town” it was in the late 80’s and early 90’s and Paul is very active on that front but unfortunately will need to be even more active next season.
Dave Leach deserves a special mention as one of those that helped the club survive in August 2014 and spends significant hours outside of game nights, joining myself and the rest of the league at meetings and dealing with registration and other league and Covid related matters. Dave has asked to step back from those duties and focus on life a bit more, but on game days his role will remain very similar so you guys in the stands will probably not notice the difference. It will reduce the stress in his life I am sure but if he thinks the grey hair will reduce and the colour will return I suspect he is mistaken. Thanks for all your help Dave and enjoy the extra time you lucky swine!
Dave’s work is very much eased with the registration processes that Louise Capps has been doing for us as well as Catherines early season DBS paperwork. Thanks to you both.
On the subject of league meetings the relationship between the team owners has never, ever, been better and it is telling that the first message I had last night was from the Bees owner Stuart Robinson commiserating and wishing us well. The team owners are delighted that the product has become so competitive and that all are seeing an uplift in the popularity of the sport around the country.
Alan White always brings a calm head to the match might management and seems to be enjoying the chuck a puck more now he can swing something similar to a golf club. Thanks again for keeping the front door flowing and the game events moving. Hopefully next time we have the Paramedics routed down the corridor the patient will at least not run past us all as we go to rescucitate him.
We have brought in a number of additional members of the off-ice officials team this season and thank them and the stalwarts for helping keep the games operating. So thanks again to Glenn the bus on the clock, regular penalty box attendants “Yorkie” Ray Fitzhugh and Bill “cor blimey” Cooper, Ray Gillon, Iain Burman, Lindsey, Jo Sylvester, Graham Ford, and probably even more when I eventually post this tome and realise who I have missed.
The introduction of Covid precautions made some of the tasks more labour intense so thanks again to those that all stood by us and kept this moving. We have been able to call upon stand-by and multi-tasking volunteers and generally no-one will have even known we had issues when we did. I am particularly grateful for the cover when I came down with my second bout of Covid and for those that took over so ably.
Thanks to Charis and Tracey our regulars on the door, with scanning from Alan, Anthony and Danny. Charis will of course be moving on to Chelmsford with Alan and that will add to that sorrow as another with enthusiasm and integrity for what a hockey club should represent and strive for. Thanks for all your work and we will miss Graham, Felix and Felicity, three ever presents over the past years. Please don’t be strangers and the Blyth family will always be welcome to our games.
The latest security team I think have blended in exceptionally and their willingness to muck in with ticket scanning and banding has allowed the hockey fan volunteers to be hockey fans rather than wait for the stragglers. Thanks to Mel and Frankie two of the more regular staff from security.
On merchandise Debbie joined the team and always seems to be having a great time! Or perhaps she is just laughing at my shirts. Thanks to Tanya and the retiring Paul Phipps and more recently Lindsey and occasionally Lauren. A great job on an often packed merchandise and secondary spend table and missing chunks of the game and their weekends to set up early. A great job “team merch”
These guys would have little to sell without the effort from Paul Windebank and Jayne Clifford so extra thanks to them for designing and coordinating the merchandise with some extras from Tanya and Mel and I suspect more that I am not aware of.
“Team 50:50” excel themselves week on week, year on year so another great effort from Mel and her team often including Claire, Graham, Sarah, Emma, Jayne. Amazing job again guys and as the crowd gets bigger we know your job is going to get harder so give up any ideas of being able to rest occasionally next season.
Mel also does a great job of coordinating the pre-season arrangements in respect of the own and loan shirts, made a lot easier by the amazing response from those in the stands. Thanks again to Mel and you guys, buying into the shirts each season. It has been a big part of the teams viability since taking the reins back in 2014.
Mel would have nothing to sell but for the impressive design work each year from Paul Windebank, putting a great selection of shirts together each year, whilst juggling the production of the match night magazine. That magazine would be nothing without the contributors and thanks to Aaron and Sean, Steve and Matt and “Dave the stat” for his input and for Paul getting the words to make sense.
That pre-season work also includes season ticket work from Tracey and collection of payments all year so yet more thanks for organising that and a shame you were poorly so we couldn’t thank you at the last game. Make sure you are fit by the Awards Evening.
Our match night media team continue their great efforts with Paul’s announcing and playing the tunes backed up by Danny, and Malcolm and Matt being the video and commentary double act. Thanks guys and it is great to have some footage we can have on re-run for those goal highlights and for the video in particular we know the effort does not stop when you leave the rink. It was great to see Kevin Lamb back on his porthole briefly and Kai Edwards getting some practice to maybe take a regular role behind the lens.
Our media effort is also starting to get a few more replay videos and promo videos created, the latter thanks to new recruit Hannah Smith. Thanks Hannah.
Game nights have often had the enhancement of “the twirlies” as Maggie Barrow coordinates the provision of figure skater to entertain us and get their first experience of a large audience. Thanks to Maggie and well done to the girls and ladies that have entertain us.
Paul Windebank’s regular tweets are now very well reinforced by Andrew Day’s addition to the team. Amazing job Andrew and welcome aboard especially with all those away trips. We know your tweets and balanced views are admired thoughout the league. On the subject of travel Joe our coach driver for Marc 1 coaches also does a great job (not sure how he stays awake personally) and another role for Tanya as she coordinates the trips and looks after those needing some guidance around the rinks. Marc 1 coaches have proven incredibly reliable and reasonably priced so take this as an advert for their excellent service!
The EA staff provide a great environment for us to work and Gary’s Ice is amongst the best in the league. Toni and Lisa in the café are working hard with us over the summer to keep more of you happy on game day and the breaks so thanks for your efforts this season and we look forward to more next season and the work we will be doing together over the summer to smooth out some wrinkles. It is a very productive relationship we have here and we know how difficult life can be when that is not the case. Thanks guys and gals at EA.
We have some fantastic commercial sponsors and through the growing awareness of the sport and the team we hope to grow them even further for the 22/23 campaign. Thanks to PIP lifts, Mullis and Peake, Joe and Jam, Everyone Active, Romford BID, Kingpin, Aqualia, Phil’s Removals and more to come over the next few weeks. Some local businesses have joined Paradise Wildlife Park as Bunno, the Golden Lion, Ciao Bella and the Bull have provided some extra incentive to try out their tasty products.
Our media partners at Romford Recorder and Time FM also do fine work in increasing local awareness of the Raiders and the on line news specials the Havering Daily are also assisting with local awareness through their series of “Now” local facebook pages. Thanks to you guys and hopefully combined with our own efforts we can get the “sold out” sign up before the end of next season.
Many of us will have our partners with us on game night but mine hates Ice Hockey with a vengeance so I would like to offer a personal thanks for Lynn for putting up with my obsession and passion for making this team viable and successful especially when it interferes with Aqualia work (like now when I am typing this). Success will come and I am sure all those mentioned above are far too stubborn to let it fail this close.
I will have overlooked someone. It will probably be someone important and an unforgivable oversight, but hopefully I will manage to edit them in before they notice. Apologies in advance.
This is intended primarily as a thank you for those that bring you, the fans, the game we all love.
But it would be impossible, as someone from the stands, not to thank all of you in the stands.
I share your enormous passion.
I share the longing for some trophies.
I share that Monday morning bounce when we beat the league leaders.
I share that spine tingle as Alan White’s watch registers the loudest noise it has experienced when the winning goal hits the net
I share the desire to “lash out” when a performance is not what you expect.
But I also see the look in the eyes of the players that have just lost a game.
I see the off ice team with their shoulders slumped at a goal scored 7 seconds from the final whistle.
I see the mock-cheerful faces wishing the victorious visitors a safe journey home.
We all want the same thing. And it will come.
And so the planning continues for the Awards Evening on Friday 13th May at Pontlands Park, Great Baddow. Despite that date we hope no face slapping is involved (hoping I havent forgotten a thank-you still) at these but you can expect some entertainment and the odd drink and some shape cutting on the floor.
If you are coming to that, and we hope many of you are, we look forward to seeing you then. If you are not then have a great summer, and return in full voice refreshed by the updates of what lies in store for next season at the Sapphire.