Raiders were delighted to see Thomas Relf pick up the Steve Tomalin Player of the Month Award for September. We were especially pleased due to the fact that Sue Tomalin, Richard Tomalin and Joe made themselves available to present this, the first award in Steve’s name.
If you were not at the game then you will have missed out on a little article in the Match Night Magazine speaking of the dedication from the “Doc” over a quarter of a century. It is a story of dedication that should be shared with the masses and is the sort of work that keeps this sport running for many teams throughout the country. It was a lovely round of applause that the name on the centre of the trophy recieved, followed by the one for Relfy.
The article looked a bit like this ↓
As some will have already seen in recent editions of this match night magazine, our player of the month award will change in its title tribute to Steve Tomalin following his sad passing and memorial service in August.
Tonight will be the first award in his name and it is great to be able to welcome Sue Tomalin, Steve’s wife, Richard, former player and Steve’s son, and Joe, Steve’s grandson and future hockey star. They have agreed to present the award this evening and it will be great to see them in the building.
For a huge number here tonight Steve will be a familiar name and for many more his would have been a familiar face. For those that are less fortunate, read on:-
Steve’s passion for the Raiders started in the first season, in 1987 in common with a dwindling number of those in the building tonight. Son Richard became hooked and by the following season was playing in the under 14’s with the familiar parent taxi service adding to Steve’s (and Sue’s) commitment to being an ice hockey fan.
By the time Richard was in the under 16’s Steve was team manager and had found himself having to learn to skate to help out with training. That team won the English U16 league title and were national runners up, losing out in Wembley. This from an organisation that had only had a rink for 3 years.
Having learnt to skate, playing was the next natural step and the Rec team soon had a Tomalin between the pipes. Richard was being called up to train with the senior Raiders by this time and when the team was short of a netminder for training Steve stood in despite being covered in bruises for days afterwards.
Steve is probably best known amongst Raiders fans, players and owners as the equipment manager that for decades would be standing on the bench, opening the door and providing emergency repairs for the team. That started as Richard became a full time senior Raider during the 91-92 season right through to the Lee Valley days in 2016 2017. Something like 26 years, an impressive figure in its own right. That longevity was no doubt assisted by the general family interest with Sue also doing significant works for the English Ice Hockey Association during that time.
If long term fans hadn’t had eye sight good enough to spot Steve across the ice then they would have recognised him in the breaks either as he floated around on the ice resurfacing machine or a quick dash to chat briefly with Sue in the stands before heading back to bench door opening duties.
His nickname of “Doc” Tomalin came from his ability to extend the life of equipment well beyond its replacement date. There would be many a glove that he “re-palmed” with offcuts of material or leather with his expert stitching and awl work and strapping and visors put back into use when they were really only fit for the bin.
Steve provided this on-going support for the team throughout the decades as owners/operators came and went and was a calm and supportive presence, always willing to offer a word but never pressing his opinion and with the experience of all those years at the sharp end his opinions always mattered to those that knew him.
He retired from his job at Fords well before the Rom Valley Way rink closed and it was no surprise when he found himself a part time job at the rink passing on what he had learnt about the plant, the rink and the resurfacing machine. He was the guy that taught many how to drive the “Zamboni” and that includes myself. When I first took the team over in 2009 one of the jobs I was lumbered with was resurfacing the ice before and after training sessions and Steve told me that I learnt quicker than anyone he had taught before. When I realised that there were quite a few of us that were the quickest learners ever, I understood a bit more about his people skills.
Steve chatted at Lee Valley with me on his decision to reduce his time with the team, but did come back yet again when he saw we needed some assistance. When we looked like we could cope he took a deserved retirement but of course returned as the equipment guy for the “legends game” and there were few on that evening who deserved that title more. He returned many times in the last couple of seasons as a spectator to sit immediately in front of the visiting fans, with Sue, and it was after a few weeks absence he had a quiet word with me about his illness with his normal matter of fact approach and determination to battle on.
Steve’s popularity was not limited to his home rink, and around the country the combination of his work with the Raiders and Sue’s work with the EIHA made them an instantly recognised pair. More than that he was just a damn pleasant guy to chat to, who found time to speak with you and in consequence a guy that people enjoyed catching up with whichever rink you were fortunate enough to be sharing with him.
So in renaming our player of the month the “Steve Tomalin Player of the Month” we can be sure this will not only stir up some pleasant memories in the fans players and management of the Raiders organisation, but many of our visitors will also remember the guy who for 25 years was an “ever present” and such an important part of the history of this great club.