My love affair with ice hockey began in the 1980s and it was Christine’s fault. Christine and I both worked on a motor trade newspaper in Sutton. She supported Streatham Redskins and quickly welcomed me into the fold at Streatham High Road as a new fan. Before long I was travelling to Scotland and the North East on double-header weekends with Christine and her best friend Jan. We watched hockey, we ate chip butties, we laughed until our sides ached and we drank far too much. We had the best times.
Jan’s boyfriend Trevor played on the team and when we went to the rink in the off-season I put on the horrible blue skates and he taught me to skate backwards. We all spent non-hockey weekends at Jan’s drinking shots, watching hockey and scary films and laughing like crazy people. My social life revolved around the sport and it’s people, both players and fans alike. Christine and I would stagger in to the office on a Monday morning after long hockey weekends on the road. Bleary eyed and cigarette in hand we’d nip down to the canteen for toast and coffee. We may have been work colleagues but hockey bound our friendship.
Everywhere you look, the sport is about camaraderie, friendship and family. In Whitley Bay we used to stay in this little B&B, The Railway I think it was called. The owner’s daughter needed a place to say near Sutton so Andi became our lodger shortly afterwards. People again. Always people.
So life and hockey moved on and as the team went their separate ways, and lots moved to Slough Jets, so did Christine and Jan. Years passed and eventually we lost touch completely but I never forgot the good times.
And then one Saturday evening in 2014, I was watching Pointless Celebrities. A question about the Stanley Cup jump-started my memory and as I rattled off the names of Stanley Cup winners Brian asked how I knew the answers. Once reminiscing about the Redskins and Monday nights at the Maple Leaf in Covent Garden was done we thought we’d see if Streatham Redskins were still around.
As luck would have it they were playing the following night. We went and watched and hubby was almost immediately hooked. One thing lead to another, I fell in love with hockey again and Brian sponsored the team for a couple of years. We made new friends. The Streatham family did that – it bound us to the sport and to new people like it had for me so many years before.
So when enormous change came to the club last summer and most of our favourites moved on there were choices to make. Ultimately you do what makes you happy right? So it’s easy. We do what Chris and Jan did in the 80s. We decide we will rock up at home games in Bracknell to watch our favourites play in yellow and black for the Hornets, we choose to watch Elite hockey at Guildford because it’s fast and furious and because we can and we support hockey in general because it has this enormous wealth of great people within it who make it what it is.
Finally, as hockey came back into my little world I was shocked and saddened to discover that both Christine and Jan had tragically passed away. We never got chance to catch up and that makes me sad. Just a little bit. But then when I’m standing in a line for chips at a freezing cold rink, when I hear that old Redskins drum beat or when I’m drinking with new friends I remember the girls and smile.
Hockey is still hockey and friends are still friends no matter what change may bring. So to everyone we know on and off the ice, whichever teams you’re into we wish you a successful, fun filled and joyous season of both hockey and friendship.