PLYMOUTH is on the verge of finally having a competitive ice hockey team.
For a quarter-of-a-century people have been turning up to train regularly at the Plymouth Pavilions, but they have never been able to play matches as the rink is the wrong shape.
However, now a team called the Plymouth Pirates have been launched and are looking to enter an English Ice Hockey Association league this season.
Although they will not be able to play their league matches in Plymouth until a new ice rink is built, supporters of the sport believe it is a step in the right direction.
They are currently travelling to Gosport in Hampshire once a month to train on a full-sized rink, with the plan to move to Bristol when their new ice facility opens later this year – and then eventually to Plymouth.
It is hoped Plymouth will have a 1,100-seater ice arena next to Home Park by March 2019 to replace the kidney-shaped Pavilions rink.
The Plymouth Pirates hope to be fully established in league ice hockey by then.
Steve Comber, who has helped launch the new team, said: “I used to play at Cardiff and train four or five times a week.
“When I moved back to Plymouth there was not anything apart from the guys that turn-up at the Pavilions just to basically mess around.
“There were 35 guys turning up there every Monday and Wednesday and everyone wanted more and to play properly. I said I had contacts and this is what we have come up.
“Everyone Monday and Wednesday all the guys turn up at the Pavilions then what we do on the first Friday of every month we do these trips to Gosport. When Bristol opens up we’ll go up there every two weeks.
“At the moment it is 350-mile round journey to Gosport and we are regularly getting 15-18 guys up there. There’s the guys who travel up from Plymouth and a number who meet us there.
“That’s the plan and why we are getting all this training done as a lot of these guys have never played on a full-sized rink.
“Some of the guys can play really, really well and not being able to put that to use is a sickner – that’s why we are doing this.
“I think we would do okay in the league. We have got some guys who are strong players but it is just getting them used to a full-sized rink and the rules. Unless you are on a full-sized rink you can’t really teach the rules.”
Travelling so far to play is costing a lot of money, but Comber says there is a real passion for the sport and there is demand for a team.
He actually left Plymouth when he was younger just to play competitive ice hockey, but for family reasons has had to return.
“I started playing down at the Pavilions, but I got bored of not playing competitively so I moved away to Cardiff to play,” said Comber, who went on to play at a high level.
“Each trip to Gosport costs about £500 and that gets split. Gosport have helped us out really well with the ice costs, but it is still an expensive trip.
“We are desperately looking for a sponsor to help us towards the cost of the kit, as that is definitely not cheap as well.”
But there appears to be a lot of will to offer competitive ice hockey to Plymothians ahead of a new rink opening in a couple of years’ time.
The team hope to play a couple of friendly matches in the coming weeks to see if they are ready to enter the league.
More details on the team can be found HERE.