The Irish Ice Hockey Association held a Junior Hockey Day On Saturday, 26th November 2011 at The Odyssey Arena in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The day was aimed at new and experienced hockey players between the ages of 6 and 16 years of age. Following publicity for the event on the IIHA website, Facebook and through word-of-mouth over 30 children registered to take part in the event which would see the children participating, many for the first time. All of the children were accompanied by parents and guardians, who were also looking forward to the day ahead as many of them were new to ice hockey.
In the days leading up to the event the IIHA had been in contact with the Odyssey Arena, Bus Company and Parents & Guardians in order to ensure that everything went to plan; and that everybody knew what was happening. A detailed programme of events for a day was produced which commenced with the pick up of participants from Dublin, Drogheda and Dundalk some of whom had travelled from Kilkenny in the early hours of the morning. With an almost full to capacity 53 seat coach we headed for The Odyssey Arena.
On arrival at the Arena it was straight to the team dressing rooms for all of the participants who were assisted by the IIHA officials and volunteers as well as the parents and guardians. Once all of the Learn to Play equipment was brought into the rink the children were fitted, some for the first time, with full ice hockey protective equipment. Then it was time to hit the ice and start the IIHA Junior Hockey Day which would see the children placed in groups according to their ages and skill level. Each of the groups was then assigned IIHA coaches who went through several drills with the players.
Once the two-hour session had finished each of the participants were given a well-deserved IIHA T-shirt and goody bag. Next the children handed back the Learn to Play equipment which was packed and moved to the bus without delay as everybody a very important engagement with Pizza Hut!!!
Following consultation with Pizza Hut in the Odyssey Arena the IIHA were able to secure a very good arrangement for food and drinks for all of the attendees. The deal was so good that we ended up having to refuse more pizzas and beverages as the children and adults were full to capacity! Although, we did manage to get some take away for later just in case anyone needed a snack. The staff and management of Pizza Hut really helped us out with great service and fantastic food, which we greatly appreciated.
The next stop was a tour of the Odyssey Arena with our tour guide being none other than Belfast Giants’ General Manager, Todd Kelman. Todd had a great rapport with all of the attendees and made sure that he showed the kids the rooms where Justin Bieber and Beyonce had recently occupied. Then it was a visit to the Belfast Giants’ changing room where they got the chance to see the setup for a professional ice hockey team. At this time Todd introduced Belfast Giants defenseman Nick Kuiper & goaltender Andrew Dickson. The two Giants players happily posed for photographs and answered questions from several possible professional hockey players for the future.
Once the tour of the Odyssey had been completed it was then time to get ready for the main event of the day, the Belfast Giants game where they would take on the Braehead Clan. The IIHA had secured seats for the entire group in the one area of the rink which added to the festivities of the evening where the children, dressed in their IIHA T-shirts, looked forward to what Todd Kelman had described as “a game not to be missed”.
During the fast paced game all of those in attendance were amazed at the level of skill of the players from both teams. For some the most exciting thing to happen was when they had the chance to get the “Harvey Norman Best Seats in the House”. There was also a great atmosphere when they had a chance to catch a sandwich which was launched into the audience from the centre of ice from the Subway cannon. Some of the kids had great fun copying the Belfast Giants cheerleaders and danced their hearts out for the duration of the game.
The game proved to be an absolutely cracking one with the Belfast Giants eventually winning out six goals to four having come back when the Braehead Clan had taken the lead. The atmosphere was electric and everyone cheered as the final buzzer sounded.
Finally, it was time to hit the road and head back to Dundalk, Drogheda, and Dublin; and for some Kilkenny. Some slept but most chatted about the day they had had and about looking forward to future IIHA Junior Hockey days.
The IIHA were delighted with the response we received from the players, parents and guardians of the players who all said they had a fantastic day. Great thanks must be extended to Smith’s Supervalu, Navan for providing all of the snacks for the children free of charge. In addition, the IIHA would like to extend its thanks to Todd Kelman and the Belfast Giants for all of their assistance in making the day such a success. We must also thank The Odyssey Arena and all their staff, Pizza Hut and their staff, Jacko Smith Buses, the new national training rink in Santry for loaning ice skates to be used on the day, the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF), In Stitches Ltd. and all of those who took part in the day. Last but not least, we must thank each of the coaches who provided their services free of charge and made sure everything ran smoothly on the day.
Now to the next one…