I was imagining that my first post of 2012 would have been a cheerier one. However, we were told on Thursday at training that our barn is going to be closing down and we, the Pitbulls (and the junior teams, the rec team, the university team and ice skating club) would become homeless at the end of the season.
The lease on the rink is running out and the rink is set to be converted into student accommodation. Not that I have anything against students or further education, but the situation is far from ideal. In fact thinking it purely from the hockey point of view, I feel like the people who have put the Pitbulls together and ran the team have had a severe kick to the teeth due to the decision.
As I’ve had a chance to reflect on the news for a few days, I have come to realise that the biggest loss of the rink closure is not the loss of hockey, but it is the loss of a place that has become a second home to myself and all my team mates. It could potentially also mean the loss of a group of guys who have become like a second family. We have all sweated and bled on to the ice to provide our fans and supporters with an entertaining night out and we as players have relied on each other. We have experienced highs and lows every week that we turn up for training and suit up, ready to hit the ice. Like I’ve said many times before on this blog, being on the ice is one of the best feelings I can imagine.
Beyond hockey however, I have read and recanted numerous tales from Facebook and Twitter on people’s memories of the rink. I have come to know stories of people who have met the love of their life on the ice, memories of nights spent with friends and most of all, people lamenting the loss of a place to meet up and spend time.
As I’m not a native to Bristol and I have only spent two seasons with the Pitbulls, I have only a handful of memories compared to most of the other guys on the team who took their first strides on the ice at the facility. However, the situation sounds all too familiar; when I first arrived in the UK in Southampton to study I was told that the town used to house a rink, but it was torn down (now what stands in its place is a Range Rover and Jaguar dealership) and a new rink was promised by the council. Given that I have been in the UK for 8 years and there’s no new rink in sight (OK the Southampoton rink has been shut for nearly 30 years now) one can understand why the loss of a ice facility is a BIG deal to everyone who uses the facility.
In what is the Olympic year for the UK, there has been a lot of discussion about the state of British sports. How can the UK nurture the next sporting talents if facilities for sports of all kinds are being cut down. In a broader scale, the economic downturn has cut funding from many sports and leisure centres that provide both the young and old the opportunity to partake in sports, be it hockey, skating, soccer or boxing. Sports is an enabler. If I didn’t do sports in my youth I wouldn’t have learned valuable social skills and I probably would’ve spent more time than I did out in town partaking in teenage debauchery. Sports taught me a great deal of self discipline and respect to others.
However, as I’m trying to look for a silver lining in the news of the rink closing down, I am hopeful that it will not mean the demise of hockey in Bristol. I am hopeful that the powers that be build a new rink that is suitable for hockey and figure skating. Hockey is a growing sport in the UK and I’m sure that all our opponents would agree that there needs to be a team in Bristol. Say what you want about the state of the facility, it’s more fun to play more games than have fewer games on the schedule.
As my parting thoughts, I would like to see as many of you readers sign this petition to show your support for the rink. It only takes 30 seconds of your time and we (the people who use the rink) would really appreciate the support: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/save-the-ice-rink/
Be sure to also check out the following Facebook Groups and websites: https://www.facebook.com/BristolNeedsARink,