Here we have a short interview by Lewis Coleman of East Sheffield Sport with our own Mike Rhodes.
LC – When did you first get involved with the Steelkings?
MR – It’ll be three years ago this summer. I’ve been a hockey fan for a long time and one of my oldest friends, Jake, is the Steelkings’ Chairman. He was bugging me to come down and give para ice-hockey a try for a while and the club runs some learn-to-sledge sessions from time to time where anyone can come down and give the sport a go. I went along to one of those, loved it, and they haven’t found a way to get rid of me since!
LC – With the season due to start in May and with the League and play off title to defend are you disappointed that this now looks unlikely?
MR – I think the season is officially off now. It is disappointing but there’s little point in getting frustrated about things you can’t control and you can look for positives: we were adding a second team, the Steelking Bees (or Steel Stings) to the league this year and this gives a lot of new players that extra time to train – once we’re back on the ice of course – and to get up to speed. A couple of the team had injuries and now there is extra recovery time. We want to retain our titles and win trophies of course, but our bigger aim is to grow the profile of this club and the sport and we can still be doing things towards that. And hopefully later on this year if and when things get back to normal we can do some sort of friendly game or there might kind of tournament with the other British teams so it might not be a completely wasted year game wise. So it is a disappointment sure, but I’m more disappointed by things that have actually happen in games rather than in games that will never happen.
LC – Sport isn’t just about exercise, how much are you missing the camaraderie with your teammates?
MR – Yeah that’s difficult. Everyone was really welcoming when I first started and we really are like one big family, plus there a few people on that team that I’ve been friends with since I was a kid. We’re lucky in a way that with social media, instant messaging, things like Skype, we can all stay in touch but it isn’t the same. We used to do a lot together socially. And we usually train on a Friday night. No matter how bad a week you might have had you always knew you were seeing friends and letting off some steam on the ice for an hour or two and I miss that. I’m sure we all do.
LC – Is the inclusiveness of para Ice Hockey something you enjoy and would recommend to others?
MR – Absolutely. The sport is designed to be all inclusive and the Steelkings really embrace that. The sport welcomes disabled and able-bodied players, and it welcomes anyone regardless of gender, age, sexuality, religion, or any other characteristic and the Steelkings are the most welcoming group of people I’ve ever known. It’s a huge, huge selling point of the sport and of the club for me and I know what that acceptance and those friendships you can build with teammates can do for people.
LC – What are the challenges of working alongside training and playing matches for the Steelkings?
MR – To be honest I’ve been pretty lucky in that regard so far. My work have been understanding in letting me leave early for training if I need to and make my time back elsewhere and all the matches so far have been on weekends. I know it’s a bigger struggle for some of the team but I’ve been fine so far.
LC – How are you keeping yourself occupied without being able to train and play matches with the Steelkings?
MR – With a lot of films! Seriously, whilst I can’t go to the gym and we can’t train properly, I still have my gear so I can practice stick handling – but with tennis balls not pucks. I don’t have weights at home but I have been doing cardio and stretches. And I can re-watch games. It’s not ideal, but again it’s about looking for the positives and making the best out of what you have.