YOUNG ice hockey players are getting their pucks and sticks at the ready to show off their skills at the opening of Stretford Mall’s rink.
Budding pros from the junior division of the Manchester Phoenix Ice Hockey Club will be donning their blades and helmets for an action packed demonstration at Stretford Mall, on February 15 at 10.45am.
The event marks the annual opening of the indoor rink, which is free to use and will be open during the half term from Saturday February 15 to Saturday February 22 from 11 am to 5 pm each day.
Manager of the Under 14s squad, Neil Henry thinks it’s a ‘fantastic opportunity’ to get more children involved in the sport.
“Ice hockey is a great activity for children as it’s fast, skilful and teaches them about stick handling, confidence and team work,” he said.
“It is a small sport but numbers are growing massively. “Doing the demo will be a fantastic opportunity to promote it and get more kids involved.”
Colin McCrory, Stretford Mall manager, said: “The Manchester Phoenix juniors are going to attract quite a crowd at the opening of our annual half term ice rink.
“The ice rink is always popular but it is nice to also give one of our valuable local sports clubs the chance to come down and show us what they do.
“I feel sure their demonstration will inspire our young Stretford shoppers and possibly get them thinking about taking part in a more unusual sport, especially with a great team like Manchester Phoenix on their doorstep.”
Neil said the junior division is attached to the professional Manchester Phoenix team in the English Ice Hockey Association Junior leagues with squads playing in the Under 10s, 12s, 14s, 16s and 18s divisions.
The five groups compete within the Northern Division travelling as far away as Whitley Bay in the north east.
Each squad is made up of between 20 to 30 girls and boys but Neil said the team is always looking to attract new members.
“Youngsters who are interested in learning can join a ‘hockey basics’ course at the Silverblades Ice Rink in Altrincham where children with no experience can get a feel for it and see if they want to continue.
“The Junior club meets twice a week every Tuesday and Thursday evening and the squads take part in 16 to 20 matches per season - home and away.”
Speaking about the demonstration at Stretford Mall, Neil said: “This is the first time we’ve been involved in the opening of the ice rink and we’re really looking forward to showing people what we can do.”
Parent, Gary Keary, from Sale, had nothing but praise for the sport and said his 10-year-old son Thomas ‘absolutely loves it’.
He said: “When Thomas was younger, we lived in Scotland in a town known for its ice hockey, so when we moved to Manchester, it was something that he wanted to do.
“Thomas is now in his second year of playing for the division as a defenceman and he absolutely loves it. “He’s gained a lot of confidence and adapted to a hard work ethic where he has to listen carefully to instructions, pay attention and learn discipline.
“He enjoys it more than anything.”
Thomas added: “I love playing ice hockey. I want to be a professional player when I get older.
“I definitely think more children should give it a try, it’s great fun.”
For more information about the ice hockey team, visit www.manchesterphoenix.co.uk/juniors or contact the juniors at firstname.lastname@example.org.