By Amir Chetty on May 5, 2016
Enthusiasts flock to Baywest rink for a piece of the action
PORT Elizabeth is fast becoming the hub of a sport usually associated with colder climates – ice hockey. The sport was off the radar in the city for almost 20 years, but now residents are flocking to the Baywest Mall ice rink to get a piece of the action.
Under the auspices of the Eastern Province Ice Hockey Association, the province used to have a thriving ice hockey scene.
However, this ended with the closure of Port Elizabeth’s only ice rink, at the old Tramways building.
With three divisions – senior men, women and juniors – the sport now caters for players of all ages.
There is a special focus on improving the skills of junior players in the hope of them carrying the sport to greater heights.
EP Ice Hockey Association coordinator Christopher Dodd said the region had many players with the potential to reach national level.
However, a lot of work had to go into ensuring more people became actively involved.
“The development of a sport of this kind must start at the grassroots level,” he said.
“That’s why my main focus is kids. The predominant age of our players at present is 30, thus we need to get more kids involved.”
Training sessions are on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and for children on Fridays.
Sunday mornings are reserved for the more advanced men and the evenings for women.
There are about 100 registered players on the books.
Dodd said the only way the sport could grow financially in the region was with the help of backers.
Framesby resident Rob Kendrick, 33, has been involved in the sport since its revival just more than a year ago.
“It’s such an intense and exciting sport,” he said.
“I have been here since day one, and I can safely say the sport is on the up-and-up in the Bay. “With the right support, we have the potential to grow into quite a strong federation because there is already a wealth of talent at our disposal.”
Lizelle Britz, 35, who regularly skated at the old rink but never played hockey, said she had now fallen in love with ice hockey.
“It’s a new sport, and the growth has been phenomenal,” Britz said.
“We have had 30 women joining us and we would like to see more.
“As far as I know, we are the province with the highest number of women and we are the only province that has a dedicated slot for women’s practice.”
A one-day Cross Ice tournament was held last month in which six men’s and four women’s teams participated.
Dodd said they were looking to expand the format of the tournament.
“We can definitely make the sport much more popular in the city and more so in the Eastern Cape,” Dodd said.
“Ultimately we want to expose our players to competing against other teams from around the country, and it should not be too long before we see a national representative from here.”
Anyone interested in becoming involved in the sport should contact the EPIHA on firstname.lastname@example.org or visit their website on www.epiha.co.za