Oldest rink in London closes with tribute

Oldest rink in London closes with tribute

21 Dec 2011 | David Carr - Prohockeynews.com
 

London’s oldest ice arena closed it’s doors after serving the community for over 81 years. The resident hockey club marked the closure in a fitting tribute with an ‘End of Era’ game involving players from across the decades.

 
 
 
 
A line of people queued on a busy South London road, their breath visible rising like kettle steam in the bitter cold dark evening air. The biting temperature had left them undeterred in their quest to watch the final curtain fall on a much loved building full of memories and eighty one years of history.

The crowd were wrapped up against the elements but the famous red and white colours of the team they had come to watch for the very last time in their original arena, popped into view thanks to the scarves and hats sported by the families and individuals present.

Inside, the far end of the rink echoed with the familiar sound of scrunching tape, idle chatter and the whir of a circling zamboni. A group of men, warriors, hockey players, some with the scars of battles fought long ago, stood waiting. The mix of ages gave a hint to the oddity of the occasion, as did the uniforms worn, with the glistening light equipment of the present day clashing with the heavy, sturdy and stylish retro names of Titan, Cooper and Koho.

The familiar conversation topics of hockey, women, family and socialising gave way as the players focus concentrated on the rushing crowd filling the balcony along the length of the ice, seeking warmth, a good vantage point and most importantly a place in history, to say ‘I was there’ and know it too.
The call familiar to all those dressed in equipment finally arrived. The battle cry rippled across the waiting players, not of war but of friendship. Players who had all worn the famous Streatham jersey, who had travelled across the United Kingdom in the red and white colours, representing SW16, the little corner of London with such a massive footprint on the history of the game.

They had skated together, won together, lost together, drank together, socialised together, showered together and travelled together. Not all at the same time, but linked by each other and by the jersey’s they were now wearing. Jersey’s that some had worn just a day earlier in the last ever competitive game, and that others may not have put over their pads for thirty or forty years.

Similarly the crowd, now amassed around the rink, had their own personal links with the rink, the team and each other. Some had travelled with the team to Scotland, Wales and even abroad, singing and shouting for the men on the ice in red and white. Others were relations or family of the players, some were spouses that had met the love of their life within the confines of the building they were about to say farewell to.

The crackling announcement through speakers clinging on for their last breath made the call and a swarm of hockey players, half in red and half in white skated onto the ice like bees, buzzing around with pucks, smiling, joking and stretching.

The crowd cheered, the balcony heaving with bodies and emotion as they applauded each and every player present who was announced to the blue line. Walland, Collins, Iandoli, Graves, Johnston, Cogan, Goldstone, the familiar surnames of the past mixed with those of the present and future Rasmussen, Koral and Madren-Britton. All linked by current coach Barry Spours and veteran campaigner Peter Quiney, both dressed and recognisable to most.

The two teams faced each other from the blue lines. Opposite were not Wembley, Brighton, Harringay, Dundee, Durham, Nottingham, Murrayfield, Sheffield, Invicta, Wightlink, Oxford or any of the many opposition teams to have lined up against Streatham. Facing Streatham players were others, who had sweated and bled for the jersey just like them.

The noise, a crescendo building towards the opening face-off peaked as the ceremonial puck drop orchestrated and conducted by former referee Alec Johnston. The two benches, amassed with thirty or more players each, were held in line by the towering figures of John Rost and Erskine Douglas, two recognisable faces in the world of UK hockey.

The game itself, a familiar tale of players finding their feet, eager to impress or out for a leisurely skate added up to a relaxed affair with every goal cheered by a crowd, eager to warm up due to the lack of heating, disconnected in advance, reminded everyone present that the wrecking ball was not far away.

A flowing game of hockey this was not. The fans drank beer from the makeshift bar, the players mingled with loved ones in the period breaks and the cheeky drawl of the hulking Brian Biddulph over the microphone interrupted proceedings on a semi regular basis, with tales from the riverbank and a description of Steve James’ eating habits.

As the clock ticked down the pace increased as players eyed a chance to score the last goal at the 81 year old building and it was Mark Nicholls who would finish a flowing move with minutes remaining. The crowd, thinned by the cold roared as thirty seconds from the buzzer all players entered the ice with numerous pucks so that all would be on for the last ever shift.
The figures stick handled the pucks with smiles and youthful endeavour, joined by the spirits of those who had skated before them in the 1930’s, 40’s, 50’s and 60’s.

A haunting air enveloped the ice, lips trembled with emotion and when the clock stopped at 19.59, the living present and the players, fans and officials also there in spirit were frozen in a game that would never end.
The players retired to the locker rooms for the last time, the fans headed out into the cold night air and the doors closed on one of South London’s and British Ice Hockey’s legendary ice rinks.

Many have said that the heart and soul disappeared from the place when it was ripped apart in a refurbishment years ago, but in reality, the heart and soul only left when the door closed for the last time in the early hours of the 19th December 2011.
Streatham Ice Arena with it’s 81 years of service, had been read it’s last rites.

Player rosters for the ‘End of Era’ game – 18 December 2011 at  Streatham Ice Arena.

Streatham Reds – Tony Goldstone, Christian Lovell, Jon Beckett, Graeme Collins, Barry Spours, Jack Tarczycki, Darryl Morvan, Adrian Wheeler, Lee Brears, Wayne Trunchion, Jim Johnston, Steve Condron, Nicky Iandoli, David Carr, Adam Anderson, Dean Walsh, Andy Leggatt, Chris Leggatt, Adrian Walters, Lawrence Brown, Paul Collins, Owen Murphy, Terry England, Ben Challice, Dave Wilson, John Noctor, Chris Rasmussen, Dan Botting, Ed Koral, Shane Kemp, Gennadi Yufit, Roy Austin, Luke Fitzmaurice, Conor Sheehan.

Streatham Whites – Mark Howell, Gary Brine, Roger Walland, Dean Birrell, Jim Graves, Stefan Nubert, Louis Lockwood, Peter Collins, Josh Allam, Andy Clements, Warren Trunchion, David Smith, Steve Paris, Steve James, Brian Biddulph, Adam Noctor, Graham Waghorn, Shane Walsh,Gareth Armstrong, Fred Carnegy, Adam Goldstone, Trevor Cogan, David Heath, Chris Wittenberg, Paul Todd, Peter Quiney, Casimir Madren-Britton, Liam Rasmussen, Andre Ward, Mark Nicholls, Rob England, Russ Stevens, Khalid Abdulwahid.

Officials – Grant Rafter, John Holtham and Kevin Hawkes.
Announcer – Angela Smith
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