Some end of season appreciation!

March 18, 2020

It is not quite the end of season statement we were expecting a few weeks back but we certainly live in interesting times both in this sport and club we love but more relevantly our home and work lives for the next few months. So now we are forced to distance ourselves from the sport and just about everyone else.

As a new entity the NIHL National League has been a resounding success. More so than I suspect anyone involved could have anticipated. We have had lowly teams beating league leaders on several occasions and the final placing’s at the top and bottom only being known in the final weekend. There have genuinely been some shock results and the Raiders have often been behind them, at both ends of the scale!

In league management the team owners group is heralding a new era of cooperation both between themselves and with the sport’s governing body and if we can just get the country healthy again the sports health will follow suit next season. Winning at all costs is being substituted for competing at all levels and the beneficiaries are those in the stands that prefer competitive games.

For most taking the time to read this, an interest in the Raiders is a fair assumption and so it will be preaching to the converted to say that the guys have had some awesome games and a few awful ones as well. The efforts have not been helped by a long list of injuries both long term and short. I’m sure we are all keen to see back in action Brad Windebank, Ross Connolly, Callum Burnett and Dan Hitchins all of whom have missed the majority of the action and we all hope to see them in the Gold and Blue soon. Then there were the multi game absences for Dan Scott, Callum Wells, Ollie Baldock, Michael Gray and no doubt a few more who’s successful return has clouded the memory of their absence. If he wasn’t so obstinately dedicated to the team captain Connolly would have probably have rested his ankle for a long time.

It is no real surprise that a long run of wins appeared just as the bench refilled with a fit squad.

The team has tried to keep a local feel for most of its existence and the return of ex-Romford junior lads such as Jacob and Elastic Ethan is always very satisfying especially when they both have such an impact and valuable contribution.

It is tempting to run through the entire squad assessing various performances, quirks and characteristics heaping praise on individuals for particular traits and improvements throughout the season but that would to an extent contradict the team spirit that exists. They have all been fantastic in their own role individually but working as a team capable of beating anyone. It really has been a joy to watch with pride the progress and the skill these guys display week on week.

But as the new kids on the block at this the second tier of hockey the lads always played with heart and passion and probably treated us to some of the most emotional celebrations due to that desire to win. Well apart from Erik who is cool as cucumber under all circumstances.

One personal assessment had to slip through. Despite great performances across the board there were many games where Michael Gray’s efforts between the pipes kept us in with a chance, and winning games we had no right to. Sometimes with no choice as our back up was injured. His string of man of the match performances, awards evening gongs and huge lists of fawning praise from his groupies 🙂 after every flipping game prove how important he has been to the team, not just this year and last but going back a decade. We salute you sir, and whilst looking forward to the significant reduction in the teams average age when you leave I am sure we are really looking forward to the celebration of your time with the Raiders in your testimonial game later in the year……….assuming the age for social distancing hasn’t been dropped below yours by then. 🙂 But seriously, it has been a pleasure on and off the ice for so many of us and he will be missed greatly for all the right reasons.

The coaching team headed by Sean have done another great job building the team keeping them bonded and crafting the improvements. Working with bodies missing whilst scouting for suitable additions and keeping the team affairs under control in “the room” and on the pad is no mean feat and there can be few that would achieve what he has. Well done Sean and well done in what is already underway for next season.

Additional help from Graham and Ryan Worsell have given Sean and Alan more time so thanks for your valuable input guys.

Michelle has done her best to keep the guys aches and pains sorted, occasionally assisted by Sam Lack when the numbers were just too difficult to keep up with. And of course she keeps us up to date with Twitter with Ryan Goldstones help during game time. Thanks to you all!

The off-ice officials have performed with their normal efficiency coordinated by Dave Leach in addition to his EIHA liaison roles and trotting around the country with me to meetings. Thank you sir and lets get working on next season! That off ice team of Dan Oxley, William, Catherine, Keith, Glenn, Brendon and Ray have had to do without Matt Udall a bit this season as he has swapped effectively to the media team joining Paul Ludlow and Malcolm on announcing and filming with Kevin providing the in focus photos from Zamboni corner. Malcolms work is clearly not limited to just the physical filming which is arduous enough with all the equipment involved but also the technical issues behind it with the editing, streaming service management etc etc so thanks again Malcolm. Alan White’s match night direction seems to be falling to his new found passion for wacking pucks in the second break under the illusion of clearing the chuck a puck but he still manages to fit the more routine duties in so thanks for all your efforts.

The support team manage to break records year on year providing the essential funding that allows us to climb the leagues and eventually climb the tables. So thanks again for some more impressive shirt and programme designs and general artwork from Paul Windebank and suitable sales coordination and ordering from Jayne. Pretty well all the merchandise passes through the incredibly busy and organised hands of Paul and Steph whilst programmes, chuck a puck, 50:50 and shirt off the back seems to move smoothly between them, Lindsey, Tanya and a host of others who seamlessly move into place when one goes on holiday. And with Paul and Steph that is a lot of holidays! 🙂 Well done in that very active “shop”.

The 50:50 team have famously approached the £10,000 mark this season, thwarted only by the league being cancelled one game short. Mel has coordinated this magnificently just proving what great management it was by us putting her in charge even at a time when baby brain had her forgetting her own name 🙂 . Ably assisted by Claire, Graham Sarah, Tanya, Emma, and occasional help from others like Anthony and Jayne these guys have made our 50:50 probably the best one to win in the league. For Mel it’s just relaxation however since her major work is touting the pre-season shirt sales. Given Paul’s designs are great, selling them has to be a doddle right? Nope! It is hard work and she does so well!
That brings us to another area where the fans are exceptional for us every year. The own and loan sponsorships really help kick start the teams finances and this seasons efforts in selling pretty well every one of the 4 shirts was truly remarkable. But interest already this year suggests you will do it all over again and probably more. Thank you and we must find some way of getting them to you and getting photos with your players to remember the sponsorships by.

Charis and Tracey are almost fixtures opposite me on the front door providing the far more difficult cash and card sales despite wifi crashing and running out of change and till rolls. Tracey then greets you all taking season ticket, coach and any other event money that crops up during the season up in the VIP room. Thank you ladies.

Ellie assisted by Angie, and Billy providing the delivery muscle, have again provided a variety of excellent personalised items from her fund raising crafty creations range and more thanks to you guys for doing what you do for the team. We of course welcomed “Bruce” this year so a big thank you to him and we will be seeing a lot more of him next season.

The beauty of the support team is their willingness to switch roles and cover for those that are on holiday, like Paul and Steph again 🙂 Such as Bill providing support to the visiting team coach and Tanya who has done most things including coordinating the travelling coach when needed. And the on hand availability from people like Graham if the web needs extending and Al Gerrie when the ticketing system needs some work. Tanya again for coordinating the Man of the Match beers and of course thank you all for the sponsorship of those 26 sets of awards and apologies to next weekends sponsors 🙁

Our sponsors are steadily increasing and thanks to PIP lifts, Barking and Dagenham College, Mullis and Peake Solicitors, Paradise Wildlife Park, MOD Pizza, Specsavers, Kingpin Designs and of course Everyone Active and our media pals at Time FM and Romford Recorder for helping to spread the Raiders word. We will be needing more next season so any companies that want to engage get in touch.

Thanks to the best landlords in the Sport at Everyone Active where Tom, Chloe, Matt, Ben, Gareth, Reece and all their staff make really a difference. Having looked at that list, where’s Wanty? 🙂

And finally to those in the stands who have consistently travelled in huge numbers, sung at great volume, written lyrics with impressive talent and imagination and supported even lost causes. Your passion extends to your tweets, likes and instagram posts and all this love gets the word out to the masses. The infectious passion is no doubt what is bringing to the games an unprecedented number of new fans who are quickly becoming the next generation, the continuation of the species: Hockey nuts. It is a delight to be working alongside you, for you, for the team we are growing between us.

Enjoy your summer.

Keep safe and look after your loved ones.

The best is yet to come.

Has anyone got any spare toilet rolls? I bet Paul and Steph have, they are rarely in the country. 🙂

Copyright Raiders Ice Hockey 2018