Did ice hockey originate from hurling in Ireland? This topic has fuelled numerous heated debates throughout the years with a widely held belief that hurling influenced the creation of the game of ice hockey. Imagine then that The Republic of Ireland is the only European county without a permanent ice rink. Given this, it does not stop a dedicated bunch of junior and senior female players from playing and promoting the sport of ice hockey in Ireland. How you may ask.
Well they utilise commercial temporary ice rinks which are usually the size of a defence zone for a period of 6-8 weeks in the winter. As there is no dedicated female league they participate in mixed teams. Outside of these pop up rinks it is a combination of inline training and travel to Belfast to avail of ice time when it becomes available. Ice times are extremely limited however this does not deter these dedicated Irish female players. With 3 junior clubs and 5 senior clubs in Ireland the sport of Ice Hockey is consistently growing in popularity, this is evident with the number of new players joining the junior teams over the last 2 seasons.
The Dublin based Flying Ducks Ice Hockey Club was founded 6 years ago and now have over 120 members aged 4 to 50. 22 of these members are female players and 18 of these are junior players from all types of backgrounds and abilities. The Flying Ducks are the only junior ice hockey club in Dublin and their aim to provide the opportunity for any kid to play the game of ice hockey. They do this by providing a Learn to Play Programme with the availability of equipment rental to aid in reducing the cost to parents. The club actively participate in the IIHF girl’s/women’s hockey initiatives actively promoting the opportunity for girls to join and play for the team.
The misconception with young girls when it comes to Ice Hockey is that it is a rough sport not often associated with female players, mainly this is due to watching the professional leagues on TV. They quickly realise that that is not the case and that this skill based sport is both enjoyable and rewarding. All girls in the club are fully accepted as equals by the boys and 3 of our female junior players are mentors to younger and new players which has encouraged the growth in popularity with new female players.
All of this is achieved with no government funding! All equipment, travel, ice time costs, courses at a club and national level are paid for by parents or through good old fashioned fundraising. This as you can imagine is a constant struggle as Ice Hockey is viewed as a niche sport in Ireland, which limits the availability of corporate sponsorship.
The achievements of a number of the junior Flying Ducks players is something that the Club are extremely proud of. The junior and senior team compete regularly against other Irish teams based in Kilkenny, Cork and Belfast. 28 of the Flying Ducks Juniors have progressed to play for their Country with the Irish Ice Hockey Association development programmes ‘The IIHA Saints’, 5 of these were female players. As with club level this development programme is limited in the amount of ice training they can avail of. The passion of these players cannot be dampened and that was evident when they travelled to Iceland, Boston, Toronto and UK last season. The U14s team were undefeated on their Iceland tour and the U10s came away the overall winners of the Godiva Cup in Coventry, UK.
So how are these players going progress on their journey with ice hockey? Simple, they go where the ice is.
The Flying Duck’s Junior Team has been very fortunate to have been invited to march in the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Montreal by the United Irish Societies of Montreal on 19th March 2017. They are embarking on a 9 day trip where the objective is to provide the 23 players including 7 female players travelling with as much ice time and ice hockey exposure as possible. The club were very fortunate to receive a very kind offer from the Somang Hockey Academy and their parents in Terrabone to host our players with their families. Using Terrabone as their base they will be taking part in a number of training sessions, showcase games and civic activities in Terrabone and Montreal. The majority of the players travelling will get to see their first ever NHL game on the trip when they attend the Canadiens v Hurricanes game on the 23rd March. This trip will obviously costs a lot of money and the club have been tackling the tough job of fundraising for this major trip throughout the season for transport, ice costs, uniforms etc.
The club hopes to raise awareness of Irish Ice Hockey and the need for facilities, funding and equipment whilst in Canada and will operate a strong social media presence before, throughout and after the trip. Keep an eye out for their posts and help out these dedicated kids if you can. You can donate through their website at www.flyingducks.ie or you can contact the team at firstname.lastname@example.org