ROMFORD, UK – It has been an anxious summer for reigning ENL South League champions Romford Raiders, with doubts over the future of their rink highlighted. Alternate Captain Jason Buckman speaks to Pro Hockey News.
After an excellent league championship campaign in 2011/12 that saw Danny Marshall’s team beat bitter rivals Chelmsford Chieftains to silverware by the slender margin of two points, the announcement that the rink at Rom Valley Way could only stay open for one more season was a worrying development for Raiders fans and management alike.
Thankfully, subsequently released information revealed the chance of a temporary alternative as early as 2013/14, but with the finer details yet to be finalised there is a slight shadow over this hockey stronghold in the London Borough of Havering.
“I don’t think it affects the players at the moment” admitted 33 year old Buckman.
“But maybe when next summer comes around, and if nothing has been agreed then guys may start to worry and look elsewhere. Personally I think a temporary home will be agreed long before then and the team will enter the league in 2013/2014”
This coming September will mark 25 years since Romford first took to the ice. Well known for their partisan home crowd and an appetite for hard hitting hockey, the Rom Valley Way faithful always make the building a tough place for opposition teams to play at.
It is the fourth consecutive season the Peterborough born Buckman has lined up in the blue and gold colours of Romford, after first joining the club for the 2009/10 season, a campaign in which the Raiders struggled in the high budget English Premier League.
A subsequent drop to the English National League followed, and Buckman was one of a number of players to stick with the club.
“I don’t think anybody would have guessed I would still be here, when I first signed three years ago” admitted the defenseman, who still resides in his hometown.
“I’ve enjoyed every minute of my time here and have made a lot of friends within the Raiders organisation and Romford itself. I travel down each week with Julian Smith and now Shaun Yardley”
“To be honest it’s probably up there with any other Peterborough team I have played on in terms of team spirit”
“I know quite a few people are probably writing us off this coming season because we haven’t changed the squad that much, but even over the years in Peterborough, a lot of the success came from a very strong team unit and chemistry amongst players that returned year on year”
“I think Marshall is confident in the direction he wants the team to go, and having the same core of guys feeling the same way can only be a good thing”
Indeed a number of the Raiders potential title rivals for the 2012/13 have shuffled their rosters around for the rebranded ENL competion now known as the NIHL. Chelmsford, Invicta and Wightlink have all added a number of new players to their squad, with some signings pointing towards an effort to combat the aggressive nature of Romford’s line up.
“I think winning the league last year was massive as it shows a level of achievement over the course of the season, and the boys worked so hard as a team to get into that position” admitted Buckman, who iced in 36 of the regular season games.
“Obviously it was very disappointing losing out on the play-offs the way we did, but Chelmsford were the better team when it came down to the two legs”
“I think it will be a very tough year again, not just for us as league champs but also for all teams that have got stronger over the summer. With big changes comes big expectation, so I’m sure we will see all top half teams beating each other at some point”
On a personal level, Buckman has had quite an eventful career, and not many players can point to an Elite League finals weekend playing for the Nottingham Panthers on their resume, along with a fair bit of silverware with Peterborough Phantoms over the years.
At 33, the left hander, who can also play as a winger, is one of the older players on the Raiders roster but maintains his enthusiasm for the game is still as strong as ever.
“I am not quite sure where my enthusiasm comes from to be honest” explained Buckman, whose cousin Lewis Buckman was also a popular player in Peterborough.
“It’s something I have always had from a young age, I think once you lose interest or love for the sport, it would be time to call it a day. All the time there is opportunity to compete and win; there will always be enthusiasm and desire”
“I have a lot of great memories from the game that I will remember for a long time such as skating out in front of 7500 fans alongside Lewis for Nottingham, and although we lost, that was a weekend I certainly won’t forget”
“Definitely the other ones that stick out the most are the trophies in Peterborough, particularly the double winning year, and the success we had last year in Romford”
With the season opener just a few weeks away against Streatham, the Raiders have announced most of their roster already, with new faces including highly rated netminders Shane Kemp and Charlie Kaylor, gritty defenseman Ryan Giles from Invicta, and most pleasingly the return of long term injury victim, and top prospect Frankie Harvey to the squad.
Whilst the squad may have an edge about it thanks to players like Andrius Kaminskas, JJ McGrath, Billy Phillips and Tom Davis, it also has finesse and no shortage of flair with the likes of Matty Turner and AJ Smith both returning to the fray, along with Slovak sniper Juraj Huska.
There is no doubt that Romford will be challenging for the title again in front of their passionate fans, however some might wonder if Buckman could squeeze his younger cousin into the car for his journey down the A1 and A12 to lace up the skates again.
“He (Lewis) had a couple years completely away from the sport with his young family, but in the meantime he also took his coaching grades and has helped with the junior development in Peterborough” explained Jason of his 29 year old family member.
“I did try and persuade him last summer and he actually spoke with Marshall also, but in the end decided not to play. He currently is now involved in the coaching setup as an assistant to Jon Kynaston of the Phantoms so hopefully he will have a good year”
Romford Raiders face off the 2012/13 NIHL season with a home league fixture against Streatham Redskins on Sunday 2nd September at Rom Valley Way.
Ticket details are available on the Raiders Official website and any fans wishing to get an inside track on the Raiders may like to follow Jason Buckman on his Official Twitter feed @BUCKMAN19 and of course you can follow Pro Hockey News for great hockey related Tweets.
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