SHEFFIELD, UK – The summer months often pass slowly for hockey fans. The usual mix of rumour, speculation and player announcements have been mixed with the hype for what is arguably the biggest hockey related charity event in the UK.
Since 2008 the UK Forums All-Stars has raised money for a number of charities thanks to one essential ingredient – an enthusiasm for the game.
This year it takes place at Ice Sheffield and already the chosen charities of Breast Cancer Care, dreams come true, Help for Heroes, Prostate Cancer UK, The Children’s Hospital Charity and St Luke’s Sheffield Hospice are benefitting from the committed fundraising of those players taking part.
The event starts (as all good charity events should) with a Race night and charity auction on Friday 26th July before the hockey starts the following afternoon for two days of action involving six teams.
“I think that the ability to play a sport that we all love, raise some money for charity and getting the chance to meet people you would not necessarily meet has a great appeal” said co-organiser Dave Grant, an avid Sheffield Steelers fan.
“Being in the summer, it’s ideal between the end of one season and the beginning of the next so gives everyone that hockey fix”
Indeed the event’s popularity stems from a love of hockey for all concerned and the beauty of it is the fun ethos that is shown by the background of those playing on the rosters.
“We have had players who have played up to EPL standard, but it’s mainly rec hockey players” explained Grant, whose team is raising cash for the Sheffield Children’s Hospital this year.
“Everyone who registers is reminded that we expect people to treat the weekend with the main elements of fun and friendship in mind, and on the whole it’s proved that it’s a good formula as people keep returning year after year – in fact someone who’s moved out to Dubai is coming back to play”
The name of the event incorporates the word Forums and this relates to those online debating sites that can infuriate clubs, massage or destroy the egos of players and probably most importantly, provide the ultimate procrastination tool for office workers with an interest in hockey.
For those reading this who are unfamiliar with your average UK hockey forum, you are probably a happier soul than those of us who regularly do, however with the non-stop surge of Facebook and Twitter, how relevant these tools are is under the spotlight.
“Looking at forums, they maybe are getting a bit dated but it’s still a good place to have a debate on plenty of aspects of the game itself and just general chit chat” said another participant in the All-Star weekend Geraint Walters.
“Some people go hell for leather and want blood for someone disagreeing with them but it’s what expected when there’s so many different opinions”
“Another thing is you can get more information from a fans forum than the actual team website itself. Plenty of fans are connected to people within the teams’ office and then they pass the info on to people online”
Walters is based in the city of Cardiff, Wales, a hockey hotbed that has high participation levels at junior, senior and recreational levels and the long-time Devils supporter helps run the immensely popular Inferno website.
Therefore it is little surprise that he is lacing them up in aid of Prostate Cancer UK.
“I played for a year or so as a kid growing up but it all started from skating on the streets” said Walters, who has been part of the organising team for the past three years for the All-Star event.
“A few mates played roller or ice hockey when younger so decided to book a 5 a side football court out for an hour or so and got some mates together so it all stemmed from that really”
“We played every weekend but nothing serious as there was no official team around us and the nearest was Cardiff. Being 14/15 and living 30 miles away, it was not ideal really with travel so kind of put that to bed to be honest”
“Another thing that stopped me playing was rugby; I had a good chance of getting a pro contract so the focus stayed there. Injuries crept in and that was it. I look back at it now and think, wish I kept playing”
“Maybe it is a bit late to get back involved now but the All-Stars is a great way to start and another positive is the money being raised by those involved so I’m glad to be back”
So whilst Walters is not a total novice, some of the participants are relatively shaky on their skates. This is of course all part of the appeal for those who spend the winter months putting the world to rights using a keyboard and now get the chance to try the sport for themselves.
“Some do get a shock when they get out there, but most see it as a challenge to emulate the people that they watch week in week out during the season” explained Grant.
“It does lead to some ‘bambi on ice’ moments, but that’s also one of the appeals of the weekend, because it’s not a serious tournament – anyone can participate and get involved”
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