Friday, 25 March 2011

Bye Bye Vipers, hello the new Warriors ?

Ice Hockey doesn't usually get a lot of column inches  in the local  paper but it got a lot yesterday. 2 pages of linked articles

In 1980 I was in Canada and followed the Calgary Flames on TV and also went a couple of times, getting tickets from a work colleague. When we came back to the UK in 1981, I went along and watched my local team - Whitley Warriors. I could take  the children as well, and it didn't cost the earth, even with programme and junk food included. Whilst the standard of hockey wasn't North  American, it was a good 3 hours of entertainment on a sunday night at a reasonable price.  And I went to the Warriors vs Durham Wasps derby games. Hillheads Rink would be packed out ( even though Whitley usually lost, as I recall).   The other thing is that the kids went to ice skating lessons on a saturday morning. So paying to go to  Whitley Warriors games kept the whole thing afloat.  We were frequent irregular attenders. If the team were awful (happened a few times) , you just shrugged your shoulders and went home. I'd still had a reasonable night out with the kids.
Then along came  the ISL, a regional franchise arrangement with the intention  of modernising hockey and making it an attractive spectator sport in modern arenas. And in the North East Sir john Hall wanted ice hockey as part of the Sporting Club. Durham Wasps were bought and moved to Sunderland. Durham Ice rink subsequently closed (and a local sporting resource for kids and families closed).  In addition the Newcastle Arena was built , and Whitley Warriors senior team moved  there, with all the skating, junior and development teams still back at the Hillheads rink.  I went  to their first match in the Arena. A crowd of about 3000 as I recall . But after a few months, the SJH team , now Newcastle Cobras, replaced them and Whitley went back to Hillheads.
All these shenanigans were a real problem for a minority sport trying to establish itself. Many Whitley supporters didn't/wouldn't put money into SJH's enterprise and removing a core of several hundred supporters from Whitley Warriors meant that setup ran into financial problems as well.
So the hockey team in Newcastle struggled on going from owner to owner, and Whitley Warriors moved down the leagues to find. I've heard it described as  "if you don't pay the players, you don't have to charge the fans". The better players who can hold their own in UK hockey as professionals will move on and the team will be people playing for fun and individuals who need or want to stay in the Northeast.

So if there are no Vipers, some fans may drift back to Whitley, the finances will improve, they can start paying the players a bit more, the team will go back up the leagues and Ice Hockey in the North East may end up back on a sound financial footing ? It would be nice if some of the money also went on upgrading the facilities both for players and for fans.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

a bit less treacly

So I went to the cycling forum this evening. Billed to go on from 5.30 -6pm , looking at the plans/maps and then from 6pm to 8pm .In the end it finished at 830pm. Many new faces since the last time I went., although I did recognise someone from the Critical Mass ride on friday .

The longest discussion over agenda items was over the draft Cycling strategy document. Im sure ive looked at it in the past. Ive probably read most of it. Ive got an opinion about some of it. But really, thirtyfive minutes ?

And there is a bit of fuss about a road safety video produced by Newcastle Council, ghoststreet. There is a website with a video trailer . There is also a comment and some more information in the newcastle council cycling website.

The positive bits of the meeting :

  • there are plans to redesign the junction at the north end of the Redheugh bridge Looks as good as they can get in the circumstances. And the interesting bit was chatting to the City traffic engineers. For 30 years the philosophy of road planning has been to get as many cars through junctions and on their way as quickly as possible, and now its starting to change and the needs of other road users becomes important. The plans are a start in rebalancing the priorities.  It gives cyclists several options when getting from Scotswood Road to the city centre.  It doesn’t solve the problem of getting bikes across the river on the Redheugh bridge and then into town . There is still the option to 'mix it' with the traffic coming on and off the bridge. I don't think even I am brave enough to do that! 

  • They are sorting out the link from the North end of the Tyne Bridge to Pilgrim Street.

  • They are going to sort out cycle parking at Central Station, and bring it outside the barriers (good ) . I bet they end up putting it at the far end of the station miles from anywhere (bad), so it wont get used,