Ice rink closure would scupper national team plans
THE closure of Grimsby's ice rink would scupper plans to use it as the training HQ for the Great British Junior sledge hockey team.
It comes as a newly-formed sledge hockey club has joined the campaign to save Grimsby's ice rink from closure.
Sledge Hockey players 14-year-old Jamie Carter and Steve Baumber.
Led by paralympic sportsman Matt Lloyd, the North East Lincolnshire Sledge Hockey Club – which has similar rules to ice-hockey, but allows disabled and able-bodied players to compete on a level playing field – will be forced to close if plans to shut the rink go ahead.
The rink had also been earmarked for use as the national base of the Great British Junior team – but now those plans are also hanging in the balance.
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As reported, North East Lincolnshire Council, which has funded the first eight weeks of the sledge hockey club, has announced plans to close the rink at Grimsby Leisure Centre, as part of an £18-million revamp of leisure facilities across the borough.
And, while a new leisure centre will be built to replace the Cromwell Road site, there are no plans to relocate the ice rink.
Almost 2,000 people have signed the Grimsby Telegraph's online petition to keep the facility open, and now the sledge hockey players will add their names to the list.
Tom Ham, who is head coach for the Great British sledge hockey team, said that if the rink closes his plans to use is as training headquarters for the national junior team will be scuppered.
"Grimsby is one of the rinks we have been looking at to use for the junior team training," he said.
"An ice rink is such an important part of the community, because it allows people to access sports which aren't so easily available such as ice hockey, ice dancing and sledge hockey."
Matt, who has spina bifida and is chairman of the British Sledge Hockey Association, founded the club two months ago.
He said: "Sledge hockey gives disabled people the chance to compete on an a equal playing field with able bodied people.
"It provides a freedom for our members with disabilities such as cerebral palsy, spina bifida, dwarfism and learning disabilities.
"Without the ice rink, there would be nowhere for us to practice and the club would have to close.
"It is such an important sport for disabled people – I admit, I cried as one of the five-year-olds insisted on not being pushed but instead pushed himself from one end of the rink to the other, despite having cerebral palsy and really struggling to hold the sticks.
"I can honestly say that it was one of the sporting highlights of my life."
The club has 12 members, aged from five to 52 years old, who meet weekly for practice sessions.
Steve Baumber, 52, from Holton-le-Clay, and Jamie Carter, 14, from Binbrook, both have the potential to become paralympic stars.
Steve, who suffered a serious spinal injury, said: "My son plays ice hockey and I used to come and watch and wish there was a way I could play.
"I'm really enjoying learning sledge hockey and I will be upset if the rink closes because it is good for the area."
Jamie, who has cerebral palsy, added: "I enjoy how energetic it is and the freedom it gives me.
"It would be bad if the ice rink closes because a lot of people like coming here."
Sign the online petition at www.thisisgrimsby.co.uk/icerinkpetition