Cats go off ice at street hockey
5:30am Tuesday 17th June 2014 in By Michael Reeves, Deputy sports editor
MORE than 50 youngsters packed into the sports hall at the Link Centre over the weekend to enjoy a fun-filled day put on by Swindon Wildcats.
Children from as young as five were treated to a special day of street hockey by the community section of the EPL side where Wildcats star Aaron Nell and head coach Ryan Aldridge offered tips and advice.
The youngsters also got the opportunity to meet two of their Wildcats heroes on the day as they got to see Aldridge unveiled two of his latest signings for the new campaign - Shane Moore and Lee Richardson.
The homegrown duo also answered questions and signed autographs after they were presented to the youngsters.
Nell, who helped organise the event with the club’s marketing manager Sally Price, said: “It has been good, we didn’t really know what was going to happen and who was going to turn up.
“We have put something together so that people don’t forget about hockey over the summer.
“We wanted the kids to have fun, the junior programme is a massive part of our club.
“We are lucky in Swindon where we are all one - the Wildcats and the juniors - that doesn’t very often and we just want to give a little back.”
Nell, who will once again be leading the attack for Wildcats next season after signing a new deal with club has also taken on the role as the community officer, says that the club have one of the largest junior ice hockey sections in the country.
With around 200 members and up to eight teams for boys and girls ranging from under 10s to under 18s, the future is looking bright for the Link Centre club.
“The youngest we had on Saturday would have been five going all the way up 13 I guess,” Nell said.
“But we have four-years-old in our junior club now, they start at a young age and they really enjoy it and I guess one day they will want to play for the Wildcats.
“It is a lot of fun, people I know, who used to play for the Wildcats, you see their playing for the juniors and we are coaching them and it is really enjoyable.”
As well as the junior ice hockey section, Wildcats community programme reaches out to local schools in the area.
“The work that we have been doing in the community with the schools and the visits that we do is really starting to pay off,” Nell added.
“When I was younger, about 15 years ago, we had around 15 under 10s then, then 10 years ago we had 10, now we have around 40 and 50 so that is down to all the hard work we have done.
“We have between five and 10 sessions on the ice, the council will give us some free ice time where we will do skating.
“Kids that who have come through our schools programme or kids zone where we give them cheap tickets to raise money for the school.”
And Nell believes that the success of the EPL side is having a knock on effect with the youngsters.
“It has got better over the last few years,” he said. “You can see that they enjoy it when they come in on a Monday night.
“They have all got their Wildcats shirts on with Moore, Hoog and Kostal on the back.”