NIHL News – Romford Raiders Find Salvation In Their Darkest Hour
A few weeks ago, a local story permeated the bubble of my ice hockey sub-conscious, a bubble that to my shame, is too often consumed by events across the Atlantic; the relentless drama of the NHL renders me powerless and I find myself craving the next playoff game, anxiously checking the clock every few minutes during the early hours of the morning, heart beating at a furious pace, the metaphorical kid waiting for Christmas day to arrive.
But this post does not concern the NHL, but seeks instead to bring light to British shadows. This post is the brief tale of Essex-based Romford Raiders, an ice hockey club racked by the turbulence of losing their home and who undertook a quest to find a solution; whose management in the end produced a miracle when it truly counted, who were able to bring a quiet joy to their fiercely loyal fan-base, a team who in the end, survived.
After Romford Ice Arena was sold by Havering Council to investors, the NIHL’s Raiders found themselves in an awful position, homeless, without a natural replacement rink in their borough and the team’s participation in the 2013/14 season plunged into a stormy cloud of uncertainty.
Despite the circumstances, with a steely determination, the team’s management sought out Lee Valley Ice Rink as a potential new home and began talks to set a deal in motion. In May, came the bleakest news so far for Romford’s supporters; the talks with Lee Valley had broken down over disagreements regarding the faceoff times offered and raised prices. The storm clouds had become a vicious mirage of thunder and lightning, flashing from every angle and striking in the dark.
The news was a hammer-blow to all with the Raiders in their heart. In the official press statement, the genuine emotion of those involved in trying to reach a deal was evident between every sombre line, as was the credible honesty in speaking to their fans, a facet compounded by an apology that struck me as the epitome of sincerity; “We’re really, really sorry we couldn’t keep the Raiders on the ice. It wasn’t for the want of trying”.
Try. The word is overused far too often to give credit to failure, to give substance to an effort that never warranted success in the first place. In this case, the word could not be more apt. There is no doubt in my mind, that the unyielding perseverance, the sacrifice and the dedication of those involved, from Havering Council, to the Lee Valley management, to the rink manager himself, is the reason that June 12th 2013 brought a surprise ending, good news.
The official release revealed that the Romford Raiders will be taking their place in the NIHL S1 for the 2013/14 season, playing their home games at the Lee Valley Ice Rink. The statement also highlighted the intention of the management to rename the team ‘London Raiders’, but retain both their logo and colour scheme.
As I read this conclusion to the gripping narrative, a curious bubbling began in the depths of my stomach and I couldn’t stop a smile from breaking my features. My empathy for their situation and my admiration for their desire to keep their wonderful club alive, to keep local ice-hockey in the community alive, has translated into an open support, one which makes me urge every fan of this wonderful sport, who lives in the surrounding area, and those from way across the Atlantic, to cheer on a team which deserves nothing but the brightest of futures.
Player-coach Danny Marshall may have a challenge on his hands, rebuilding his team for the season ahead, with the departures of top-scorer Juraj Huska and Ryan Giles to rivals Invicta Dynamos, along with Matt Turner heading to Chelmsford, but ultimately, this challenge pales in comparison to the epic ones already faced. The Romford Raiders may have lost their home, lost a few players, chosen to lose their name, but it seems they will never lose their spirit.