Ever heard of the Midland Mooseheads? Neither had we until the U16s team decided this year they mean business as they prepare to head out to Barcelona in March to show the world what Britain is made of in the roller hockey Sparta Cup Inline Hockey International Tournament
Niche Magazine and Rink Rat Hockey Wheels are proud sponsors of our local Leicestershire roller hockey team the U16s Midland Mooseheads.
Roller hockey is a fast and tenacious sport requiring not only skating skill but good hand eye coordination. It can ebb and flow at the pace of a rally at a Wimbledon final and the result can often transpire in the final seconds, keeping you on the edge of your seat until the very end.
The speed of the Mooseheads’ game play is adrenaline fueled and appeals to their fans with pucks travelling as fast as 70mph and players skating up to 30mph.
The Mooseheads came second at last year’s Sparta Cup to hard-core Spanish team Unbrokens. Moosehead Coach Neil Jepson said: “We need to put ours against the best and the Sparta Cup provides the playground to learn different styles of hockey.
“We lost last year to a very good Spanish side, they play very different systems and we have to learn to adapt quickly to the European style of play.”
The sport is played professionally and taken most seriously in North America, Czech Rebublic, Italy (current world champions), France and Spain. However, leagues are found as far afield as Hong Kong and Australia according to Neil, who is keen to gain a larger following for roller hockey in the UK.
“There is an appeal every four years to get roller hockey into the Olympics and we’re keen to promote the sport in any which way we can, which will only benefit the game, the players and the fans. We’re lucky to have the Midlands Roller Arena as our training facilities in Lutterworth,” Neil added.
Coach Geoff Baker said: “Roller hockey has historically been seen as Ice hockey’s younger brother; however, over the last decade it has come into its own and stands alone as a recognised sport with governing bodies both domestically and internationally.”
On home ground the team is undefeated winning consistently this season. With five league titles and four UK National championships under their belt. Part of the team have also achieved phenomenal feats at such a young age with players having recently traveled to China for last year’s FIRS World Roller Games, Nanjing, the next is hosted in Barcelona 2019. Three players have been accepted into the GB senior squad three years early and with all but their youngest player, the team are playing and competing well in BIPHA and GBHI Senior leagues.
This generation of British players are ahead of the learning curve. With 16-year-olds not just playing in senior leagues but out-performing players much older than them, many of whom have competed internationally.
Moosehead Manager Mike Winters explained: “The Sparta Cup is one of the top tournaments in the roller hockey calendar, so to do well in it would help improve our presence in both the domestic and continental [hockey] scene. Making the final last year has helped the kids to grow more in self-confidence and realise the value of teamwork. A real case of ‘believe and you can achieve’, you could say.
“Domestically, we are one of the top teams, some even say that we are the team to beat, but I think we're just that bit more consistent in what we do. Comparing us to the continental competition is a difficult one. We've certainly not as many fast skaters as our rivals, but we do work well as a team and as long as we can control the game, there is no reason why we shouldn't succeed.”
Mike, Neil and Geoff instil in the Moosehead U16’s that attitude and teamwork are the drivers for success whilst also teaching them leadership and life skills as their next challenge is to get to Barcelona and remain unrivalled.
Geoff added: “They are great players but what separates them from other players and other teams is their attitude both on and off the rink and that is what makes them so special."
On the teams most proud moments, Mike noted: “Among the contenders are; last season’s national final, where the guys kept their composure and managed to come from behind in the last few minutes and win, convincingly. And the semi-final at Sparta when the guys listened and followed the plan so well that the opposing team hardly touched the puck.”
The team aims to win worldwide proving that a British team can be taken seriously among the big players.
Openings to join, results and future game dates can be found on the Facebook page as well as sponsorship opportunities.