In 2018, the Great Britain male national ice hockey team were promoted to the highest pool of the World Championships.
With a record-high world ranking of 19, Michael Farn – head coach of the Streatham Redhawks – believes the team can help drive the sport into the public spotlight.
He said: “I think British ice hockey was arguably at the highest point it’s ever been.
“There have been peaks in the past but they secured top pool status in the national championships and avoided relegation, which is realistically the best they can hope for.
“We’re competing against Canada, America, Russia, Sweden – it’s their national sport. They have a much bigger pool of players and funding, so it is a massive achievement.”
Canada were going to use Streatham as their base to prepare for the tournament, but had to cancel due to the pandemic.
It’s a disappointing outcome that snatched a valuable experience from his team, but Farn is hopeful that the opportunity will come again.
He said: “Any chance you get to meet people of that standard, it’s going to have a benefit.
“It would’ve been a great experience for our young guys, so that’s another impact of COVID.
“When the National Championships are in Europe, Canada may still use us a base – anything you can learn, even if it’s a two minute conversation, would be a great experience.”
Farn, like many involved in British ice hockey, is impressed with the national team’s performances.
He hopes that domestic development won’t be derailed by the fact that the Elite League is suspended – unlike many other ice hockey leagues around Europe.
The Redhawks coach said: “The standard of the Elite League is as high as it has ever been, which filters down and helps to improve the quality of British ice hockey.
“We are one of the only countries in Europe who aren’t playing right now.
“Players haven’t been attracted to the country and the good Brits have gone abroad, so it could knock British ice hockey back three or four steps and we might have to rebuild again.”
For Farn, the development of hockey as a sport starts and ends with the availability to train on the ice.
It’s all about rink availability, and he sees no other way for ice hockey to develop within the UK.
He said: “I’ve had stints in other countries and you’re on the ice twice a day – you’re lucky as a junior if you get two hours a week in the UK.
“The rinks earn a lot of money from public skating, and ice hockey tends to get the slots at the most unsociable times.
“We just need to be able to get access, however that is – if it were an easy task, it would have been done by now.
“Unless we get more ice time available to the younger kids, it’s going to be tough for us to reach our maximum potential.”
The government recognised the sport in the Winter Survival Package, which granted £4 million to the Elite League.
When spectators can safely return, Farn hopes great numbers will marvel at the unique combination of physical traits on display.
He added: “A lot of the countries in Europe can operate on larger funding from the government because it’s more of a priority.
“Ice hockey in this country is further down the pecking order so we’re heavily reliant on people coming through the door.
“You don’t need to know all the rules to enjoy ice hockey – it’s down to the speed, skill, and physicality of the game which makes it entertaining.
“Once people have been once, they want to come back over and over.”
Featured image credit: Fusional Limited