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LETTER FROM SHEFFIELD
The owner of a totally imaginary hockey team writes (part 4)
(intercepted by Big Al for Thunderflash)

Dear Ice Hockey fans of Yorkshire

Well, I must start by saying how pleased I am that the team-building is going so well! At the time of writing we have 7 men, which is a great improvement on the situation when I last wrote to you all. Our new players are already settling down in their caravans at the Hope Valley Caravan Park and the owner assures me that his lawns have never looked so well-trimmed. Those nice people at the ISL have allowed us to postpone this weekend’s matches to allow more time to recruit a team, although with our first match looming and a long way still to go may I once again repeat our plea for all fans with any playing experience to bring their kit to the first game.

But there is one small cloud on the horizon. Mr Idleballs keeps telling me that seven men isn’t enough for a "bench clearance". I’m not sure exactly what one of these is but I understand that it’s a tactic that Mr Idleballs favours. I hope we will soon have enough men to meet his tactical requirements, whatever they might be. Of course I can’t give too much away on these pages as others teams may be reading, but we do hope to have enough players to allow Mr Idleballs as many bench clearances as he wants. I’m looking forward to seeing one and finding out what it actually involves, and other members of the Forgers’ management team assure me that the season won’t be very old before I find out. My good lady wife is also looking forward to her first game of ice hockey and has already knitted us woolly hats in the Forgers’ colours with the wonderful blazing crucible logo that Sammsy has designed.

On the matter of ice hockey terminology, after several letters and e-mails on the subject I must apologise for my use of the term "kick-off" to describe the beginning of a match, which I am now informed is actually called a "face-off". I have requested a meeting with Mr Idleballs’ assistant, Brant Bicker, to instruct me in the rules and terms of the sport. As a keen sports follower and long-time football fan I am sure that I will soon be able to pick up the differences, and look forward to finding out how such rules as throw-ins, free-kicks, goal-kicks and handball are applied in ice hockey.

I am also please to announce the arrival of another member of the Forgers’ off-ice team. I am sure you will all welcome Ms. Sharon Rud in her new role as Commercial Manager. Sharon’s job will be to bring in even more sponsorship than we currently have and to promote the Forgers within the local community. Sharon has already brought in her first sponsorship success, and I must say it came as quite a surprise to find that there is still a Lada dealership in the United Kingdom. However, this solves the problem of cars for our players, and all may feel comforted by the fact that the cars will not be targeted by thieves or joy-riders. In fact I have been assured that it is physically impossible to joy-ride in a Lada. This does of course mean that we no longer require the services of Kwiky Kabs of Rotherham, and we must thank them for their generous contribution to the season so far.

And to stay with the ladies for now, you can’t keep a good nun down! Sister Mary Assumpta of the Grit Road Convent School is still very keen to keep her girls involved with the Forgers, and her latest offer is that the young ladies of the hockey team become the Forgers’ Cheerleaders. As Grit Road have recently staged a production of "The Sound of Music", Sister Mary is already working with Sammsy on some new versions of favourites from the show, such as "The Hills Are Alive with Ivan Matulik", "How Do You Solve a Problem Like Moria?" and my own personal choice, "My Favourite Things", which I hope the fans will sing along to -

"Sell-out arenas with no-one to hate us
Generous sponsors, a bench full of skaters
Netminders, D-Men, some centres and wings
These are a few of my favourite things."

We will be publishing the full words in the first match programme, so please sing along at every game.

Sponsorship news - Mrs Eckersall is looking forward to hosting the shirt-signing session after the first home game (whenever that might be) and has told me that she will be baking an extra batch of Meat and Potato Crusties to cope with the demand. She also tells me that anyone who turns up at her shop with a match ticket or programme will be entitled to extra gravy. I look forward to seeing you all there.

Many thanks to all our sponsors; Mrs Eckersall's Pie and Peas Shop, the Cheerleaders of the Grit Road Convent School, Kwiky Kabs of Rotherham (for the last time), my nephew Kevin, the Gas Lane Garden Centre, Ron's DIY, the Hope Valley Caravan Park and Ladas of Sheffield.