Happy 40th Birthday Peterborough Ice Hockey

“It went on too long and became tedious!”

On Sunday 23rd May 1982, the citizens of Peterborough were first introduced to the sport of ice hockey.

With the rink having opened in late 1981, individuals with an interest in playing and/or learning the sport had already started to reshape the new rink in readiness to play hockey, having started out scrimmaging with traffic cones as goalposts and with no lines on the ice and no netting to protect the cafeteria windows which proved a costly shortcoming in those early days.

The players happily set about painting the lines and players guesting from Cambridge University gave up their study time to weld together their first set of hockey goalposts but the big breakthrough came when the rink invited the evolving hockey set-up to take part in a big “ice gala” that would showcase ice sports in front of a crowd of many hundreds.

Pirates team manager, John Burke, was a former Streatham player so although the hockey season had finished, he immediately got in touch with his old rink and arranged for the Streatham second string side, the Bruins, to come up for the showcase game …… he even persuaded them to bring up some spare shirts as Pirates at that time were shirtless !

Each of the sports to be showcased were given a short slot for the gala but short slots didn’t really fit with hockey so they were allocated 45 minutes for a “non-regulation” game.

The event was always going to be a big crowd puller as the headliners were ice dance superstars Torvill and Dean who were ready to debut their new “Barnum” routine at the rink where they had been training since the start of the year. It would be fair to say that 90% of the 600+ present were there to see Torvill and Dean and were never going to be overly enthused by the bump and grind of a 45 minute hockey game. Certainly the local newspaper reporter was less than taken by the hockey slot, describing it both as “tedious” and “too long” which made it a good thing that it was only 45 minutes in total !

For the record, the game resulted in an 8-1 victory for the experienced visitors with Tony Hunter notching the first ever goal for the Pirates.

Whatever the success or otherwise of the gala debut, hockey in Peterborough had arrived and after a string of further unseasonal Summer friendlies, the team was ready for playing league hockey by the start of the 1982/83 season. The less than enamoured gala fans were very quickly replaced by in excess of 1,000 enthusiastic hockey fans before the year was out and, as they say, the rest is history !