Rob Walker – Jan 2018

“The return to Saturday night hockey HAS affected attendances as Sunday IS hockey night”

So tell us how and when you first got involved with Peterborough hockey and what it was that got you hooked.

“Came along to the second ever game against Nottingham Trojans (June 1982). I had always enjoyed watching hockey on TV in the Olympics and, back in the day, on Grandstand in the 1960s so thought why not have a look ! I’ve been hooked ever since and have missed very, very few home games.”

…… and who were the first players that grabbed your attention and made an impression ?

“First players to make an impression were, obviously, John Lawless and Rob Carnegie who really stood out as being much better than the rest of our players.”

You’ve seen a hell of a lot of players so appreciate this isn’t easy but who, for you, were the players who you look back on as being the best whether that be most skilled, most exciting, best character, etc or all of those ?

“Doug McEwen – his skating ability, IMO, was second to none. Randy Smith – exceptional, one of THE best to play here. As far as characters go there have been numerous but Jesse Hammill and Junji Sakata spring to mind for different reasons. Jesse WAS a big character who could and would look after himself and his teammates. Junji, ‘chocolate muffin man’ – enough said – always had a smile on his face !”

What about those truly great nights at Bretton, you must have seen some real belters !

“Beating Team Canada, the Telford promotion/relegation play off game, being (I think) 6-1 down to Durham in the Autumn Cup waaay back and coming back to draw. A draw against Cardiff Devils – was a midweek game IIRC and the atmosphere when we came back was unbelievable !

Away from Bretton, there was the Wembley final – what an experience – and, of course, more recently there was THE treble winning play off final at Coventry !”

Having been a loyal fan of both Pirates and the Phantoms, how did you feel in 2002 when it became clear it really WAS over for Pirates and how did you deal with the transformation to Phantoms ?

“We didn’t really have a choice – it was drop down or no hockey so it WAS the ONLY decision that could be made as hockey was, for whatever reason(s), unsustainable at the level Pirates were then at.”

…… and, dare I ask, how do you feel about this season’s transformation to NIHL hockey and how do you think it is going for the club ?

“In general, the hockey has been of a poor standard, with a few exceptions, usually against the Ex-EPL teams. The team haven’t needed to play to their potential in many games but at times have struggled against teams they should be blowing away. The league doesn’t appear to be very well run to say the least ! Having said that, again, we had no real choice if we wanted to keep hockey in Peterborough.

The return to Saturday night hockey HAS affected attendances as Sunday IS hockey night. Whether that is a league problem or one Phantoms brought on themselves, I don’t know but I much prefer Sunday hockey.”

If you could change one thing about Phantoms match nights to add real extra enjoyment, what would it be ?

“This is THE question and one that I don’t know the answer to. Better (higher standard) hockey, better facilities (new rink) would help but both are out of Phantoms hands really.”

…… and what about the ongoing challenge of how to bring in new fans ? What do you think needs to be done to put more bums on seats here ?

“Difficult to ‘sell’ at the standard we are at now. When hockey first started it was new to almost everyone and almost everyone went at some point. It is the same apathy with sport in Peterborough in general. Even when Posh do well the attendances stay the same and its similar with Phantoms. You have the ‘hardcore’ of fans with the numbers not really increasing whatever happens. Some come for a season when we are doing well but keeping them is a problem.”

Armed with your can of graffiti paint, what slogan would you spray on the wall of the rink for all match night fans to see on arrival ?

“Good teams become great when I is replaced by WE.”

Thanks Rob !