Rink Rush memories

Another look back five years by fellow Rink Rush team member, Ian Braisby

I’m sure you’ve all heard about what the Rink Rush is, what we did, how much we raised and perhaps even some of the anecdotes from the week on the road. But what did it mean to be involved? Well, speaking for myself….

When the idea was first suggested in early 2004, I was committed from day one. It’s not every day you get the chance to join good friends and do something original for charity – a charity that is particularly dear to me, having lost my mother to cancer aged 50 back in 1996.
One of the funny things people kept saying to us during and after the event was how hard work the week must have been for us. To be honest, I never saw it like that. Exhausting as it undoubtedly was, to me the week itself was almost a reward for the real hard work we put in over 15 months – planning the route, arranging transportation and accommodation, finding sponsorship, dealing with publicity and marketing and raising support from clubs and fans. After all of that, a big part of me was simply relieved when we climbed into the minibus that Sunday morning on Bolero Square.
Amid all the preparations, a couple of things stand out in my mind. Firstly, the call I received, as I reported to the rest of our team later that day, from “some guy called Rick Strang” on behalf of the London Racers, shortly after we had mailed all the clubs for the first time. The Racers were totally behind our idea, and wanted to make the game we visited a “Rink Rush night”, when the club would wear specially commissioned shirts that they would auction. This went beyond any support we ever expected to receive and gave us the confidence that the hockey community would actually come out and back our project. Secondly, there were my opportunities to be interviewed live on the radio. The first was for the BBC in Coventry – quite a gentle introduction that one, but the next was more nerve-wracking. The Racers had arranged a live interview on BBC London’s evening sports show. I did it from my car, in a pub car park just outside Lichfield. I think it went all right, at least I didn’t make a total idiot of myself on air, the presenters were nice enough to me and I managed to get in plenty of plugs for the Racers and their game on the Sunday when we would be visiting. When I sat in the Castle after a Panthers match and signed up to the Rink Rush idea, I never expected it to lead to me speaking live to the people of our capital just a year later, I can tell you that much.
So what about the actual seven days on the road? Obviously, being six blokes in a minibus we had a laugh. In fact, some of the incidents that occurred still have us in tears when we recall them over a beer or two. Somehow, the best one-liners always seemed to be saved up for when I was overtaking on the motorway and I just about managed to keep control of myself and a minibus at the same time. Overall, we got on well. There were no major arguments – people kept their niggles to themselves or made a joke out of them. And in case you are wondering, the six of us are still on speaking terms. As for the people we met on our travels, to be frank there were too many acts of generosity and support to mention, but I found that the unexpected ones were sometimes more moving than those that had been carefully planned for months. There is nothing quite like turning up at a little ice rink expecting nobody to have heard of you, only to find that someone has given up their time to come down and offer you their support (and of course a donation).
If I had to pick a few particularly memorable moments from a personal perspective, it would be these. Our welcome in London, and being on the ice to present the man of the match awards after the game, the fans who met us in Belfast, the people who waited patiently in the rain for our delayed arrival in Manchester, the Lossiemouth Jets turning out to greet us in Elgin, Rick Strang charging across the ice from the Racers bench after their game in Dundee shouting “Get off the ice, you goons!” at us, a photo shoot in the middle of the bowling alley that stands on the site of the old Durham rink and the party the Vipers fans had organised for us on the last night of the trip.
So what of our return to Nottingham, the culmination of our journey? Thankfully, we arrived back in enough time to shower and change before making our way down to the NIC for the game against Belfast. We then met up in the Hogshead pub in town before the six of us, accompanied by members of our families, walked down to the arena. As we made our way down the hill, we could see the welcoming committee in Bolero Square. I remember a mixture of feelings – elation, exhaustion, pride in what we’d achieved for the charity and the fact that we had actually made it. Later that evening, we collected money during the game and went on the ice for Calle Carlsson to present a shirt to us, but for me the Rink Rush really ended with that walk, and the families, friends and other hockey fans who were there to greet us.
Five years on, I still look back with a smile and a huge amount of satisfaction on those seven days and, most importantly, on the amount of money we raised for Cancer Research UK. Apart from the money and the fantastic experiences the six of us had that week, what the Rink Rush showed is that British ice hockey is full of thoroughly decent people who will put aside rivalries and pull out all the stops to support a worthy cause. Without them, we would just have been six fools dashing around the country in a minibus. With their help, we achieved something special, something I’m proud to have been a part of.


1 Response to “Rink Rush memories”

  1. 1 Werewolves of London Admin May 21, 2010 at 7:16 am

    Hi, I’m fundraising for a Special Needs Ice Hockey club based in Streatham (http://werewolvesoflondon.org.uk) who have been given the opportunity to host the Special Hockey International tournament in 2012. I’ve been considering a tour of UK rinks this coming season to raise awareness of Special Ice Hockey and gather support.

    I’ve read about your ‘Rink Rush’ and would very much like to get some direction on how you went about setting it up, how you approached the clubs and any things I may need to consider.
    M. (mike@fasteye.co.uk)

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