On Tuesday night, I checked in with the St Andrews Ice Hockey Club (the Typhoons) and shadowed them through a typical training session. When interviewing their Club President (James Matons), and team Captains (Chase McCarthy and Duncan Hindmarch) it struck me how passionate this group of students are for their sport. The setting speaks for itself: the interview took place on the back of the team bus at 10 pm on the way to an 11 pm practice. Clearly these are not fair weather players. James explained that the previous week the squad had travelled an almost 12-hour round journey in order to play a fixture in Manchester. The club is entirely student-led. Chase and Duncan lead the training sessions, and all logistics are run by the club members, whether that be transport by members of the committee, or water by Nick Falicia (“water boy”). Everyone in the club clearly puts in a heroic effort on and off the pitch in order to play their sport in St Andrews.
Upon arrival at the rink and chatting to other members of the team in the locker room, it is evident that like most things in St Andrews the Ice Hockey Club is international; players coming from Europe, Canada, America, and even Asia. Equally, the hockey league in which they play is not run by BUCS. This means that anyone associated with the university can play, even if they are no longer a student. For example, club member, Jed, amazingly comes from work to 11 pm training and still manages to have the energy to glide past many youthful undergraduates. Rumour has it that other clubs around the UK have pushed this rule to the limits. Apparently one club has a player registered with a birth date in the 1960s. It is also not uncommon for the Typhoons to come up against a professor on the ice. On ice, the Typhoons do the educating. James informed me that the club is also open to other universities which do not have an ice hockey team, such as Dundee and Aberdeen. There are British members of the club, such as Nathan Frankel. Chase and James have reinforced that rank novices have been in the club and are always welcome.
An ice hockey training session is a spectacle in itself. The session began with Chase leading the group through the plan for the evening. Chase did his best Jackson Pollock impression with a dry erase marker as he spread visual representations of session drills across the transparent boards that surround an ice hockey rink. When the drills began, It was evident that there is no dispute: ice hockey is the highest tempo sport at St Andrews. Players whizzed around the court, the goal tenders were constantly being put through their paces, and Nick Falicia’s water was soon drunk dry. As the training progressed the training became more match-related. Naturally as the number of players on a team grows larger the need for communication is key. This quickly exposed the strong Canadian cohort in the side. The shouting of the stereotypically Canadian sound “Eh” grew as the session moved on. I saw my first ever slap shot, hit with pace that a field hockey player could only dream of. It was also great to see the impressive ability of the freshers in the side, Quinn Stevens and Nathan Frankel both looked very impressive in the shooting drills. Further, whilst Nick Falicia may have the designated the duty of water boy, his true talents clearly lie on the rink, as he constantly made agile runs. The future of Typhoon ice hockey is clearly bright.
The final part of the session was a four vs four game with subs. Ice Hockey, unlike most sports, has a system of rolling subs — players are subbed on and off the rink whilst the game is still in play. Sitting next to the players during the game you get to experience a very active version of musical chairs, as players get up from the bench and vault over the boards on to the ice. When a player scores for a team, the players proceed to kick the boards, giving the goal scorer an aggressive sense of approval and congratulation. I am not sure which team won the match but it was an exciting contest, so I am going to say the observer was the winner. If the players were not exhausted enough, they finished the session with icy shuttle runs; hardcore indeed.
Whilst the St Andrews Ice hockey team have to deal with incredibly anti-social hours in order to pursue their sport, it is perhaps important to highlight the privileges: namely, McDonald’s. To conclude the training session, as all good athletes do, we treated ourselves to well-earned (in the hockey team’s case) McFlurries.
When we arrived back in St Andrews the overriding message I got from the Ice Hockey Club, apart from their very strong hockey ability, was how tightly knit a group they are. Like most teams they go out and socialise as a group on a Wednesday, when they create a multi-cultural evening of American college games and beers and curry at Maisha. However, the way they train in late evening, and take long journeys together clearly has created an invisible bond within the group. They even have a special bond with their coach driver, D Bear, who has and wears a Typhoon jersey to take them to their fixtures. During the interview James spoke of how once players join the club they very rarely leave. Most freshers are a part of the club for the rest of their St Andrews stay.
The Club maintains the legacy their founders worked so hard to create. Perhaps most telling is their devotion to remembering the legacy of founding club member, Jonny Wookey who tragically died in 2012. Each spring the club hosts a fixture against Edinburgh Eagles (Edinburgh University’s ice hockey team.) James described it as the biggest fixture of their season with normal attendance of over 1,000 supporters.
It was a great night getting to know the Ice Hockey team, The Wookey Match is an event not to be missed, and captures everything that is great about the Typhoons, both on and off the pitch. Everyone should make sure to get tickets. It will take place this spring.
If interested in joining the hockey club as a player or a member please contact their email: email@example.com.