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After a 25-year break, Great Britain returns to the elite international hockey arena – Hufvudstadsbladet

After a 25-year break, Great Britain returns to the elite international hockey arena – Hufvudstadsbladet

British supporters at the World Cup would like nothing more than for a stay at the highest level to be longer than a year.

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Photo: Lehtikova/Jussi Nokari

Half an hour before the match between Great Britain and Denmark. At the Stellarinan Stadium in Kosice there are already many British supporters waiting. Many gathered in the stands in the middle of the hall and it was there that we met Annette Petrie, chair of the Great Britain Supporter Club.

“We're about 500 members in the on-site group, but I estimate our total supporter base here at WC is around 700 people,” says Petrie, who comes from Old Windsor in Berkshire.

She is flanked by Leanne King, Emma Armitage, Rachel Paget, Anne Fotheringham, John Oakley from Sheffield and Ailsa Cordner from Basingstoke. They are dedicated hockey supporters in a country where football, rugby and cricket overshadow ice hockey.

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– The better things go for the national team, the more interest in ice hockey increases, but the problem is that many fans only think about their club and do not show any support for the national team. I think it's good to have media attention on the national team, but the national team doesn't get the attention it deserves, says Armitage.

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Ailsa Cordner, Annette Petrie, Emma Armitage and Leanne King believe ice hockey is becoming a bigger sport in the UK.Ailsa Cordner, Annette Petrie, Emma Armitage and Leanne King believe ice hockey is becoming a bigger sport in the UK.

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Photo: Letikova/Jussi Nokari

Elsa Cordner highlights the growing interest in ice hockey among children and young people in Great Britain.

– After we played in the World Cup in 1994, the British Ice Hockey Association started an annual tournament for juniors to discover their special talents. Initially there were six teams. The tournament now consists of 20 teams in four levels, ranging in age from 11 to 17, Cordner said. Cordner said all but three players on that team participated in the tournament.

– I think our junior national team, both girls and boys, is performing well, says Petrie.

Great in Sheffield

Hockey has a relatively large geographic reach in Great Britain, but Petrie points out that London is hockey's black spot.

-We will need a team in London. It would give hockey greater visibility and increase interest in sponsors.

Interest in Sheffield in ice hockey is high. There are quite a few teams in the area.

– We have a fairly long ice hockey tradition in Sheffield, which unites generations. “I'm especially happy that more kids are choosing hockey as their sport,” says Baggett.

Jake Oakley, Rachel Paget, Anne Fotheringham and John Oakley do not give up their favorites, despite the fact that sometimes the team goes on a losing streak.Jake Oakley, Rachel Paget, Anne Fotheringham and John Oakley do not give up their favorites, despite the fact that sometimes the team goes on a losing streak.

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Photo: Letikova/Jussi Nokari

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The British League has always had a reputation for being a league that few of their British players join who never made it to North America. An audience for avid gamers.

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– Of course there are many imported players in the league, but it is impossible to have a league only with players born in Great Britain. I believe we can create our own hockey league with just our players, but it will take 20 to 30 years, Petry says.

British fans are enjoying the World Cup. They were present in Budapest last year when Great Britain gained promotion.

-It's fun to be the “underdog.” Nothing is expected from us. For us, it's also important to have a good time and celebrate with supporters from other countries. “We've only had good experiences with pimples,” says King.

“Finnish fans like to drink beer, but they're decent with us,” says Paget.

Difficult toilet

John Oakley highlights the great atmosphere in the restroom, which he appreciates. The fact that the Britons appear to be underdogs for the tournament does not worry him.

We faced many strong competitors and it is difficult for us, but the players enjoy our support. They deserve it. You can't just stare blindly at the results, Oakley says.

Finland and Great Britain meet on Friday. Finland has never defeated Great Britain in an Ice Hockey World Cup in two head-to-head matches. In the 1951 Paris WC, the British beat Finland 6-3 and in the 1962 Colorado Springs WC 7-5.

– I would like to see our winning streak over Finland continue, but honestly I don't really believe it. Finland seems very strong, says Petri.

I got approval from Oakley.

– I am realistic. Finland is much better. It's your national sport, says Oakley.

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Jake Oakley, Rachel Paget, Anne Fotheringham and John Oakley hope the World Cup will one day be held in Great Britain.Jake Oakley, Rachel Paget, Anne Fotheringham and John Oakley hope the World Cup will one day be held in Great Britain.

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Photo: Letikova/Jussi Nokari

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Liam Kirk is the big poster name for British ice hockey.  He was drafted last year by the NHL club Arizona Coyotes.Liam Kirk is the big poster name for British ice hockey.  He was drafted last year by the NHL club Arizona Coyotes.

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Photo: Letikova/Jussi Nokari

facts

British ice hockey

There are 10,325 registered ice hockey players in Great Britain.

The British League, the elite ice hockey league, consists of 10 teams.

Great Britain won World Cup gold in 1936 in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. The tournament was also an Olympic tournament.

The last time Great Britain played in a World Cup at the highest level was in 1994. The team then lost all matches.

A legendary player in British ice hockey is Tony Hand, who played for 33 years at the highest level. It was indicated by more than 4000 points. Hand was drafted by the Edmonton Oilers in 1986, but never played there. Along with Colin Shields and Liam Kirk, he is one of three British-born players drafted by an NHL club.

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