Matt Lannigan: How my local ice hockey team Whitley Bay Sharks gave me a start in the game

Posted on October 15, 2017

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I became interested in Ice Hockey in early 2015 when I went to my local ice rink with friends. As we skated round and round I thought I’d like a new sporting challenge.

I’ve tried Karate and Jitsu, Rugby and Football so I thought… why not learn Ice Hockey?

I got contact details from the rink’s reception and after speaking to my Mum I made contact with Chris, the manager of Whitley Bay Sharks.

He recommended I should go to the Puck Chase session and see the skills involved to help me decide if hockey was for me.

He also gave me some good websites for skating footage to know what to practice on. Finally, after telling me the Sharks team was full, he met with the others and gave me good news, I could join.

Screen Shot 2016-03-24 at 10.40.06I had nearly no skating ability. The team helped me through the basics, how to tie my boots and the roles of the coach and manager.

They also lent me lots of kit. All I needed initially was my own boots and helmet. The whole team were fantastic at trying to communicate with me. I never felt left out.

I was rubbish at first. I couldn’t stop, I was like a car with no brakes slowly coming to a halt. I went to puck chase when I could and the public skating sessions.

I went to train with the team every week, 12 midnight to 2 am every Friday night. My first team game, I couldn’t play because my skills were nowhere near good enough.Screen Shot 2016-03-24 at 10.37.56

Luckily, there was a girl watching who could sign and she explained things as the match went on, player positions, rules and how to avoid penalties. The Sharks won! I knew what I had to do to be good enough to get a game.

I pushed myself at every opportunity, training and observing and always improving. I’d feel really disappointed when I was unable to make training.

Hockey quickly became my passion. If I wasn’t playing, I’d be watching YouTube clips, watching drills and learning how to predict the puck.

My position is left side forward. I have to travel up and down the ice on the left of play, take control of the puck if it crosses the blue line, break through the defence when the opposition has the puck and make good passes.

Screen Shot 2016-03-24 at 10.38.03Over time I have bought my own equipment, padding and gloves, stick, playing tops etc.

At my first practice game I made lots of mistakes. I was always offside, over the line before the puck. My team mates were very patient and supportive. I did a lot of study and practice and now I understand what not to do.

Now my skills are so much better. I’ve come a long way but have still far to go.

My manager then told me I was ready to play in a proper game. I was so excited! I had to buy the shirts, home and away. I was given my player number, #69. (Haha, it’s only a number!)

The big day, first time against a real team in a real match. I was excited and nervous. When I went on the ice it was… Wow… I can’t describe it.

Then, seven minutes into the game, I scored the first goal of the game. I was ecstatic and my confidence soared. All my team congratulated me. I was really happy my mam was there to see it. She should’ve been in bed, it was 15 minutes past midnight after all!

I nearly scored again. I had a great time. At the end we all shook hands and stretched out our tired muscles.

The ref and managers were talking and then they announced who was man of the match. It was me! I couldn’t believe it. As a prize, I was given the match puck and a box of Bud larger which I shared with my team mates.

Screen Shot 2016-03-24 at 10.38.11

At home I thought what an amazing experience that was and I’m really proud of myself. It’s been a lot of hard work and determination took me from barely being able to skate to getting man of the match. Anyone can achieve their goals with hard work.

My next goal…. the next game of course!

Matt Lannigan is a profoundly Deaf BSL user. He was born in Sunderland but now lives in Newcastle. He is studying IT at Newcastle College and enjoys sport too, especially ice hockey, playing for the Sharks!

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