It’s shaping up to be a big summer for hockey in London.
This year’s Eurohockey Club Cup for women is being held in May at Surbiton. One month later, the Women’s World Cup is being stage at Lee Valley, the location for the London 2012 Olympic hockey tournament.
Hopes will be high among British fans that Team GB can add World Cup success to the 2014 Olympic gold in Rio.
But ahead of those two major tournaments came the Jaffa Super 6 Finals at the Copper Box Arena, a 7,500-seat indoor venue also built for the 2012 Games in Stratford.
Outdoor hockey is still on its winter break, but that doesn’t mean that the players are doing nothing.
The Jaffa Super 6s is an indoor hockey league for men and women’s teams. Each side has six players, and a game comprises of two 20-minute halves
The women’s final was between Bowton Hightown and Leicester, with the men’s showdown featuring East Grinstead and Team Bath Buccaneers.
Tickets were available for around £30, which seemed pretty pricey, but the doors opened at 9:45am and there were six games played during the day, so a fiver per match was reasonable.
My first impression upon walking into the Copper Box was how quiet it was. The arena was only half full and the fans were not cheering and shouting. Only when the announcer motivated the spectators did the volume start rising.
The crowd was a mix of schoolgirls, parents with young children and, noticeably, quite a few groups of middle-aged men. Hockey is generally perceived as a female sport so it was surprising to see groups of guys in the crowd.
The players from the eight teams competing that day were casually walking around the arena, talking to family or friends.
I only went for the two finals of the day and was a bit disappointed by the quality of the hockey on display.
First, the ladies final started slowly and the pave of play was not like normal indoor hockey games, with goals galore and plenty of penalty corners.
The ladies final ended in a 2-1 victory for Bowton Hightown; the scoreline tells you it wasn’t much of a spectacle.
However, thanks to their win, Bowton qualified for next season’s European indoor competition.
The men’s final was more exciting, with East Grinstead running out 4-2 winners.
The overall experience
One thing that really stood out was the sheer enthusiasm of the red-shirted volunteers. There were lots of them and they all knew what to do, creating a feeling that the event was very well organised.
They were all very excited and helpful. During the games some of them sat in the stands to watch, and it was good to see hockey lovers helping out at an event like this.
The volunteers were also advertising to sign up as a volunteer for the upcoming tournaments this summer.
But the best thing about the whole day was that there were players such Kate Richardson-Walsh, Helen Richardson-Walsh, Sam Quek and others from Team GB’s Olympic team in action.
Team GB goalkeeper Maddie Hinch was having her photo taken with kids next to the World Cup trophy. Nowadays you almost can’t imagine a sport where players who won Olympic gold can just walk around and are up for a chat, with no paparazzi or security.
They were just being ambassadors for their sport. It’s an easy way to get people interested in hockey, and so many boys and girls can now say they met their idols.
Let’s be honest, hockey is a minority sport and, and indoor hockey is even less popular. But there are so many good sides to it. Having a relaxed day out with the family. Seeing your favourite players for only £30, and you can even get to talk to them.
The Jaffa Super 6s was the perfect PR event to promote the EHCC and the World Cup. I think more people got excited for this summer.
Although the quality of the games were not that high, some of the best hockey players in the world were there, and it was a nice day out.