INLINE hockey is making its mark in north west Surrey, thanks to the exploits of the Avalanche club.
Based on the outskirts of Brookwood, Avalanche are fast becoming a hit with freestyle roller skaters, as well as more seasoned ice hockey players.
While inline hockey may not necessarily be on the tip of most people’s tongue, the sport is one of the fastest growing local sports.
Founded in the 1960s in Texas, USA, inline hockey is proving to be complimentary and an attractive alternative to field hockey and ice hockey disciplines in the UK.
Ashley Tombs, owner and head coach Avalanche at the Lord Roberts Centre in Brookwood, believes that inline puck hockey, which is non-contact, could become common place if more investment is forthcoming.
He said: “I used to watch Guildford Flames (ice hockey) when I was younger, but when I found out about Ash Avalanche, as it was known then, I became hooked on inline (hockey).
“Due to the limited number of inline rinks in the country, it doesn’t receive the same attention as other sports.
“However, Woking is lucky, as there are two dedicated venues within just a short drive of the town, so there’s plenty of opportunity to try it out,” he added.
Although the concept of inline hockey is akin to the common rules used in ice hockey, players use inline rollerblades on a hardened rubber surface instead of ice-skates.
Inline hockey is also a unisex sport and is played with four outfield players and one goaltender, which differs from ice hockey and field hockey teams that contain six and eleven players respectively.
“A lot of players that play inline have come from ice hockey, as opposed to the other way around,” explained Tombs.
“I’m a big believer that I can improve the performance of ice hockey players through playing inline, not least of all be able to hone their strength and skating abilities. After all, a lot of players who play ice hockey don’t experience full contact (body checking) until they’re 15 years old now.”
Since taking over at Ash Avalanche five years ago, Tombs morphed the old club into its new incarnation in 2017, which has seen the club grow exponentially.
Such is the rising popularity of the sport locally, Tombs is now working to a five-year goal for Avalanche to have its own purpose-built inline rink within Woking or a neighbouring borough by 2024.
For more information about Avalanche, please inquire via their Facebook page at https://en-gb.facebook.com/avalancheinline/
For the full story get the 4 April edition of the News & Mail