Bruno Reynell previews the upcoming fixture between the UCL Yetis and the Imperial Devils.
Ice hockey is often billed as the fastest sport on earth. It’s certainly true that watching skaters fly over 200 feet of ice in a matter of seconds is mesmerising, but there’s so much more to it than that.
You need stamina, skill, strength, concentration, determination, all while maintaining your balance on skate blades 3mm wide. Added to this, every ice hockey player needs an element of grit when taking to the ice. Everyone knows about the fights that the sport is famous for, but being able to dish out and withstand repeated, bone-crunching hits also requires no shortage of toughness. Oh, and being hit by a puck made of vulcanised rubber travelling at serious velocity is no fun either.
All these elements combine to make it an incredibly challenging sport to play for any new player. However, it does, at the same time, make it the ultimate spectator sport, and next week comes a chance to watch around forty players from two teams make all of the above look easy.
The occasion in question is Ice Varsity, the annual showdown between the UCL Yetis and the Imperial Devils. With King’s College London not having an ice hockey team, it is Imperial College London who have grown to become UCL’s fiercist rivals, with the yearly contest becoming ever more intense.
This year’s Ice Varsity will be held on Friday 1st March at Streatham Ice Arena. Streatham is London’s only Olympic-sized rink, and the size of the stands means that is always a cauldron of noise – each year, over 800 spectators cram into the arena for the match.
The white-hot atmosphere produced by the spectators is always fuelled by the antics on the ice. Last year’s Ice Varsity was a particularly violent affair, with over 51 penalty minutes chalked up between the two sides. This year looks to be an equally bruising encounter with UCL captain Alex Jekabson (who tops this year’s division in penalty minutes, with 36 in just five games) leading the way.
Seasoned players including Adam Weiss, Ildar Safin and Umar Saleem mean that UCL’s roster has plenty of Varsity experience heading into next Friday’s match. However, there’s also plenty of exciting fresh talent on the team. New goaltender Tory Yoon boasts one of the league’s top save percentages and his performance will be a key factor in the result. Equally, fellow first-year Axel Rönnholm has impressed with his composure on the puck and provides genuine goal scoring threat from defense.
Imperial themselves come into the game with a much strengthened team, and with wins in the last two Varsity games, will be a considerable force.
With two stacked teams, this is a real opportunity to watch ice hockey as it’s meant to be; with beer, hotdogs, goals, hits, fights, not to mention figure skating performances from UCL Frostbite and Imperial Angels, in front of a packed out arena. It’s always a fantastic evening and a great way to whet the appetite before Varsity season begins.
Ice Varsity 2019 takes place on Friday 1st March. Tickets are now on sale – the early bird price of just £5 for students is available through the UCL Union Website. For more information, visit the Facebook Event Page or the UCL Ice Club Website.