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Ryde Arena – more than a physical loss

For over 22 years now, Ryde Arena has become like a second home to myself and many others. I learnt to skate from a young age and took part in ice galas. I attended my first ice hockey match age 6, knowing nothing about what an important role it would play in my life 20+ years later.

My whole family had season tickets, season after season. My father’s business also sponsored the Raiders for a time. We bought countless shirts of our favourite players at countless auctions, presented man of the match a number of times, endless hours of coach travel every Sunday all over the country to support our boys, year after year. My father even got a gold ice hockey boot ring with Raiders inscribed on for me, one of my favourite possessions.

Years passed and family life dissolved, I moved away and life plodded on. I returned to the island and once again our love of ice hockey and the Raiders was reignited. I also loved spending time with my dad again. This time however, I also bought my son along, age 6, and he instantly loved it and quickly took a rather fond liking of #18 Ryan Webb. 3 generations all caught by the magic of hockey. My son soon wanted to start hockey practice (in the summer of all times!), but yet I couldn’t wait to get him on there quick enough. Proud is an understatement. But yet as with all children at times he would become frustrated at not being able to just get on and be like a Raider whizzing all around the rink. I’d quite often hear ‘I quit' and look over to a sulky face but that never lasted for long. The coaches were fantastic and in particular, Justin.

One time my boy ‘quit’ he said he wanted to sit down. Justin promptly disappeared, only to return onto the ice and present him with a chair and told him to sit. His face was a picture of surprise and confusion! So he sat on the chair and Justin proceeded to do laps around the rink pushing his little lazy bum on this chair for about 5 minutes. Needless to say he loved every second of it, the tears had dried his infectious giggle had returned and he got up to try again. Thank you Justin for always encouraging him, you’re a great coach and even greater guy. My son has taken the closure of he rink much the same as everyone effected by AEWs actions. With confusion upset and loss. Every week he still asks me if he can go back to hockey practice and he still gets upset. Hell I’m upset! 22+ years gone, overnight. Just like that.

The closure of Ryde Arena has impacted individuals and groups on many different levels. It is more than a loss of a building, physical activity and fitness, teams and jobs. It is a loss of a community. It is a loss of an individual’s consistency (which some have very little and therefore plays a large part in their sense of self and well being). It is a loss of safety (for some). It is a loss of, perhaps, the only social activity that an individual has. A minimal 2.5 hours out of the house or usual routine of life every week for those who find it difficult to go out now don’t even have that. Can you imagine the psychological implications and effect on individuals general sense of well being? These are often underrepresented and underappreciated aspects of such a loss.

I speak here on behalf of all the individuals like myself who do have difficulties and illnesses on both sides of the rink, participants, players and spectators alike. I personally have a few illnesses which prevent me from maintaining a ‘normal’ life. I find it difficult to go to places independently and find almost all external situations uncomfortable and stressful. However, Ryde Arena was, for me, a ‘safe’ zone. It was in fact my only public safe zone. Somewhere I could go where I wasn’t afraid or uncomfortable. Somewhere familiar where I’d spent much of my time over my life. Somewhere where I wasn’t afraid to be around people. Unfortunately for some like me this is irreplaceable and there is no other place like it. With the loss of Ryde Arena, myself along with many others, have lost a very vital part of our lives, couple that with the limited social activities on the island, limited resources, accessibility and general dilapidation of social and community activities in the current economic climate and it appears a very bleak outlook.

So what are we left with? An empty building with an echo of silence ( which ironically has been given more maintenance by its owner since its closure than when it was open and in use). Teams without a home, a successful and long running ice hockey team, folded, fans with nowhere to go, individuals with no social or physical activity, children eager to be the next ice stars with nowhere to train, loss of future participation and removal of that opportunity for future generations. Ice sports require specialized sporting facilities, meaning those now left without a rink have no or very little alternative to carry on activities that mean so much. As a much underfunded, underrepresented and underpublicized sport within the UK already, it truly is a tragedy to loose this provision on an already sparse landscape here on the Isle of Wight.

The picture I have used is one of my all time favourite life memories. The stinging hands and the sore throats after an incredible cup final...and there is even 7 year old me in the background .

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