A sport fighting for its very future

A vintage photo of the Glenrothes Grizzlies in the sport's heyday.
A vintage photo of the Glenrothes Grizzlies in the sport's heyday.

Twenty years of taking kids off the streets and getting them active and involved in sport is about to be wiped away in an instant if Fife Council doesn’t put right this fiasco.

That’s the damning view of one of the stalwarts of roller hockey in Fife, Trish Dingwall, who told the Press the local authority’s attitude to those involved in the game has been nothing short of disgraceful for far too long.

Torbain Tiger from Kirkcaldy a just one of the teams left with nowhere to play or train.

Torbain Tiger from Kirkcaldy a just one of the teams left with nowhere to play or train.

And having been involved in Fife’s roller hockey scene for over two decades, she’s ideally placed to know the latest revelation, that the council is facing a £120,000 repair bill to the indoor court at Kirkcaldy Leisure Centre, could spell the end for the sport she loves.

“I’m incensed over what the council has done. I can’t find the words to describe how I and many others feel.

“We’ve been taking kids off the streets, giving them a healthy outlet and a great sport to get involved in for years, but I don’t think the local authority has ever really seen a value in that, and that sticks in the throat.” she explained.

“It’s a fast paced and dynamic sport that captures the attention of the youngsters and that should be a sure fire winner for the council as it keeps kids safe and helps tackle the growing worry of child obesity rates.

Rothes Raiders were just one of a number of roller hockey teams that sprung up in the 1990s.

Rothes Raiders were just one of a number of roller hockey teams that sprung up in the 1990s.

“The sport was growing rapidly but a series of forced moves and broken promises on the part of the Fife authority has knocked roller hockey back every time.

“This latest fiasco could really sound the death knell and that is a tragic thing to contemplate.

“The real frustration is that we provided council officers with the information on what floor would be suitable. The one we priced had a 12 year guarantee.

“And what did we get? A substandard floor that now has to be ripped up and relaid at a cost of tens of thousands of £s to the taxpayer, you couldn’t make it up.”

Starting with just a handful of players in 1998, roller hockey in and around the Kirkcaldy and Glenrothes areas quickly blossomed with many teams of all age groups springing up.

Torbain Tigers, Benarty Blackhawks, Glenrothes Gladiators, Kirkcaldy Knights, St Andrews Scorpions, Glenrothes Grizzlies, The Rothes Raiders and many more were formed, making Fife a hotbed for the sport.

Leagues were set up, teams from further afield took an interest and the quality of the game quickly improved.

“We had teams travelling to Bisley, Rotherham, Hartlepool, Glasgow and Dundee, taking on and beating more established teams, the sport in Fife was really on the up.”

But Trish said that when the offer of a free warehouse venue had to be turned down because the local authority couldn’t support the sport, it proved a huge blow for those involved.

“The vision we had was based on a similar set up in Rotherham that attracted hundreds of youngsters and has remained successful to this day, but council officers couldn’t see the potential and the interest, and they never really have.

“The real sadness in all of this is that many of the teams sprung up from the deprived communities.

“We gave them a safe environment in which to play sport and that has been lost.

“There was and still is a strong spirit and camaraderie which the council can preserve but only if they want to.

“If they force the teams to move to Cowdenbeath I can’t see it continuing and that is very sad.”

Roller hockey was also the starting point for a number of ice hockey players, including Josh Scoon.

The Kirkcaldy born Fife Flyers’ skater is just one of a number of youngsters who came up through the ranks of roller hockey before making the transition to ice.

The winger has come out in defence of roller hockey in the town and said his progression was largely down to his involvement in roller hockey from a young age, when he played at Scottish and GB level.

“I am angered by the potential threat to the future roller hockey in Kirkcaldy,” he said.

“I’ve been involved in it since I was six years old up until fairly recently, so it was a big shock to hear that the clubs have been ousted from the hall because of a mistake over the floor in the first place.

“Roller hockey is a sport that doesn’t get the recognition or funding it deserves, so to effectively take away one of the few venues in Fife that they are still using at present is a big hurt to the sport.

“Asking parents to travel the additional distance to wherever the nearest venue is might end people’s involvement in the sport, and their possible chance of playing hockey before it’s even begun.”

And the 26-year-old paid tribute to those involved in the campaign for its survival.

“Roller hockey is where I learned most of my skills long before I started playing ice hockey from the age of 12, so I owe the sport a great deal.

“It’s a different sport, being played in a more confined space. It is especially good for your stick handling and the movement of the puck so it is invaluable for youngsters wanting to progress.

“All I can say to those fighting this latest situation is don’t give up.

“Hopefully the council will get it sorted out soon in some shape or form and there will continue to be a platform for kids to keep on enjoying their hockey, which is the most important thing.

“Who knows, some of these youngsters could make a career out of hockey in the future.”

His thoughts were echoed by Craig Gibson, a former Scotland roller hockey goalkeeper.

Still playing more than 15 years after he first got into roller hockey, Craig said it’s vital the sport is allowed to continue in Kirkcaldy.

“I’m one of those very kids who got involved and here I am still playing and enjoying the sport to this day.

“The council needs to take a long hard look at itself and what it is doing to what was, and could once again, be a very popular sport.

“If only the council would work with those involved in the sport they would see the benefits that could be provided for many youngsters in this town and beyond.

“I’m one of many over the years who are testament to that.”

He added: “There is a lot of anger over this mess, I just hope we can find a way to get through it.

“It would be a travesty if the sport was left to falter.”