Deeside Dragons set to return to their home 1000 days after last game played on Deeside ice
Deeside Dragons ice hockey team are set to play their first game at home this Saturday, 1000 days after they last played on the ice at Deeside Leisure Centre.
The ice rink was closed after being commandeered by Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board and converted into a hospital at the start of the pandemic.
The hospital was stood down in March last year but the ice rink continued to be used as a mass vaccination clinic.
The Deeside vaccination centre played a key role in the fight against COVID-19, and was hailed a great success by delivering more than 220,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses.
Following the decommissioning of the vaccination centre, work began to bring the ice rink and arena back up to their original state.
Deeside Ice Rink is one of only two in Wales and is home to Aspray Chester Deeside Dragons’ Ice Hockley Team, it is also used as a celebrity training venue for ITV’s Dancing on Ice.
Since March 2020, the Dragons have missed two seasons of play in the NIHL North Divisions, and now, after starting the season with seven away games, they are preparing to make their home debut this weekend against the Nottingham Lions.
The Dragons, managed by Shaun Bebbington and a host of volunteers, have been working every day for six months to rebuild their team.
Shaun said: “I can’t describe how excited we are to have hockey back in Deeside.”
“On behalf of everyone at the club we would like to thank our sponsors and supporters for their patience.”
“It’s hard to believe Saturday will be exactly 1000 days since we were all together in The Den. The game Saturday is going to be one massive celebration.”
“It’s time to kick on and rebuild this club to the best it’s ever been!”
Almost every player from that March 2020 game left Deeside to find ice time elsewhere, but the core players have returned, along with some new and exciting players originally from Deeside like Andy McKinney and Ross Kennedy, as well as Czech born Petr Valusiak.
The Clancy brothers are also returning to Deeside where they started their careers, serving as head coach and goalie coach.
“I think it’s amazing what we’ve achieved so far. I think so much work has gone into getting this team off the ground.”
“So far this year we’ve had a lot of heartbreak and delays in the rink, it’s time to get back to home ice.”
“It’s a thousand days since we played here last, this coming Saturday, and it’s a huge landmark for us.” head coach Mike Clancy
There are plenty of familiar faces though, like Deeside born captain James Parsons, alternate captain Matt Wainwright, and player-coach Marc Lovell, who have all missed the Den and its fans as much as the fans have missed them.
“It’s great that we’ve finally got the rink back and can get our season back up and running and playing in The Den again.”
“It was a tough start to the season with only playing away and not being able to train, but hopefully we can turn things around and get our season back on track.”
“Hopefully we get good crowds so we can make The Den a good place to play after there being no hockey here for so long.” Player-Coach Marc Lovell
In a message to fans, the team said: “To the old fans who have been so patient for so long, everyone at the Dragons would like to thank you for your support and we can’t wait to welcome you all back to the Den”
“To new fans, the Dragons would like to welcome you to Deeside hockey, there’s nothing like it. We can guarantee you’ll walk out of this game a fan of the boys in white and green!”
Aura Wales, the not-for-profit company that manages most of the leisure centres and libraries in Flintshire has announced it will open the Ice Arena to the general public on Friday, December 16.
A spokesperson for Aura said: “We are pleased to announce that the Ice Arena at Deeside Leisure Centre will re-open to the general public from Friday, 16 December 2022. This follows the welcome return of ice hockey and the hosting of the Aspray Chester Deeside Dragons’ home game on Saturday, 10 December.”
“We are excited about the prospect of our loyal ice skating customers returning and we thank them for their patience over recent months. We hope everybody enjoys the Ice Arena’s fresh, new look.”
- The Aspray Chester Deeside Dragons will be taking the ice at 3pm on Saturday.
- Doors open at 2.15, it is recommended that fans get there in plenty of time “because we do expect crowds and queues.”
- Tickets can be bought in advance at https://aura.wales/deeside-ice-arena/
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