RAISING cash for the Children’s Foundation will be the top priority when Durham Wasps and Whitley Warriors meet again on Sunday, but Frank Killen is hoping somebody with influence – and money – might take notice of an old rivalry restoked.
The ex-Wasps netminder is one of the organisers of this weekend’s events featuring legends of the two former giants of British ice hockey.
Sadly, former is the word. The Warriors are now playing in British ice hockey’s third tier. The English National League One North is as unglamorous as its title is long.
They have at least outlived the Wasps, swallowed up by Sir John Hall’s ill-fated sporting empire in 1996. Their forefathers, Newcastle Vipers folded last year, 18 months after Newcastle Arena took up its ice for the last time. Durham ice rink shut shortly after the Wasps left and Sunderland’s has gone too, taking the Chiefs with them.
“We’ve lost a generation of fans because the rink’s been closed so many years,” Killen reflected. “Maybe Durham County Council will see the size of the crowd and think about it again, but there’s no one I know of with plans to build an ice rink in Durham at the moment.
“It’s got to come from the council, the university or private business. The council aren’t going to lump five or £10m in to build an ice rink with the way things are economically. Durham University are very wealthy and very sports-orientated, so perhaps they’re the best hope right now.
“Either that or a die-hard Durham Wasps fan will need to have six numbers come up on the Lottery.
“It would be nice to have an ice rink again, for the community as much as anything else. It was a big, big thing in the community when we were kids. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone in Durham who hasn’t skated there.
“I think it’s affected Whitley and Billingham too. They’ve both had good seasons but they’re effectively in Division Three.
“To put a team in the Elite League costs a lot of money and it has far too many imports. People want to watch a guy from Gilesgate, not one from Canada.”
Sunday’s game is the finale of a weekend which starts with a meet-the-players session at Durham’s Radisson Hotel on Friday, and a golf day on Saturday.