College Notebook – All’s well with College Hockey

Photograph by Justyn Hardcastle

Photograph by Justyn Hardcastle

The College Hockey season got underway on a beautifully sunlit Astroturf this morning. Not something worth readjusting your GMT-attuned, extra-hour-beneath-the-sheets clocks for you might think – well, you’d be wrong.

This was York Sport’s favourite buzzword – PARTICIPATION – in action. Everyone was welcome to come along and everyone was guaranteed a few minutes of the action. All’s cosy in the world of college hockey where the roll-on, roll-off philosophy holds sway.

In the match I observed, Derwent, despite a numerical disadvantage, proved too strong for James, winning 2-0 to start the new campaign in great fashion. The two sides had arranged themselves roughly into coloured camps of blue and black, though the streaks of amber on the kits of the university players stood out brightly. Like a football manager risking his star striker in a nothing Carling Cup encounter, they gambled on injury and ridicule to mix it with the college novices.

College Hockey, 25/10/2009, Photo: Justyn Hardcastle

Action from this morning’s Derwent-James clash in the College Hockey league. Photograph by Justyn Hardcastle.

Remarkably, a mismatch rendered the game finely-balanced. Derwent’s university players, including new seconds starlet Joe Walsh, competed against a larger James squad bolstered by an apparently ‘aggressive’ recruitment policy. The mixed format demands five female players on the field at any one time but, for large swaths of the second period, James could accommodate this rule and still spare another half-a-dozen females on the sidelines.

Derwent, meanwhile, had evidently struggled to muster a side, arriving with sufficient numbers but little hope of a comfort break during the heat of the action in the absence of replacements. Perhaps they had been foxed by the bi-annual clock-changing shenanigans, or simply aren’t middle-class enough to play sports like hockey.

Nevertheless, those who appeared excelled in all departments. James were struggling to learn each other’s names, let alone resist the blue-shirted ‘press’ and fell behind early on. The continuous substitutions were essential to ensure inclusion but did little for the James team’s rhythm, while individual errors were rife.

College Hockey, 25/10/2009, Photo: Justyn Hardcastle

James College enjoyed an abundance of female players in today’s match, but were unable to avert a 2-0 defeat. Photograph by Justyn Hardcastle.

College Rugby czar Alex Muntus, a man who merely ‘dabbles’ in the sport of hockey, showed some nice touches but James were overwhelmed by the Derwent tide, despite the inspirational half-time rhetoric of their two female Captains.

A second goal, late on, confirmed the inevitable and Derwent were good value for the three points. But that would be to miss the point: College Hockey is an all-embracing entity where anyone can get involved in their college cause – Christ, they even asked me, someone who hasn’t played any sport in three years to play, which tells you everything you need to know about the credentials required. No cliques, no pressures: just pure Sunday morning enjoyment.