Important for GB to remain in the top flight if they want to continue nation's progress
PUBLISHED: 09:00 10 May 2019
2012 Marissa Baecker
Romford is a popular town for ice hockey and it's fair to say a few Raiders fans will be glued to Freesports over next 16 days as Great Britain take on the world's best once again.
GB is in the top flight of the World Championships for the first time since 1994 and faces a tough task to remain in the division as they come up against the likes of Canada, USA, Germany, Denmark, Finland, Slovakia and France.
Peter Russell's side will go into the tournament as underdogs in all of their fixtures, but will desperate to go against the odds to avoid relegation.
Whatever the case, it will be a huge occasion for the nation as they will be exposed to limelight with intense coverage and marketing.
The players themselves will get to challenge themselves against NHL stars with the likes of John Tavares and Patrick Kane heading off to the tournament.
But more importantly it's a big chance for GB to showcase themselves as a hockey nation and try to help promote the sport.
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It will also push the younger players in the GB squad on as they will be forced to step their game up a number of levels to compete or match their rivals on any level.
As a player myself, I have come up against the likes of GB's Luke Ferrara, Ollie Betteridge and Jackson Whistle a number of times in junior hockey.
Netminder Whistle, although he will be back-up to Ben Bowns, is probably best prepared for such a tournament after playing in the WHL and attending a few NHL prospect camps.
I actually first played against and alongside Whistle when his dad, former Raiders forward Dave Whistle, ran hockey camps with Rob Stewart in Romford.
I faced him a number of times while he played juniors in the UK and then when I went off to play in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada I came across him once again.
Nottingham Panthers forward Betteridge was a player I faced at Conference tournaments and when he played a brief stint at Bracknell juniors.
But for me, for the progression of these players and somone like Liam Kirk, who is a prospect at the NHL's Arizona Coyotes, it's massively important to remain at the pinnacle of the sport to help develop more players in that mould.