Ice hockey in Romford: Rich Tomalin
PUBLISHED: 10:00 10 February 2018
Richard Tomalin began playing ice hockey in Romford in 1988 for the under-14 Havering Hurricanes.
The team won the league under coach Lenny Cole, a Romford Raiders defenceman, and two years later were crowned under-16 champions.
That set up a two-legged English final with northern side Sunderland Arrows, with a trip to the British final at Wembley awaiting the winners.
Tomalin said: “Sunderland at that time had a couple of great players and a young Jonathan Weaver was one of them.
“We played very well and beat them comfortably at home 8-0 but there was a mix-up over the eligibility of another one of their players who was not allowed to play, so the EIHA decided that they would deduct five goals from our score, so we had to travel to their rink with only a three-goal lead.
“The game in Sunderland was one of the toughest I’d played up until then and we played virtually all the last period shorthanded.
“We actually lost the game 4-2 in the end but had managed to win on aggregate and claim the English title.
“This meant we got to play at Wembley for the British Finals, every young hockey player’s dream.
“We were unfortunate at Wembley as we were beaten 5-0 by a very strong Fife team but the whole experience was amazing and we had nothing to be ashamed of.
“We had done very well for such a young team. That Romford junior season is probably one of my most memorable. The team was made up from some great players who some I am still very good friends with today, and a coach who I have always had the utmost respect for, Erskine Douglas.
“Also, my dad Steve, was our team manager that season along with Bernie Cast, so it was great to have been able to share all that with him too.”
Tomalin was promoted to the senior Raiders squad by player-coach Gord Jeffrey, playing alongside the likes of Dave Whistle, Rob Stewart, Terry Kurtenbach, Nicky Iandoli, the Leggatt brothers and Jeffery himself, to name just a few.
And he went on to enjoy more success in gold and blue, before hanging up his skates to start coaching.
He added: “I was privileged to be captain for many of my senior years at Romford, winning the league in 1996/97 and also winning the 2000/01 EPL play-offs.
“After that season I took a year off, then returned for my final year at local rivals, the Chelmsford Chieftains due to many of my old team-mates being there.
“For the last five years I have been coaching at Chelmsford with the youth academy alongside my old team-mate Jon Beckett as our sons now play and are currently in the under-11 and under-13 teams.
“Sometimes whilst travelling to other rinks around the country we’ll bump into some old faces that we used to play against who are now doing as we are and are coaching their kids and it’s good to catch up.
“I’ve made a lot of friends over the years through ice hockey and that all started for me at Romford some 30 years ago.
“My advice to any kids looking to get into ice hockey would be to do it as early as possible and get on the ice as much as you can. I used to virtually live in the old Romford Ice Rink when I was a kid and there was no place like it back then, especially on game days.”
Tomalin was at the Sapphire Ice & Leisure Centre to watch the first ice hockey match in the new rink, as the Everyone Active Raiders beat Cardiff 5-2.
And it brought back great memories of his time in the number five jersey, as he added: “It’s great that Romford get their own rink again. There’s nothing like playing at home and Romford used to always have such loyal and noisy fans when I played.
“I can remember being in the changing room before games and the face-off being delayed due to a queue of supporters lining up outside the rink waiting to get in.
“I’ve spoken to some ex-players in the past and they’ve said that they never liked coming to Romford as an away team, they knew it was always going to be a tough game and that our fans wouldn’t make it any easier.
“The new rink looks amazing and I’m sure it’ll be full to the rafters and loud on game days.”
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