Ice hockey in Romford: Troy Walkington
- Credit: Archant
Former heroes welcome sport’s return to town
Canadian coach Troy Walkington first arrived in Romford in 1992 and led the Raiders to two of the best wins in their history over the once mighty Durham Wasps.
After moving to Basingstoke, he returned to help the club rebuild in the English League, with a team made up mostly of locally produced players and steered them to the Division One South title in 1997 before spells as coach of Peterborough, Cardiff and the Great Britain under-20 team.
He said: “In the summer of 1992, Gord Jeffrey offered me my first head coach position. Contract negotiations lasted 36 hours and within three weeks I was touching down at Heathrow, running my first practise and getting ready for my first weekend in charge against Milton Keynes.
“That first year provided some great memories for me, but without doubt the two biggest happened at the beginning and end of the year. Beating the Durham Wasps in Durham in the B&H Cup, ending their long home unbeaten run (55 games) and then beating them in the promotion/relegation play-offs in the old Romford Ice Rink.
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“Who could forget the third period, with Durham running out of players, Ivor Bennett lying on the ice in defiance, and the referee calling the game with time still left on the clock.
“In the autumn of 1994, Phil Jinks offered me the opportunity to return to Romford to coach the Raiders and oversee the junior programme.
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“With the Raiders suspending operations that season, we did our best to improve the Romford junior hockey, knowing the future of the Raiders was dependent on local British players.
“The 1995-96 and 1996-97 seasons provided me the opportunity to run and operate a club from the Under-10s to the Raiders.
“It allowed me to institute a common philosophy throughout the club. The 96-97 season saw us win the Southern Conference and go undefeated in the last 21 games of the season.
“What I appreciated about those years were the local British players that trained tirelessly, understood their roles and bought into a team-first mentality.
“There was a natural progression within the programme and the players could see it.
“The Raiders have always emulated the Romford people; blue collar, hard-working, ability to stand up for your team-mates, and the understanding that success is hard to accomplish.
“I have returned to Romford many times over the last number of years and couldn’t believe the ice rink was vacant, and then demolished.
“The Raiders belong in Romford and I am so happy for the players, coaches, and of course the “Gold and Blue Army”, that they now have a full-time facility.
“I’m hoping this rink (even though it is new) will be every bit as intimidating and hard to play in as was the old rink.
“The Gold and Blue Army, Paul Ludlow in the DJ booth, Ben Pitchley developing the next generation of Raider players, and a tireless British work-rate will accomplish this.
“Good luck and I can’t wait to see the new facility and catch up over a pint.”