Home-grown forward Pitchley confirms Raiders exit

JJ Pitchley in action for Everyone Active Raiders against Telford

JJ Pitchley in action for Everyone Active Raiders against Telford - Credit: John Scott

JJ Pitchley has confirmed he will not be playing for Everyone Active Raiders when the 2022-23 ice hockey season gets underway.

The home-grown forward came up through Romford's junior ranks at the old Rom Valley Way rink, earning Great Britain under-18 honours, before making his senior debut in the 2011-12 season, following in the footsteps of dad Ben.

And the 28-year-old has scored 88 goals and 91 assists in 315 appearances for Raiders over the years, with brief spells at Bracknell, Slough and Basingstoke, and also won the Supporters' Player of the Year prize along the way.

But, having been ever-present and played in all 59 games last season, scoring 26 points, he took to social media on Sunday night to reveal his decision, posting: "For anyone who knows me knows this is somewhat of a difficult post for me to write, but here goes...

"Unfortunately as of September I will no longer be playing for the Raiders!

"It’s a decision that I have had to think long and hard about and was not an easy one to make! 

"I've spoken to my dad, the rest of my family, friends and old teammates, and they just want to see me enjoy hockey again.

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"I’ve been around the Raiders since I was two days old, with RVW being the second place I visited after I was born. Was heartbroken to see the old place go but watched like a hawk and excitement as the Sapphire was built and I was the first Raider on the ice when we first skated there!

"But for me personally I think it’s best for me to continue my career elsewhere, feel appreciated and enjoy the game of hockey again! 

"There are a few things I have had to put up with and deal with over the last couple of seasons and it’s knocked me off my game and my confidence.

"I know what I am capable of as a player, what I bring to a team and what I deserve, not to be a last resort and certainly not left to spectate. I truly love the game of hockey and I will continue to do so unfortunately just not in gold and blue

"Playing for the Raiders was always a dream of mine as a kid and I was honoured and privileged to do so every time I pulled on a Raiders shirt.

"I'd like to thank John Scott for everything he has done for me and this club in the last 10 years, as if it wasn't for him, there would be no Raiders hockey, plain and simple! However it’s become very challenging to achieve what I think I deserve as a player and more importantly what the Raiders as a club deserve.

"The support you fans have given myself and every teammate I've had with over my time at this club has been second to none and honestly most nights has helped us get the win and the points! Thanks to all my sponsors over the years. Truly appreciate it 🙂 

"So for now it’s at an end but who knows what the future will hold - Thank you for your constant support and noise, as I have appreciated this more than anyone!"

Where Pitchley ends up playing next season remains to be seen, with Raiders competing in an enlarged 11-team National League following the addition of Bristol Pitbulls and Hull Seahawks.

But the fan favourite will no doubt receive a warm welcome from Raiders supporters when he does skate out at the Sapphire Ice & Leisure Centre for his new club.