Hotshots on ice eye Olympics

March 24, 2006

In 1860, a group of English veterans from the Crimean War hit a small "puck" -or circular rubber disc - across the frozen expanse of Kingston harbour in Ontario, Canada.

The fastest game on Earth - ice hockey - developed from this casual knock-about. But like so many British inventions, it was not the Brits who went on to develop the game but a group of Canadian students at McGill University.

Now, nearly 150 years later, British students are set to regain their early prowess. The British Universities Ice Hockey Association, set up just a couple of years ago to run a national league for the growing number of university ice hockey teams, has formed a national student team.

The British Olympic Association is keen to include national student team members in the squad for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada.

Simon Hopkins, a sports centre supervisor at Nottingham University and one of the enthusiasts behind the association, said: "Our cup competition has really taken off, and the national team is now officially recognised by the national body - Ice Hockey UK."

He said that universities were seedbeds of talent. "In the past, there was little opportunity for people over 18 to play ice hockey. Universities give people that chance and then feed the best players into the national and international teams," he said.

The student team is set to play in the 2007 winter student games in Turin - the first time a British ice hockey team has gone.

"The Olympic Association has been so impressed by the standard of play that the student team is expected to feed into the senior team that will represent the UK in the Winter Olympics in Vancouver in 2010," Mr Hopkins said.

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