November 8, 2017
The England National Team Programme (ENTP) has made the decision not return to Czech Republic for their international camp and games next April.
Instead the top England male and female players will be travelling to Slovakia to participate in a gruelling five day international training and development camp in Bratislava. They will be on the ice twice a day with a practice and a game every day.
England general manager Gary Apsley said: “Last April we went to Nymurk near Prague and we had a pretty good camp with the U13, U14 and U15 teams. Next April we are going somewhere new, taking the same three teams plus the u14 girls and u17 women too. It will not be a holiday camp for any of the players but rather it will set them up in a good position for their future on the international stage hopefully with Great Britain teams.”
In an effort to push the boundaries of the England programme Apsley turned to Ice Hockey UK general secretary Andy French, who was able to call upon his considerable experience of making arrangements on an international stage. Apsley and England head coach, Ben Pitchley were keen to see their programme improved and with Mr French’s experience of setting-up major tournaments and events internationally he seemed like the perfect fit for the England programme.
Andy French told EIHA.co.uk: “The games that England will be playing will be teams within Europe although not yet finalised but teams from Slovakia, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovenia and Austria have all been contacted and it is looking like the England teams will be in for some tough opposition.
“With Slovakia being in central Europe it gives the opportunity to get teams to come in relatively easily so we can be selective about our opponents to a degree. This is something that is difficult to establish in the UK as all international opposition would have to fly into the UK. This is going to be a exciting adventure for a lot of players that have never been outside the UK to play ice hockey and a chance to show their full potential at international level.”
Ben Pitchley added: “We want our teams to be challenged technically, physically and mentally. They need to experience a much higher standard of opponent and games need to be very challenging. I want us to learn to be competitive when facing tough opposition and although we can train and practice, there’s no better preparation than being in a difficult and challenging game. I am sure Andy (French) will deliver just what we need for our teams.”
The ENTP has confirmed the booking for 140 places for players and staff and with five teams travelling on April 2, 2018 there is a lot of arrangements still to make. The trip to Bratislava will be rather different to Nymburk in that players will be making the trip without their parents and the camp will be closed to spectators which is different to what happened last April.
Apsley explained: “This is a unique opportunity for the coaches and managers to see how the players adapt to the international scene and playing outside the UK where they have their domestic hockey week in and week out. We have learned something of a big lesson from our last trip and have decided to take the players without their parents which is a big move.”
The EIHA will be making arrangements for one hundred parents to travel to Bratislava as part of an organised tour although the parent trip will be completely separate to the players’ trip. Parents will be able to enjoy the delights of Slovakia during their stay while at the same time being able to watch the games which will take place in the afternoon and evenings.
The ENTP development and selection camp continues with the December camp at Ice Sheffield and the final camp with selection of the England teams taking place in mid-February next year. The five team trip sets out from Heathrow and Stansted on April 2, 2018. More details on the trip for parents will be announced in due course.