Hitting the Dek – Mr Graham goes to CanadaPosted: 18/10/2012
“When I was 16 I had a scooter, a little ped” says Carl Graham when asked to explain the origin of his nickname. Iain Glasby former hockey official and DJ was determined to find a nickname for Graham, then a young man stewarding ice sessions at Bracknell, that would stick. Years later, he’s still using it.
For those who’ve not had the pleasure of speaking to him, Graham’s voice almost doesn’t match the persona he paints on the ice; well spoken and incredibly open about his latest adventure, it is a little bit of a departure from the hulking defenceman on the ice who hits like a bus.
Just over a week ago, the UK Dek Hockey Association (UKDHA) announced the men’s and women’s teams that will be heading to St. John’s, Newfoundland in Canada next summer for the 2013 World Championships, with the Bison’s number 81 finding his name on the squad list.
Dek hockey, also known as ball hockey is governed internationally by the International Street and Ball Hockey Federation, set up in 1993 and based in Prague. It’s very simple to explain; it’s ice hockey without the ice and a ball instead of a puck. Players wear trainers and have a variety of bits of hockey kit. Teams at international level play with a goalie and 5 outfielders, they have all the markings that a rink does but there’s no ice. It’s that simple.
It is a departure for players who are more used to ice, something that Graham appreciates. “There are some similarities but there are some differences. The main difference is the feet. When you’re on the ice and you’re gliding, you don’t think about what you’re doing with your feet but as you’re not on ice you have to think about the little movements that you make.”
Trials for the GB side took place in August and September in Rotherham and Sheffield under the watchful eye of national team coach Matt Darlow, a man with 20 years coaching experience and Andre Payette’s predecessor at the Sheffield Steeldogs. But how did Graham suddenly find himself representing his country?
“I saw a link on THF (The Hockey Forum) and I knew about ball hockey anyway as I’ve had friends in Canada who played it. I looked into it and got an email address and asked a few questions. I told them it was hard to commit during the season and they were aware of the situation. I went to the trials and it was a 3 hour session which felt like the longest session of my life. I must have done good enough.”
“I thought ‘if I don’t go, I’ve got no chance. If I go and I’m bad at it, at least I’ve tried.’ Also if it helps me on ice with a different kind of fitness then great.”
Graham currently isn’t a member of a dek hockey club side but will be looking at making some appearances with sides in the London area as preparation for next summer when time allows. GB training is due to be every 4-6 weeks, again in the Rotherham/Sheffield area with Carl fitting it in alongside work and training in Basingstoke.
When it comes to the Bison’s season so far, Graham was philosophical. “We’ve dropped points when we shouldn’t have and scraped through a couple of games with late goals but we’re still winning games no matter what. We’re happy where we are. Come the end of the season 2 to 4 points will make all the difference. It is hard, we know we have a good team so a lot’s expected of us but it’s only a month into the season and we’re second at the moment so if that’s where we are now then we’ll be alright.”
The full GB men’s squad for St John’s 2013 numbers 23. Carl is one of 7 defencemen and is the one playing ice hockey at the highest level. On the ice he’s the stay at home defenceman who lays the big hits and sticks up for his team mates. When it comes to what’s expected of him in a GB jersey, the former Bracknell, Manchester and Isle of Wight man hasn’t been told what his role will be but there will one change from his on ice repertoire, “there’s no fighting”.
The one thing that is an issue for all the players selected for the men’s and women’s teams is funding. UK Dek Hockey Association receives no funding from UK Sport so every team member male and female has to find £1500 to participate.
Nothing is set in stone as to how Graham will raise the money to be able to go; “I’m not sure what I am allowed and not allowed to do to raise the money but I will try to see what I can do. Nothing is officially organised yet but stay tuned, there should be something in the next month or so”.
Banners On The Wall will be following Carl’s fundraising progress throughout the season and will be updating with any details as to how you might be able to contribute to sending Carl and any of the rest of the team to Canada.
The UKDHA website can be found at http://ukdek.wordpress.com If you’re connected to any organisation or company that would like to sponsor Team UK then please contact Craig Simpson at firstname.lastname@example.org