Baywest Skating Academy to identify future East Cape Champions

AUGUST 3, 2015

In a first for the province, The Ice Rink launches training academy and ice hockey programme 

The launch of the Eastern Cape’s only ice hockey training academy and ice hockey programme at Baywest Mall this past weekend is set to put the province back on the competitive ice skating map, say organisers.

On Saturday, The Ice Rink at Baywest Mall launched its eight-week training academy aimed at helping skating novices – child or adult – get to grips with the ice, while at the same time scouting for skating talent in the region.

“Many skaters haven’t been on the ice for long, so the academy is going to help them with their confidence on the ice,” said The Ice Rink at Baywest manager, Siya Ntsele. The Ice Rink manages the majority of South Africa’s ice rinks, and has successfully initiated skating academies at their operations in Gauteng and Kwa-Zulu Natal.

“The academies have been very popular, both for parents and for kids. The academy also gives skaters the platform to choose which avenue to pursue – be it ice hockey, or figure skating.”

According to former figure skater Melinda Lightley, manager and one of the coaches at the Baywest ice rink academy, the new rink was perfect for new skaters to learn the ropes.

“Everybody who wants to skate should join the academy, to learn the basics of skating as well as how to be safe on the ice,” said Lightley. “We are starting from four-year-olds to adults.

“Once they have completed the eight-week course, they can decide if they want to take things further in terms of figure skating or ice hockey.

“Our intention is to nurture talented skaters in the region and help them grow,” she said.

The launch of the academy coincides with the revival of the Eastern Cape’s ice hockey programme, although coordinator Christopher Dodd – who represents the Eastern Province Ice Hockey Association – said the first task was to get participants to enjoy skating as a team, at a social level, before getting competitive.

The last time the Eastern Cape boasted a provincial ice hockey team was in the mid-1990s, of which Dodd was a member.

“I want ice hockey to start anew and to be fun. Our main focus is on kids, aged six-years-old and up, as they are the future of this wonderful sport. We have 13 kids so far, almost 40 women and about 100 men.”

Practice sessions are due to run on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sunday Mornings, although the times could change, said Dodd.

“By the end of this year I would like our teams to be fully kitted, playing social games. Next year we’ll look at separating teams into social leagues and competitive leagues,” Dodd said.

“We’re 20 years behind the rest of South Africa, but the Eastern Cape has phenomenal hockey players and given some time we could have very strong provincial ice hockey teams.”

Baywest Mall marketing manager Samantha Hewitson said the success of the ice rink as well as the mall’s Fun Factory was largely due to the unique entertainment and retail offering at the mall, which was new to the region.

“We have been promising the community something big and entirely unique to come and enjoy, and now that the mall is up and running it’s refreshing to see how popular our mix of entertainment and big brands is for patrons,” said Hewitson.

“For a long time this region has been in need of such activities for families to enjoy, and now Baywest has provided the perfect mix of entertainment for children and adults alike.”