Beth Scoon, who trains with the Caledonia Steel Queens - Edinburgh's female student ice hockey team - says she has had barely any ice time since Scottish rinks legally re-opened in August and is forced to keep up her fitness in the gym in a bid to stay match-ready for Winter Olympics and World Championships qualification tournaments in South Korea and Spain.
Murrayfield Ice Rink is set to remain closed “for the foreseeable future” after the owners warned that it was not financially viable to re-open amid coronavirus restrictions and a lack of government support. A campaign has been launched by skaters to re-open the rink.
Ms Scoon, 25, who graduated from Edinburgh Napier University two years ago and is now a trainee clinical scientist working in the NHS, said: “The rink in Murrayfield is key to my training, and it is such a shame that it is not viable for them to open due to the strain of the current restrictions. We have try-outs for the GB team in December and it is disheartening to see other people in the UK training hard, whereas for me, there is the worry of not making the team because my local rink is closed.”
As there is no women’s ice hockey league in Scotland, Ms Scoon’s regular club team is in Hull - the Kingston Diamonds - leaving her reliant on training sessions and matches with the university team in Edinburgh to hone her skills – although as a graduate, she is not allowed to play in university league matches.
She said: “I rely on ice time at Murrayfield through the week to keep my skills and fitness sharp in preparation for domestic and international competition. This year the Great Britain Women’s team are due to travel to South Korea and Spain to compete in Winter Olympics qualification and World Championships tournaments respectively. I train in the gym to maintain my strength and conditioning, but nothing compares to being out on the ice playing hockey in preparation for these tournaments.
“With Murrayfield unable to open, I have been trying to find ice time further afield, but it is difficult to come by a regular slot and I only got on the ice – in Kirkcaldy – for the first time since March two weeks ago.”
Richard Gray, coach of the Caledonia Steel Queens, said the club had managed to meet once in Kirkcaldy, since some rinks re-opened, but that restrictions on travelling had made it difficult for the club to secure ice time outside of Edinburgh.
He said: “Most students don’t have their own cars and due to coronavirus restrictions, we are now not supposed to share lifts or hire a minibus to get them to the rink. Murrayfield is in the centre of town and the players can reach it easily, it’s impossible to get enough people to Kirkcaldy or Stirling to be able to train.”