At the beginning of June, I travelled to Sheffield to photograph the annual UK Armed Forces Ice Hockey Tournament. This was my fourth year as tournament photographer. I am incredibly passionate about my ice hockey photography and I consider it a privilege to be a part of this prestigious military competition, which sees teams from the British Army, Royal Air Force and Royal Navy compete against each other to become Tri-Service Champions. In addition, each evening, the Royal Navy Destroyers, RAF Aces and British Army Blades, battle it out for the Inter-Service Championship Cup.
So, what’s it like to be tournament photographer? – Four long, cold days rink side working hard, but worth every second to capture all the action and emotions; the agony of defeat and the ecstasy of triumph!
And so the stage was set….
The puck dropped on the 2017 tournament with a 2-1 win for the Army All Stars against RAF Cosford Stars.
Jay Guscott puts the RAF Aces one goal up against the Royal Navy Destroyers in the first period of the first of the week’s Inter-Service games.
A goal from Richie Gray in the third period, seals a 5 – 0 victory for the RAF Aces and a place in the Inter-Service Cup final against the British Army Blades.
As the tournament progressed, the RAF Bluewings claimed scalp after scalp, as they effortlessly felled the opposition.
Day two and the Royal Navy Destroyers came within a whisker of delivering what could have been the shock of the tournament. They went one goal up against the British Army Blades within the first few seconds of the game and continued to apply pressure on the Army, taking the game into overtime. The Blades went on to win the game 3 – 2 with the ‘golden goal’ scored by Harry Hatfield.
And so, the one everyone had been waiting for, the Inter Service Cup Final between the RAF Aces and the British Army Blades. As the RAFIHA photographer, I am lucky enough to be invited into the Aces locker room to document the preparations and anticipation ahead of the big game.
Cheered by the Royal Navy’s efforts the night before, there was an air of optimism in the Aces locker room and they came out fighting from the off, going one – nil up courtesy of a goal from Aces Captain, Jamie McIlroy. But with a record five wins at stake, the British Army Blades were not prepared to go down without a fight, the game finished all square at the end of the third period.
Devastation for the RAF Aces as the Blades score the ‘golden goal’ in the dying seconds of overtime, retaining the title of Inter Service Champions for a record fifth year.
Final day of the tournament and the teams played for the Cup, Plate, Bowl and Quaiche. The undefeated RAF Bluewings met the Royal Navy General Service in the Tri-Service Cup Final. From the off, the Bluewings looked unstoppable in their quest for the trophy, beating the Royal Navy to become the 2017 Champions.
Inter-Service Champions – The British Army Blades
Tri-Service Champions – The RAF Bluewings
Winners of the Tri-Service Plate – The RAF Vulcans ‘A’
Winners of the Tri-Service Bowl – The RLC Chiefs
Winners of the Tri-Service Quaiche – RAF Cosford Stars