It’s been a busy six months for Royal Navy Ice Hockey with four training camps and an Inter-Service Championship Final.  Prior to their camp in July, it had been over 2 years since the team had stepped on to the ice. One of the Association’s rising talents shared their ice hockey journey in a recent interview. 

A ticket to see the Nottingham Panthers for his 12th birthday was where Royal Navy player, Luke Tinker first fell in love with the sport.  Luke had always had an interest in ice skating as a kid and inspired by the game he signed up for his local team, Sutton Sting. Here he played for the U14s and U16s before moving to the Sheffield Ice Hockey Academy at the age of 15.  He played for the U18’s and U20’s with the Academy, reaching the U20s National Finals.  Tinker said of the experience, “Although we didn’t win, it was still one of my highlights in a great season”.

It was whilst playing with the Academy that Luke first discovered Royal Navy Ice Hockey.  He explains, “Being Sheffield based for training, I would often see the Navy holding training camps and playing in the UK Armed Forces Ice Hockey Tournament.”  Joining the Senior Service is somewhat of a tradition for the Tinker family, Luke’s father served and his brother is currently serving, so naturally, Luke planned to join up too. “I wanted to get involved with Royal Navy Ice Hockey as soon as possible, so I contacted them prior to joining up and was invited to come along to one of their training camps in Nottingham back in 2018.”  Luke goes on to say, “It was a great opportunity to meet the team and learn about the organisation.  I stayed in touch throughout my Basic and Phase 2 training and have now been involved with the Association for 2 years.”

Luke is enthusiastic about the first post lockdown training camp, “I was desperate to dust off the cobwebs, it’s a long time to spend away from the ice.  The Gosport camp gave me a chance to get to know the other players a bit more, whilst also practising and perfecting my skills on the ice.  It’s been a great team bonding experience and I’ve learnt new skills and tactics.”  Tinker is full of praise for the training camps, “they are organised and run very professionally, from the accommodation down to the logistics and admin side of things; it is superbly done”, he goes on to add, “I would urge anyone who is interested in the sport to get involved.”

Luke gained his first Cap for the Destroyers at this Autumn’s Inter-Service Championship Final against the RAF Aces.  He describes feeling extremely proud and honoured to be selected for the Destroyers squad. “It meant a lot to me; ever since I signed up to join the Navy I had the vision of playing for the Royal Navy team and I trained hard to get there.”  Luke went on to say, “It meant a lot more to my parents I’m sure, as all their dedication driving me to and from rinks at silly hours and all the money they have spent on kit and ice time has somewhat payed off.  My dad being a Royal Navy veteran of 11 years was extremely proud that he has a son representing the RNIHA at Inter-Service level.”

The ISC Final is a huge event even for the experienced squad members, but Luke didn’t let the occasion get the better of him, “I felt pretty calm in the build up to the game, but there was a tiny bit of nerves as I had never played the Raf team before, I didn’t know what to expect.”  Sadly, the Destroyers failed to retain the ISC trophy, but Luke is reflective about the experience,  “I feel I tried my best.  It was somewhat daunting seeing the size of some of the players on their team, but it’s nothing I haven’t faced before.”  He remains positive,  “We need to train more as a team to build chemistry, a challenge with the nature of our job, but we are all willing to adapt and make the most of what we can to get experience and ice time.  I’m currently training hard to make sure we have a better chance at the next Championship.”   And on Luke’s hopes for the 2022 ISC, he is determined, “Obviously, there’s only one answer to this question…to win!”

As for future ambitions, Luke plans to keep on training hard and often with the aim of gaining further opportunities to pull on that coveted Destroyers jersey.  “I’d also love to travel with the team on one of their foreign tours, it would be an honour to represent the Royal Navy whilst abroad.” He has a bright future with the Association.

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