Tritons meet United Kingdom Air Force on the ice

Tritons and RAF

(Left) Flight Lieutenant Lee Cope, Captain of the RAF Aces and Air Commodore Mark Hunt, President of the RAF Ice Hockey Association participate in an opening puck drop with CFB Esquimalt Base Commander, Captain (Navy) Jeff Hutchinson and Lieutenant (Navy) Evan Park of the Esquimalt Tritons at Wurtele Arena, Oct. 4. Photos: Peter Mallett/Lookout Newspaper.

Peter Mallett, 
Staff Writer

The Royal Air Force (RAF) took a bumpy landing on the ice for four touring hockey games in Esquimalt.

Esquimalt Triton’s women’s team beat the Pumas 11-3 on Oct. 5 and 14-4 on Oct. 7, while Esquimalt Tritons men’s hockey team beat the Aces 9-0 on Oct. 4 and 8-1 on Oct. 5.

Aces Corporal (Cpl) Chris Old said the lopsided result didn’t too deflate his teammates.

“Our opponents grew up watching and playing the sport in its birthplace while many of ours either learned the game as adults or have junior hockey experience,” said Cpl Old, an Aircraft Technician Mechanical at RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire. He began playing hockey 16 years ago.

The Pumas and Aces are representative teams of six regional hockey recreational zones for military hockey in the United Kingdom. The RAF British Columbia hockey tour was planned for 2020 but got delayed by COVID-19. Cpl Old said tours such as this help the Aces train for their inter-service tournament against the British Army and the Royal Navy.

Captain (Capt) Joanna Van Damme, a member of the Royal Canadian Air Force reserve force and Pumas forward, said her British teammates were savouring every moment of their visit.

“This is an amazing opportunity for the RAF girls,” Capt Van Damme said. “This team has come such a long way and learned so much, and seem to love the sport every bit as much as Canadians.”

Originally from Bruxelles, Man., Capt Van Damme moved to the Royal Air Force Valley in North Wales last spring with her husband. With soccer, rugby, and cricket as the mainstay sports in Great Britain, she was surprised to see hockey played recreationally. Van Damme says she quickly commandeered hockey gear and joined the team.

Sailor First Class (S1) Julie Reid, Tritons women’s team forward and a Marine Technician aboard HMCS Regina, said she hopes her team could someday pay a return visit to the UK.

“They had a variety of skill levels on their team but continued to battle for the puck until the end showing great determination,” said S1 Reid. Despite their disadvantage, the Pumas showed ‘great camaraderie and passion for the game’.

Royal Air Force Hockey Chairman, Wing Commander Justin Blackie told the Lookout the Pumas are currently the only women’s military hockey team in Great Britain.

“I hope this tour bodes well for our women’s hockey program and my vision in four or five years is to have women’s teams in the British Army and Royal Navy,” he said.

He said last Wednesday’s game against the Tritons was their first-ever international match and an exciting moment for the players.

The players bonded with their Canadian counterparts for post-game pizza, refreshments at HMCS Venture, and a sightseeing tour in downtown Victoria. They are scheduled to return to Great Britain on Oct. 13.


The RAF Aces hockey team poses for a team photo at Wurtele Arena, Oct. 4.



The Esquimalt Tritons hockey team poses for a team photo at Wurtele Arena, Oct. 4.

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