There’s no doubt about the level of class and generosity in the global hockey community. Here in the UK, there’s a wonderful charity weekend that takes place every summer. An event that has grown tremendously over the past few years, and helps multiple charities. Murph caught up with Geraint Walters to discuss the UK Forum All-Stars weekend – enjoy their 1-on-1 chat here:
Murph On Ice – The UK Forum All-Stars started out in 2008 as a much smaller charity hockey weekend. Tell us a little bit about those humble beginnings, who was involved in the start-up, all the way to the fantastic event it has grown to now.
Geraint Walters – The event started back in 2008 with David Grant and Gareth Hubback arranging a weekend to get people who play hockey, either semi-pro or basic rec level, together on the same ice to raise money for charity. That year we only supported the one charity, and that was Dreams Come True, with the help of their contact, Shoina Lloyd. That year in Sheffield we had 37 players take part, however the feedback from everyone was positive, and that spread around the hockey community as each year the event has grown and grown as people have enjoyed the weekend. An example of this is that, the second time it was back in Sheffield in 2011, there was just shy of 90 players taking part. This year there will be over 100 players and each year people come back because of a simple idea, that it’s a weekend of fun and friendships made over the sport that we all love.
MOI – Tell hockey folks where and when this year’s event happens, and how they can get involved. Also, tell us about how successful the endeavour has been to date with fundraising, and which charities are being supported?
GW – The All-Stars tournament is taking place at Ice Sheffield over the weekend of the 26th-28th July. The weekend starts off with the race night and auction taking place at the Royal Standard pub from 7pm on the 26th and the round robin games and finals take place over the 27th-28th between 2pm-7pm. Registration is closed for this year if people were looking to get on the ice and play, but we always get a late cancellation, so keep an eye out for any tweets from us regarding this as it’s happened before. Everyone is welcome to join us at the weekend to watch some hockey, buy some raffle tickets and the main thing we’re hoping for – to raise as much money for the charities as we can.
The weekend itself has just grown and grown really, fundraising totals keep rising and there’s always a new challenge to take on which the people involved are willing to do.
This year, we’re supporting National charities Breast Cancer Care, Help For Heroes, Prostate Cancer UK, Dreams Come True and local charities Sheffield Children Hospital and St Luke’s Hospice.
MOI – What type of abilities are on display on the ice? And are there any memorable appearances or performances that stick out for you since 2008?
GW – Ability wise, we have players who’ve little experience up to semi pro level, so it’s varied, but the teams are evenly matched out for the weekend, and every player buys into the spirit of the weekend, as shown by the number of people taking part year in year out.
MOI – It’s not just about the on-ice fun though, what can people expect from the weekend as a whole social gathering?
GW – So the weekend itself is mainly about the hockey, but we try and get fans involved with the All-Stars as much as we can. This year, we’re hosting a race night and auction on the Friday night at the Royal Standard Pub from 7pm. The Saturday, after the games, Walkabout in Sheffield City Centre have agreed for us to have the upstairs area, so everyone is welcome and then Sunday after the final, we’re heading to the Noose and Gibbet for a few farewell drinks before heading into the City Centre to raise a toast, and finish off the weekend with a big celebration.
MOI – As successful as the UK Forum All-Stars has become, do you see it growing even more? Where do you see the event going in the next few years?
GW – Well, when the All-Stars begun in 2008, I don’t think those involved had realised what they’d created really. Who can tell the story of, I played hockey, enjoyed a few beers with mates and the best moment of all, I raised lots of money for a charity, and 5 years down the line and look back and think, WOW – this is unreal. To go from one game and a skills competition, to 100+ registered players and 6 charities benefiting from the weekend, it’s been amazing. To see more and more people want to get involved, more hockey fans joining us for the weekend and the support via social media, it’s humbling to see people really appreciate what we do.
We’re trying to get feedback every year so we can take this as a positive and change things if need to and expand the weekend if possible. The aim for a few years time is to move into the bigger arenas if we can. More professional teams are getting involved, so our reach is even wider than before so hopefully, we can get a few thousand at the weekends watching, and raising lots of money for the charities.
MOI – Good luck with it, and thanks for taking the time to get me involved here on the website, I’ll be on the ice for it next year!
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