“Wednesdays 12:30-2am; listen to Indie & Rock classics; occasional Fancy Dress; £4 on the door for ridiculous amounts of Fun.”
Is it Pulse’s hottest new club night? Some seedy underground joint? Not quite. Picture the scene: a friendly crowd, people mouthing lyrics to the music, plenty of motion and… figure skates?
It’s Alternative Ice Hockey. Yes, Oxford has it all. Centre of learning brilliance, towering spires, terrifying volumes of work, and amongst it all, a group of nutters dedicated to playing hockey at midnight. On ice.
What’s stranger, though, is when you discover that these guys aren’t entirely suicidal. ‘Alts’ is non-contact, and hence much less dangerous than the professional counterpart. They play with an extra-light puck, and so no bulky padding is needed; a stick and skates are provided – other than that you can play in what you want. Jeans, kilts, full pirate regalia – nobody seems to mind.
The sport is open to absolutely anybody too. Never played hockey before? Nor had most of the committee. Never even skated? You’ll be picked up, looked after and taught the second you get on the ice.
The atmosphere is entirely relaxed, and as competitive as you want. The average skill level is pretty casual too – but then, Alts isn’t a team, just 80-odd people who turn up because they enjoy it.
They play 12:30-2am every Wednesday night. Or Thursday morning, depending on your body-clock alignment. No, really. What else could you possibly be doing then? Arriving 15 minutes early ensures you have boots strapped on, a stick in your hand and are on the ice for the very start.
There’s a 20 minute free skate before the games kick off, and then mixed teams of six battle it out on the ice until the wee small hours. Nobody takes it too seriously – there are no referees, and they don’t even keep track of the score! Altogether it makes for surprising amounts of fun.
So if you fancy doing something a little bit different next Wednesday night, wander down to Oxford Ice Rink (located on the Oxpens Road, five minutes south of the city centre), and join in the mayhem!