This Saturday the Smailes Goldie Hull Pirates will host the Leeds Chiefs, with the winners taking home the inaugural Yorkshire Remembrance Day Cup. Whilst silverware is on offer, the meaning behind the occasion is far more important.
The competition coincides with the annual Remembrance ceremonies, which have been a long-standing tradition for hockey teams in Hull dating right back to 1988. For this year, the Pirates have combined with the British Army to create a new Yorkshire Remembrance Day trophy, which is being sponsored by the Royal British Legion, the SSAFA (the Armed Forces Charity), and the Defence School of Transport.
We spoke to three members of the Pirates community who have either served or are currently serving with the Armed Forces, for an insight into their experiences whilst with the Forces, as well as their thoughts behind what this weekend’s occasion means to them.
Andy Thacker, the Pirates’ match-night coordinator, joined the Royal Artillery in 1989, aged 19. “During my career I was awarded medals for Operational Service to Northern Ireland – two tours, United Nations in Cyprus – two tours, Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq, Queens Jubilee and the Long Service & Good Conduct Medal.” explains Andy. “I retired from the Army after 22 years service, having reached the rank of Warrant Officer Class One (WO1).”
Andy continues “The Pirates supporting remembrance and Military Charities means a lot as I know a lot of thought went into the design of the shirts, which shows how much the Pirates Organisation appreciate and respect the sacrifice of Veterans, Service Personnel past and present and their families.”
Pirates fan Matt Hearn is one of the many hockey fans in Hull with military experience.
”I served for twelve years in the Royal Air Force as a Logistics Driver. I joined in 2003 and left in 2015 so through my whole career in the RAF the UK was in conflict with someone; whether it be Iraq or Afghanistan.”
Speaking more about his tours, Matt states “I served various tours in past war or conflict zones such as the Falkland Islands and Northern Ireland, so I got to see countries that have recovered from war. I also served in Afghanistan where my role was to transport fuel around the country so I got to see a lot of a war torn country and what the allied forces had to deal with.”
”My first day at Camp Bastion I had to attend a repatriation ceremony for a family friend who unfortunately had lost his life and that was a massive eye opener to what to expect. Two years later another friend was seriously injured out there but luckily made a full recovery.”
Talking about the Remembrance occasions, Matt explains “Being from a military family and served myself, Remembrance Day has always been a day that I attend and respect. I’ve always been an ice hockey fan and a fan of the Hull Pirates since 2015. Since leaving the military I struggled a bit, but the Pirates have given me the chance to feel a part of something again and I have made some good friends through them. The fact the team shows its respects in the way it does and supports military charities is a big thing for me and ties in two big parts of my life. An emotional night that is organised well and I’m honoured to witness.”
For Adam Walker, who is currently serving with the Army, the Remembrance event is something massively important.
”I’m in 2nd Battalion (2 Yorks) and I’ve been supporting the Hull Pirates from day one, whether we are winning or losing I’ll still be there. When it comes round to this time of year it’s a big day for all service men and women. What the Pirates are doing for Remembrance Day mean a lot to us, and hopefully on that night we can all raise a lot of money for brilliant charities.”
Adam was the winner of Sam Towner’s D-Day own and loan jersey, and he plans to take it on tour with him.
The response from the Hull Pirates fans to this year’s commemorative D-Day jerseys has been remarkable, and in the process the Pirates community has already raised a substantial amount of money for The Royal British Legion, the SSAFA and Hull 4 Heroes. We hope as many fans from both teams can join us on Saturday to not only pay respects to those who have fallen whilst serving for their countries around the world, but to also raise even more money for three remarkable causes.