Disability

Full transcript: Off-Piste at the Paras #7: Ice Hockey - 15 March 2018

MUSIC - Off-Piste at the Paras, from the Winter Paralympics in Pyeongchang. With Beth Rose.

BETH - You'll find us near the beach today on Off-Piste at the Paras as we've come to Gangneung Park which is home to the ice hockey and the curling matches. I'm with Sports man Chris Osborne today.

CHRIS - Hello.

BETH- And we've been to a party today haven't we? The ice-hockey was rocking.

CHRIS - Yes, it was a lot of fun. The South Koreans came out in force to see their team get beat six-nil, seven-nil?

BETH - Seven-nil.

CHRIS - Was it seven-nil? Yes. They were loud all the way through, Mexican waves, and that send off for them, even though they'd just lost a semi-final, was incredible, they will come back to play in the Bronze Medal match. But it was just the outpouring of noise and emotion and the sort of waving from the players and it was a real festival.

BETH - They literally use every shot, save, goal, is a reason to party. And I think in one of them, if you got the penalty you had the old 'News at Ten', Moira Stewart era, [sings] du-du-du-du-du-du-du-du, just for the penalty.

CHRIS[sings] Du-du-du-du-du-du… That one?

BETHNo, not that one, a different one. But that one was played by an actual real life, real musician, a woman we couldn't quite reach, she was on the far side, had a keyboard. And you'll be familiar with what an ice hockey pitch looks like, probably, it's a big rink and a huge cubic TV screen in the centre. So she was thrown up onto the cubic screen for everyone to see. She seemed to be enjoying it.

CHRISYes, she was doing all the covers as well. I think there was a bit of David Bowie in there she was playing and a few things like that. So that is very much to capture that kind of culture of watching ice hockey like you would do in the NHL. So you'll hear a lot of that, it's very sort of American sports-y, and that was the whole idea, was to recreate that.

And it's great because it does, if you treat it like the elite ice-hockey then people will come away from it feeling like it is elite and enjoy the experience more. And the sport itself, I've got to say, is just great to watch. Big hits, fast paced, plenty of goals today as well, even though they weren't for the South Koreans, so in terms of British interest there isn't any, so it's a sport we've seen less of and possibly people at home have watched least, because it might not have been on the telly as much, but it's probably the most exciting to watch as a newcomer.

BETHYes, it's the big hitter isn't it really for people here. In the UK we do have teams, we do have a British team, which are good, but I think they only have eight teams in the competition, we didn't quite make qualifying, partly because we haven't got the greatest number of rinks that are the correct size, and funding and ice time.

But I know they're continuing to work hard. But we should say how para ice-hockey works. It's for anyone who can't stand up and skate as per usual or play in a regular ice hockey team. So they're down on sleds which are basically the height of an ice skate's blade really and they have two blades, and then they have two, what do you call them?

CHRIS - Poles.

BETH - Two poles. Hockey sticks?

CHRIS - Yes, well they're poles they use to propel, and the sticks, so unlike in hockey where obviously you've got one hockey stick they have a stick in each hand. And they have spikes on the bottom which they can use to move in the ice and propel themselves, but you can turn it round and you can whack the puck with it and you can actually use either. So you can kind of dribble using your left and right and you can obviously shoot with your left and shoot with your right.

So that's a bit of an added dimension compared to hockey. And so you've got to have massive upper body strength to be able to move yourself around, and as you say, the athletes will generally have lower limb deficiencies or be paralysed from the waist down. And yes, they get into these sleds which are generally kind of sized to fit them. I was talking to some para ice-hockey players recently and they were saying how you'll get them moulded to the shape of your backside, which must be fun to go for the fitting.

BETH - I spoke to another ice hockey player yesterday, a young woman called Lena Schroder, who plays for Norway, she's the only female on the team and the only female playing in this competition. And it was quite interesting because we said, you know, "Do your teammates go easy on you?" and she said, "No, they're like a great team," but coaches from the opposing teams ask her, "Should our players go easy?" And she's like, "If you want to but I'm going to take you out." It's a really fast-paced, violent game, I wouldn't want to be one of the referees when they're jammed against the wall.

CHRIS- No, you get in the way and the referees are actually pretty nimble so they're obviously on regular ice skates and they have to do a lot of skating backwards and like watching the game at the same time.

BETH - I feel like they were showboating a bit.

CHRIS - Yeah. No, they coast and they're pretty cool. I mean that's the first thing to remember in any sort of ice sport like that, that before you even get the technicalities of the game you've got to be comfortable on ice. So you've got to either be comfortable at using the sled, or if you're the referee you've got to be able to actually skate before you can get into the nitty-gritty of it all.

And as you alluded to there, the hits are big and like a couple of the American players who I've spoken to, they lost their legs in a car accident both at the same time and they ended up falling in love with the sport because it replaced that physicality of the sports they played before their injuries. So they wrestled and played American Football and they said the thing they love is those big hits and the physicality and just driving someone against the side boards and into the Perspex or whatever, and it gave them that buzz of really getting stuck into someone.

BETH- I mean it's a big crowd pleaser, and today I think there's probably kind of a 98% capacity filled stadium, and of that I'm guessing, I don't know, 89% were Korean. So one thing they did, one of the games they played in the intervals between the two periods was how noisy can we go with the shouting, and it was 103 decibels. It was loud wasn't it?

CHRIS - Yeah, it was loud all the way through. I mean that was obviously, I think they were trying to break the record for the loudest it's been so far, and obviously with all the South Korean fans in to support their team, yeah it got pretty loud. I mean to say, that noise at the end, that was probably one of my favourite moments of these Games so far actually, was just seeing that outpouring of emotion from the locals towards their own players. And because we hadn't been to watch anything yet, and that was actually the biggest media section we've seen as well.

BETH - Oh without a doubt, yes.

CHRIS - We struggled to get seats. That was the first time at these Games I've seen that as well, where you're just packed in, so I dread to think for the Bronze Medal match which Korea will be involved in and then the Gold Medal match, I imagine it will be pretty packed, in the media section, in the whole arena, and it'll definitely be worth watching.

BETH - I mean we're outside now and the Gangneung Park is really full, it's the most full venue we've been to, there's lots and lots of school children. We also went to the curling today which for me was actually louder and more party-like than I was expecting for curling.

CHRIS - Yes, well South Korea were playing again as well so that helped. But a lot of people disappeared before the matches had finished which is a little odd, but I think the ice skating arena's obviously here as well.

And you're right about the buzz. This area here is probably the only place you'd go to throughout these Paralympic Games where it has a real sort of Paralympic park feel. So like if anyone went to London 2012 and you went to the Olympic or the Paralympic parks where you'd walk through there'd be crowds, there'd be different arenas and stalls and shops.

There's a big megastore here to buy all your Paralympic merch. It is really nice here, the only thing is it's getting on for an hour drive from where all the skiing and the snowboarding and the biathlon and the cross country is. So it's very disconnected but the kids love it and you've got the mascot bear going around and the kids are getting their selfies with it.

BETH- Bandabi? Is it Bandabi?

CHRIS - I'm willing to just trust your knowledge on that one.

BETH - Something like that. There's lots of schoolchildren as well, I think they've made a real effort to make sure that if you live in the local vicinity at least that you have an opportunity to see something. And the other thing we spotted here and nowhere else is police on Segways, complete with flashing blue lights.

CHRIS - Yeah, you don't want to get on the wrong side of the law here because they will Segway you down and throw you in the slammer. Yeah, get around a bit quicker I guess, although not very good for keeping fit though is it?

BETH - Not really, but I mean it's quite a big venue. I mean we got lost the first time we came here and we walked miles, so I guess that's good. The other stuff we've been hearing about here, and maybe you can help us out, is there is apparently a 'New York Times' journalist who is working here and he's filed a piece saying how lonely he is at the Games because there are so few American journalists with him. He has a photographer but his photographer is South Korean and is obviously hanging out with all his mates. So he's called Ben Shpigel, and we'll put a call out to him. Come join us Ben, if you're listening. Get in touch @bbcouch.

And if anyone else wants to get in touch we'd love to hear from you. So you can tweet us @bbcouch. You can find us on Facebook. You can hear and read all about our stories on the BBC News website, the BBC Sport website too, and we're on Instagram and putting those pages up, and that is bbc_ouch_disability. So check us out.

MUSIC - This has been a Winter Paralympics podcast brought to you by BBC Ouch from Pyeongchang in South Korea. You can email the team ouch@bbc.co.uk or tweet @bbcouch.

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