BRATISLAVA – 32-year-old Andrew Sillitoe is a true pioneer of inline hockey. Not only has he represented Great Britain in nine IIHF InLine Hockey World Championships, but he is also the director of inline hockey in Great Britain and heavily involved with the development of the game in the nation. One would even say – the godfather of British inline!
How did you get involved with inline hockey?
When I was 9 years old, we played street hockey on school playgrounds and parking lots in my hometown. It slowly turned into an official league and we ended up beating a couple of big teams from Europe. We were a huge hit in Great Britain at that time! Our team was also the first team to move to inline skates, so in a way, I guess you could call me a pioneer.
Describe the status of inline hockey in your country.
There’s a lot of talent in Great Britain, but it’s fragmented across the country. There are too many governing associations, which make it very confusing for the grass-root participants. In the 80s, street hockey was huge in Britain and in the 90s it made way for inline. Inline has never established its status on such a high level as street hockey, but at least our numbers are stable. I would say that we have approximately 15,000 players.
Have you ever tried playing ice hockey and if so, how did you find it in comparison to inline?
I tried it in my early 20s and in fact concentrated on it for several years. I found it very difficult to start, but after you can master the skating and can look at the game from a tactical point of view, ice hockey a much more simple sport. Dump and chase, dump and chase. Inline gives the player a lot more options to be creative and creativity sets a challenge to a player.
What is the biggest challenge facing inline hockey in Great Britain in the future?
Politics. We have too many directors and chiefs in our system. Former players from the glorious 80s, like myself, are slowly starting to retire and take a bigger role in the development of our game and I think that that will eventually be the saviour of British inline.
What are your impressions of Bratislava?
It seems like a nice place! I haven’t seen much of it until now because of our tight schedule but am very much looking forward to Saturday when we can sit back and relax! Hopefully I’ll catch a glimpse of the downtown then as well!
Facts: John Dolan, #16 of Great Britain, had scored 97 points prior to the game against Brazil, making him the all-time top scorer in the history of the IIHF InLine Hockey World Championship. Against Brazil, he broke the magic 100 points.