Dundalk, a city north of Dublin, is home to the Republic of Ireland’s only ice rink. The issue is that no winter sports organization in the country is allowed to use the rink. This has left organizations such as the Irish Ice Hockey Association without a permanent place at home to grow the sport of ice hockey.
In 2014, the Dundalk Institute of Technology (DKIT) bought the grounds, which included a pool and gym. The ice rink was already in need of some repair. With a new owner of the ice rink, it opened a new era of ice hockey in Ireland. The issue was the era was full of doubt.
“We have been negotiating with the DKIT for almost four years and we never got anywhere with them,” Irish Ice Hockey Association President Aaron Guli said. “When the original president bought the ice rink, we had no contact with them. After the new president came in, we were able to have talks to try to lease the rink to us. Those conversations always came to a standstill.”
Since 2014, no organization was allowed to use the rink. The Ice Skating Association of Ireland hasn’t been able to use the rink either and the Irish Curling Association now has to operate out of Scotland. In hockey, Ireland was able to compete in the main IIHF tournament, although at the lowest level. They haven’t been able to compete since their last tournament in 2013.
With no rink in the country, it remains tough to practice the sport at all. They do have a few hours weekly reserved at an ice rink near Belfast in Northern Ireland. Despite it being 165 kilometres from Dublin, the players that want to continue training and playing the sport make the weekly trip to experience the sport they love. “Sometimes when we go there, we will return back home at 2:30 a.m. the next morning,” Guli said.
For kids, the organization sets up small rinks when the weather allows it to. There, kids will be able to experience ice hockey for the first time.
However, recently it was revealed that the DKIT pays $190,000 euros a year to maintain control of the ice rink. “It’s not surprising,” Guli said. “I don’t get why they would pay so much money in taxes just to keep the building empty.”
There is some good news, however. The Irish Ice Hockey Association has abandoned their plans with the rink in Dundalk and have been trying to get a new, multi-purpose ice rink in the nation’s capital. There have already been investors interested in the project, with the next step being to find land that they would be able to use to house the building on.
“Ireland is one of the few last European nations that doesn’t have an ice rink,” continued Guli. “Countries in the Middle East are starting to build rinks in their countries. In 2022, there is no excuse and we need to move forward.”
Guli hopes that 2022 will bring further details on the status of the proposed rink. In the meantime, Ireland is scheduled to play in The Development Cup, a tournament for nations that don’t have an ice rink and are not in the main IIHF tournament such as countries like Portugal, Andorra, Morocco and North Macedonia.
Guli also believes that the Irish would love the sport if they were introduced to it more. “It’s a fast sport on ice where you can be physical, and if you wanted to fight someone, you just get put into a penalty box instead of being kicked out,” he explained. “People would love that here.”