Pink Robins more than ‘headless chickens’
When the Swallows and Bluebirds decided to come together to form a new team, they had to pick a new name based on a bird.
Thankfully, they resisted the temptation to call themselves the “headless chickens” and the Pink Robins were born to bring a bright, vibrant new addition to the Bermuda hockey scene.
The sport on the island has been dominated by two clubs, Budgies and Ravens, of late, but the Pink Robins have led a resurgence from their competitors, including the Canaries and the young Sandpipers.
Indeed, Pink Robins beat Ravens 5-0 a couple of weeks ago, and followed that up with a narrow 5-4 defeat by the Mixed A team, one of two mixed squads in the Bermuda Hockey Federation league, who give the island's male hockey players the chance to have a game every Sunday.
As Nikki Stoddart, of Pink Robins, said: “A lot of us may run around like headless chickens, but it works somehow”.
The club was formed after Swallows and Bluebirds lost players, but the birth of the new outfit has given them a proud, new identity.
“Swallows had been around for 19 years, so it was a shame when they folded,” Stoddart's team-mate, Natasha Hallinan, said. “Bluebirds had been around for just as long, but unfortunately the way hockey was going, with people leaving, people getting older and having babies. We lost five players who were leaving the island. Neither club could field a full team.”
Stoddart, who was with Swallows along with Hallinan, added: “We thought it was right rather than continuing half-heartedly without being able to put out teams, we'd combine them. We knew we got on well with them. The two teams had been around for so long, we were friends, so we thought we'd combine and make a great team as well.”
Choosing pink was no accident, either.
“We've a really lovely club now and I think everybody liked pink,” Hallinan said. “It's a nice, vibrant, bright colour and we found Pink Robins.
“We were looking for different birds names that were pink, and we didn't want to be flamingoes because they're a little bit smelly! Then Nikki and the girls got together, it was a big team effort, picking the kit and it's a nice big, bright colour for the start of the new season.”
The pair are both from Ireland, and have been playing since they were young. They have embraced, and been embraced by, the Bermuda hockey community.
“I've been playing all my life in Ireland and Scotland,” Stoddart said. “When I came to the island, my mum had previously been here and played hockey.
“She was actually a friend of Tash's and so as soon as I got off the plane I was signed up for Swallows! From there, I've made such great friends through hockey and through all the different clubs.
“Within two days of being on the island, I'd got a new massive group of friends with similar ages and similar interests.”
Hallinan added: “I started when I was 6, back home in Dublin and I've played all my life. When you come to Bermuda to make friends, join a sport that you love and I guess it's like-minded people. It's a great atmosphere, great social life, great fitness.”
The 5-0 win over Ravens was arguably their best result of the season, and their form was confirmed on Sunday when they recovered from 5-1 down to come within a whisker of a draw against a mixed team.
“We had played quite badly on the Friday,” Hallinan said of their win against the Ravens. “We came out on the Sunday and said: ‘let's sort ourselves out and let's have a good game and play as a proper team' and we just worked and it clicked. Unfortunately, they had a bad game, we had an amazing game and the goals just kept coming.”
As for almost pulling off a stunning result against Mixed A, Stoddart said: “It was a very tough game, but we stuck together as a team.”
Hallinan added: “I loved that our girls didn't give up. They kept going, they kept fighting. The scoreline didn't matter. They were playing hockey because they wanted to and they enjoy it. I don't know what it was like to watch on the sideline, but it was very, very enjoyable to play on the pitch.”
The players have also seen an increase in the standard of the sport overall in Bermuda. They were encouraged by the national team's fourth-placed showing at the Central American and Caribbean Games qualifiers in Jamaica in November.
“They have some good, key players,” Stoddart said of Bermuda. “It's harder than in Ireland, because you don't have the same pool as other places. But since being here, and I've only been here a year and a half, and you can see the improvement of them working together as a team.
“I played in the mixed teams who would play against the national team on a Saturday morning and on day one, it wasn't as hard, but we were really struggling to fight against them at the end, and they really excelled actually. We were all at Flanagan's to support them when they were in Jamaica and it was really lovely to see that come from Bermuda.”
Hallinan is encouraged by efforts to bring the sport back to where it once was in Bermuda.
“When I first came to Bermuda, there were a lot more teams in general, five men's, 16 women, and it's gone down to seven women and no men, which is why we have the mixed teams, but there has been some fabulous hockey here,” she said.
“What we're trying to do is rebuild hockey here, a little bit like the way rugby went through a patch when they lost some players. They have the kids programme on a Saturday, where they have anything from 75 to 100 kids.
“We need to keep the vibe going and building and remind people that hockey's great craic and a great way to meet people.”