Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

I've Promised the Wife I Will Not Cry but I Will, I'm Soft like That!

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

I've Promised the Wife I Will Not Cry but I Will, I'm Soft like That!

Article excerpt

Byline: By John Gibson

Come Thursday evening, a Geordie born to skate on thin ice will throw a lavish farewell party before turning his life upside down.

Because Simon Leach, player-coach of the famous Whitley Warriors, is having a testimonial on home ice before emigrating with his young family Down Under to Australia.

An adventurer taking the plunge to help out a mate who is trying to promote ice hockey in Adelaide.

The enormity of his twin decisions ( to end a 17-year career in British ice hockey and up roots for distant shores ( has suddenly impacted upon him, with his testimonial in only 48 hours' time to be followed by a one-way trip to Oz on April 24.

"Yeah, it's not just a thank you at the Whitley ice rink but also farewell, which is quite another matter," agreed Leach.

"We're all excited about the adventure, of course, but it'll still be very emotional on Thursday.

"I've promised the wife I won't cry ( but I'm soft like that and probably will shed a few tears."

Quite an admission from a man who has broken his ribs, his leg, and his collarbone in pursuit of the puck as well as having had his face stitched more often than a patchwork quilt.

Ice hockey revels in such blood and thunder.

The kid who laced on a pair of skates and picked up a stick at the age of five has served lengthy and distinguished spells with Whitley Warriors, Paisley Pirates and the Newcastle Vipers, as well as representing England and Great Britain on the international stage.

Leach lived through the classic days of Whitley Warriors v Durham Wasps when local pride captivated big crowds, and at the other end of a long career served four years with the Vipers in which they won the Findus Cup twice and the Elite League play-offs last season ( three trophies for a city previously without a solitary pot.

Back where he started, Leach was about to retire from playing this season when the call came from old Warriors team-mate Alan Yarrow to join Adelaide Avalanche. The answer was instant and positive.

Of course the Vipers are travelling down the coast road to make up half the party with Simon putting together a team of old but brave Warriors to stir memories of great days when blades flashed with much success.

The likes of Alfie Miller, John Iredale and Hilton Ruggles will be on ice, while David Longstaff, a lifelong friend, will switch colours from Viper to Warrior.

"I would like to think that, along with current hockey fans, we'll encourage a few who may not have been for many a year to return and welcome their old heroes," said Simon.

"Alfie Miller, who must be in his late 40s now, was a huge name in North East hockey.

"As a kid he inspired me and others to follow him into the sport, just as Alan Shearer did with football.

"Alfie was such a clever player, one of the greatest ever Warriors. …

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