National Ice Hockey League Division 1 (South)

Greig Box Turnbull – off ice update

2nd January 2020    News

Happy New Year! Stars’ director Greig Box Turnbull writes an off-ice update in the latest instalment from from Oxpens.

On behalf of the Board I’d like to extend a Happy New Year to everyone connected to your Oxford City Stars.

I hope you all had a peaceful and restful Christmas and are looking forward to the second half of what has been a highly entertaining and competitive season. The turn of the year is always a time for reflection, followed by a renewed sense of optimism. As I look back on 2019, I believe we are making good progress set against the strategy we devised in the summer. But, as ever, real challenges remain.

We have certainly been entertained on the ice! There have been some incredible matches at Oxpens this season, with the remarkable comeback against Bracknell Hornets and the victory against league leaders Solent Devils standing out as two highlights. It has been a big step-up for the club moving into NIHL Division One South. We are competing against some clubs with very big budgets and big squads.

There were a lot of changes in the summer, with a new ownership Board, new coaching team, new club strategy and changes to around 50% of the squad. It takes time to gel and Simon Anderson supported by Darren Elliott has done a great job in moulding the team. In the main we have always competed and some of our achievements in recent weeks with so many injuries have been remarkable. The guys never complain and the spirit in the camp is excellent. We are hopeful some of the injured players will return to action early in the new year.

The support you have given the team has been fantastic and really made a difference. You have stuck with the team throughout every game and it means so much to everyone. From speaking to the players, I know how much it means to them to represent Oxford and the Stars and I believe that is evident in the performances on the ice.

The improved alignment between the Stars and the Junior Club has been a major positive this season. Sharing the same identity via kits and tracksuits has been a simple, but effective first step. We know there is a big job to be done to produce the number of new local players the Stars will require. It will take time and it remains a key challenge. Central to this is improving the coaching provision and attracting more youngsters to the sport. I am told the number of youngsters signing up for Learn to Play is currently very encouraging. It was a proud moment for everyone when Ed Crotty and Dan O’Brien of the U18’s made their Stars debuts recently and the reaction shows just what it means to everyone when junior players break into the first team.  

Off ice there are many areas of progress. The new yellow and blue kit has been well received and there is a renewed sense of club identity. Loyal sponsors renewed and we have attracted several new sponsors to the club. What has been particularly encouraging is some of the new sponsors commented a key reason why they partnered with the club is our passion for community. On the community side I am pleased to report that thanks to the generosity of supporters and local businesses so far this season your Stars have raised more than £700 for charity, shared between: Macmillan Cancer Support, Cancer Research, SeeSaw, The Jack O’Donnell Foundation and Oxford United in the Community.

The Stars proudly sponsored the recent Kirsty Hopgood All Stars game and many of the Stars players attended in support of a cause that is very close to our hearts. Everyone at the club is behind Kirsty and also Darryl Morvan in their respective cancer battles. There was a great crowd for the charity match and so far £8,500 has been collected which is a tremendous achievement.

Thanks to the backing of sponsors and the number of supporters coming and supporting the club we remain reasonably confident we will have achieved a major objective – to complete the season on a sustainable basis. That said it is incredibly tight and we have been seriously challenged in recent months due to the unprecedented injury list. As signing new players represents additional investment by the club.

The new TicketCo ticketing system is proving to be a useful tool for the club, it has reduced the need for printed tickets and helps process match-day queues quicker. Making tickets easier to purchase is one way we are trying to attract more supporters. We have also reignited the Oxfordshire United partnership, which has seen several Oxford United supporters attend Stars’ matches. Additionally, continue to offer 2 for 1 ticket deals for junior sports clubs, which has resulted in some local junior football teams coming to matches. Equally our schools programme continues to be popular, with a local school attending most games. Our thanks go to club Ambassadors James Clarke and Andy Cox for their selfless efforts in visiting schools on a regular basis to spread the Stars’ message.

Increasing our attendances is key to sustainability and to eventually ensuring we can compete at the top end of the league. We can all play a part in this – by spreading the Stars’ message and bringing family and friends to games as often as possible. It really makes a difference overall to the health of the club and our ability to progress.

We said at the beginning this club is about everyone who cares about the Stars pulling together to make it work. A big thank you to everyone who has backed the club, from buying a ticket, or a shirt, to helping on a match-day: this is your club and together we are stronger. Your club simply could not operate without you. We are always on the look-out for additional help on a volunteer basis, so if you have a skill you think could benefit your Stars please do get in touch.

Have a great 2020 and we look forward to welcoming you at a game soon.

Come on you Stars!

Greig  

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