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When the Voice of Hockey speaks, we listen…

After the corona year 2020, all hockey fans hope that in 2021 there will be plenty of ball and stick play. The big league starts on January 31, but how will it continue after that? We look ahead with famous and lesser known hockey celebrities. Today the experienced English hockey commentator Nick Irvine (68), better known as The Voice of Hockey .

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BREDA – Nick Irvine, famous hockeycommentator, Australia-India (1-1), finale Rabobank Champions Trophy 2018. Australia wint shoot outs. COPYRIGHT KOEN SUYK

When can we all start playing hockey again?
Nick Irvine: ‘Haha, always good if you start with the easy questions! This is only possible when it is one hundred percent safe to do so. The sooner we can all get the vaccine and keep to the quarantine regulations, the sooner that day will come. ‘

What will be the biggest challenge in the coming six months?
‘For many of our European clubs it is about survival. Clubs that rely on hospitality income and competition fees have had a particularly tough time. Sponsorship income can also be negatively impacted in the current climate, but hopefully sponsors will stay engaged as soon as the sport gets going again.

It is important for the players to stay fit and to keep in touch with each other. Judging from what I see on social media, that’s okay. You notice that everyone in the hockey family wants to leave covid-19 behind and go back to the fields. ‘

What will you do first if you have been vaccinated?
‘I think I’ll then find out in which restaurant I can have a nice bite to eat again. Then I am going to quietly look for the next holiday destination and see what the hockey calendar will look like. Not necessarily in that order, by the way. ‘

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Nick Irvine at work in the press center during the 2014 World Cup hockey in The Hague. Photo: Koen Suyk

When is 2021 a success for you?
‘ 2021 is a success for me if we can say that we have won the battle against covid-19 and if society can open up again. In terms of hockey, it will be a success if we can look forward to events again with the confidence that they will actually take place. And that our clubs can again fulfill the role for which they are intended: lively social centers. ‘

Are the competitions going to end this season?
‘That will be very difficult without a flexible end date. I am sure that the competition leaders are working hard to map out all the possibilities. But all of this is happening in the midst of a battle with the virus, a tough and smart opponent. If we can win the battle against Covid-19 without a full hockey season, that’s a price we have to pay. ‘

“The Olympic Games in empty stadiums if necessary, that can’t be true, can it?”Nick Irvine

Are the Olympics going on and how?
‘The IOC feels an enormous obligation to keep the Games going. But when I look at the latest covid data from my locked bunker here in England, it’s hard to see how that should be done. There are noises to keep the Games in empty stadiums if necessary. That can’t be true, can it? Is that the setting for The Greatest Show on Earth ?

The scrapping of the Games has huge financial consequences and I feel sorry for the people who have to make a decision about it. The most important thing is that there is clarity quickly. I don’t want to be negative, but if the decision were to be made today, it wouldn’t look good. ‘

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Irvine at work during the Grand Final of the first Pro League edition in 2019 in the Wagener Stadium. Photo: Willem Vernes

Are you going to the European Championships in the Wagener Stadium in June if the public is allowed to attend?
‘If we can play the European Championship in June and I can travel, then one hundred percent yes . The European Championship is one of my favorite tournaments and the Wagener is my spiritual hockey home. If the Games are canceled, it is possible that the EHF will revert to the original performance dates (from August 20-29, ed.). This way they can save a little more time. Fingers crossed . ‘

What are your expectations for the Orange teams this year?
‘The Dutch teams have a few new faces, but that will not diminish their strength. I expect they will still be among the top in the world by the end of 2021. Belgium is difficult to beat in men’s hockey. They are  a joy to watch . The Netherlands and Australia are just behind. For women, the Netherlands and Argentina are the favorite for Olympic gold. Great Britain will do everything it can to defend its 2016 Olympic title to the best of its ability. They do this with a promising mix of experience and young talent. ‘

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