The Slapping Studs: on and off the ice, a close-knit group

| Rense Kuipers

The UT has countless clubs, fraternities, sororities and associations. What keeps them going? What binds the members together? In this 29th episode of 'United': ice hockey association The Slapping Studs.

Last season, the first championship in the 42-year existence of the student ice hockey association was a fact. The Slapping Studs only lost the very first league game, 3-4. Not surprising, since the students are unable to train between April and October due to a closed ice rink. 'We were like penguins on the ice', says defender and master's student of psychology Ron Woortmeijer. 'Such a long summer break does something to your fitness', adds forward and Saxion alumnus Matthias Kruit. 'Let me put it this way: the suit had become a bit smaller in the summer.'

Almost undefeated

After that first game, the team remained unbeaten in the Fourth Division North for the entire season. Kruit and Woortmeijer look back on the season with pride. Especially at the culmination on 25 February. 'The last match took place in Amsterdam. We were down 3-1 after the second period. We took a good look at each other in the dressing room and made changes to the line-up', says Kruit. 'And we could count on the supporters who travelled with us', Woortmeijer adds. 'They were right behind the benches of both teams and got louder with every goal. You could see that the opponents were intimidated and crawled into their shells, while we played more consistently than ever.'

The Slapping Studs turned the 3-1 deficit into a 3-4 victory. The result: uncorked champagne bottles and litres of beer that flowed freely in the dressing room and on the long way back to Enschede. The fact that last week, the play-off against the winner of the Fourth Division South was lost 7-12 is only a side issue.

Boobytrap bottles

Reportedly, The Slapping Studs is the oldest student ice hockey club in the Netherlands, founded in 1982. The origin of the name is not entirely clear to Woortmeijer and Kruit. It’s quite clear that slapping stands for a slapshot – a powerful shot. But whether studs refers 'students' or horses meant for breeding, there is no conclusive evidence for that. 'I've been told that it refers to the unicorn in the logo. Or the Twentse Ros', says Kruit. 'In any case, it alliterates nicely. And we can certainly be party animals, which is noticeable at drinks where we are present,' says Woortmeijer.

It is not an association that is overflowing with mores and traditions. Although The Slapping Studs traditionally organise several night tournaments at the IJsbaan Twente. Above all, it is a close-knit association, say Woortmeijer and Kruit. 'That's a logical consequence when you're in a van together for hours to an away game,' says Woortmeijer. 'On the ice, you also have to be a unit. The higher the level, the less decisive individual class is.' 'There is always a positive vibe in our teams, no whining at each other', Kruit adds. 'Although you have to stay away from each other's water bottles. You always have to watch out for a boobytrap bottle filled with strong water.'

Today, the ice hockey association has more than fifty members, divided into two teams and a group of rookies. More than a quarter of the members is international, so the main language is English. Given the popularity of the sport, especially in North America, Scandinavia and Eastern Europe, it is hoped that talent will sign up every year. 'For example, we once had someone who had played in a national junior team in Latvia, who was a natural talent,' says Kruit. 'And at one point, we had a Canadian sign up. We were sitting there with sky-high expectations, but unfortunately that was disappointing.' 'An emotional rollercoaster', adds Woortmeijer.

Trial and error

The Kick-In is usually the time for UT associations to make a first impression on potential new recruits. It doesn't always make it easier for the ice hockey players to present the sport and the association in the scorching August sun. 'We do put on our suits and play soap hockey with green soap and floorball sticks', says Kruit. 'But because the ice rink won't reopen until October, we can't offer introductory trainings right away. There is a certain risk that the more impatient students will prefer to register with another association', Woortmeijer adds. 'Fortunately, we can often count on dozens of applications.'

Because although the sport looks intense and technical, ice hockey is surprisingly accessible to beginners according to the duo. 'Footballers in particular pick it up quickly, we've noticed', Kruit knows. 'The great thing is that it's a total sport. All facets are covered: speed, power, technique... But you can keep up with speed and a certain amount of effort. For us, however, it's all about fun and safety.' 'As trainers, we also say it to the rookies: you're wearing protective clothing, so falling doesn't hurt at all', says Woortmeijer. "It's the only skating sport where it doesn't matter if you fall. As long as you get back up.'

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