Family tell of terror as Chelmsford ice hockey brawl spills into stands
A MOTHER-OF-TWO says she was left fearing for her children's lives when an ice hockey match ended in a mass brawl which spilled into the spectator area.
Nikki Parker, 34, her husband James and their two sons attended the much-anticipated game between Essex rivals the Chelmsford Chieftains and the Romford Raiders on Sunday.
But the couple, who went to a game for the first time at Riverside Ice and Leisure Centre, were left panicked when a scrap on the ice turned into what they describe as being like a "stampede of wildebeest".
"There were lots of little scraps on the ice and lots of banter between players. Some of the fans were also quite verbal, but I expected it to be like that," said Nikki, a recruitment consultant from Wickford.
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But one minute before the end of the game, while the couple's three-year-old son Josh was watching other children playing football nearby, the atmosphere completely changed.
"All of a sudden I could hear screaming and all these people were running and I couldn't see Josh," said Nikki. "All I could see was my husband running into this crowd of people to find him. As you can imagine I was just panicked. It felt like an eternity before he found him."
Nikki believes that somebody then opened the emergency doors and some of the trouble-makers were thrown out, as she picked Josh up.
"While the doors were open I just grabbed my youngest son and ran," she said. "All I kept thinking was we are going to get crushed."
But the drama didn't end there because Nikki's 15-year-old son Jordon was still inside the building.
She added: "James had to go back in because we couldn't find Jordon. I know he is 15, but they are your babies. You just don't expect it.
"Josh was absolutely hysterical in the car on the way home. He said, 'Mummy, I don't want to ever go back there again.' I was in tears all night thinking about what could have happened."
Nikki and her family joined her close friend – an avid Romford Raiders fan – at the match. "She was mortified," said Nikki. "She said I have never seen anything like it. Something seriously bad could have happened."
It is believed the brawl started after a Chelmsford fan threw a drink over a Romford Raider and from there, the players left their boxes and the fight spilled into the public area.
Gary Clarke , head coach of the Chelmsford Chieftains, said: "I can't say I saw the incident, but I can't say it didn't happen. There's a big rivalry between the two teams and, on occasion, this spilled into the fans' area.
"What we need to remember is that it's a family sport. We don't want to condone actions like that and our management team have responded very quickly in making sure those involved in the fracas are banned for life. As to what caused it, I'm afraid I couldn't say."
It was later revealed that some home fans had tried to get on to the Romford bench and beer had been thrown into the bench from behind.
The Chelmsford management team issued the following statement after the game: "Tonight was a good win marred by the actions of a few of our own supporters. Aggressive behaviour towards the away bench will not be tolerated and these fans are now banned indefinitely."
Pete Lewis, media liaison officer for the Chelmsford Chieftains, said: "We apologise that things got out of hand like that but we want to make it clear that it was two or three guys out of 1,000 fans. Security were there and they put a stop to it very quickly."
Brawl may see Chieftains docked points page 60