BUDDING Olympic ice hockey stars have been training at Halton’s new ice rink.

The GB ice hockey squad spent several hours preparing for their final selection matches at Silver Blades on The Hive leisure park in Widnes.

Peter Hagan, an ice hockey coach, said: “This is the closest the GB squad has come for a number of years to compete in the winter Olympics in 2014.

“They’ve got biG qualifications coming up at the end of February. They are just one step away from the Olympics.

“We are cautiously optimistic.”

He praised coach Tony Hand for training the team, which boasts the best players in Britain.

Peter, community foundation director of Manchester Phoenix, is setting up a new women’s ice hockey team in Widnes.

He said: “It is open to anyone, ideally someone who can skate a bit.

“Equipment will be provided. To play in the league, you have to be aged 16 and over, but if someone aged 14 or 15 wants to come down and train with us, that’s fine.”

The sessions will be held on Tuesdays from 10pm to 11pm.

The first four are free. After that a charge of £5 will be levied.

Anyone interested can call 0161 301 6848.

A mixed open age sledge hockey team, made up of able and disabled players, trains at the Widnes rink on Tuesdays from 8.45pm to 9.45pm.

The squad includes four GB players.

Free taster sessions will be held in mid-February.

Peter added: “If anyone wants to come down and watch, they’re more than welcome.

“It opens up lots of exciting opportunities.

“I’ve worked in Canada and played against top players in America.

“I only started so I could coach ‘learn to play’ sessions and fell in love with the game.”