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Record crowd helps Devils settle into new home.

Byline: Terry Phillips Sport reporter terry.phillips@walesonline.co.uk

CARDIFF Devils fans held their rink-warming party in Cardiff Bay and it proved a roaring success.

A sell-out 3,000-plus crowd, the biggest attendance ever to watch a Devils home match, was at the newly-opened Ice Arena Wales for their first match.

This was the start of a new era for the title-chasing Devils, who have moved out of the Big Blue Tent arena next door to their plush new headquarters.

The face-off was delayed by 15 minutes to ensure every spectator was inside for the start - and the foursided video scoreboard hanging above the ice was the focal point for all eyes as the countdown to faceoff began.

Supporters roared their approval when their Devils team skated out for the start of their crunch clash with Belfast Giants.

Chris Hartrey, IAW operations director and former manager at Wales National Ice Rink in the city centre and the Big Blue Tent, said: "There were a few snags on opening night, but overall it went really well.

"This was a record home attendance for the Devils with 3,087 people in here. People were concerned the atmosphere here would not be as good as in the Big Blue Tent, but this game proved the point that it will be.

"What an absolutely brilliant night."

Elite League leading scorer Joey Martin took his points tally to 81 with two goals, including the first Devils goal scored at the new rink.

"I had goose bumps when I went out into the ice and saw the crowd," said the Canadian forward.

"I could not believe how many people had Devils jerseys on. The fans are so passionate, so loyal and the atmosphere was fantastic."

Ice Arena Wales (IAW), built next to the international swimming pool, has two ice pads and both were in use for hockey matches. The Devils were on the main ice, which is full Olympic size, while a junior match was played on the second pad.

The new rink will also be used to introduce curling to South Wales, while sledge hockey, junior, recreation and ladies' teams will all be playing in the new building.

Everything from figure skating to public skating sessions have started, while IAW also has a dance studio and gymnasium.

While Devils settle in their new home, their former Big Blue Tent rink is coming to the end of its life in Cardiff Bay.

The tent will be taken down early next month and the main structure is to be re-erected in one of the car parks at Elland Road, home of Cardiff City's Championship rivals Leeds United.

Safety glass from the Devils' old home base, built almost 10 years ago with a planned life of between three and five years, could go to Peterborough's rink.

"When the tent is taken away, the area will be used as a car park.

Devils, meanwhile, are focused on their quest for Elite League trophies.

They are still in the title chase, stand top of the Erhardt Conference and their final league fixture is at home against Nottingham Panthers next Sunday.

"They will then turn their attention to the end of season play-offs with the finals weekend in Nottingham over the first weekend of April.

Andrew Lord, Devils' player-coach, had the final word on the opening night at IAW, saying: "It's a great arena.

"Nice and bright, while the sight lines for spectators are first class.

"Our fan base has grown tremendously over the last couple of seasons and they were energised from the start. They helped us earn this win. It was a special evening and we had loads of fun."

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CAPTION(S):

| The new scoreboard above the arena

| More than 3,000 spectators watched the first Devils game to be held at Ice Arena Wales

The first game at the Ice Arena Wales saw a record crowd watch Cardiff Devils beat Belfast Giants
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Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Mar 14, 2016
Words:666
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