HE may not be as well known as Jordan Henderson or Andy Carroll, but Johnny Tulip is fast becoming one of the major names in his sport.
The 22-year-old has been selected for Great Britain’s deck hockey team for the World Championships in Slovakia, later this month.
While the sport is little known on these shores, the Whitburn lad will be playing in front of 20,000 screaming fans at stadiums, with even more watching in their homes, as it will be broadcast on Slovakian national television.
Johnny started playing the sport – a mixture of field and ice hockey, played on a hard court – in 2009 as a way of training for ice hockey without having to find a rink.
He has since joined the North East Dekstars, based at Gateshead Leisure Centre, and taken part in tournaments up and down the country.
But when the call came to represent his country, Johnny could not believe it.
“I was totally shocked, it’s an honour to be asked to play for the GB team and I’m really proud.
“It was a bolt from the blue but now I’m really looking forward to it.
“Not many people have heard of it in this country, but its massive in Eastern Europe, Canada and the U.S., and we’ll be playing in front of packed out stadiums.
“The games will be on everywhere, deck hockey players are treated like celebrities over there, so it’ll be some contrast to here.”
The sports management graduate, who has just finished a degree at Newcastle University, leaves for the tournament, in Bratislava, on June 19 and will spend two weeks there.
“We’re relatively new to the sport so I’m not sure how we’ll do, but I just want to get there and enjoy the experience.
“I think the sport has a good chance of making it big over here. It has the excitement of ice hockey but doesn’t cost as much – there is no need for an ice rink for a start.
“When we get back I want to try and get it pushed on and achieve a bit more recognition. If I could be one of the founders of the sport in this country it would be brilliant.”
Before taking up hockey, Johnny was a keen footballer, and played at county level before a knee injury halted his progress.
He played for Whitburn and Cleadon Juniors, who have sponsored his shirt for the World Championships.
His dad John is chairman of the football club and delighted at his son’s national call-up in deck hockey.
“I’m over the moon that he’s been picked for the team. I was speechless when I found out.
“With it being a new sport, there’s no government funding at the minute, so they’ve all had to pay out of their own pockets to get there.
“We wanted to help out and the team could all do with a bit of sponsorship to help their cause, so I’d urge anyone who can to help out as well.”
To sponsor a player or the team, email Great Britain Coach Ali Cree at email@example.com.