I’ve had many people ask me over the years what ice hockey means to me. Sounds like an easy question, right? but I find it so hard to answer. Hockey to me has always been there. I simply don’t know what my life would be without it. Firstly, if it wasn’t for hockey I probably wouldn’t be writing this as my mum and dad met whilst my dad was playing hockey. I was born on a hockey night, watched my first game a week later and have been there every since.
I have introduced hockey to so many people and I’ve always wondered what it must feel like going to your first ever game. The smell of the rink, the crunch of blades cutting the ice and the sea of hockey jerseys sitting in the stands. One thing I do know is that the minute you buy your first ticket your part of a family. One that stretches all around the world and one that is full of love.
I know it sounds so Cliché, but the ice rink is my second home. It a place where I feel safe (well maybe apart from flying pucks), where I can sit amongst a crowd and fit in and where I can relax. I’m the sort of person who couldn’t go to a restaurant, cinema or fitness class by myself however at the rink I could easily walk around or even go on my own and not worry who was around me. I know so many people who I see every week and only know at hockey. We make small talk and catch up with each other the next week. I have people who have known me from my first ever game and I continue to make new friends every season. I’ve met so many people from hockey. Most importantly my boyfriend, we both grew up watching hockey and always joke about us most likely passing each other as babies all those years ago. I have friends from all over the UK and from all corners of the world.
The best weekend in the Elite League is the Playoff Finals weekend in Nottingham. 7000 fans from all over the UK come together and celebrate their teams. It’s not only the games I look forward to it seeing everyone dressed up, there is a mascot dance off and the silly Mexican waves. It sounds silly but when I see the rainbow of coloured hockey jerseys, it brings a tear to my eye, to be part of something so special. The lights go out and like a rumble of thunder the place comes alive and erupts with cheers, singing and clapping. Teams on the ice we are enemies and there is a lot of chanting and screams and shouting but as soon as the buzzer has gone everyone is friends and on there way to Bunkers Hill.
Picture this. A tiny pub on the outskirts of Nottingham city centre filled with a couple of hundred hockey fans all singing their version of Sweet Caroline. People are chatting about next year’s rumours, people are dancing, and a lot of people are drunk, including one of the team’s coaches who is now joining in the singing with everyone, but most importantly it ones of the friendliest atmospheres, full of people who just love their sport. Could you imagine this in Football? Bunkers Hill is the unofficial playoffs pub. If you don’t go to Bunkers where you even at the playoffs? I honestly have made friends for life because of this pub. I met friends from Cardiff there randomly 6 years ago and now we look forward to meeting each other every season.
Unfortunately, on 7th April this year the Hockey World woke to tragic news. A bus taking a team of young hockey players crashed in Canada and sadly 16 members of the Humboldt Broncos team lost their lives. The whole hockey community went into mourning and came together with so much love. Thousands reached out to show support to the families who had lost their loved ones and let them know they were not alone. I have seen a lot of dreadful situations in my time watching hockey, even those involving my own team and I’ve never seen a community reach out as much as a hockey one. Within just few days a gofundme page was set up and never took long to get to well over a million.At the game there was a minute’s silence and together you could feel everyone’s pain for those lost. We have all travelled on a bus to play a game or support our team. We have all been full of excitement for the night ahead. We have all been full of passion for a game we love. In that moment we were all Broncos.
So, if you ever hear about a hockey game near you or someone invites you along I recommend you go along. Become a part of an amazing worldwide family. I promise you won’t regret it.