What's it like to be a hockey fan and a Coyote fan in the United Kingdom (UK)?
I'll answer with a couple of different parts.
First, How I became a Hockey Fan
Guess I have to say thank you to my mum for this one! She became the physiotherapist for our local Ice Hockey Team before my birth. So, as soon as I came into this world I was down the local ice rink in the pram. As I grew up, I quickly laced up some skates and took the ice myself. Every Wednesday night skating with my friends, quickly developed into playing for the junior squads right up to the age of 13/14 when I decided to quit. From those early years, being a hockey fan was ingrained in me and I was going to be a fan of no other sport. I loved the thrill, the speed, the noise of the sport. I loved how different it was to football, to cricket and all the other sports in the UK, it felt special! Hockey is my sport and has been always……29 years and counting!
As soon as I began playing the sport and supporting the local team, I began to watch the few bits of NHL we got here in the UK, so it felt right to adopt a team. Right about this time the internet began to take off and I remember the moment clearly, sat in an internet café setting up my first email account. It was the summer the Coyotes arrived in the desert and the idea of an Ice Hockey team in the vastness of the Arizona desert captured my imagination. How on earth could an Ice sport work in such a hot, baron landscape? Instantly I knew, this slightly oddball team, would be mine to follow forever. Thanks to the Coyotes, that summer, I set up my first and only email address…..coyotes_uk. It’s been that way ever since!
Second, What's it like to be a Hockey fan in the UK?
In the UK, the vast majority of sporting attention revolves around Football, proper football that is! It saturates the news, the media, and the nation’s consciousness. You only have to see the hysteria in the media in the run up to a major competition to realise how ingrained football is in the UK. Naturally every other sport has a hell of a time to get heard. Hockey is a minority sport, so it rarely gets a mention in the national media. Locally Hockey does ok and each team in the country has numerous fans who blog, tweet and make podcasts to spread the word. Myself, I have my own blog and contribute to the Manchester Phoenix podcast every home game.
When you talk to people and say you are a hockey fan, you'll be greeted with a puzzled face and the statement 'isn't that just full of fights?' Most of us roll our eyes and try to explain, fighting is part of the sport, but there is so much more to it than that! I love being a hockey fan in the UK, I like the uniqueness of it. Whenever I travel around the world and people as where I’m from, when I say Manchester, they always ask, 'Are you a Manchester United or City fan?' I’m proud to say, 'Neither, I’m a Hockey fan!' The looks you get when you walk around towns and cities in your hockey shirt are priceless too. Also, the hockey community is awesome to be part of. Football is king, but Football is also a tribal sport. Can you imagine Manchester United and Liverpool fans in the same ground with no segregation? Hell no!
Third, What's it like to be an NHL fan outside North America?
Frustrating! I remember going to one of the first NHL Premier games at London's O2 arena. While neither teams involved were ones I supported, it was still amazing to see NHL teams live in action. Other than a few NHL games seen while on holiday it's so hard to get to an NHL game yourself. We have to rely on NHL Game Centre or the sole broadcaster on TV to pick up and screen NHL games. Then, there's the time difference. Bearing in mind North America is between 5 and 8 hours behind the UK, a 7pm start for an NHL game can mean staying up until midnight or even 3am to watch the puck drop.
Fourth, What's it like to be a Coyote fan in the UK?
Fantastic and annoying at times. There are a few similarities between the Coyotes and the Manchester Phoenix. The Phoenix can trace their history back through some very choppy waters. From their old Ice Rink being demolished through to the collapse of the Manchester Storm at the Manchester Arena it has never been plain sailing. We all know about the Coyote's struggles, so I feel such a strong affinity with the Coyotes, more so than any other UK based NHL fan feels for other NHL teams. You would think the Coyotes, having one of the smaller fan bases in the NHL, would not have a large following at all in the UK. Just from attending Manchester Phoenix home games, I can tell you there are a good 3 or 4 of us who display Coyote colours.
So that's what it's like to be a hockey fan in the UK. I’m proud to be a hockey fan and to be a Coyote fan. Phoenix and Coyote fans have both struggled through adversity, many others said we'd be finished at times, yet we are still here, still going strong, and still competing. We are hockey fans, we are Coyote fans!
Hope you enjoyed reading. If you fancy saying hello, I'm on Twitter.