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(How I Became a [Female] Hockey Fan)!
Bit of a different 1 for you. I live in england and although I liked the idea of hockey from my mid teens when my boyfriend (now husband) used to watch it on tv I couldn't really follow it on tv as a newbie. It's seriously a minority sport over here so you don't tend to play it when you're a kid. So in 2002 I went to a masters football show. It's a load of ex soccer players playing 5 a side. It was at the big arena in manchester and was all set out like a hockey match, plexi etc but with mats on the ice so they could play. Husband shows an interest in seeing hockey there. So later that year I bought some tickets to go to see manchester storm for his birthday. 2 weeks before we were due to go the team went bust. So that was that. 11 months later I was looking around on the net for presents for his birthday again and found something that I now know would change my life. Manchester had formed a new team, Manchester Phoenix. So we went to our 1st game, against Belfast Giants and we won 7-2. I remember driving home and discussing going to a game maybe once a month. So 2 weeks later I tell my husband I want to go to a phoenix game for my birthday. Well, we've not missed a home game since:)
So we spent almost the full season watching phoenix in manchester and went to the playoffs, it's different over here, you get to the last 4 then have the semis and final in 1 weekend and fans from all the teams in the league converge on a city for the weekend, whether your team are playing or not. It's like a huge end of season party! Then the heartbreaking news that the club was struggling financially, like I said it's a minority sport here be we were playing out of one of the top arenas in the world. The decision was made (with votes from the fans and sponsors) to hibernate the team for a year whilst a new rink was built. As it turned out it ended up being 2 years. In the meantime we travelled around watching hockey with friends we'd made through phoenix. We generally went to see players that had played for phoenix and as they'd gone to different teams in different leagues we had a varied diet of hockey. We went to blackburn a lot which is a small team, 1 level up from rec. We also followed london (til they went bust) and belfast. We got to see players like scott nichol and eric cairns who is a complete pussycat, an absolutely lovely man. We also had the pleasure of watching belfast win the league with theo fleury. Even given his age, fitness levels, off ice issues he was still a joy to watch.
So in september 2006 we got our team back. It didn't quite go to plan as such, the rink wasn't ready! We played our home games at the nearest rinks, 1 of which was in sheffield. That's like the pens playing a home game in philly, manchester and sheffield don't particularly love each other. Finally the rink was in a fit enough state to play in, it only had 1 third of it's seats, half it's toilets and was still a building site for weeks but we could play there so we did. That was when I started working as a steward, we had to have people working in the rink as such because of the half built nature of it. As the rink finally in finished we kept the stewards. So on a game night a whole bunch of us show up and work the game, stewards, programme sellers, raffle ticket sellers, merchandise sellers, the music and video guys etc etc. We love it.
I feel I have to mention our player coach, tony hand. He's known over here as our great one, without doubt the best player i've ever seen and given the current economic climate I can't imagine getting to see anyone better anytime soon. On my 30th birthday he reached 4000 career points, yes four thousand! This season we moved leagues and we've seen boosted numbers of visiting fans, so many of which say they've come to see tony. Somewhere along the road I started watching the nhl as I can follow it on tv now I understand the game. A couple of years ago I started taping the pens games for 1 of my friends so I just watched more and more of them and I sort of fell into being a pens fan. I will admit to having a liking for the habs but the pens are my nhl team. I call them that as phoenix are my team above all others but i'm sure you understand that.
I love hockey, it changed my life, it's something that I share with the husband and my best friends are people I met through hockey.
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I also want to let you know I LOVE these stories (and so do alot of our readers) - I've always found it interesting no matter who the fan, so I'm enjoying ALL OF THIS IMMENSELY!! KEEP THEM COMING, but I ask that you email them please - THANKS!!!
Also, I ask that you please BE PATIENT as I'm still receiving TONS of stories (they'll be posted in the order I received them, to be fair). If you sent in a story, it will eventually be on the blog - I promise!! ; ) JUST BE SURE TO KEEP THEM COMING (the more the better!)!! AS A NOTE, I'm currently on stories I received back in November 2009!!!