The First Paul Balm Column

Paul Balm is no stranger to The Cat’s Whiskers having written several articles in the past for both the written and this on-line version. He will be imparting his 30+ years of hockey watching wisdom on us all with his new weekly column.

I’m not entirely sure why I’m doing this. Greg Mitchell and Allan Decker have both stuck their heads above the parapets and been shot down so quite why I want to do the same after all this time is a total mystery (I just typed misery and then deleted it, was that Freudian?) to me. I would like to say at the outset that I don’t think I’m much like either of Jono’s previous columnists, I’ve been watching this game way too long to get angry anymore. So , what can you expect from me (hopefully) each week? The simple answer is I don’t know. For one thing I’ve never done anything like this before and another I suppose it’ll be based on what’s going on each week. I’ll probably end up running short of ideas so if there’s a topic you want covering let me know (leave a (pleasant) comment below any of my articles). This probably won’t ever end up as a rant, just my way of looking at things which, it has been suggested in the past, isn’t always from a normal angle. There is one more thing I need to say- I tend to ramble.

Anyway that’s enough of a pre-amble. Let’s see if I can actually do this.

I see the Steelers have returned from Europe (except they never actually left it geographically) and as ever this has led to the usual bickering between fans. It’s always the same thing:
Panthers fan: Ha ha you lost
Steelers fan: At least we were there
Panthers fan: You still lost though
Steelers fan: 1956!
It usually goes on for sometime in a similar vein but hopefully you get the gist.

I had a similar discussion the other week after the home win against Sheffield. A little light banter would have turned into a slanging match if I could have been bothered. I knew where Sheffield were going to be last weekend and I knew where we were and I think I was supposed to feel jealous. The thing is I didn’t , well sort of but not for the reason I suspect I was expected to. Typically I was expected to worship at the throne of all things Steelers and to be green-eyed at the thought that they were playing Herning and we were playing Hull. Yes, it would have been nice to have had the opportunity of a trip to watch Panthers in foreign climes but, and I apologise if this isn’t what you wanted to hear, that’s about it really. There’s many things that it would be nice to do, just don’t expect me to start throwing myself off buildings or under buses because they aren’t happening.

I didn’t get the chance to go on the Scottish weekend this year which makes me all the more glad that I did the Braehead and Edinburgh trip last year. Yes, it rained, oh how it rained, and the train journey back was a nightmare but it’s a trip I’ll cherish the memory of for a long time. We won both games but that’s not really why, with my memory I can barely tell you anything that happened – Bellamy using Broooooce to break the plexi in Braehead and err… err… the dreadful third period in Edinburgh. I’ve taken far more memories about the people I was with and met and the places I went than just the hockey because to me that’s what it’s all about. You make the most of what you’ve got. I said earlier that it rained, particularly on the day in Glasgow which turned a day of sightseeing into a depressingly wet trudge try and find a pub where we spent an afternoon that if not booze soaked was certainly moistened by West Brewery’s excellent Wheat Beer.

You see I told you I rambled!

To me this is what watching hockey is all about, there’s more than the game. You win some, you lose some but that’s only important in terms of the standings. That weekend would still have been brilliant if we’d lost both games because of the camaraderie, the banter, the beer, the stovies, the godawful seats in Murrayfield and the bloke who looked like he’d died or at least turned to stone in his about three weeks before we got there.

What I think I’m trying to say is that to simply go to Herning or Hull or Whitley Bay or Cardiff or… you get the picture simply to watch a hockey match and only care about that hockey match is missing the point to me. I appreciate that some or most of you will feel the same and I am in no way saying that all fans will feel the same (there I’ve got the new Allan Decker tag off my shoulders).

As for the Steelers fans, if they’re that poor at accepting losing to their rivals they should ask a Panthers fan for help, we’ve had plenty of experience!

Finally, talking of trips I’d like if I may to finish on a shameless plug. I think I’ll get away with it given one of the other participants! You’ve probably already seen the announcements from the 4on4 Road Trip on here and the Cage Forum. If you haven’t please have a look at for more details and if you’re on Facebook or Twitter please like or follow us or whatever you do. Please help if you can, we and Cancer Research UK value your support greatly.


3 Responses to “The First Paul Balm Column”

  1. 1 Stuart December 2, 2011 at 7:14 pm

    A welcome breath of fresh air, maturity and common sense back to The Cat’s Whiskers guest spot. Nice and fluently written Paul. I look forward to reading more.

  2. 2 Fiona December 2, 2011 at 9:32 pm

    Thank goodness for you Paul!

  3. 3 JohnnyfromDonny December 2, 2011 at 10:38 pm

    You ramble when you’re writing and I ramble when I’m reading so it could be hard for me to stay on topic…..For the record I’m a Steelers fan but I too can watch a game of hockey and enjoy the game. Maybe that’s what sets the sport apart from others and long may it continue. I pray that the more vocal, tribal fans are never allowed to hi-jack it.

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