Paul Balm Column 22nd February

The fact that the league title disappeared over the horizon the other week got me thinking about why we (or I suppose I) watch ice hockey. I thought about the things that keep me going back week after week and to be honest for me it hasn’t really got a lot to do with winning the league title.

Don’t get me wrong, I’d be ecstatic if we did win the league title but I’m not going to go running to the hills in floods of tears if we don’t. I don’t turn up in September simply because I think we’re going to win the league and by the same token I don’t stop going in November, December, January or if we’re really lucky February because we’re not going to win the league again. I turn up for the excitement, the goals, the checks and, I admit, the fights that only ice hockey brings. If I don’t get those then I feel cheated and that’s what would possibly make me turn my back on the sport. Winning the league or any other trophy is the icing on the cake but you can still eat a cake that doesn’t have icing on it can’t you?

Games like Saturday’s remind me why I love the sport. OK, I wasn’t at game for one reason or another so maybe I’m not choosing a very good example but stay with me. We went out and played with an intensity against Sheffield that we’ve needed to see more this season and look what happened – we won the game. Sheffield fans have since tried to blame the result on how poorly they played (thanks for the credit) and how tired the players were. I wouldn’t be pointing the finger of blame at the players for their tiredness, I’d be pointing at the Steelers representative at the fixture meeting. They can’t really use the number of events in the tin shed as an excuse when they can have games at Ice Sheffield, nor can they use their involvement in European competition, we’ll play as many games as their little foray into Denmark in the knockout stages of the Challenge Cup but I digress. A great game and a great result (sometimes not even a great result) is enough to bring you back again. Take as another (possibly better, possibly worse depending on how you like them) example – the 7-6 defeat to Coventry. Yes, we lost and I think we all know where the finger of blame should be pointed for that loss, but I came away from that game wanting more (like a late equaliser) knowing that they might have scored seven on our backup but we’d scored six on their number one netminder. I knew who had more to think about after that game.

Fans of opposing teams will possibly disagree with my game choices above but I’m sure they’ll understand what I’m talking about and will have had those kind of feelings before, possibly after playing us who knows. These things are universal only the names change.

I’ve deliberately tried to avoid talking about the notion that some of our fans seem to have that we should be winning the league because we’ve got more fans, more money, better facilities or whatever. They could be right and they could be wrong as well. The 1956 obsession seems to be stronger in them than some opposition fans. They want to blame expectation for our lack of success in that field yet they’re the ones putting that pressure on the team and themselves. On the whole I’d say that as a fan base (and I’m talking about the week in week out hardcore here rather than those who turn up to talk and spill drinks somewhere different that block 12 seems to be blighted by) we’ve probably got the lowest expectations of any of, certainly, the top teams. We come into every season knowing that it probably won’t be our year and when it isn’t we move on to the next. There are exceptions like January last year but they merely prove the rule.

I’m the same with the play-offs but then again the play-offs are different. The play-offs don’t really have all that much to do with ice hockey (something I’ll no doubt talk about, if I’m still here, in early April). I didn’t go to the play-offs for years, mainly because I couldn’t afford it. I probably still couldn’t afford it when I started going in 2006 and I’m not sure I can afford it now but I’m going to go and I’ll probably end up doing half the things I wrote about almost a year ago in an article I wrote for the Cat’s Whiskers at that time. I see the play-offs or more specifically my attendance at the play-offs as my reward for sitting through the rest of the season, for all the dull games against Hull, seeing Belfast simply outplay us, for all the Mexican waves (just don’t get me started). We’ll probably lose somewhere along the line this year like most years, we might not even make the final weekend, never mind the final, but that doesn’t matter because for that weekend at least I know I’ll be eating cake and if it’s got a layer of marzipan and a bit of royal icing on top then so much the better but I’m not turning it away if it hasn’t.


1 Response to “Paul Balm Column 22nd February”

  1. 1 Ian Braisby February 22, 2012 at 11:00 pm

    Great article Paul. Looking forward to tucking into that cake come play off time, would be nice if it had icing though.

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