In Defence of Just Being a Fan…

A unique article & viewpoint by Kim Williams on the Elite League import changes

The EIHL’s new import ruling sparked a flurry of debate as soon as it was announced yesterday, some of it thoughtful, considered and interesting, some of it mildly inappropriate and unfortunate. I expect that the British hockey blogosphere will shortly explode with pieces about why this is a good or terrible move. With that in mind I thought I’d add my own thoughts – it’s okay to just be a fan, and not to get too caught up in the politics of it all. What follows is a lot of fence sitting.

I’m not incredibly cynical about everything the EIHL does, but I don’t agree with everything they do. I understand the ISL was unsustainable, but I also enjoyed it hugely while it lasted. I like and respect Neil Black for all he’s done for the Panthers, but he’s also done and said things I thought were wrong. I can see the logic behind the EIHL’s most recent decision, but I’m happy to say I have no idea whether it will turn out for the good or bad. I don’t think the Arena teams deserve some of the flack they get, but sometimes they do. I have my opinion on the new rule changes, but this time next week I’ll be more interested in who we’re going to sign next season.

Yesterday I sat reading through the often polarising discussion on Twitter and was overcome by a weird sense of guilt that I didn’t feel strongly one way or the other. I got a little bit wound up when people were uncritically blaming the Arena clubs, and I thought the ISL analogies were a bit hyperbolic, but that was about it. Is that bad? Do British hockey fans have to feel passionately about how the game is run? Is it selfish to just want to go and watch ice hockey?
It’s always struck me that there is a high turnover fans in British hockey. Some people stay the course, others move away, some become so embroiled in the day to day running of the game that they’re left deeply cynical about it and end up walking away. I don’t want to ever reach that point. All I want to see is that the Panthers have a fun, hardworking team come September, in the same way I want to see Notts County have a fun, hardworking team come August. I’m not especially fussed if that team is 18 Canadians or 18 Brits. There’s one thing I care about far more deeply than that.

Hockey watching in my family has a long tradition going back to the first Panthers game in 1946. It’s something pretty much everyone on my dad’s side of the family who still live in Nottingham does. We’ve all made some great friends through the Panthers. To me watching a fun sport with people I love is much more important than getting wrapped up in hockey’s political underbelly, which we can actually do very little to influence.

I don’t buy the concept that British hockey will die. Sure, the EIHL might someday collapse. The EPL might someday collapse, but none of that is actually going to kill off the game. British hockey has always been cyclic in nature and there is absolutely nothing different about today. The Panthers, currently a well-run, professional club, started out again 1980 as a bunch of mates playing for the fun of it. One day it might be like that again, but hockey isn’t going anywhere.

I like to think I have a reasonable grasp of the rules, but I’m not especially knowledgeable. I always want the Panthers win, but I don’t let it get me down when they don’t. For me, it’s all just a bit of fun. If I can go watch a game, spend time with some great people, share pizza and beer with my brothers and sister afterwards, then go to bed, well that for me is the definition of a good night out. And it’s perfectly fine to view hockey in that way.


3 Responses to “In Defence of Just Being a Fan…”

  1. 1 Rob May 1, 2014 at 4:15 pm

    My thoughts entirely too Kim. Well said.

  2. 2 JohnnyfromDonny May 1, 2014 at 8:58 pm

    I do agree with everything pretty much. Well, if you substitute Steelers and Donny Robers where appropriate. 😉

  3. 3 Rott Ghillie May 2, 2014 at 11:31 am

    Perspective of a Caps fan

    A very good piece,which chimes well with me and many, if not most others.
    Every club has the same type of over-scrutinising fan, but as a Caps fan I find that there seem to be quite few very vocal types who are obsessed with how the club is run, its finances, the perceived (lack of ) Marketing etc.

    I suppose this sort of criticism will be especially rife at the smaller clubs which have very limited budgets and generally don’t get to experience much success in the league. However I do think I think these fans forget they are customers of product which they can take or leave, rather than behaving as if they were shareholders or employees of the organisation.

    There are all sort of stories about how the club is run. I don’t really care too much. I decide to support the team, and I’ll go and see them play – or not, if that’s what I choose. Marketing, budget,recruitment and keeping me and the rest of the fan base interested enough to want to come along and pay money to watch our team, – well, that’s for Scott Neil to deal with.

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