Away Days

Everyone loves home comforts but Paul Balm does enjoy an away trip…

I’ve had to dredge back through all the ideas that got bumped out of the way by events like the Joe Grimaldi this week to find something to talk about. I did consider talking about our recent form and how being out of the title race could be seen as a good thing but after the last few games we’re all feeling depressed enough without me rubbing it in. Then I thought about asking why we only seem to get injuries when we win but that’s probably one for askCWTV so I decided in the end to try and write about something a bit more cheerful for once – the away game experience.

There’s nothing better than going to an away game. OK, it can be a pretty long miserable journey home if you’ve lost but that’s a small price to pay for all those trips where you’ve cheered your team on to a smash and grab raid on your rival’s own ice and silenced the home crowd. There really is no better feeling than that.

Did you notice I said cheering in that? I admit I don’t do much cheering or shouting or rhythmic clapping at home games. I’ve got nothing against those that do it’s just not for me anymore. I know I’m not the only one like that, it would be difficult to argue that I was given the way our home crowd is but away games are different. I’m not up on my feet rousing our fans into song, again I’ll leave that to the others but I join in far more on the road than I do at home. I’m not really sure why that it is but it’s probably got something to do with the fact that as away fans you’re all clustered together in a smaller area and that means that all the noisier fans (you know who you are) are able to have a greater effect on those around them rather than being half way across the arena from you. It might also be the fact that there can be an almost tribal feeling of them and us. We’re going into their rink so we’re going to let them know that we’re here. I don’t know.

I do know something though. I’ve had more laughs at away games than I care to remember. I’m guessing most people reading this are too young to remember games in Durham but anyone who was there at our game in the 94-95 season won’t fail to recall what felt like the whole Panthers’ support howling at one of many short-lived Durham imports Tony Cimellaro. You’re probably asking yourself why we were doing it. The answers simple – one of our supporters decided he had bushy eyebrows which in their mind meant that he looked a bit like a werewolf and started howling and it spread throughout the game to the point where we were still doing it in Ferrybridge services car park half way down the M1.

Possibly the funniest night (although not for Blaz Emersic) I remember has to be Panthers final game against the London Racers in the old Lea Valley rink. We outnumbered the Racers fans that night (never a good sign) and we were, to use an massively over used phrase “loud and proud” even before the puck dropped- one of their players was trying to lift a stray balloon over the plexi using his stick. Every time he got it three quarters of the way up the plexi before it fell of his stick and every time that happened we cheered. You could tell he was getting more and more fed up with the balloon and us and given the reputation the Racers had back then winding them probably wasn’t a very good thing to do. It didn’t stop us though and Dennis Maxwell, their coach, probably got more than anyone else for his constant whining at the referee. That’s where fans can come in to games though. Maxwell was whinging and moaning so we let him know every time he started it.

I’m glad to see that sense of humour continues to this day. I was in Hull the other week and a voice from our fans told the refereee to check his phone – cos he’d missed some important calls.

The things that some teams and some fans don’t understand is that the best chants and songs start in one place and then grow organically. Remember the 06-07 play-offs? That “Where is Dan Tessier?” song started with a few fans on the Saturday afternoon and the best part of half the rink were singing it by the end of the final. If it’s good it will spread just like the Hirschy – five hole song a couple of seasons ago. You can’t force songs on people (anyone else remember Peterborough’s club song?) if they don’t want them. They’ll join in the good stuff and sing them when they want. That’s why I can’t stand all this “Just Can’t Get Enough” stuff now, the club want to ram it down our necks at every turn but maybe that’s because I remember it the first time round.

So, what am I trying to say? I think the main thrust of all this is that if you can (and I’m fully aware that some people can’t or don’t want to) get yourself to an away game. The game on the ice is the same but everything goes on around it can be very different. Want to be able to get close to the players as they prepare to go on the ice? Go to Hull. Want a terrific atmosphere? Try Fife. They’re different, they’re great and with the travel they make going to an ice hockey game feel like an event again rather than just something you do on a Saturday night.

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