Friend Request

Paul Balm has a request for UK Hockey fans…

There are many questions that have been asked for years about sport that no one can really answer. You know the sort I mean: “How did Carlton Palmer ever play for England?”, “why are public tennis courts only ever used during Wimbledon?” or “why is it called Sports Personality of the Year when the winner rarely has one?” . There’s another question you can add to this seemingly endless list, a question that should probably sit right at the top of the pile.

That question is quite simply “who does sport belong to?”

It keeps getting asked not because of there are no real answers but because there are too many. Some will say it belongs to the players. They play the game so it’s theirs. Some may tell you that the game belongs to the owners, the money men who support the teams that we turn up to watch week in week out. I believe, though, that most people will tell you that the game belongs to the fans.

I don’t think you can really argue against the sport not belonging to the fans. OK, without the players or the owners the teams we follow wouldn’t exist but players come and players go and so do owners but us fans are always here. You only have to look at some of the Panthers fans I know. I know any number of people who attended games in the first season that the team returned to Nottingham. That’s 35 seasons!  I’ve seen more players than I care to remember and plenty I’ve already forgotten (I saw a picture the other day that had Tom Askey on it. I’d forgotten he existed never mind that he played for Panthers or ice hockey for that matter, was he any good?) or wished I could forget and I bet everyone of those Panthers fans and fans of all the other teams in this country feel the same.

When we decided to bring back the Rink Rush we talked quite a bit about ways we could raise money. As the months go on we’ll announce more of them but the first idea we’ve had (or at least made public) has a lot to do with what I started talking about at the start of this article.

I read a comment on Facebook or somewhere a while ago suggested that we should write a book about our Cats Whiskers TV exploits and if I’m entirely honest I immediately dismissed it as, whilst extremely gratifying and a touch humbling, a bit daft. Something must have stuck though and in the way that all the best ideas have a habit of doing it popped up again at a time when I least expected it – on a bus. I was thinking about fund raising ideas and the book idea popped up. Some sort of ice hockey book but what? We could write the story of the planning and the journey of the Rink Rush but who would read that? I started thinking about ice hockey books, particularly those realting to British ice hockey and I came to a conclusion – very few of them were written from the fans’ perspective. There was nothing out there that tells us what it’s like to have been an ice hockey fan in this country over the years. So, that’s what we want to do.

We want to create an ebook (it’s so much easier and cheaper to do compared to a physical book) that contains stories of what it is like to be a fan and we need your help. We will be doing some of the writing for this book and we’re going to be asking some of the bigger figures in the game to contribute their stories but we want the majority to come from you the fans. We want the sort of stories that you sit round a table in a pub and tell each other. Anything that starts “remember that time when…” is good for us. We want the highs (and the lows), the ecstasy and agony of what it takes to be an ice hockey fan. The first games, the best games, the great goals to the downright shambles, last minute winners, 0.2 second winners, the players you loved, the players you hated, the great scraps or those downright strange events that don’t make a blind bit of sense to anyone that wasn’t there (for example I’ve got a story that involves Durham, a werewolf and a tube of Mini Cheddars).

This isn’t just open to Panthers fans. We might all be from Nottingham but we’ll take stories from anywhere, any time, any league or any team. Like I said earlier I’ve been watching for far too long so most of my stories are going to be old (I’ve just realised the Durham,werewolf, Mini Cheddars story is over 20 years ago! Gulp!) but stories from last season are no different. It doesn’t matter when or where it was if it means something to you share it with us. Hopefully we’ll get both sides of some of the biggest events that we’ve seen. That way we’ll be able to contrast the two and, hopefully, show that despite the differing view points there’s far more similarities than differences between us despite us supporting different teams.

You can find more details about this project at and you can see on there that we’ve suggested categories you might like to write about but if you’ve got a story that doesn’t fit it doesn’t matter. We’ll find a way to fit it in. I’ve got a story involving a championship in the balance, two drunk players and a sense of regret that doesn’t really fit anywhere but I’ll try and shoehorn it in if I can.

The important thing is that we get as many stories as possible. The more stories we get the better value the book will be.  We all want more bang for our buck right? So, please send us your stories and help us make this the best description of what it feels like a British ice hockey fan.

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