Along with getting a player’s perspective on the game, it’s usually more interesting to get a fans point of view. The fan is the most integral part of hockey. It keeps the business of hockey thriving. Without the fans, you have no team or league. And without the league well, there’s no game.
This is the first of what I hope to be many features on fans of the game throughout the world. It intrigues me to know how they got hooked onto the game and if you haven’t figured out by now, how the game thrives in their area of the world.
My first installment is with Ben Thompson of England. Follow him on twitter, @BenThompson84
March Hockey: Where are you located and how did you get interested in hockey?
Ben Thompson: I live in Doncaster, England, around 20 miles from Sheffield. My interest in hockey started in 1996 when we were taken to see the Sheffield Steelers on a school trip; totally hooked from there. (March’s note: Pretty kickass school. Never did that here in Canada!)
MH: What makes you a passionate fan of the EPIHL compared to the EIHL?
BT: Well, as I said, my first team were the Steelers, possibly one of the top two biggest clubs in the UK. I saw them win titles & beat a team 18-1. In 2010 I saw them beat Cardiff 4-2 in a game where NOTHING happened in the 3rd. I needed a change. I went to see the Steeldogs in the division below; a hard working team packed with local players, only 3 imports…fights, high scores; cheaper tickets, cheaper beer, more passion, a family club…I was home. Although there are a few teams with big money in the EPIHL, it doesn’t effect the result of the league half as much as the EIHL, which makes the top division predictably boring.
MH: Who is your favourite EPIHL team and player? Why?
BT: Sheffield Steeldogs. Local team, home grown players, hard working ‘blue collar’ mentality. We’re hated for our physical tactics, which I love. Player wise, Greg Wood. Leader, Sheffield lad, skillful & brave. Reflects the club.
(Quick mention for Andy Hirst; from my hometown, ever improving, without a doubt a future ‘A’ & ‘C’)
MH: Does the EPIHL or the teams of the league in general do enough to incorporate fan interaction or to keep fans interested?
BT: I feel like an integral part of my club; the owner knows me on first name terms. The club look after their fans & work hard to engage people in the brand, but have a tough job with the Steelers been 500 metres away. Other EPIHL have good websites & Twitter but the EPIHL must work harder to push the league by incorporating a relevant EPIHL website & push media through YouTube or maybe even TV.
MH: If you were to change one thing about the league, what would it be and why?
BT: Usher the Guildford Flames into the EIHL. Financially they make the league a bit disjointed.
MH: Let’s talk NHL. Who’s your favourite team and player and why?
BT: I have a soft spot for the Calgary Flames (Not covered in glory last season). It all goes back to NHL 94 on the Sega. I also have Canadian relatives in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, so it has to be a Canadian team. Favourite player – Iginla (See career..Haha)
MH: How do you think the NHL could market itself better for fans over in Europe?
BT: More TV coverage – maybe Sky or BT Sport. Adopt an NFL style UK game, maybe at the MEN arena in front of 18,000.
Thanks so much Ben for giving your perspective on the game in England. If you are a passionate hockey fan, I want to hear from you! Send me a tweet on twitter @MarchHockey or a message on facebook, http://www.facebook.com/MarchHockey!