Ice Hockey is played in the UK and here’s why you should watch it
Because there’s more to life than football
The UK sporting scene is dominated by football and rugby, but the UK sport has a secret and it’s very well kept. We play ice hockey as well.
In our secluded sporting world dominated by the Premier League and the Six Nations, most think ice hockey is played by Canadians and only in the NHL, but don’t realise there are tens of thousands of fans right here in the UK, where we have our own leagues and the top of those leagues is the Elite League. With teams representing towns and cities up and down the country, from Cardiff all the way to Dundee, there are teams for people to watch all across the country. There are four Elite League teams here in Scotland – Fife, Braehead, Edinburgh and Dundee.
The little knowledge of the sport in the UK leads people to believe no one goes to these games, but the attendances would give the equivalent football team a run for their money, with Fife easily achieving 2,000 a night and teams like Sheffield and Nottingham reaching numbers around 7,000 every match. Unlike the gladiatorial arenas seen at football matches where two sets of supporters are apparently pitted against each other at either end of the stadium, hockey crowds are free to mix together. Families are also encouraged to attend the friendlier atmosphere.
However, don’t think this softer attitude means that the intensity of the game suffers, as some rivalries in the Elite League produce sell-out crowds and an intense physical battle between players where fans want to get one over on their local rivals and with games taking place in some of the best live arenas in the country, the atmosphere is electric as the cheering is amplified throughout the buildings.
The league may be one of the ‘minor’ leagues in the world of ice hockey, but it has started to attract players who have formerly played in the NHL. Currently teams are made up in the majority of American and Canadian players who have played at a respectable level in the States meaning that the crowds are attracted to the quality of hockey on display.
The rules are simple enough to pick up as well (offside is a lot simpler) and even if people are new to the game they will be entertained throughout the 60 minutes and people who do not understand what is going on are welcomed if they are only there to see if a fight happens, which is part of the game and can bring an entire arena alive.
The league setup means that there is a trophy up for grabs for most teams, whether that be the league itself or the two regional conference titles. At the end of the season, the top eight teams are entered in the play-offs quarter finals, where the four remaining teams enter the play-off finals weekend in front of a sell-out crowd at the National Ice Centre in Nottingham to determine the play-off champions.
With more teams entering the league in the next few years the league is constantly expanding and as more talented players play in the league, the quality will only get better, so if you’re looking for something different to do on a Saturday night, find your local team, you won’t be disappointed.