Greetings one and all, and welcome to the first post on Ice Nation UK – the UK’s home of all things Ice Hockey and NHL related. Read on for more information…
Firstly, a little about myself. I am a Brit, born and bred in Bath in the South West of England, and currently residing in Bristol. I enjoy music (I’ll give almost anything a go), sport (more on that later), TV shows and movies.
The reasons I got into ice hockey are a little obscure. I am a field hockey player by nature (laugh if you must), having played the sport from the age of 8, so have had an interested in sports being played with sticks for a long time – I guess that’s where the similarities lie. Other than that, I also enjoy rugby – both Bath and England obviously being “my” teams – and hence you might be able to see where my passion for physical sport comes from. As for the skating side of things, well anyone who can play hockey AND co-ordinate themselves on ice skates simultaneously is OK in my book.
My first memories of watching ice hockey are the 1998 Nagano Olympics – I was 10 – where I can vaguely remember watching guys getting plastered into the boards and thinking, “Yeah, that’s pretty cool”. That Christmas, my parents bought me the NHL ’98 computer game, which I obsessed with for a while (particularly over one guy called Gretzky, he was quite good). However, given in 1998 the internet (or “the Al Gore” as one of my favourite hockey bloggers, Lowetide, refers to it) was still in its infancy and not yet present in my household, and ice hockey was rarely shown on UK television (or if it was, well past my bed-time at that age!), I gradually forgot about the sport again. What can I say, kids are fickle!
Around comes 2006. Bored one day at home, I decide to dig out my old friend, NHL 98. Had a couple of weeks bashing buttons, and out of curiosity decided to see what Gretzky was up to then. To Wikipedia! Gretzky had of course retired by then, but I decided to see what his old team, the Edmonton Oilers, were up to. They were just scraping into the playoffs, only to knock out the powerhouse Detroit Red Wings and go on to the Stanley Cup Finals after defeating both San Jose and Anaheim, before finally losing tragically to the Carolina Hurricanes after a heroic battle up to Game 7. I. Was. Hooked.
In 2006-07 I bought my first of three Oilers jerseys, as well as snapping up tickets to go and see the Anaheim Ducks (a chance to boo Chris Pronger, woohoo!) play the LA Kings in London’s O2 Arena to open the 2007-08 season with my friend Johnny, a lifelong Washington Capitals fan. It was hugely enjoyable, and much to my regret to date the only NHL game I’ve had the pleasure of watching live. LA won, with rookie Jonathan Bernier getting the “W” in net. Anze Kopitar was but a young’un then, but his talent and skill stood out a mile. Pronger was just as massively imposing as he was on TV, and Visnovsky and Niedermayer were extremely slick skating d-men. An awesome spectacle to behold, that was my impression of NHL hockey.
Since then I’ve followed the NHL and the Oilers with an almost obsessive regularity (just ask my girlfriend), frequenting various websites daily – TSN, NHL.com, to name a couple – and numerous hockey blogs that you will often see mentioned around here.
Why not British Ice Hockey?
The simple answer to that question is that I don’t live near any ice rinks that have ice hockey teams. I suspect if Bath had a permanent ice rink and a team then I would be a regular attendee of games, but quite simply I’ve never had the opportunity. Bristol has had various teams throughout the years, but for a kid and later a young man who doesn’t drive, getting the 13 miles to Bristol is easier said than done. And sod’s law dictated that now, once I have moved to Bristol, the owner of the ice rink on which I first skated and numerous British skating greats have frequented has unfortunately decided to convert the ice rink into student accommodation, much to most Bristolian’s dismay. Thus, the Bristol Bulldogs are ceasing to exist.
I was a student at Glamorgan University, just to the north of Cardiff, and did go to a couple of Cardiff Devils games. They were very entertaining, despite the massive difference in quality between them and NHL teams, and the Devils seem to have a special place in the hearts of Cardiff-folk, despite ice hockey being a niche-sport in the UK. However, my inability to drive stymied me once again, as a car was the only practical way of getting to games, and I never expected my housemates to drive me everywhere (they were ice hockey fans too though, after I forced it on them!), not to mention being typically poor whilst at Uni.
The British Elite League is only televised on Sky Sports, which only those of us with the means to afford it can get (I don’t), and so I can’t watch it on TV.
Any fans of the British Elite League (or whatever it’s currently called!), please don’t think because I primarily blog about the NHL that you don’t have a home here – you do, and I welcome any contributions and updates. If there is anything newsworthy or a well-written opinion piece written by yourselves, I will happily post it here for all to read. Same goes for fans of any hockey league in any country. Everyone welcome.
Do I play?
I do not. Again, this stems from lack of opportunity and discovering hockey at a later age. I can get around an ice rink, clumsily, but I have never had the opportunity to play Ice Hockey, much to my regret. I do own a stick, and played street hockey with one of my uni friends, Ben, in the car park outside halls. So basically, yes I know how to play hockey, and I know I would be a pretty good hockey player (also helped by my field hockey skills), but I just can’t skate. It is my ambition to learn to do so someday and join a team.
Have I even been to Canada?
No I have not. That has probably made my obsession with ice hockey even more ridiculous. I want to move to Canada – not just because of the hockey, but it just looks and sounds like a stunning country – and watch hockey all winter long. But for now, I’m extremely fortunate to be able to keep up with things and watch games and communicate with Canadian fans over the internet.
Please, enjoy this site. Comment on my posts, converse with me, debate about teams and news. It’s all opinion, and it’s great to be able to bring everyone together about the sport that we love. Keep things civil and I’m sure we’ll all get along great!