We rate ice hockey as one of the most exciting sports in the world. And, although you wouldn’t know it from Britain’s soccer-saturated sports media, you can watch it at a pretty good standard here in the UK. We say “can watch”, but we mean “should watch”. Here’s why:
1. It’s exciting. That’s what you want in a sport, isn’t it? Speed, scores, action all the way. Don’t expect a goal-less tie when you take your seat at your local rink. And don’t expect it to be quiet, either.
2. It’s everywhere. Admittedly, if you live in Cornwall or the Highlands, you’ll have a bit of a trek to your nearest team, but the top-level Elite League features teams from all four UK countries – five in England, three in Scotland and one each in Wales and Northern Ireland.
3. Tradition. Okay, the fact that it’s been around for ages isn’t in itself a reason to watch, but it shows this isn’t some flash in the pan or recent North American import. Team GB won Olympic gold in 1936, and the Oxford-Cambridge Varsity match dates back to 1885.
4. Aggression. There’s a saying: “I went to a fight last night and a hockey game broke out.” It’s a tough sport, and unusually (and controversially) fighting is considered a legitimate part of the action in British hockey. which tends to be influenced more by the North American game than by the European version. The argument goes – if two big guys want to drop the gloves for their team’s honour, why not?
5. It needs you. British hockey is invariably in a fragile state. Last summer, one Elite League team collapsed, only to be bought by the owners of another Elite League team! Not a great way to run a sport, but that’s the reality – whole leagues have folded in the past couple of decades, so teams need bums on seats to pay the bills.
What’s that? You’ve seen British hockey on TV and you’re not that impressed? Well, it’s not the NHL, for sure, but more than most sports, ice hockey isn’t good on screen because the puck is so hard to see. We reckon Sky Sports does a good job, but it’s much better in real-life, believe us.