We’re staying with a very generous family in Germany whose daughter we borrowed for a couple of weeks earlier this year. Wanting to be the perfect hosts, they asked us if there was anything in particular we’d like to do here in the north of Germany? I ignored my dear father’s suggestion of visiting the worlds biggest model railway setup in Hamburg. He wants to see that, he should come here himself. My dear husband suggested popping into a Bundesliga soccer game, fun for the whole family. Alas, they were having a Christmas break. But we could go and see an ice hockey game, also a new experience for our hosts.
Let me tell you, you have to get out and see ice hockey. I’m guessing that we don’t really have an equivalent in Australia, I know there’s a bit of ice hockey played, but it couldn’t be like this. For a start, the ice looked a lot colder than that at Canterbury Ice Rink, it stayed dry. And there were a lot more people there. And you got a free pat down on the way in because of crowd violence, that added an edge. I could have wished to be slightly further from the drumming chant leaders.
But they really added to the atmosphere, the crowd was impressively musical and knew a lot more songs than One Nil.
At first there didn’t seem to be any rules at all, except that you score when your puck goes into the net at the other end. Which made me wonder why there had to be four referees. Eventually it appeared that there were some things that were beyond the pale, such as slamming an opponent into the wall, sitting on a goalie, hitting the puck into the crowd, having more than six players on the ice at any time – and that was confusing, there was constant interchange that basically involved them leaping the fence at exactly the same moment that someone leapt in the other direction. At one point the opposition decided they’d like to score a goal, so took off the goalie and had six players all trying for a goal. That lasted about ten seconds before the home team scored from behind the half way line. Back to having a goalie. It was very fast moving and very exciting, for some fans perhaps a little too exciting.
They had some excellent innovations that we could adopt, such as vending machines for your ice hockey essentials. I would have got some shoelaces, but I didn’t have any coins on me.
Also the plastic beer mugs have hollow spike handles that means you can stack a whole lot on top of each other. Not only that, but if you take them back to the bar you get a deposit back, which means no litter. Alternatively, you can pinch one to take home as a souvenir, remind me to show you some time. As a side note, I appear to be able to tolerate German beer. Australian beer is delicious, but gives me all kind of digestive problems, as does American beer which also has the disadvantage of being non delicious. I’ve even had two in a row with no noticeable side effects. Interesting.
However. The game is in twenty minutes thirds and there seem to be a huge number of players in each team that only spend a couple of minutes on the ice at a time. It may just be a local thing, but the opposition (Schwenningen) was pretty much ignored by the announcer and booed by the crowd. And the referees got death threats when they scored their only goal. The home team (Wolfsburg) had a huge introduction with pictures of the players on the big screen and a whole lot of carry on when they scored. The players themselves seemed fairly good natured, there was only one bit of fairly half hearted biffo. Not even too much angst when a stick was broken. And the puck doesn’t stay horizontal to the ground as I’d imagined, it was spinning on its side, being chocked into the air and players could slam it to the ground with their hand to avoid sticks being at head height.
As a sport avoider in general, I would put this up the with AFL as an excellent spectator sport that looks really hard to do yourself, only a lot shorter and with more singing. Thanks Sabine and Thomas, we couldn’t have asked for kinder hosts!