Words and music, in its entirety, courtesy Jump the Shark.
Part 1 Where the hockey road leads you.
Today.. Cardiff, Wales
You never know where the hockey world will take you and what story you will get. On Sunday the 3rd of December, 2017, my plan was to attend the Cardiff Devils vs Dundee Stars game and compare the hockey game to that we have in Canada. Well the story I wanted to write will need to be written another day, as the story I ended up getting was far more interesting. It was not found on the ice but in the stands, with the people who work for the club, the fans who attend and how the team goes out of its way to be part of the community and to be community leaders.
The word INCLUSIVE came up a lot during my time in the arena, it became obvious that it is part of their business plan and it is one of the reasons trying to get a ticket for the Devils home games can be difficult to come by on game day.
If you have never been to Wales, as a Canadian you will be surprised how friendly the Welsh people are and this will come as a nice break if you visit London prior to Wales. Welsh people are friendly and can go toe to toe with Canadians on this topic.
Inclusive is the best way to describe how the team is with the community they serves and this can be found in the announcement right before the game. At my first NHL hockey game I kept hearing a chant, it was for my 6th birthday and my uncle took me to the game and I asked him what they were chanting. He paused and said “Bull..something or another”.
The guy behind us filled me in on what they were chanting after every bad call. Before the Devil’s game the PA announcers kindly asked people “Not to swear at the refs or players and toss debris on the ice, as this is family friendly game”. Some could be put off as some believe in that tossing stuff on the ice and swearing is a time-honoured tradition of letting the refs know just what you think. But the Devils pride themselves on being family friendly and the announcement is part of the inclusivity part of their presentation.
They want families in the stands and realize not all parents want to see or hear “that” kind of behaviour or language when out with their children. In walking around the Ice Arena and talking with many fans, they all give the same answers to “Why do they come to the games”. Love the game, fun game to watch, and it is family friendly. At the game tonight the audience was made up by about 35 to 40% being under the age of 18 and when talking to many of the parents they said they would rather bring their children to this game, as they cannot take them to either Football or Rugby due to the language and actions of the crowd and they enjoy the fact the entire family can come to these games without worrying about antics that would cause them to leave other sporting events early.
Many organizations and leagues talk about being inclusive, but the Devils and the British Elite League follow through with trying to make the game inclusive those who otherwise would not be included. Gay rights are a hot button topic for many pro sports teams. In North America players, teams and leagues make announcement in support of gay rights or the LGBT community, but have no follow through or have only do slight gestures. The Devils are all about including everyone and this includes the LGBT community. Where other teams do one off thing to prove that they support LGBT, the Devils do more than one thing and follow up with more evidence of the inclusive nature of their business beliefs and strategy. The Devils are owned by 5 guys from Calgary and their love of the game has been passed onto the fans and those who own the teams.
In November the entire team wore LGBT jerseys and then auctioned them off after the game to fans and encouraged them to wore them like they would ware their usual Devils jerseys in support of the team. The game I attended about half the fans in the stands were wearing something to support Devils team and about a dozen fans were wearing the jerseys they won at auction. When I asked why? To a person they said “This game is all about make people feel included”.
The passion that I got from the fans could match if not beat that the support that some fans show their NHL team. Some Canadians may look down their nose at the Cardiff Devils and their fans as not being professional to their understanding of professionalism is. As a Canadian my views have changed when it comes to European hockey, whether it be in the British Elite League, the KHL or Finish or Swedish pro leagues.
As Canadians we want to believe no other country, with the exception of maybe Sweden. No one is anywhere near as passionate about the game as Canadians are. Anyone who believes that needs to attend a Cardiff Devil’s game and see first hand how a team has become part of the community, how they engage their fans and go out of their way to make sure everyone is welcome at their games regardless of their ethnic background, sexual orientation or their income lever. As long as you come to enjoy yourself and to be amongst friends.
While the Cardiff Devils may not play in the NHL, NHL teams and fans can learn a lot from the Devils team and their fans with just how important the relationship a team has with their fans and the community that they serve.
This was my first Devils game, I will be attending this Fridays game when the Devils play host to one of the newer Elite league teams the Guilford Flames and I will be writing another blog about both the on ice activities and those in the stands.
I am hoping to make these blogs a series of reports from all British Elite league arenas and games played in other European countries, including this years world Championships in Denmark.
What is my aim of these blogs? To show my fellow NHL fans that there is more to hockey then just the NHL and that while it may not be the NHL, hockey here in the UK and Europe have a lot more to offer then you may understand.
Also as part of these blogs I will be talking about Women’s Hockey(the Devils do have a women’s team) and the challenges they face playing in a country where ice hockey is the ultimate niche sport and about the grass roots approach to growing a game where Football is as much of religion as hockey is in Canada.
Till the next time