JT Shark: A Hockey Experience

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

J.T Shark
@jtshark71

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9 Responses to "JT Shark: A Hockey Experience"

  1. anjinsan says:

    Look at the size of that sheet of ice! Yippee kay-yoo ki-yay. Can the NHL do the same size, please please please.

  2. stevezie says:

    Nice! I’m heading out to a game in Scotland next month, can’t wait!

  3. meanashell11 says:

    Dundee, is that the one in Scotland?

    When I was a kid I lived in Scotland for seven years. My dad was in the oil business and we lived in Banchory. There certainly were no hockey rinks in Scotland back then. To skate, we would go to the curling rink after the curing was over and skate on the ice. I don’t know if you know but at least then curling ice had water drops frozen on top of the sheet to make the stones move faster. Try skating on ice with little speckles all over!

  4. Material pocession says:

    My friend Layne Ulmer plays on the Cardiff Devils. He’s a great guy and an amazing hockey player. Scoring machine, really. Was drafted in the 7th round in 1999; the guy taken after him: Henrik Zetterberg. He made a very bad impression on Tom Renney in TR’s office during his rookie training camp and that was it for his NHL dream. Plus his skating wasn’t quite good enough.

  5. Lowetide says:

    Material pocession:
    My friend Layne Ulmer plays on the Cardiff Devils.He’s a great guy and an amazing hockey player.Scoring machine, really.Was drafted in the 7th round in 1999;the guy taken after him: Henrik Zetterberg.He made a very bad impression on Tom Renney in TR’s office during his rookie training camp and that was it for his NHL dream.Plus his skating wasn’t quite good enough.

    I remember Layne Ulmer. Very skilled.

  6. dustrock says:

    Great work JTS. I’ve always said I admire the passion of football fans in the UK etc and wished there was an Oilers fan club to lead chants at games.

    I think it’s great to focus on the family atmosphere. I remember attending games as a kid, and it was a big deal if people were swearing and they’d quickly be asked to quiet down.

    Now I go to a game and it’s non-stop cursing and drunk idiots on a Wednesday night. I have not taken my 6 year old daughter to a game yet because I don’t want her to experience that.

    Good for Cardiff.

  7. VOR says:

    What a great blog entry. I look forward to the next instalment.

    I was wondering if it might inspire people to tell their own stories of hockey around the globe. It certainly did me.

    One of my fondest hockey memories comes from Dayan.

    Dayan, The Old City of Lijiang as the Chinese government prefers to call it, is stunningly old. There are buildings that have been in use since 680 AD. The Nakhi people, this was their capital in 1983, are master builders. To this day they build beautiful buildings from mud and logs completely without blue prints.

    It was Christmas of 1983. The entire of China was still being torn apart by the Great Re-education and its aftermath. My hosts, the Nakhi Autonomous Government, were fighting to prevent their people being relocated by the Red Army and re-educated. Their big sin was practicing their religion, worshiping the Dongba. The Dongba lives in the water, the Dongba is the water. Dongba combines elements of Tibetan Buddhism and indigenous Animism.

    Dayan was, in 1983, this maze of canals and bridges. A Chinese, or rather Nakhi, Venice.

    Despite their imminent peril my hosts organized a surprise for the Canadians working for them. It was an impromptu hockey game. We used a tennis ball, we just had basic sticks, no pads, or helmets and no goalie equipment. The skates didn’t fit, were desperately in need of sharpening, and all 20 plus years old.

    Not to mention I was sure we’d breakthrough the ice. But like I said the Nakhi are master builders. I am still not sure how they made ice. It was going well below freezing at night but hovering around freezing during the day. But the Nakhi are all born with a Macgiver gene.

    We Canadians had a great time. It was old timey pond hockey played in front of a rabid crowd of 50 or 60 Nakhi. It was a great Christmas gift from a group of devout Animist Buddhists. Though playing hockey at 8,000 feet has some unique challenges. Shifts were really short.

    So sometimes good things happen to good people and the Nakhi never got evicted from their homeland. This is because the Nakhi language, is like Welsh and Estonian, a tongue twister. The Red Army officers assigned to move the Nakhi were ethnically, you guessed it, Nakhi. Things kept getting delayed.

    Sometime in the 1990s UNESCO declared Dayan a World Heritage Site. Developers rushed in and turned the beautiful old city into a theme park for Han Chinese. The development caused the water table to fall and the canals to dry up during the winter – the dry season. In the summer when it rains every day, all day you can experience the original effect. The Nakhi couldn’t afford to live there any more.

    Now before you cry for the Nakhi. They are survivors. They still own Dayan. They just rented it to the developers for insane rents.

    They re-entrenched in their old capital, the old, old city of Bashi. Which while also a World Heritage Site is not a tourist attraction. Don’t get me wrong. At night, all lit up, Dayan is beautiful, fake but beautiful.

    If you ever get the chance go to Lijiang and Bashi and the Three Rivers World Heritage Site often described as the Chinese Grand Canyon which is unfair to both places, go. You won’t regret it. The water is clear and clean, the Dongba still abides and guides. You can follow part of the Old Silk Road. And the Nakhi people are the friendliest people on Earth.

  8. leadfarmer says:

    Hey LT Remember when we were all like hey this Pettersson kid was the real deal and everyone thought we were crazy. Those were fun times.

  9. Kinger_Oil.redux says:

    VOR,

    – Great post J.T.!

    – Thanks for this VOR.

    – Are we going to see more guest posts like this? It’s a fine idea

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