Buried deep in a sea of strip lighting and generic eateries is a 4,000 seat stadium which is home to the Braehead Clan. The Clan are one of several Scottish based brands who help make up the UK and Ireland professional ice hockey league. I have always thought of ice hockey as somewhat of an outsider sport, with fans comprising chiefly of the type of pseudo-macho guy that never really grew out of listening to Marilyn Manson. I had also heard that you could enjoy a beer during the game. With this in mind I popped along to pretend to understand what was going on, whilst shouting threats at men with sticks.
As I made my way to arena I was surprised to find the demographic of the crowd to be far more mixed than anticipated. Lots of families and children were earnestly making their way to ice for the 7pm face off. I had been informed in the build up to the match that there was a bit of a rivalry between the Clan and tonight’s opponents the Nottingham Panthers, due to both franchises sharing an owner. I still can’t work out how this isn’t a conflict of interests and if anyone has any insight into this I’d be interested in finding out a bit more.
Despite the promised rivalry there was a fairly muted atmosphere in the sterile maze of commerce leading up to the arena. A similarly timed kick off for a football match on a Saturday night would surely have resulted in rampaging oafs tearing through the shopping centre, harassing beleaguered Nando’s staff and generally being a nuisance. In a place where sporting rivalries have deep trenches carved into the social make up of the city it was actually a refreshing change of pace.
We arrived just in time to grab a few drinks and miss the opening minutes of the game. By the time we had found our seats it was 1-1 with only 3 or so minutes played. I had barely warmed the plastic before I was on my feet again for another goal and then again shortly after. The game was now 3-1 to the clan and scarcely 5 minutes had elapsed. The atmosphere erupted along with the first of three fights of the evening; this was particularly viscous and resulted in a player being sent off for the entire game. It was particularly amusing to watch barely sentient toddlers clambering on their dad’s shoulders to scream for a knock out. Strangely, despite the Bambi legged blood lust it was in truth a fairly wholesome event.
As the game wore on the pints became easier to drink and the goals kept on flying in. At 6-2 I’ll confess to losing most if not all interest in the game, and my thoughts started to drift towards fan interaction. The Nottingham travelling support (about 100 people) had arrived in full fancy dress and started to conga around the arena. After each brake in play a variety of 90’s chart music pumped through the speakers provoking plenty of bad dancing and drunken shouting.
In truth it started to feel more like a student night which just happened to be held in an ice rink. To amass a crowd of around 3,000 people is impressive especially when compared to the ever dwindling attendances associated with Scottish football. With a final score 8-2 to the Braehead Clan I was impressed with the level of entertainment on show and not a single Marilyn Manson hoodie in sight.
Check out the game highlights below:
Words by Graeme Murdoch and photography courtesy of the Braehead Clan’s Facebook page.