Over the years rivalries have been a key aspect int he tribal nature of all sports. James Trotman explores that in the context of the modern day Belfast Giants.
Rivalries in sport are natural. The very definition “competition for the same objective or for superiority in the same field” highlights what sport is all about.
Although the realistic goals for all teams aren’t the same, everyone is striving for success.
It’s natural to envy success of a team that’s not your own.
Sports in the UK has a strange sub culture whereby developing rivalries are often quashed and mocked by opposing fans whilst both sets bandy claims of the other “being obsessed” with one another’s comings and goings.
I say embrace it!
When another set of fans (or official club social media) are commenting on others it means they care. They know there is a threat or they are envious of what the other is doing.
Over the years in Belfast my list of clubs who top the list of who I like the least has varied.
I remember the early years when I was young at Playoff weekends when the Giants didn’t make it, watching our inexperienced fanbase jump on the Steelers bandwagon, celebrating their goals, joining in their chants and staying to watch them lift the cup. Now older and wiser, the majority of our fans would rather eat broken glass.
26.10.2002 – Never Forgive, Never Forget. A night which solidified a hatred toward the Nottingham Panthers ever more. More recent newcomers to the SSE – this is a must watch in order to understand the passion amongst the fans when the Panthers come to town.
2008 – 09 – The Vipers. Attempting to bully one of our most skilful but injury prone line ups, there was many a brawl when these two teams met. At the Odyssey Rob Wilson and his heavyweight line up targeted our skilled guys forcing the Giants to go into the market and hire certified tough guy Jason Rushton specifically for their next visit. Fireworks between Payette and Rushton made the future fixtures almost a guarantee for trouble.
The Coventry Blaze for years were a team I couldn’t stand. Watching the AC/DC line continuously torture the boys in Teal and sweeping success after success was sickening.
In years gone by organisations have tried to construct rivalries. It’s good for ticket sales. The ones you feel most passionate about are the ones that grow naturally.
In my eyes, everyone in the EIHL is a rival. I would never dream of “supporting” another team but my own. It’s one off events, periods of sustained rivals success, or players moving between clubs which makes our own success all the sweeter.
Take your feelings and emotions from the nights where you have felt aggrieved, cheated and betrayed and use these to fuel your support at the next meeting between the teams. It’s these feelings and passions which generate the best atmospheres.
Who remembers the atmosphere in Odyssey the night Paxton has his first shot at revenge at Barry Neickar? The place was deafening. As the teams entered the ice the “Paxton’s gonna get you” chants had already been going for 10 minutes.
The buzz of a home double header against Sheffield to secure a league title against one of the most successful clubs in the UK? Who can forget those games?
This year I know which games I looked for first in the calendar and I’m sure the atmosphere is going to be electric…..
Let’s hope everyone is as “obsessed” with Belfast this year!
James got in touch with us to share his thoughts by e-mailing us a KotG. If you’d like to get involved, please just drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org . We want to be your platform for Belfast Giants and Hockey opinions.
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(All Pictures: PressEye)