The weekend after Erk’s road trip to Perth saw both Melbourne teams travel to Sydney to play both Sydney teams in the Australian Ice Hockey League.
Photo – Erk poses with the Sydney Bears mascot on the day of purchasing his Sydney Bears jersey.
Returning home from Perth, Erk had seen a lot of Australia very quickly. Online, he was meeting a lot of AIHL fans on Facebook and Twitter. An online question about jerseys saw me connecting with Sydney Bears back-up goal tender Luke Read. Meeting more Sydney Bears fans online and also not having access to a live stream, I decided to see both Melbourne teams play the Sydney Bears at the Sydney Ice Arena.
On Saturday, the Melbourne Mustangs would be the Bears first opponent. Sunday would see the Melbourne Ice play the Bears. If I decided to see the Mustangs on Saturday and follow them to Liverpool Catholic Club on Sunday, I would have missed out on seeing the Melbourne Ice. I decided that the hockey community would be well served by several people tweeting the games at Liverpool as well as a live stream. At the Bearsdome, I would be a vital link with the outside world.
Earlier, I had ordered two Ice Dogs jerseys and was also interested in purchasing two Bears jerseys. Over the last couple of weeks, I have decided that I can support both teams but the club that needs help the most in terms of social media and game day experience was the Bears. I was also hoping to meet up with Luke after Saturday’s game for a chat and to see what size jersey I would need.
Prior to the games on Saturday, both Sydney clubs had announced new multi game passes for the first of the season. I decided that I did not know for how long these passes would be available for. To get the best use of both passes, I would have to get them that weekend. Both games were on at similar times (the Ice Dogs game started at 5pm & the Bears game started at 6pm) so I could not see both. I drove to the Icedogsdome, picked up the ticket from there and then headed to the Bearsdome for the game. With both passes in hand, I met up with some fans before the game.
The Melbourne Mustangs entered the ice soon enough followed by the Bears. As usual, there was no live stream and the outside world knew that I was there live tweeting. Some Melbourne fans who could not make the trip to Sydney appreciated my tweetage. The Mustangs won the game and the Bears had lost their first regulation time game of the year. The atmosphere was not always good – often the handful of Mustangs supporters were louder than the home team fans.
Meeting up with Luke Read after the game, I could clearly see how different he looked while wearing the protective equipment and without it. We had a nice chat and I was also able to find out how to purchase a jersey – which I promised to do the next day.
Overnight, discussions with several Bears fans lead to some action in terms of active support. On Sunday, I moved from my usual position at the scoreboard end of Sydney Ice Arena and moved more towards the middle. Partly led by me, there had not been as much noise and atmosphere at a Bears home game all year. Prior to the game, I picked up an away Bears jersey and have ordered a customised home jersey. For Bears games at least, this means that I would be able to fit in better and not need to wear my Portland Winterhawks jersey to games.
Speaking of the Winterhawks jersey, some people recognised it for what it was – a Winterhawks WHL jersey. Others thought it was a Chicago Blackhawks NHL jersey – I was happy to correct some of the people. One of the people who recognised the jersey for what it was saw me on Saturday waiting at Liverpool. Prior to the game, the Melbourne Ice players were entering the arena after warming up outside. One rather tall Ice player asked me why was I wearing a Winterhawks jersey. After a brief explanation of the story behind it, he told me that he used to play against the Winterhawks in the WHL several years ago. A quick conversation about the league was had before we parted ways. It was only when I got to the car park to drive over to Baulkham Hills that I realised that I did not know the name of the player I had spoken to! I later confirmed that it was one of the Ice’s latest Canadian imports, Jeff Smith. Jeff recently arrived into the league and is playing very well for his new team.
Arriving at Bears home ice, the atmosphere was a lot better off the ice. The Bears played better on the ice but the Melbourne Ice showed why they are leading the AIHL at this point. My live tweets continued but I combined it with some cheerleading. There was a while where I was continually chanting for around 2 minutes and the fans around me were chanting around me. We only stopped cheering for the moment when the Ice scored an empty net goal right in the shadow of full time.
After the game, there was another game of hockey scheduled, this time in the East Coast Super League. I stayed to watch this game as my voice recovered from the Bears game. I watched this game from ice level and I even managed to watch a live game of hockey without live tweeting it! Speaking of live tweeting games, people have come to appreciate my live tweets. Several people have said that my live tweets are better than those of some of the clubs playing.
While the Bears had not won a game all weekend, I had a successful weekend. I had connected with two AIHL players, entertained and informed the hockey world about the matches, cheered loud and proud as well as helping to improve the game day experience. I had also purchased the equalivant of 2 half season passes and 2 jerseys.
During the following week, I was asked if I wanted to write match reports, previews and opinion pieces for the Hewitt Sports Network. I accepted the challenge and to date, I have written 2 match reports based on the Bears – Mustangs/Ice games and two previews of the following weeks games. Despite having not written a match report before, I was able to use my live tweets as notes.
Also during the week, I decided to have all my articles also feature here and also to start a hockey podcast after I return from Europe at the end of June. Coming up next is the next game between the Sydney Bears and the Sydney Ice Dogs. It should be a cracking weekend of hockey.
So since this series started, I have been to two AIHL venues, purchased 4 jerseys, 2 pucks and two half season passes. I have written for 2 different websites including the official AIHL website, had various teams & fans favourite, highlight and retweet my tweets and now I’ll be doing an AIHL podcast in my own style. Not bad considering that as I write this in May, I was only properly introduced to the game in January!