Sunday, October 7, 2012

A day in the life of a locked out hockey fan


This is what I am missing ... LET'S GO PENS!

Hope dies last, but at a certain point it dies. Last week happened what everbody following the recent NHL lockout knew would come:  all games until October 24 are canceled. Further cancelations are soon to expect.


Although I was of course not surprised my heart broke the moment the cancelation was announced. It is official now - I will NOT see my Pens playing the week I will be in Pittsburgh in October. I am devasted. Of course I'll have a great time anyway and I can't wait to see my friends (many of them also sad and angry hockey fans) over there, but without the Pens a big piece of the package is missing. I got locked out and I HATE it!


From fall to spring hockey is usually a big part of my life. I just love watching and chatting in parallel with my fellow Pens fans overseas. I adore the special noise of the puck on the ice, the clicking of the sticks, the speed of the game, the emotions, the tension, the rivalries (*patooie* Flyers) - I LOVE HOCKEY! Pens hockey to be exact although I enjoy other hockey games, too (like the World Cup in Sweden) - just not all other hockey games, but we'll come to that later.
The idea that I have to face the hardest and most stressful time of the year (work gets wild towards Christmas for me) likely without hockey is ... scary and sad. I can only hope this drama ends soon.
Everybody involved is losing here ... lots of people's existence and jobs are tied to the NHL and in big danger now, fans suffer, players are stuck in a very unsatisfying situation and even the owners lose money with every canceled game (which is why I do not understand the lockout as a concept to deal with the situation btw).

But all ranting is not changing anything for now. There is no NHL hockey and we need to find a way to deal with it.

And that is why this beautiful October Friday - Mario Lemieux's birthday - I packed my bag to go and watch the first DEL (German hockey league) game since I was ca. 10 years old and watched with my dad.
The local Munich club EHC Red Bull Munich is playing 15 minutes by bike from my apartment. The thing is just that am not native Bavarian and will never be a Munich sports fan. That's why I picked a game where I could root for the guest team and my - obvious - choice fell on .... the Krefeld Penguins. No brainer, right? Additionally to the catchy name Krefeld is a town pratically around the corner from where I grew up in the North-West of Germany what makes it a perfect fit. Accompanied by another (Pittsburgh) Pens fan, who is traveling Europe and was in town this week, I entered the Olympic Ice Center in Munich around 7pm and that is what happened:

Does look okay, doesn't it?




I had put on my black James Neal jersey because the black Pens jerseys are closest to one of the Krefeld Penguins jerseys (not the ones they were wearing  that night though).  And I was not the only locked out NHL fan in the - btw half empty - venue:





On the ice ...

Krefeld Penguins goalie Patrick Vetter:





Looks like hockey, but sadly did not really feel like it:



The game is slower, less physical, puck handling is far away from NHL niveau and so is skating and passing.

It was pretty frustrating and not only for me. Native German and Sabres player Christian Ehrhoff is one of those who decided to leave for Europe early in the lockout and plays for the Krefeld Penguins now.
3 times he had to sit down for 2 minutes and at least 2 out of 3 times for ... nothing - on NHL standards. The final penalty was in the - for local standards - dramatic last 2 minutes of  the games when the Krefeld Pens had pulled their goalie to use the last chance to score. Since I was close I could see that Ehrhoff was really, really pissed.
It was obvious that this is not his game. It his not his speed. He plays too physical for German standards and rules. His pretty perfect passes mostly met the sticks of his teammates, who were not really able to do something with it.
The longer the lockout goes the more NHL players will come over to Europe but it won't be easy for them to adjust to the hockey played over here.

Christian Ehrhoff pissed in the penalty box:




Btw ... a ticket that close to the ice costs 30 EUR only. 

While I do not really like the game how it is played here, I could get used to it and would maybe start to enjoy at some point, but what I will never be able to enjoy is ...
the fans.
Hockey fans obviously behave like soccer fans here in Germany. And that  means ... they are singing fan songs ALL THE TIME and there were even two guys with big drums producing the beat for the fan songs all night long (*head explode*). I love cheering and going with the game, but this NOISE has nothing to do with it. My god ... I would have paid them to shut up! I was sitting third row from the ice and most of the time could not even hear the zooming of the puck. URRRRRRGH!

The fan block: 




But it got worse. At some point the Krefeld Penguins were on attack and if I remember right even on PP when the booing started. Very loud and intense booing. My Pittsburgh guest and I were turning our heads trying to figure out what just had happened and if we might have missed a bad hit or something because that type of booing I only know when somebody for example ... breaks Kris Letang's nose:



It's just ... nothing had happened. Booing seems to be what is the usual behavior over here when the guest team is trying to score a goal. Ahem ... what? I mean really ... cheer on your team, push your defense but booing the other team because ... it plays hockey? Seriously? 

Don't get me wrong. This is nothing negative about the fans here in Munich in particular. They love their club and the sport and who could better understand this than I do? It is just a different fan culture in this league that is not mine. The DEL is not my thing and it is sure nothing that will help me to survive this lockout. Sadly ...

UPDATE: Claude Giroux and Daniel Brière just signed with the Berlin Polar Bears. That's big news! There is no game vs Berlin here in Munich before the end of January. I hope by then the lockout is over and Giroux back in Philly *paatoie*.
But this signing could probably improve the situation of more German clubs in negotiations with NHL players and help to shake up the DEL in a positive way. 


Next attempt for live hockey is the "Germany Cup" in November. I have a ticket for Germany vs Canada. I will likely wear my Letang jersey or my Flower jersey ... or maybe I am wearing a different one for each period. Anyway .... GO TEAM CANADA!

By the way .... Pens lost:



PS: Dear DEL fan, who came here via google. I know that I am an arrogant NHL fan who should just stay away from the DEL and I will likely do (depends on who will sign contracts here during the lockout). So no need to tell me this in the comments. I wish you lots of fun and joy with your sport and your way to celebrate your fandom. It's just not my piece of cake. Thank you. 

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