Jono Bullard writes about the unthinkable in his hockey watching career.
Nottingham Panthers v Sheffield Steelers. Some say this is the biggest rivalry in Europe (not me, not even close), but this is probably the biggest rivalry in British hockey. At one time I would never have missed a match home or away but different priorities and work mean this is no longer the case. However I’ve never missed a Panthers home game against the Steelers when I could make it, that is until last Saturday…
After a long day working on Motorsport in Oakham I arrived home very tired at 5:50pm but with plenty of time to make it into Nottingham for the face-off at 7pm. However after a hot shower I decided that I just couldn’t be bothered to walk to the tram and get to the game. Admittedly I was fatigued but there was a time when I would have crawled over broken glass without any sleep to watch Panthers take on the Steelers, so why do I feel this way now?
I’ve thought about this for much of the time since, trying to piece this article together in my head before writing it down. The fact I couldn’t be bothered to go worries me. The fact I’ve felt this way for weeks worries me more. I fear I have no passion for the Panthers any more, every game I’ve attended in 2018 has felt like a chore, I’ve not really enjoyed any of them and I’ve purposely missed games I could have attended. The last time I felt anything like caring was back on 27th December when I stormed out of the game at the second interval, sick of watching us being handed our backsides by the Steelers so easily once again. Since then I’ve not really felt anything for the team.
Take the Dundee game last week as an example, when Panthers went 3-0 behind I laughed. Normally I would have been apoplectic with rage but I just couldn’t summon up the energy to be angry. It was almost as if I expected it and wasn’t bothered. I don’t want to feel like this, I want to be angry at the results, I want to care but at the moment I simply don’t.
The thing is my passion for hockey hasn’t been diminished. As some know I am one half of the Nottingham Lions media team and it has been a pleasure to watch them battle to stay on the Moralee Division of the NIHL. A battle against relegation was expected but remember this is a team whose players pay to play, going up against teams with far bigger budgets. To watch players play for nothing more but pride in their shirt has been a joy all season.
Also I’m lucky enough to work in broadcasting and cover a lot of hockey, especially at junior level. I thoroughly enjoyed working on the GB Under 20 broadcasts in December and am very much looking forward to covering GB Under 18’s in Estonia this April for Freesports. After that I will be commentating on several junior & women’s tournaments throughout April & May, again something I am very much looking forward to, so why do I have such a downer on the Panthers?
I think it’s because this season we have seen what this group was capable of through their performances in the CHL. Then I felt a buzz and a passion that I want to feel about Panthers constantly. To see my team take on some of the best in Europe and win was incredible and I felt an enormous sense of pride but once again the performances on the domestic front have been sadly lacking. Yes, next season will be one of big change, there will be a new head coach and David Clarke, probably the best British player of his generation, will no longer be with us. However despite that I can’t see much changing, as Paul said on a recent Podcast the whole ethos of the club needs to change.
So what now? Well I’m almost certain I won’t be renewing my season ticket. To be fair that isn’t wholly down to the way I feel at the minute, I work a lot of weekends and a season ticket wouldn’t be cost effective. I also know that me not renewing won’t make much of a difference, they’ll be plenty waiting to snap up that seat. I’m also reminded that a year ago I wrote this, little has changed apart from my feelings. Maybe I just need some time away to rekindle my desire for the club?
All I want is to feel passionate about the Nottingham Panthers once again but with the way things are I can’t see things changing anytime soon. That deeply upsets me and I hope I’m wrong but sadly, I don’t think I am. Panthers, it’s up to you to prove me wrong, and I genuinely hope you do.