Well, it’s finally over. The 14 year ride has come to an end. In typical Phoenix style we dragged it out for far longer than we had any sense or right to do, but we sure as hell made the effort. Almost £5000 raised through crowdfunding, and another couple of thousand (I think) from various other donations. Not bad for a bunch of “brainwashed morons” (one of the politer epithets thrown our way these last 2 seasons).
But, alas, it was not to be. The word was given on Tuesday night. No new investor. No money. No club.
And I must admit, the response of the vast majority of hockey fans out there made me smile through the sadness. There was an outpouring of genuine regret and empathy. Even some honest to goodness sympathy, too. It made me realise just how important every club is seen to be by the fans who care. Memories were shared. People thanked us for our contributions on and off the ice during our 14 year existence. We felt the warmth of the “hockey family”.
Naturally, though, there were (and remain) those who couldn’t resist a few digs and some gloating. Saying “I told you so” is an ugly trait, which expose much about a persons behaviours and personality. But that was easy to deal with. What truly offended me (and many others) was the way that some Storm fans within minutes of the news breaking started to openly plan on how to “convert” us to their club. How they could use the extra revenue from “200 of them paying £17 each” to improve their team.
Hell, one of them has actually claimed that “They will come if they are true hockey fans”. Excuse me? If I choose not to watch the Storm, then I’m not a “true hockey fan”? Bullshit. This almost always seems to come as a surprise to supporters of EIHL teams, but not everyone wants to see 15 in effect foreign mercenaries play hockey. Quite a few of us love the British game, as in played by Brits, not just plated in Britain.
Because, frankly, I don’t have any interest in watching the EIHL. Not as a Storm fan. Not as a neutral. For me the reliance on non British talent, with 3 to 5 Brits if you are lucky isn’t what serves the sport in this country best. It will always be an artificially high standard of play (as evidenced by how our national team performs). Whilst I have my issues with the Storm organisation, how it was founded (set up after a phone call from the EIHL when Hull went bust? Pull the other one, son, it’s got bells on), how it has appropriated a history to give itself a sense of history and validation, and how it continues to use said history to promote itself, these alone would not prevent me from watching EIHL hockey if I so wished. I’d just go and watch Sheffield or Nottingham instead.
And as for my issues with Storm? Whilst I have them, I don’t let them dictate anything to me. I will freely admit Neil Russell is doing a stellar job of selling the team to customers, even if i don’t agree with the product. And the fans sure are passionate. Perhaps a bit too passionate if their response to Granada News piece on our folding is anything to go by. Sure, there is a negative element, which I mentioned earlier, but every club has that element present.
Anyway, I’ve digressed enough (and probably earned myself another pile of abuse). I can honestly say that the last few days have been tremendously hard. I’m a depressive, and this news hasn’t exactly helped my moods, but I long since reached my peace with the fact we might go bust and cease to be, so I’ve coped pretty well. Certainly no tears, but there have been a fair few wistful moments of reflection and reminiscence. And I will sure as hell miss doing the webcasts. No scripts. No “safety net”. Such a fun and frightening thing to do on a Sunday evening.
As for going forward? Well, for now I might take in the odd EPIHL/NIHL game here and there with my friends, but as for hockey in Manchester? I’m out for now. Some time away will probably do me some good (although I’ll probably end up increasing my obsession with one of my myriad other hobbies). This blog won’t die. Oh no. You are not that lucky. Being on the outside, looking in can often reveal a perspective you didn’t realise was there, so expect commentary on the sport in the UK to continue.
So, so long, Manchester Phoenix, and thanks for all the fish.