Some thoughts….”

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.


  1. Nicely written, and echoes some of my thoughts when I walked away from the Phoenix. (Must stress it was on the best of terms, and a purely personal decision that was incredibly difficult to make.)

    I knew I was walking from the sport, at least in its British form. The EIHL is, as you say, a false league. Four teams have won 36 out of 39 available trophies over 13 years. Forget the imports idea – never had much time for that – the fact that 6-7 teams a season are effectively cannon fodder for the rest shows you that it just isn’t worth it, especially at over 15 quid a go.

    I’ll not even bother going into Fake Storm. Except to wonder whether it is a zombie club or a cuckoo one.

    When I heard the news last week, I did stop for a few – well, more than a few – moments of “wistful reflection and reminiscence”. The early years were an incredible struggle – a British hockey club in the top professional tier in this country, trying to get its own home built thanks to one guys money and an absolute fuckton of volunteer support – and we did it! It was actually done! That rink – we built it!

    And never let anyone take that away from you, Neil or anyone who was around that time. I don’t care who resides in it now, that building is there because of an incredible fan base that simply would not give up. I raised a glass to the title and to the playoff win because it felt that my contribution, a tiny, tiny, miniscule one, had all been worth it, even if I was long gone to ever see it. When I heard the result, I didn’t think of the players (though they deserved every plaudit), I thought of Neil, Jim, Richard, Mike, Carl, Tracey, Chelle, Mags, Brenda, Matt, Becky, you and all the others who didn’t give up.

    The Phoenix leave behind a legacy. The only properly fan based, fan run top- or near-top flight hockey team in the UK. That it was eventually crushed by the machinations of British hockey politics says more about that than the Phoenix.

    I’m massively proud of what the Phoenix achieved and I’m more proud of what it stood for. It stood for people who cared. You should be proud of what you did, and what you contributed to. When you look back in five, ten, fifteen years… you’ll smile and say “Yup. I did good, there.”

    The most memorable endings are never, ever the happy ones. The most memorable endings are a downer. Bogart sees Bergman fly off with Victor Laszlo. Ashley Wilkes walks away from Scarlett O’Hara. MacReady sits and waits for a little while, to see what happens. It seems a waste until you realise that the best bit wasn’t the ending, but the journey.

    I’m rambling now. And funny how this ended up being written here. But such is life. Remember, you did good, man. You did better than good. You cared, and that is all someone could ever ask.

  2. Both pieces above, brilliantly written and express a lot of what I feel. I fell into the trap of trying to take on our detractors on the Phoenix Forum and got nothing but abuse. My mistake. Now we’ve gone they’ll move on to something else.
    I don’t pretend to have played any role in the life of Phoenix, other than as a fan, but am so grateful for those who did because they indirectly gave me so much pleasure.
    As I’ve just texted a friend in Hull (a Pirates fan) who asked how I was, life goes on and I will find my hockey fix somewhere. Probably Hull as I did when we mothballed for a while. They made me so welcome and will again I know.
    Ice hockey is such a great sport, such a pity we don’t get a wider audience. But at least I found it and I will be eternally grateful.

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