BLOG: Following the NHL a labour of love for British fans

“Get in the fast lane grandma, the bingo game is ready to roll!”

Those were the words yelled by veteran play-by-play announcer Mike Lange on Sunday evening, as the Pittsburgh Penguins defeated the San Jose Sharks to win their fourth Stanley Cup trophy.

While history was being made on the ice in the SAP Center in California, all eyes were on the National Hockey League for thousands of devoted British hockey fans, diligently watching every second go by over five thousand miles away.

The passionate NHL fans on these shores are unfazed by the puck dropping at 1.00am or hearing the final buzzer go as the sun begins to rise.

While the birds tweet to start the day, fans spend their time immersed in the NHL Twittersphere – tweeting on their smartphones and becoming part of hockey organisations that they’ll likely never get to witness in the flesh.

Many pose the question to them – what draws you towards a team that’s playing on another continent across the Atlantic?

For some, it could come in the form of a player. Tuning in to witness the brilliance of hockey legends such as Jaromir Jagr or ‘Le Magnifique’ Mario Lemieux is enough to captivate an audience and create a fan for life.

While many players come and go, certain individuals have the star power to attract fans towards the organisations in which they ply their trade.

Others may end up following a team due to visiting a certain destination and falling in love with the place, making their choice of an NHL team an easy one.

Locations such as the city that never sleeps – New York – have iconic sports teams and fans are attracted to the history that franchises like the Rangers have to offer.

Perhaps video games have played an influence.

Whether it’s latching on to a team due a player such as Sergei Federov being deadly for the Detroit Red Wings in the early NHL games, or choosing to play as the Penguins due to them being your favourite animal, the reasons people have for following a specific franchise are endless.

Once drawn towards a team it’s extremely easy in the modern day to go from being a casual follower to a frantic fan.

With social media connecting the world, fans can keep up-to-date with the latest news surrounding ‘their’ team at the click of a button.

This globalisation allows people to immerse themselves in the online community of their hockey team.

Websites such as Google and YouTube allow fans to learn about franchise history and clue themselves up on the pioneers of the modern day game.

Books and documentaries provide a wealth of knowledge and it doesn’t take long to gain an extensive knowledge of their chosen allegiance.

Through insider accounts and backstage broadcasts, it can almost begin to feel as if these larger than life hockey teams are on our doorsteps and, in essence, they are.

While people may think it is out of the ordinary to stay up until the crack of dawn to watch a hockey team play on a screen, they simply don’t understand that this is normal behaviour for the typical NHL fan on this side of the Atlantic.

Many schedule their day-to-day lives around a variety of tasks. We schedule our lives around hockey.

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