Comment on What’s behind the growing popularity of ice hockey in the UK? by Daniel
Hard-working readers of these pages will not have to be convinced of the merits of ice hockey. Whether you are a player, a spectator or both, there are few sports that match the skill and strategy at the heart of action or theater and the excitement of the stands.
However, British fans of this sport are also aware of the marginal nature of ice hockey in this country. The NHL and the CHL are among the biggest leagues across the Atlantic, as are the NFL and the NBA. Yet, despite generally similar demographic characteristics, the game remained distant outside the mainstream in the United Kingdom. Where is it?
Here is a statistic that might surprise. Ice hockey is the third most popular winter sport in the UK. Only football and rugby are in advance, and both sports are taught from an early age in schools. Regarding the number of spectators, it is more popular than any other indoor sport.
Online streaming and the general trend of the Internet to make the world a smaller place have certainly played a role here. It is much easier to follow the NHL than 10 years ago and peripheral sites such as online bookmakers have also become much more international. If you want to place a bet on an NHL game, odds are available here at the click of a mouse.
As in the 1980s, the NFL had sparked a growing interest in American football, but the growing awareness of the NHL has pushed more and more people to look for local matches that are more important. they can watch live. However, there must still be an offer to meet the demand, and for that there is a man to thank before everyone else.
The Steelers Lead the Way
Of course, it takes more than one team to succeed in a sport, but the Sheffield Steelers have become by far the most well-known team in British ice hockey. The team was formed in 1991, but 20 years later, interest in the sport had diminished and the club had been placed in receivership. It looked like a rehearsal of British American football and the Steelers seemed about to follow London Ravens and the Manchester Spartans in the pages of the Sports history.
Tony Smith, a business man passionate about the sport, then arrived. He bought the club while no one else would come close to it and start making changes from every angle imaginable. Before Smith's arrival, the game looked a little "like tennis" – terribly polite, the players apologizing if there was a touch.
Smith was inspired by the most popular leagues in the world. The fancam entered, the video sprung from the locker room, the strobe lights and the music. Today, a Steelers game is synonymous with experience, from the moment the fans settle in and the lights go out to present the players. It's a recipe that has turned the team into one of the most popular outside of North America. And this popularity only increases from year to year.