Ice Hockey & The Outsider

Amelia Gilman is a Sheffield Steelers fan and we were privileged enough to receive her first ever hockey article. It’s personal, beautifully written and very deep and we’re sure it’s something that a lot of fans can relate to, no matter who you support.

It can be very easy to feel like you are an outsider in modern life. If you feel like you don’t fit in with what is happening around you it can be very dispiriting. So much time and effort seems to be spent by all forms of the media on deciding what is “in” and what isn’t. They tell you that this is popular or that is trending and you can sometimes get the feeling that if you don’t agree there’s almost something wrong with you.

We spend so much of our life interacting with other people that, if we’re honest, we don’t really want to. Take your work or college or school or whatever. How many of those people do you actually like or, probably more importantly, do you feel actually like you? I can’t speak for anyone else but I’m guessing it’s not many. It certainly isn’t for me. It leaves you feeling isolated. Work puts you together with people you have nothing in common with. You may find some common ground but a lot of times you don’t. If I think about the people I work with the only thing I have in common with them is that we’re all fairly proficient at being accountants. I sit and listen to the conversations they have about television programmes or films that I’ve never heard of and it leaves me cold. Worse than that it feels like a barrier is being created around them and I’m on the other side.

A couple of years ago I thought to myself that I needed to do something about it. I needed to find a way of either trying to create some common ground between myself and them or try and find something to make the amount of time I spend at work more bearable. To cut a long story short Gotham made me even less interested in Batman, Howl’s Moving Castle just confused me and the Big Bang Theory? Nah. So, obviously I needed something else.

I don’t know why I chose ice hockey. A friend who lives in Glasgow had mentioned a while ago that they’d been to watch Braehead a couple of times and that must have stuck in my brain somehow, so I decided to go down to the DSA Arena to watch the Steelers. At the time it felt like a big thing for me. I moved to Sheffield about three years ago and I’m not really the sort of person who makes friends easily, so I ended up going to the game on my own. No-one who I knew well enough to ask if they wanted to go with me was available or interested in going, so as I sat on the tram to the arena I was pretty nervous. Here I was trying to do something to reduce my feelings of loneliness and of being an outsider and yet I was still in exactly the same situation that I was trying to avoid. I needn’t have worried. I didn’t know anybody as I took my seat and I still didn’t when I left but for those three hours I didn’t feel lonely once.

I’ve thought a lot about that game since and I’ve come to the conclusion that any (or maybe every) sport can do that. It can draw you in and make you part of it. I might not have known anyone in the crowd that day but that didn’t matter. I became part of the crowd, a single entity that is part of the game, joining with the players of both teams to create a bigger focal point for all that were there.

I went back to work on the Monday after keen to talk about my experience and what I’d seen at the weekend. They weren’t bothered, happier to talk about their shared interest and look inwards rather than at something new. I felt like I was back at square one but I still had that feeling from being at the game and I resolved I would try it again.

So, I went back and guess what I felt the same. I plucked up the courage to talk to the person next to me. They looked like they were a regular fan in both senses of the word in their replica shirt. I tentatively struck up a conversation about the game and we were soon chatting. I’ve repeated the experience many times since (I still don’t have a season ticket so I seem to end up sitting all over the place) and every time I’ve been struck by how friendly the fans are and if nothing else I’ve finally got some people who I can talk to about a common interest.

I might still have nothing to talk about with my colleagues but I can cope with that now. I’m not the outsider all the time. I have ice hockey and I have people that I can talk to about it. It can be easy to think that sport is only about what goes on on the ice/pitch or whatever but it’s not. It seems to me that it has many profound effects on those watching it, I could have worked out that I would feel better or worse depending on the score but I never knew that it would make me feel as though I belong. For that short period of the week I’m part of the Sheffield Steelers.

We’d like to thank Amelia once again for sending this wonderfully written article to us. If you would like to write a hockey related article for The Cat’s Whiskers, please send it via email to for consideration.

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