Paul is in full on play-off mode this week, but he has a dilemma
If I’m honest I wasn’t expecting to be writing an article like this. I thought this week’s article was going to be a bit of a rant. It was going to have pictures of dead flowers in a vase and a joke about me going in fancy dress to the play-offs dressed in a Panthers shirt. That’s sport for you though, it can make you look a fool at times and sometimes can turn things on their head in seconds. I still might end up writing that article, it’s still not been a great season for me (or even good at times) and there are still things that need to be said, it’s just that after Monday night now is not the time. Which pretty much means that if you don’t want me to write that article Nottingham Panthers you know what to do, OK?
Monday night was a frustrating performance. The Panthers went in to the OdySSEy Arena with a game plan, stuck to it and came away with the goods. They weren’t the better team for large parts of the game and they rode their luck at times but, again, that’s sport. Sometimes the luck goes your way and sometimes it doesn’t. None of that made it frustrating though. The frustration comes from seeing that this team had that sort of performance in them when it wasn’t evident in so many others.
I’m sure there’ll be a lot of Belfast fans saying that if that “goal” had been given it would have been a very different game and it probably would. We’ll never know though. They’ll also try and tell you it wasn’t a penalty shot but that’s a different story.
Goal or no goal, penalty shot or not it’s the Panthers that have made it to the finals weekend and if you can still hear me over the moaning about home advantage I’d like to ask for your help with a little dilemma that I’ve got.
I don’t wear ice hockey shirts very often. I’m not sure when or why I stopped wearing them regularly but over the last few years I tend to go to game in a sweatshirt etc. Big games and play-offs are different and I wear the same shirt for every one. It’s a game worn Summum Chiefs shirt from the LNAH with Bissonette (not that one or that one) 25 on the back. It was a present for my 40th birthday and I love it. I haven’t got a huge number of shirts but there’s probably only a couple in my wardrobe that mean more to me. I’ve never seen Panthers lose a play-offs or Challenge Cup final when I’ve been wearing it and it should be a complete no brainer for me to wear it, but it’s not.
I’m not a particularly superstitious person except when it comes to hockey. The only reason I don’t walk under ladders is that by not doing so it reduces the chances of someone dropping something on me. In fact probably the only superstition I have is about putting new shoes on tables. You just don’t do it! Apart from that I like to think I’m a fairly rational person until I get to a Panthers game. Me, my family and friends have had to sit in the same order game in game out for (some of us at least) the last thirty odd years. That isn’t what’s causing me my dilemma, far from it, that’s already mentally sorted out, the aisle seat is mine. No, my problem lies in one of my other superstitions, I never wear the same colour as the opposition. This isn’t a problem against most teams, you’ll never get me in teal and I’d never wear anything purple or orange, well let’s face it the only people who look good in orange are council bin men and the cast of TOWIE. Teams like Dundee or Edinburgh are different, most of my wardrobe has blue in it so those games are a bit harder. Anyway, I’m sure you can guess where this is leading. My Summum Chiefs shirt is mainly blue with a yellow and white trim. Do you see my problem?
What do I do? Do I break the tradition and wear something different to avoid the colour clash and possibly break the streak or do I brazen it out and break a different superstition? I just don’t know. I like wearing that shirt, it’s a great shirt but I’ll feel weird wearing something that makes me look like I’m supporting the opposition. I fully appreciate that what I will be wearing has no effect on the outcome of the game but if Panthers lose then I’m going to feel like I’ve let them down. I’m not going to blame myself I’ll have a whole swathe of people ahead of me on that list but I’ll feel bad. I really can’t see a way out of this. If anyone out there has a sensible suggestion please let me know.
It isn’t all bad news though. With Panthers making the play-offs it means it will hopefully reduce the number of people who are “on loan” to another team. I’m sorry, I know that people can do whatever ever they want, each to their own and all that, but the whole thing about saying you’re going to support another team for the weekend because yours isn’t there makes me feel a bit nauseous. I also know that this might sound like it contradicts my theory that you can never watch a game as a neutral because you’ll always end up favouring one team for any number of strange reasons, but that’s very different to actually supporting a team. I still remember Sheffield fans going wild when Cardiff scored against us to go 2-0 up in the 2011 final. I’m pretty sure some Panthers fans were doing the same last year but that doesn’t mean I agree with it. I’ve always been of the opinion that if my team isn’t going to win I couldn’t care who is, but if getting wildly excited about a team that you’ve had a rivalry with for the rest of the season floats your boat then fine. Just don’t expect me to be jumping up and down next to you.
Having said all that though if Panthers do get knocked in the semi-final then I’ll be on loan to somewhere on Sunday – the Bunkers Hill. The problem is we’re on the wrong side of the arena this year which makes those cheeky interval pints that much harder. We do have an aisle seat though…
I might not know what I’m wearing but I do know one thing as I sit here and write this on Tuesday morning, I wish it was Saturday. I want to enjoy the feeling of getting up knowing that you’re going straight to the pub. I want to soak up that pre-game atmosphere when (almost) everyone is feeling positive. I want to enjoy the fact that I can mingle with fans from other teams without any trouble. I want to feel that special play-offs atmosphere in the arena created by the extra effort that the EIHL has put into putting on a show but I can’t have everything.
Most of all though I want to enjoy all that knowing that my team is actually there this year.
Enjoy it everyone!
You can follow Paul on Twitter @MrBalm