In a blaze of light, joy and jingles, Glasgow journalism student Naomi Mills joins the Clan for her very first taste of ice hockey and admits she’s a fan already
BURIED in the middle of Braehead Shopping Centre is the home of a mighty ice hockey outfit.
Braehead Clan were formed two years ago and are one of only three professional teams in Scotland.
Despite their brief existence they have already built up a strong following and have make their mark in the Elite League against Britain’s best.
Before watching them in action my own experience of ice hockey hadn’t extended beyond a childhood love of the Mighty Ducks.
Mention of the sport brought to mind brutal guys in padding, the vilified player everyone likes to jeer for their stick-slicing and fouls and, of course, Canada where the NHL draws massive support.
The Clan draw a big family crowd. On the night I went along, mums, dads and their kids filled the arena to more than two thirds of its 4000-capacity.
The match programme told me eight of the players were Canadian born, including head coach and defenceman Drew Bannister.
Suddenly the lights dimmed as the visitors, Sheffield Steelers, second in the league, stepped on to the ice.
In contrast, sirens blared and the lights dazzled to welcome the Clan and the scene was set for a tense clash. In a blur of orange and purple, players whizzed the puck from end to end at a pace that was almost super human.
Jingles flooded the arena, stirring a mood unlike any other I have sampled in Scotland. Its trans-Atlantic cheesiness brought a huge reaction from the crowd and I was on the edge of my seat as the Clan proved they were not a team to be pushed around.
No.9 Mike Bayrack won the support of fans when he threw Steelers player Nick Duff to the ice. But the men from Sheffield fought back and hit the first goal courtesy of Colt King. Slade’s Hit Me
With Your Best Shot blared from the PA, underlining the determination of the Clan and their fans to battle back.
Only 20 minutes had been played and already I was an ice hockey fan. The second period launched to the tune of the Addams Family theme and within two minutes the Clan were level.
They began to dominate but struggled to find the winning finish and the scoreline remained tied.
But the purple army of Clan fans kept the faith and roared on their heroes and with the final period just 21 seconds old, player-coach Bannister made it 2-1.
When the full-time whistle blew the crowd erupted and Braehead was on its feet to congratulate its winning side.
Despite the brutality of the game players on both sides shook hands as they left the ice. Their willingness to forget the push and shove of the past 60 minutes reflected true sportsmanship.
In a final salute to their home supporters Clan players gathered in a team huddle on the ice and raised their sticks to the stands.
The fans responded with a final, ear-piercing roar of congratulations before they turned to leave the arena.
As the banks of seats emptied and the ice grew bare the realisation sank in that this was a Friday
night in Glasgow.
Canada was nowhere to be seen.