Thursday, 19 July 2007

Belfast Giants skating on thin ice - har de har

I am never one to pass up an opportunity for a little schadenfreude, but this story is particularly sweet.

During the post ceasefire hysteria, with established Northern Irish sports crying out for money and facilities, the government bent over backwards to attract a soulless sport with no history here and no prospects of ever attracting significant participation. Belfast Giants ice-hockey team represented the crassest type of political correctness, driven by an ill-conceived notion that watching a team full of journeyman Canadians play a sport we didn't understand, with a lot of music blaring and cheerleaders (and I'm hoping that point will get you on board Miss Maxwell!!), would bring us all closer together!

One unprecedented bail-out by the Inland Revenue (a courtesy not extended to Irish League football clubs threatened with closure for one) and a government orchestrated campaign to butter-up other creditors later, they're decamping to Dundalk because gate receipts won't cover their expenses. Now if only we'd built a multi-sports stadium at the Odyssey instead .....


ironbed said...

You are wrong when you say Ice Hockey has no history here in Ireland/Northern Ireland. Irish imigrants to Canada brought their sports and culture with them. One sport they introduced to Canadians was Hurling and when winter came the game was transfered to the frozen lakes and ponds and Ice Hurley was created. The ball was cut into a disk for better control and the sport went on to become Ice Hockey.
It's not a difficult sport to understand but then some folk here are afraid of the new or are just plain ignorant of a native sport returning home albeit on ice and with different rules.

Chekist said...

Ice hurley! Yeah right! ice hockey has its origins no more in hurling than it does with any number of other stick based sports such as field hockey (which I believe has a fair claim to being first played in ancient Egypt) and indeed shinty.

Half baked nonsense aside, the spectacle at the Odyssey was the antithesis of good, roots up based sport and a hideous attempt at social engineering, which has fallen on its hoop like an Irishman trying to play ice hockey.

Good riddance to the Giants. Ice hockey's lack of popularity here is mirrored in most of Europe and certainly the rest of Ireland and Britain (notable exceptions being those countries which actually have ..... ice).

I doubt Dundalk's fascination with it will last long either.

O'Neill said...

It's not a difficult sport to understand but then some folk here are afraid of the new or are just plain ignorant of a native sport returning home albeit on ice and with different rules

Plenty of people tried it and decided it wasn't for them...and so the move to Dundalk. The Belfast Giants always seemed so manufactured, slightly more real sport than the World Wrestling thingy, but aiming for the same middle-class sachranine audience.
It won't be missed by real sports fans when it goes.

O'Neill said...

Or even "saccharin".

ironbed said...

Checkist, there is nothing half baked about Ice Hurley and its transformation into Ice Hockey. Check out this Canadian link from Nova Scotia before you come out with any more half baked responses:

Ancient Irish hurley sticks were similar in shape to today's Ice Hockey stick. Todays Hurley stick, in its current shape only came about in the late eighteenth/early twentieth century.

ironbed said...

Here's a quote from the above link: "Scott Russell, Dec. 2000: Co-Host of CBC Hockey Night in Canada and author of ICE TIME: "The birth of hockey actually started at King's College School around 1800. The boys wanted to adapt the Irish game of Field Hurley to an ice game in the winter months."

ironbed said...

"...late eighteenth/early twentieth century".

Should Have Been "...late nineteenth century/early twentieth century".


Chekist said...


"if ice hockey has a forerunner or "father", it is without any doubt the bandy, a game played on an ice surface in the size of a football ground with goals, players (11) on skates, with goalkeepers, stick and ball."

"Baggataway was played first by the Chippewa Indians who lived south of Lake Ontario in Canada, later on also by the Hurones who lived further in the north. They played with a stick with a small net tied in, and a ball. In winter on snow - and without skates. The game is still practiced today in North America as "Lacrosse"."

According to the International Ice Hockey Federation. Ice Hockey, in common with most games, has disputed roots.

Regardless, the origins of the game aren't really the point.

At hurling games (and in all honesty I've only ever been to a Gaelic Football match) I seriously doubt if you get inane chants of "lets go Antrim lets go!" pumped out the speakers, nor do you get interruptions every two minutes, people paying more attention to their beer and burgers and all the other sickly trappings of the sport, not to mention the fact that in ice hockey you can't see the blidy ball/puck/whatever.

I've been to one ice hockey game right at the start, where I was reprimanded for a steward after a lady complained that I had commented to the person next to me "Jesus, I think this game's going to end 0-0". My offence was to use the Christ child's name in vain, and it was upheld by the Giants' staff!

I love attending sporting events. I've been to football matches across the globe, I go to watch rugby, cricket and I've been to the GAA. I even enjoyed a visit to the Skydome to see a baseball match. No sporting events has been as sanitised, as gimicky, as tedious and as O'Neill comments - as saccharine - as UK ice hockey.

Ciaran said...

Why so dissmissive of Ironbed's suggestion of the origin of Ice Hockey?
It may have disputed origins but having played both hurling and lacrosse I see more similarities between hurling and ice hockey as well as hurling and lacrosse than I see between lacrosse and ice hockey. Then again it is more than likely an amalgamation of a few sports that created ice hockey.

BTW Chekist, you should definitely try and catch a hurling match some time. Definitely a superior game to Gaelic football!!!!

Chekist said...

Because ironbed was making a spurious point about the game having its origins in this country. Whether hurling is connected in any concrete way to ice hockey or not, the games are entirely different spectacles and the fact remains that the Giants received a very substantial leg-up because of their so-called "cross community" credentials.

They were presented with the use of a £90m facility at a time when established sports were struggling for funding and facilities (a problem which continues today). The same sports in which substantial numbers of people actually PARTICIPATE in, as well as watch.

The benefits given to the Belfast Giants came rather close to social engineering and the actual effect of the team coming to Belfast has been negligible and indeed now its future is in doubt. The concept of "bringing people together" behind the Giants, by wasting public money on them, was fallacious in any case. Supporting the Giants no more brought people together than a shopping centre or a cinema.

ironbed said...

Chekist, you obviously attened your one and only Giant's game predetermined not to enjoy the event. It appears that the puck was no sooner dropped than you started belittling the sport and the fans beside you. The game is stopped regularly for many reasons: Penalties issued, puck leaves the rink, an icing call when the puck is brought back down the ice for a face off inside the defenders blue line, a fight, off side etc. One of the best moves in Ice Hockey is when there is a line change. Coaches pull players off, send fresh legs in while the game is still in play. Like hurley a player can grab the puck out of the air but can only carry it so far, he can also kick it, cross checking, slashing. And you couldn't see a frozen black puck against a white ice surface? You must have had seats at ice level or you were too busy watching people enjoying themselves instead of trying to understand the game.

And someone was sitting in comfort having a burger and a beer!!! Good grief. What next, wait....they already have them.
I guess you feel more comfortable standing on a concrete slab at a football match in the pouring rain chanting come on you reds/blues or whatever team you may follow.
Waste of public money? Don't get me started on public money that is wasted every day in places like Invest Northern Ireland etc.
BTW the Skydome dosen't have baseball matches, they have baseball games. There also is an annual Hurley match at the Skydome every Paddy's Day.

Chekist said...

I belittled no-one and went to the match with no pre-conceived ideas. To tell you the truth it was a game around Xmas time and I was in fine form before being subjected to the tedium.

Clearly the joys of authentic local sport and the very really passion it engenders doesn't compare for you to the contrivance of the Giants. Clearly most people here disagree, as it is the Giants who have been in constant financial trouble and are now being forced to decamp to Dundalk in order to afford rent for mid-week games.

A few points - naturally I don't have any problem with folk having beer and burgers at sports events. It's when the trappings alongside the event play as big or bigger a part for most fans as the sport that I worry.

You refer to football in a derogatory fashion, but the people standing on the "concrete slabs" you mention have a real, passionate and emotional connection with the clubs they watch (no franchises in football, rugby, GAA etc you'll notice). The clubs are part of the communities they represent. If the facilities aren't wonderful at the moment, that isn't helped by a shortage of funding but you'll find more heartfelt and genuine passion for sport at Ravenhill, Windsor Park or Casemont Park than you'll ever find at the Odyssey.

I'd appeal to you to look beyond the contrived, but in all honesty a "literature fan" whose list of vital reading is composed mainly of Frank McCourt's "memoirs" .... well the omens aren't good! ;-)

ironbed said...

Chekist, every sport is contrived......contrived to relieve you and me of our money.

You prefer to stand in the rain and get emotional for your admission price. I prefer to sit in comfort and take in the entire experience, like the experience of having the option of enjoying a beer with my game in a sophisticated state of the art arena free from tribal tensions and the necessary police presence. So, you see, the Giant's did bring the two communities together under one foof with nary a problem.

Try selling booze at a football match or any GAA event.