Editors note before anything: I contacted Mark about two weeks ago about writing this article. Mark is a Toronto Maple Leafs fan somewhere in United Kingdom. Exactly where? I have no clue at all. At Not Your Average Hockey Blog, we like to write about things that you won’t find at your average hockey blog, and we thought, man how many blogs get this? So we jumped on the opportunity to ask Mark. So here is the life of a NHL fan in UK. You can “Like” us on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/NotYourAverageHockeyBlog and you can follow Mark on twitter: @MarkUKLeaf and you can also read his own blog here: http://ukhockeyfan.wordpress.com/
I’ve been asked many times whilst in Toronto, “what is it like to be a hockey fan in the UK?”
Why Toronto you may ask?
The reason is because I’m a Toronto Maple Leaf fan who happens to live in the UK. I try to make one or two trips across the pond every season to watch some live hockey but for the rest of the season I’m left to follow the game here.
Being a NHL hockey fan in the UK has more than a few obstacles involved, starting with the time difference.
For fans of east coast teams, our games start mostly at midnight and finish around 2.45am and that’s if there isn’t OT or a SO. West Coast games start at 2-3am time. Tough if you work long or difficult hours, have a family or both!
We don’t have the same level of live games coverage but I’m guessing that goes without saying right?
This season though it’s even worse and has driven more fans than ever to watch illegal streams.
The UK have a standalone TV channel (Premier Sports) that shows 15 games a week, the majority live but no Hockey Night in Canada(with coaches corner/HotStove) on a Saturday evening. There are no intermission shows broadcast and the channel is not in HD. Also unless you subscribe to Sky Television, a satellite broadcaster, there is no access to this channel.
NHL Game Centre Live has been available for two years now but this season we have blackouts. Yes blackouts. Even though we live in the UK, the games shown on PS channel are blacked out for 2-3 days on GCL. As you can imagine this is incredibly frustrating.
The lack of NHL coverage extends beyond our limited way to views games.
There is no media coverage as North American fans would know it. Unless of course there is a huge controversy of course like the Vancouver riots, which then only shows the sport in a bad light.
Even the Stanley Cup victors would just be a ticker tape story across the bottom of a sports news channel here.
Without the internet there is no way any fan here could follow North American hockey, let alone watch games. I say North American hockey because personally I also watch AHL as well as following the OHL and OJHL.
In my experience, every UK fan has a unique story when it comes to following their NHL team, and mine is as different as anyone else’s.
I work a night shift during the week so I miss watching most games as I start working at 5pmET.
I try to keep track through twitter and some friends who occasionally text me with live updates.
I’m also able to pick up game radio on my iphone which I usually do on my break if possible, though I have been known to sneak away to the wash room to listen to the end of a game on occasions. Don’t tell my boss though ok!
Last season when I subscribed to GCL, the first thing I would do to when arriving home would be to catch up on the game that night. Even if I knew the result was a 6-0 pummelling by Boston.
When I do get to watch hockey I’m a little obsessive to say the least.
Take yesterday for example, which as I’m writing this would be Saturday 16th February.
I started watching hockey at 8pm UK time with a Toronto Marlies game online. By the time that game had finished there was only an hour before the Toronto/Ottawa match up. So not much I could do but grab something to eat and drink before settling down to watch that game which finished at almost 3am for me. I started to watch the Edmonton game afterwards but my bed was calling!
Almost seven hours spent watching hockey sat in front on a computer screen.
Not most peoples idea of a good Saturday night in the UK but the only way I get to feed my passion, hockey.