As I was watching my team play against our rivals, Oxford City Stars, it was somewhat of an unfamiliar setting for me. It was one of the first times since signing with my team that I was participating in it as a spectator.
As I lived each moment of the game as if I was on the bench, there was one very eye opening experience in the whole “being a spectator” business. It was the first time that I really knew how much our supporters and fans live and breathe the team’s successes and the triumphs and tribulations.
I’ve always known and been comforted by the fact that we have a strong following, particularly over the past two season, as we have “enjoyed” a nomadic existence. But maybe, after meeting the fans in the pub or bar after the game hasn’t given me the full picture of what the team means to them. After a game, there’s usual jokes and banter with them, regardless of the result, but seeing and living each moment of a 60-minute game was something that I didn’t know could stir such emotions.
On the drive back from the game, I was disappointed of the result as we lost the game and lost our chance to win the league honours, but it really hit home to me to see the fans’ reactions. There were people with heads buried in their hands, vacant looks of disappointment on their faces and some punched the wall in frustration as the final buzzer sounded. It was weird seeing that, as a player you are so focussed on the game and the thousands of situations you deal with game-in-game-out. You never tend to see or gauge the reaction of the fans during those situations. (and if you do, you aren’t focussed on the job that you’re doing)
Where I’ve always held our fans in high regard thanks to the support they have always shown the team, maybe I didn’t fully understand their reactions when they watch us play. Which is weird, since the emotions and reactions they go through are the same that I go through when I’m watching the Habs, HPK or team Finland.
I consider myself lucky to be part of a team that has such a huge and die-hard following, as there are teams in the league that play to nearly empty rinks. What’s great – and weird – about it all is that a team with no real home rink to play out of is still attracting new faces coming through the gates game in game out.
Without too much droning, the experience has given me so much extra motivation for the remainder of the season. We often talk about how much the team and these games mean for the fans, but seeing it first hand was an experience that really brought all of that home. This is not to say that I take the support for granted, but like said, maybe after the games the emotions the fans go through are not as visible and as raw as they were in the stands. I’ve often said that I’ve made some great friends from the teams I’ve played for, but I’ve also made some great friends from the rafters.
So thank you, fans, for the eye opening experience. I know the team will do its damndest to make you proud before the season is over.