Fans .. lots of them! Could this be you??? SEVEN AGES OF THE FAN

Some people are born ice hockey fans. They were probably played radio broadcasts of ice hockey matches while still in the womb, and are carried to their first match, sometimes within days of being born. You can see them on the video wall at games, dribbling down the front of their team babygrows, clutching a beanie bear and totally oblivious to what’s going on. They probably cut their teeth on a hockey puck and as christening presents are given a charm bracelet with little silver netminder’s mask on it, or a silver tie-pin with crossed hockey sticks. As soon as they’re too big for their parents’ laps they get a season ticket. By the age of five they’ve got a replica jersey signed by every player in the squad. They’ve never known life without ice hockey.

On the other hand there are people like us who were converted to the sport, and can remember what life was like in those far-off times BH (before hockey). Having been through the transition ourselves, and converted a couple of others, we ’ve noticed that it seems to progress in definite stages.

Do you recognise them?

Stage 1 – Someone talks you into going to a match and at the end of it you say "It was very exciting!" Secretly you were a bit confused by all the action and didn’t really understand all the rules, but you wouldn’t mind going again if you’re invited.

Stage 2 – You go again, and actually feel disappointed when the home side lose. You cheer if they score and go mad when they win. If they’re playing away you check the results on Teletex. You drop hints that you’d like to be invited along again. You’ve stopped thinking it’s a handball when a player catches the puck.

Stage 3 – You find yourself shouting while the play is on. You cheer when a home player wins a fight. You regularly buy the local paper to see if there’s any team news in it. You can now quote the numbers of the ice hockey pages on Teletext. You have a favourite player and know his number. You don’t wait to be invited – you ask to be taken again. You can now explain what Icing is.

Stage 4 – The temptation to buy a baseball cap or a fleece is irresistible. You don’t resist it. You start rearranging your free time to fit the games in. You now know the names and numbers of all the players in the squad. You also know the names of all the other teams in the League. If no-one takes you it doesn’t matter, you go anyway. You’ve begun to understand how offside works.

Stage 5 – You find yourself saying to people, "Sorry. I’m busy this weekend. I’m going to an ice hockey match." You defend the sport when people say something stupid about it. At the match you groan desperately if you see a certain ref on the ice, and shout at him every time he misses a holding penalty. You now hate one of the other teams in the League.

Stage 6 – You start going to midweek matches as well, and feel at a loose end if there’s a weekend without a match. Teletex isn’t enough any more and on away match nights you regularly leave the room to check on the scores on Iceweb. You now hate at least one member of every other team in the League. You spot too many men on the ice before the ref does.

Stage 7 – Your whole weekend revolves around ice hockey. DIY, family, shopping all take second place to the match. You start telling people how good ice hockey is and inviting them to their first match. They’re surprised by your knowledge of the rules. The season ends and you realise how empty and meaningless life will be until the next one starts.

That’s it. You’re a true fan, and there’s no hope of a cure. Welcome to the asylum.