Unless you have been living under a rock for the past, nearly two years, you will be aware that the Phoenix have been struggling. After playing one full season in Deeside and, so far, half a season in Blackpool things came to ahead on monday evening of this week. It has been no secret that the Phoenix have been struggling and, the planning permission had begun to drag on the Phoenix new temporary home.
Last monday saw the Phoenix announce that, with immediate effect, all imports would be released and, the Phoenix would play the remainder of the season at Widnes using the Wild players to make up the roster. You can imagine the shockwaves this sent through the Phoenix fanbase and the hockey community.
This blog post is not going to deal with the rights and wrongs of the Phoenix saga, neither I, nor any of you readers know enough about the finances of the Phoenix or the planning process to make an informed judgement. No, the point of this post is to talk about the reaction by, not only the Phoenix fanbase but, members of the 'Hockey Family'
I have been a hockey fan all my life, since I was born, I grew up in a hockey family, even playing the game when I was younger. I was a Devonshire Road Alty fan, then followed (Original) Storm before they went bust. I was a member of the FOMIH which was formed immediately after the Storm's demise and, the same group which helped set up the Phoenix. I have been a Phoenix supporter through thick and thin, recent seasons being thinner than most! I remained a Phoenix fan when Storm v2 was formed, even though they would have been more convenient for me personally to follow. I do not begrudge any fan who made the jump but, things I believe meant I could not support them in Altrincham, I have never agreed with the bought history of the club. But, I have no problem with those who made the jump or, those who returned to watch them. Everyone is entitled to support who they want!
No, the point of this blog, is to talk about what it has been like to be a Phoenix fan, talk about what its like to have had so much mud slung at my club from fellow hockey 'fans' that I could build a new country. To have been told things by people I trust which, would shock many. No, this is the life of a Phoenix fan.
Lets get a few things out of the way first, I am a dyed in the wool Phoenix fan so, if you think everything I say is rose tinted, good for you! Its also been a long time since I wrote anything for my blog so, I apologise if it seems disjointed for example. I am also not going to try and justify anything the Phoenix have done or not done! We pride ourselves, as hockey fans, that the sport is inclusive and, like a family, that we all care for one another and, as fans of a minority sport, have each others backs. Its a big reason I like to use to impress upon people why they should try hockey out instead of football.
It really all began back on that fateful saturday night in Coventry when, just after the Phoenix had qualified for sundays final a statement was put on THF explaining that, effectively, Planet Ice/Silverblades were kicking the Phoenix out of Altrincham. Naturally this went down like a lead balloon in the Phoenix fanbase and, set the worrying in motion. It also quickly revealed a split in the 'Hockey Family' seemingly many people had been itching for a reason to hate the Phoenix and, more than likely hate Neil Morris. The knives were out and, the now infamous thread on a certain hockey forum began its life Following hot on the heels of that bonbshell was the announcement that PISB would be resurrecting the Storm and returning them to the ice in Altrincham. As I said before, a large portion of the Phoenix fan base were fans of (Original) Storm so this was a second shock to the system. The resurrection of the Storm and, the seemingly 'purchase' of (Original) Storm's history angered alot of people. I will admit, PISB's actions and, this purchase of a clubs history is a main reason why I will never set foot in Altrincham or support (New) Storm.
This now left the Phoenix homeless and, the hard life of a Phoenix fan really began. This is where it felt like the 'Hockey Family' began to break down and, certain very vocal sections starting to take aim at the Phoenix and Neil Morris. For those of us who chose to remain and support the Phoenix, this is when the attacks really began. Seemingly every step from then on, that the Phoenix took, was belittled and ridiculed on social media and hockey forums. Other fans, looked to start taking great pleasure in the hardship now faced by the club. They seemed to enjoy taking shots at the Phoenix fans, even personal attacks against Neil Morris and some Phoenix fans I know well. The Keyboard warriors truly coming out in force!
So we spent a season travelling to Deeside, hoping that plans for a temporary rink would materialise. It was tiring travelling to North Wales every week but, we did it anyway. I wanted to support my team, see my friends and, bring you the best balcony based podcast in sports! But, the sniping from the trolls, the travel, and the frustrations with the new rink process, and the club almost collapsing from the withdrawl of Red Hockey really took it out of me and I was glad to see the end of the season! We had survived, against incredible odds! As we went into the summer, that feeling of relief slowly gave way to yet more frustration. Planning delays lengthened and, it was decided the Phoenix would play up in Fylde for the start of the season. This news fed the troll machine and the keyboard warriors. Their attacks continuing and becoming down right nasty in some cases. Whether you like the Phoenix or not, whether you hate Neil Morris or not, some of the bile and vitriol being meted out in the Phoenix direction was truly horrible. All this takes a toll on your emotions and love for your club and the sport.
We could live with Fylde, as more concrete news was appearing about the rink but, that too was not without its problems. We went into christmas with still no green light and, players being released and not replaced. Which brings us, more or less, to the press release last monday.
The Phoenix would release all their imports, including the legend that is Robin Kovar, and see out the rest of the season in Widnes, a PISB facility. In some eyes, this is the Phoenix cutting their cloth to survive, to others, this was confirmation of lies told by Neil Morris and the Manchester Phoenix. With keyboard warriors, ex players, all taking shots this is possibly the first time ive been truly shocked and saddened by the 'Hockey Family'
Even with the move to Widnes and, without a puck having been dropped, the Phoenix are being blamed. Being blamed for 'muscling in' and 'confiscating' the Womans hockey team of ice time. Come on people? It is Silverblades who decide who gets what ice time in their own facility, and the game in question had been cancelled before the Phoenix arrived! Talk about the 'Hockey Family'!
The sheer level of hate that has been directed at the Phoenix has lead to a position I never thought I would get to with hockey, fatigue and a lack of love for the game. Hockey is my life, the Phoenix have been the team I have supported the longest (following the lineage from (Original) Storm) my motto has always been 'Hockey ain't just a game, its a way of life' My wife, in essence had to get into hockey if she wanted to see me when we were dating, she is now as mad a hockey fan as I am.
But, and this is the big one, For nearly two years, the mud slinging, the bashing, the hate, the vitriol that has been sent the Phoenix way, rightly or wrongly, is severely testing my love of the game. Im tired, im tired of the keyboard warriors, tired of the travelling, tired of having my loyalty tested, tired seeing the effect the baseless attacks have on close friends, just tired, tired of the 'Hockey Family'. As ever it is only the minority but, it seems the minority shout the loudest. I have made some amazing friends at other clubs in the UK, most of those have shown amazing levels of support and, this week, they have shown support again. To those of you, thank you!
What im left with is the very unenviable position of, if the Phoenix went bust, if the Manchester Phoenix became the Widnes Phoenix...what do I do? I will not go to Altrincham and, im not going to go to Widnes every week. For the first time in my life, I think I may give up supporting a UK hockey team and throw my allegiances fully behind the Arizona Coyotes.
Yours.......a very tired Phoenix fan!