Yesterday I joined over 13,000 spectators at the O2 Arena in Kreuzberg to watch Berlin’s very own ice hockey team, the Eisbären, play against Dusseldorfer EG.
As it was my first ice hockey game, I paid close attention to the rules: the match is played in 3 twenty-minute sets, the timer is stopped whenever play is disrupted, and, short of whacking opponents on the head with their hockey sticks, there are no rules.
Yesterday, players shoved, elbowed, and tripped each other up. An ice hockey stick was broken and one of the goals was dislodged, disrupting play until a guy with a power drill showed up to screw it back into the ice again. At least 5 scuffles broke out, and while the referees tried to regain control, the Beastie Boys’ “You Gotta Fight, For Your Right, to Party!” was blasted through the arena.
It reminded me of animal football in Bedknobs and Broomsticks:
The game is fast, violent and graceful, making it strangely thrilling to watch – probably akin how the Romans felt watching gladiators battle it out in the Colosseum.
The teams were evenly matched, making it a tense game. By the end of the 60 minutes, the score was 4 All. No-one scored during the 5 minutes of extra time, so it went to a penalty shootout; Darin Olver scored the winning goal for the Eisbären.
Naturally, I started out supporting Berlin, but I felt sorry for the visiting team, who were at a psychological disadvantage – there were dancing polar bear mascots; the arena shook with fierce polar bear growls at various intervals, the majority of the audience were cheering for the home team, and every time Berlin scored there was a massive fanfare, whereas the other team’s goals and players were hardly acknowledged by the commentator – so I switched sides. I suppose this testosterone-fuelled, competitive atmosphere was hardly the place to start getting all worried about fairness and all that, but there you go!