Belfast Giants play in the EIHL, the top UK league. A successful team, and 2nd in the league when I went to see Edinburgh Capitals play there.
They play at the Odyssey Arena - part of a 10 year old entertainment complex just across the river from the city centre. Reclaimed dockland.
They attract good crowds - just under 5,000 when I was there. A family atmosphere. Plenty to eat and drink in the arena, but very expensive. £4.40 for a pint of cider. That doesn’t stop the locals - all the outlets were busy during the breaks.
A ticket costs £15.50 for an adult, plus in my case the Ticketmaster fee (£1).
Caps were never in it - lost 0-5. Long trip to see that... Mind you, Caps were 9th out of 10 in the league.
Equipment: Plenty cash (if you want food/drinks).
At home, usually 5 miles. In Belfast last Sunday (16-3-8) I decided on a run about 6.30 because I needed it, and to give my son peace to sleep a bit longer.
So far so good. I'd only gone 100m from the city centre hotel and just turning into Ormeau Road to head out of the city, when I get heckled and then chased up the road by 2 drunks on their way home!
Scary... I'm fit, but not quick any more. Even a drunk who's 30 years younger than me could beat me over 100 m.
Anyway, I escaped. Found a good 4 mile route along a walkway beside the Lagan, which I enjoyed. Even saw a salmon jump!
Equipment: Nerves of steel...
The reason for my 2nd trip to Belfast was that my son's ice hockey team had a game against the Junior Belfast Giants (under 16 level). It was a challenge game, rather than serious league or cup business.
They play at the Dundonald facility, in the leafy suburbs east of the city just past Stormont.
It was a good game to watch, and the locals were winning 5-4 with a couple of minutes left. Finely balanced is the technical term (quite appropriate for ice hockey, really).
Then suddenly it exploded. A Murrayfield player started the old "pushing and shoving" routine on a Belfast kid, then they dropped their gloves and helmets and went at it hell for leather. They fell over, knocked the referee down by accident, and landed on top of him (still punching away at each other). Next thing all 5 skaters on each team, plus the 2 goalies, are battling it out. Linesmen and referee trying to call a cease fire, but getting nowhere. Then the players on the bench are on the ice getting stuck in as well.
My son was one of those on the bench, and seemed to be enjoying the show until he realised he would have to join in!
Order was restored eventually, just as coaches and parents were thinking about squaring off...
Junior's team has played about 15 competitive games this season, with nothing worse than a bit of elbowing to cause offence. Why this when they play a "friendly"?
Anyway, more fun than church on a Sunday morning.
Equipment: A sense of perspective?
When I was in Belfast, the NHL was on strike, so I was suffering from a hockey deficiency. Luckily, Belfast has a team and they were playing while I was there. And surprisingly, they were actually a very good team, so the whole game wasn't a complete bore to watch. The interesting thing I discovered, after having good craic with the guy next to me, is that the hockey game is one of the few non-sectarian things that are in Belfast to do. The team isn't Protestant or Catholic or Loyalist or Republican. It is Belfast's team, and the city's team as a whole.
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