As a regular down at The Castle (or Planet Ice, Elland Road, Leeds as your sat nav likes to call it), when I friend of mine mentioned he was taking his family to their first Ice Hockey game their, I thought I’d offer him a few tips. That list grew and grew and grew until I realised I’d pretty much written a guide to people looking to take in their first game of Ice Hockey watching Leeds Knights, which I’ve decided to share with other in case they find it useful
This guide is aimed at those new to the sport of Ice Hockey, but some of the sections are relevent to seasoned hockey fans who are making their first visit to Leeds
Where can I get tickets?
Where should/shouldn’t I book tickets for?
- Block 12 is normally allocated for away fans
- The drummers aren’t to everyones taste and are at the far end of the rink between blocks 6 and 7. Join or avoid depending on your preferences
- Block 1 isn’t the greatest view and sections tend to be given to local junior sports teams for many games
- You can stand “at the plexi” which can be an amazing atmosphere but divides people who how easy it is to follow the game from there (and personally I hate standing up for that long)
- Block 11 is one to watch out for, on the rare occassions we get a group of beer up folk who don’t understand that hockey banter isn’t the same as football banter, and take it too farm they are almost always in Block 11.
- In almost every block, the entire from and back rows are take up with Season Ticket Holders
How long is a game?
3 x 20 minute periods.
However, unlike football, when the puck isn’t in play, the clock stops, so those 60 minutes of play can take 2.5 hrs some times
Is it OK to take my family?
Yes! Ice Hockey is massively family friendly and a world apart from football when it comes to banter and rivalries. Yes there are songs/chants from the fans, but these are almost exclusively supportive (or gentle leg pulling) and free from bad language. Football banter, aggression, intimidation just doesn’t fly at hockey.
Where should I park?
Not on Planet Ice itself, but for £3 (cash only) you can park on the massive park-and-ride car park right next to the arena.
What should/shouldn’t I bring to the arena?
It used to be a case of using common sense, but this season the rink owners (not Leeds Knights themselves) has implemented bag searches, main it seems to stop you bringing in your own food and drinks (getting them the nickname “The Sweetie Police”). If you don’t have to bring a bag with you, you will probably save yourself a few seconds queing to get in
Clothing wise, it may be indoors, but the don’t call hockey arenas “barns” for no reason and there main unavoidable feature is a giant patch of sub-zero water, so it IS cold. A busy night isn’t too bad, but I’d dress for a walk on a January morning, not an evening in the cinema. Of course there are regulars there who turn up in shorts, but thats not for me!
What makes me stand out as a newbie?
- Not knowing that if the puck is in play, you stay in your seat (and keep your eye on the puck), despite 10ft of plexiglass and nets to the roof at either end, pucks DO end up in the crowd and roughly once a season somebody isn’t paying attention and gets beaned by one. Becuase of this, not matter how much you need the loo or how big the bar queue will be, you don’t move from your seat until a stop is called. The normally have stewards in the stairway to prevent you returning to your seat until a stop is called
- Not reading the block numbers and getting 50 people to stand up because you went up the Block 2 stairs to get to Block 5.
- Calling the periods halves (there are three of them)
- Not realising you can take you beer to your seat!
Is there food and drink available?
Yes, but it’s not great and can take forever. The pizzas in particular take 8 minutes each and you don’t know how many people are in front of you waiting to collect them, so they can be a common source of missing part of the game.
Any weird traditions?
Plenty. One assumes that in an attempt out emulate of flag saluting allegiance-swearing transatlantic brothers and sister, God Save the King is played before game and people are (often begrudgingly) expect to stand for it.
At the end of the game, fans clap off BOTH teams. Any rivalries are now over, and you have some new hockey buddies in difference coloured hockey shirts to go meet in the bar
A nice Leeds Knights one is that after most games (expect later face-offs) a couple of the team come into the bar to sign memorabelia and take pictures and stuff (if you have a sharp eye, you often notice quite a few other players pop into the bar incognito too)
Leeds have a mascot called Leo, big or small, old or young, cool or not, you HAVE to fistbump Leo when you see him. No ifs, no buts, no “he’s just for the kids”, EVERYONE, no exceptions.
Do they have merch on sale?
Yep. A merch table is available under Block 2. Kids on their first visit seem to always want a foam hand.
Some (but not all) of their stuff is available at https://shop.leedsknights.com/ . Queues can get big before bigger games and the 4g for the card terminal can be problematic, so cash is a good idea.
- Other than Tickets, Food, Beer, Merch and Car Parking, how else is money extracted from me?
- 50/50 – A prize draw to win somewhere between £200 and £1200. Ticket sellers wander around this rink.
- Chuck-A-Puck in the break between the 2nd and 3rd period Leo the mascot goes and stand on the centre of the ice and people launch pre-purchased (from under block 1) foam pucks at him. Winner gets free match tickets or a merch voucher
- SOTB (Shirt of their back)- Win a match-worn shirt from one of the players (they are washed first, which for most people is probably a plus point). Whilst these are massively awesome, do think about it if you’re trying to win one for your kids. These are shirts from bulky adults with room to fit their body armour underneath. For anyone less that an XL they do have the appearance of a well branded marquee. They are awesome though and I probably spend more money trying to win a SOTB shirt than any of the other draws
- They sometimes have other chances to spend money, such as raffled training shirts and signed broken hockey sticks
Keep in minds the Ice Hockey has limited crowds, limited advertising, no TV revenue and is a bloody expensive undertaking (Knights are semi-pro, with many players having day jobs, two teirs down it’s a pay-to-play league!) and all the money given to the merch and the draws is taken by volunteers and fed back into the club. The only people making money are Planet Ice who own the arena.
So even if these don’t seem like great value, you’re actually doing a great thing by pumping much needed money back into the club.
What’s with all the music?
Music being played between plays has been a tradition suriving from the days it was done by an organist rather a DJ
So of it is to just generally life the crowd, some of it is chosen as a response to specific events (I predict a riot, Bad Boys, Sit Down, I fought the law etc all be common when somebody is sent to the sin bin) and often in the third periods it turns into a cheesy Butlins-esque sing and dance along. It’s tradition. You get used to it.
However the second the puck is back in play, the music stops (no matter how much you wanted to hear the second verse of Bob The Builder sing Big Fish, Little Fish, Cardboard Box).
Thankfully a lot of it is actually decent enough house and rock tunes.
Why are there so many subs?
Hockey (normally) is 5 skaters and a goalie on the ice for a team. However there are unlimited substitutions, and whilst a Goalie my stay of the ice for an entire game, but skaters do “shifts” normally lasting 1 to 3 minutes. You don’t have to wait for a stoppage to make a substituion and you may briefly have too many players on the ice as long as they don’t interfere with play (so they player coming on may be on before the one leaving has left the ice).
He just caught that in the air and dropped it at his feet, is that allowed?
Yup, a player is allowed catch the puck, but must instantly “release” (so drop) it rather than throw it. But it can (and often is) used to give a tactical advantage.
What’s with all the penalties?
Hockey penalties tend to time limited, so a player is sent to the penalty box (a glorified naughty step) for an amount of time and the team has to play with one less skater (known as “short handed” for a while). Whilst the player themselves may be penalised longer the team isn’t expected to play short handed for more than 5 minutes.
When a team has more players on the ice they are said to be On A Powerplay. For many penalties (but not all) a powerplay goal means the player is release from the penalty box (as the goal itself is enough of a penalty)