If you were at Altrincham Ice Dome on Saturday night, you can’t fail to have been impressed by the travelling army of supporters from Braehead Clan.
The Purple Army provided a raucous backdrop to what was an entertaining game, the Clan fighting back from a 4-1 first period deficit to win 6-4 with a late empty net goal.
The choice of the colour purple was a masterstroke when the Clan were incepted just five years or so ago. It gives them identity, it doesn’t clash with anyone or anything else, and of course doesn’t link with any potential rivalry in other sports.
I’ve been fortunate enough to witness a game up in Glasgow, and the same atmosphere that the Purple Army brought to Manchester on Saturday is apparent there in its droves. Almost everyone kitted out in a purple replica shirt too.
Of course, the Clan aren’t the only team with a passionate and loud following – but they’ve certainly impressed me this season, and the league is a much better place because of them.
It was the second time this season that Manchester Storm have squandered a promising position to lose narrowly to the more-fancied Clan.
On a few occasions this season I’ve felt that Storm have been quite happy to play gallant loser, rather than risk pushing for victory and suffering a heavier defeat.
That said, the fact they are competitive is a great coup for coach Omar Pacha and the tireless Neil Russell.
I have always been an advocate of the Storm name, and I believe that the lack of its presence has damaged the growth of ice hockey in the region. You ask most people of a certain age in the North West and they will have heard of the Storm.
Now, their free ticket model didn’t work then, but it certainly helps when it comes to brand awareness. I am one person who regularly watches ice hockey having gone to my first game in the 90s with a free ticket. There will be others out there.
One oddball at the weekend came in Hull, where the travelling Widnes Wild were forced to play in Jets’ colours, after someone left the kit behind.
It didn’t hold the Wild back though – they came away with a 6-4 victory.