There was great joy, cheers, mass singing, but also disappointment and tears over Slovakia's lost battle for bronze at the World Ice Hockey Championship in Prague last week. At one a.m. the National Uprising Square in Bratislava was packed with thousands of people. Even though the national team came in fourth, fans patiently waited for their idols and cheered with flags, slogans and hockey anthems.
Even though the Championship ended in disappointment, during the two weeks of the competition, Slovakia turned into one big hockey fan club. In order to share the emotions of each game, many fans came to watch the matches in bars and pubs. The boom of big screen projections started when our players became World Champions for the first time, two years ago, says Miro Chromej the owner of a bar in the centre of Bratislava:
"Certainly it is very important to have the big screen and other activities ready for the Championship, it is better business, and so that's why we decided to install it. Guests are now very demanding - insisting on the screen and a quality broadcast."
And what makes these people be fans?
"...when it comes to a national tournament I think everyone becomes a hockey fan in a way. It is the pride that our guys got it so far and that they are good..." "...our team is the greatest in the world and I have been a hockey fan since forever, but the last years were the greatest..." "...this is the coolest game on Earth; I've been a big fan since I can remember..."
As psychologist Vesna Turan from the Commenius University says, for people who have always been hockey fans, the Championship is just one part of the hockey calendar. But for those who do not usually care so much for the sport, it is the media that created the atmosphere and hype for the big event:
"Commercials try to live off hockey. Certainly the atmosphere created makes even the people who are not used to watching hockey watch it. Everywhere, everyone talks about it, so it is natural that one feels a need to join in on this. However I don't think the pressure on people is so strong, that they would have no choice but to become hockey fans."
It certainly seems that more and more people have become hockey fans. According to psychologist Vesna Turan, the media even instructed them how they should behave as fans:
"In commercials and via live broadcasts from the stadiums we are shown how we should cheer. The hockey jerseys or the melody SLOVENSKO are, in a way, imitations of the stereotyped behaviour, of how a fan should behave. Now the hockey mania seems to be demonstrated by a similar, identical behaviour."
In many sports, fans can turn into a nightmare. So far, Hockey fans haven't turned into football hooligans. Vesna Turan explains:
Peter Stastny, a Slovak hockey legend, now member of the Slovak delegation says cheering and fans are very important for the outcome of the games:
"Slovak hockey fans being very loud and very supportive and creating a vibrating environment inspires the young hockey players, it inspires even our hockey leaders. All players and everybody here are fully aware of the support and undoubtedly it is a big plus for our team."
Although this year the Slovak players did not return victorious, their fans were generous, and welcomed them with a great thank you and a hope that next year in Vienna, our golden boys will bring home a precious medal.
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