MyClub25 – Why I am here

The history of ice hockey in Basingstoke runs back to 1988. It was around my 4th birthday when the Beavers took on the Bournemouth Sharks in the club’s debut game. The story of how I came to ice hockey is a well trodden path but how I came to Basingstoke is a story I find myself not telling as often. My personal history with the Bison started in 2005. I was about a month into my final year at university. Before I went to Germany I’d been a season ticket holder at AFC Bournemouth. During 1st and 2nd years it was less of an issue but final year the prospect of losing whole Saturdays to football wasn’t really an option with a dissertation and all the other trappings being a final year student comes with. The season ticket at Dean Court was out.

Having been firmly bitten by the ice hockey bug however, I hunted around for local teams. I knew there was a team in Basingstoke and a team on the Isle of Wight (I wasn’t aware of Gosport at the time). The Isle of Wight was ruled out as a regular option for practicality’s sake; Southampton ferries go to Cowes and buses on the island are expensive whereas Basingstoke was 30 minutes away on a train and a direct bus to Leisure Park. The Bison were also in the Elite League at the time and I thought I might as well start at the highest level and work my way down.

Shockingly, I can’t remember who the Bison played that night. It was a Saturday in November 2005; the Bison had black and white fold out programmes and I sat in Block F. The Bison lost but I knew that hockey had kind of caught me at that point; I’d enjoyed myself despite the loss and I knew that I needed an escape of some kind from lectures and essays and Southampton in general. Also from a university work standpoint it was ideal; rather than lose most of a Saturday, I could work till 4pm then head to Basingstoke for games.

The moment I really knew I was sunk? Back then the playoffs were 2 groups of 4 so everyone played each other home and away. I’d had no experience of playoffs before and by that stage I was back at my mum’s in Epsom, south west of London for the Easter break. “Stuff it” I thought “I want to see my team in the playoffs.” Mark Bernard at the time was GM, coach, rink manager, netminder and everything else under the sun. His wife had also just given birth in the early hours of the morning on the day the Nottingham Panthers were visiting. Many wondered if Bernie would play at all. I got a 30 min train from my mum’s house to Waterloo then the 50 minute train to Basingstoke to get there in time for the game and there was Bernie on the ice, the initials of his new daughter written on the backplate of his mask in pen. The Bison lost 10-0; Bernard looking clearly exhausted as the Bison fans were being heckled by two men in full body wrestling suits (for those of you who remember Soccer AM circa 2006). EASY, EASY, EASY, YOU SHADAAAAAAAP!

The next day, I printed off a season ticket form.

Remember you can have your story as part of MyClub25; email them to botwmyclub25@gmail.com or tweet them here with #MyClub25

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