Before starting my year abroad, so many people told me that I’d do things that I’d never even considered before. I didn’t quite understand what they meant, but then my friends invited me to see an ice hockey game. The only thing I like iced is coffee, and the closest I’ve come to seeing a hockey game is watching St. Trinian’s, so an ice hockey match would definitely be a new experience.
Ice hockey is massive in Mannheim. The city has been Germany’s Eishockeystadt (ice hockey city) since 1938 and student tickets only cost €7. There really is no better way to immerse yourself in Mannheim culture.
There’s a massive arena called the SAP Arena at the city’s edge which is home to the Die Adler, Mannheim’s ice hockey team. Die Adler is German for the Eagles, and they were playing against Die Löwen (the Lions) which is Frankfurt’s team. Handily, a tram which runs directly to the arena is included in the €7 ticket. This isn’t just a bargain but part of the experience because you get to journey there with eagle-emblazoned Adler fans, ready to guzzle over-priced beer and diss Die Löwen.
The game started at 7.30, and as we had to get there in plenty of time, we were a captive audience for the aforementioned over-priced beer / cola / lemonade / chips / currywurst / air to breathe. It may have been over-priced and dripping with grease, but I think that’s the law when it comes to stadium food. Huddled together on cheap seats waiting for the game to start, salt-drenched chips and gassy cola seemed like the most delicious dinner in Deutschland.
Ice hockey is quite a complex game to follow, and as someone who is still unsure of the rules of rounders, I didn’t have much hope. But it didn’t matter. We were sat right in the middle of a crowd of hyped-up Adler fans, and the atmosphere was amazing. When our team scored a goal, it was impossible not to get caught up in the crowd’s excitement. The music was also surprisingly good. From Gwen Stefani to Blur, whoever created the SAP Arena playlist created such a party mood.
As for soaking up the Deutche Sprache, I have no doubt that being surrounded by riled-up Germans did wonders for our language skills, especially when the chants started. Advice to any German students on the brink of a year abroad – worry less about academic vocab and more about rude sports chants.
The night ended quite perfectly because Die Adler won 7-4, evoking a pride and smugness in me that I didn’t think would be possible in someone who had been a fan for all of 100 minutes. I also managed to get a selfie with the SAP mascot, fulfilling my furtive sports-stadium fantasy.
So after such a fun time, I hope I’ll make it to more ice hockey games during my year in Mannheim. Even if it’s just because I want an excuse to buy one of those adorable eagle soft toys in the fan shop (and eat more of those disgustingly tasty chips).