All pro-hockey organizations have retired and hoisted jerseys of hockey players of significance to the rafters, for fans and media to remember what they have done for the club and for the game.
I think it is a gentle gesture by the organizations, mostly because it doesn’t have to be the one who scored most or made the most assists, as it can indeed be the one who played the most games. The one who was most loyal to the team and struggled hardest for their teammates on the ice.
However, there is a major part of this game with such importance that the game wouldn’t survive at all without it, and that’s the fans.
All over the world, not just in ice hockey, there are millions of fans who spend all their savings to follow their specific team they choose to support.
If they miss the home games for a reason we could categorize as “life,” which includes various things such as family gatherings or sudden errands that came between etc., they make sure to follow it by a stream, by radio or in worst case by a live score with the same die-hard passion as they have when they watch live in the home venues or away.
Most of the fans are you and I, in other words, normal people with normal day jobs, with other normal hobbies besides the game; only a few if we look at the fan part, in general, exaggerate the whole concept of being a fan.
Moreover, being a fan is not only about following a specific team, it is also about being a part of a community, to become – hopefully – even close friends with people who share the same interest, even with people who support another team.
Nowadays, we can all get in touch — media, players, coaches, and fans — with each other through social media such as Twitter. Twitter is a quite popular channel among the hockey community.
It is through Twitter I’ve gotten to “know” Željko from Croatia, a very keen fan of the hockey club Medveṧčak Zagreb. But also a keen fan of the game in general.
Unfortunately, I did not get the chance to know him in other contexts but his thoughts he expressed through Twitter, and it was always spot on and sincere, also with a great sense of humor. One could always toss a joke to him, no matter how weird it was, and you would receive laughter.
Željko passed away recently, only a few days ago. I received the news from someone who knew him far better than I did, but it was certainly a great shock to hear that he wouldn’t be among us anymore.
With a deep sorrowed heart I sat down when I received the news, and I looked at the last picture of Željko when he stood and smiled with a Medveṧčak Zagreb T-shirt on.
Then and there the question crossed my mind: who will remember the fans?
Perhaps it is time for the clubs to celebrate the fans once in a while, and not always the opposite? Perhaps with a special day only for fans, with a great party with food and drink arranged by the clubs, to say big thanks for the support and most of all the words: “Without you, we would be nothing.”
Because it is true, no club would be anything without some sort of support from the fans.
I know that much – even if I didn’t know him deeper – that Željko was a diehard Medveṧčak fan, who followed them through the EBEL, then the few seasons when the club tried their fortune in the KHL and then back to the EBEL, where he only got to follow a few games before he passed away.
Željko, hopefully, you are able to enjoy as much as you can all the coming Medveṧčak games where you are now — we will always remember you in one way or another even if the time will go on of course. Thank you for all your words and shared thoughts. /Arto, Sports rants, 24th September 2017
To reminisce with my old friends, a chance to share some memories, and play our songs again.
-Ricky Nelson, Musician 1940 – 1985