More Than Just A Name
In 1998 the Ayr Scottish Eagles were crowned Superleague champions, in fact they made a clean sweep of all the available silverware that year. With winning the league Ayr found themselves off to Europe the following season. They were placed in a group with Germany’s Mannheim Die Adler, Russia’s Kazan and the Czech Republic’s Litvinov. History was made as Ayr pulled off quite a feat by beating the then European Champions Kazan both home and away.
A few years later Ayr as a team began to crumble. In 2002, under a new name, they relocated to a new rink and the old team ceased to exist. Ayr Scottish Eagles were no more, in the place of its old arena the Centrum stands another supermarket, it didn’t look to great for British ice hockey with the league then collapsing in the same season.
Then in 2010 word came that a new team was to be formed in the arena where the Ayr Scottish Eagles (then just Scottish Eagles) took their last bow albeit it only after six games, there was a new kid on the block, the Braehead Clan. Entering the Elite League in the 2010/11 season this meant ice hockey in Scotland was stronger than ever. Finishing in mid table at 5th place with 60 points, the Braehead Clan seemed to be going from strength to strength.
So what does the Braehead Clan and that tournament in 1998 have in common? In the Clans second year the jersey sponsor of net minder Jaakko Suomalainen was announced as Vollstrecker – Mannheim. One of the main supporter clubs for Mannheim Die Adler. So how did it come about that a supporters club of a team end up sponsoring a player for another team thousands of miles away who they have never played except for in another life over ten years previously?
A few fans of the Eagles and a few fans of Mannheim formed a friendship over that tournament visiting each other’s teams here and there on odd occasions at first. Then two of the Eagles fans on two separate occasions had their stag dos over in Mannheim. All of a sudden when Mannheim announced they were playing in a new arena 43 people from the Eagles fan base went out to see it for the opening. One fan invited 8 of the Mannheim supporters over to his wedding in 2006 and again when he turned 40 three years later. The majority of which keep in contact regularly and the relationships have been described as more like a family than friends. When the Braehead Clan were formed the Mannheim fans came over to watch and the friendships carved out by a simple hockey tournament ten years ago are stronger than ever with another trip being planned for this season as well.
It’s great to see the sport we love bring people together all over the world and from all walks of life, and what may appear as a simple jersey sponsor has such a heart warming story behind it and I am sure many lifelong friendships have been formed in its wake. So to all the old Ayr fans, supporters old and new in Braehead as well as the folks in Mannheim, good on you for showing what it is to be a true supporter of ice hockey. Long may your two teams journey continue!