AVFTB Producer, Patrick Smyth, enthuses on the podcast boom in UK Hockey.
There was a time when talking about sport was pretty limited.
Your social interaction with any professional game revolved around watching the event, be it hockey, football or maybe rugby. Then you maybe sat with your mates in the pub and had a chat about what you witnessed.
Your fandom didn’t change, your love of the game held strong, but when you’d finished that last pint, that was it until next week, or the next game. The experience was an aspect of your life with specific social boundaries, and looking back there was a lot to be said for that.
This slowly changed with as The Internet began to infiltrate our lives and allow us to place more and more of our thoughts, opinions and assessments onto a medium available to the masses. All of a sudden that opinion on your favourite player, or your assessment of the refereeing performance was no longer limited to words which floated over the top of your 3rd pint of lager to a limited audience, never to be heard again. Now you gained the ability to share these opinions openly with strangers across the globe, whether they were interested or not.
This pushed sports fandom into another realm, expanding the time spent engaged with the game and placing it deep in the psyche of day to day life. With that, the thirst for information grew.
Today we live in a world far beyond those simpler times I spoke of in the beginning. Following your favourite sporting team is no longer limited to craic with your mates, it has become a 24/7 industry. Information is addictive and when your addiction is mixed with a passion then it fuels a thirst for more.
Twitter, Facebook, Websites, YouTube, Blogs all feed into quenching that thirst until, in our sphere, the puck is dropped and more opinions are developed, talking points created, passions enriched as the next game unfolds.
To me, podcasts also help ease that unconscious thirst for information. I binge on them daily, not just hockey but politics, football, in fact one of my favourites is a comedy podcast that rips into The One Show every week.
But there is little doubt we are now in a golden age of the medium. When you see big names in the media dip their toe, or jump right into the pool, you know that what was once a side line technology predominantly for nerds, is now a mainstream means of broadcasting.
This season, there is no better place to look for an example of the flourishing medium than the Elite Ice Hockey League.
Disclaimer: If I don’t mention your podcast, I apologise, and feel free to @ me on twitter to complain.
There have been an influx of new podcasts in the last 12 months within UK Hockey. Put to me succinctly by my good friend Joel Neill as “The Chiclet’s Effect”.
And there is little doubt that the overwhelming success of the Spitting Chiclets podcast from Barstool Sports has been a major factor in the rise of popularity within the wider hockey sphere.
Personally, I’m a big fan of this boom, podcasts give people time, space and context to build and discuss their opinions in a means that forums or social media do not. They allow for disagreements and embellishments, they can be informative and informal.
As time has gone on the technology to record a podcast has become so developed that the mobile phone you might be reading this blog on is more than enough for you to create a podcast where you currently sit or stand.
But the desire to create a podcast often isn’t enough, you need a topic, or something that defines you to the audience and that’s where the UK hockey/EIHL community of podcasts has grown into a lush ground of variety.
You can have single voice monologues where people well versed in the game happily give their opinions on their own team or their own passion. Podcasts such as Anthony Russell’s BOTW or Hampson on Hockey. There is a level of courage to do this and still keep your audience engaged, both are pretty apt in talking about the game and provide informative content.
Then you open up to the panel based podcasts which can be split in their delivery, from the fan media output such at the long running Cats Whiskers, the Door 14 Hockey podcast, Clan in the Stands , My Fancy Zamboni to the more “official” output, such as AVFTB , Clan Chat or with this season the Sheffield Steelers attempt to dip their toe once more into the podcast pool.
These provide such a variance of opinion while also sticking within their own boundaries or agenda, most notably their own teams (though D14 does venture into the realm of the NHL and wider hockey).
Also worth a shout is 4000 and Counting, who have attempted to take the approach of the Chicklets format and apply it to UK Hockey. Some of the interviews have been entertaining.
While Behind the Bench with Neil Francis is another angle of content that really works, taking a man well steeped in the local game as Franny is and, show by show, pressing topics to extract some great opinions and stories from his time around the sport. Gaz and John with their own experiences are a great foil to Neil’s character and content. Very enjoyable show.
And here-in lies the strength of podcasting. If you have a niche, a specific interest, a love for something unique, there is no doubt a podcast out there that covers that interest. Likewise there is maybe something out there that would further that passion or educate on it, while also being a means that you can add or bring your own voice to it.
Though I admit, I may be making it sound quite easy, and in a way it is. But along the way we have seen comrades fall. Purple Army Podcast, Murdoch and Frame, The Forecast are all examples of great content that ended for various reasons, be they time or interest.
When Aaron Kernohan brought the idea of a Belfast Giants podcast to me in 2005 I thought it was worth a shot. The technology was very different then to now and the medium was embryonic. We opened our microphones, Aaron in Bangor, me in West Cumbria, and began this long journey in October 2005. Little did I know that almost 15 years later it would continue to be a pass-time and a passion.
The ability each week to put headphones on in front of my computer and talk to mates about the team and sport we share an equal love, is a privilege. More so humbling that anyone takes the time to listen to our musings.
Over the last 15 seasons of AVFTB we’ve gone from mumbling in front of our laptops, to mumbling on stage in McCools. Had the delight to interview the coaches, players and friends from across the hockey world, not just the EIHL. And hearing my own voice on Cool FM has been very humbling indeed, because in the end all AVFTB is (or at least all I hope it comes across as), is mates talking hockey from their back bedrooms.
But that’s where podcasting is a great means of broadcasting. All the shows I’ve mentioned on this blog are content that I’ve enjoyed listening to over the last year or more. Where people with drive and understanding put their voices on the record for others to hear.
If you’ve never listened to a podcast I encourage you to do so, have a look online. Search on Google, type something you love and add the word “podcast”. Listen, engage, review and enjoy.
Being a fan of your sporting club has become something that you can do 24 hours a day 7 days a week.
And I’m hoping more and more people in UK hockey fuel that by joining in on the ongoing podcast revolution. There is such potential within the EIHL for some amazing content.
I’ll be listening, and I really hope you will be too.
PODCAST: Pach-ion For The Game – The Lads look back at the start of the Giants domestic campaign and are joined by Jean Dupuy, Omar Pacha, Ciaran Long and Paul Swindlehurst.
A View From The Bridge Podcast, Official Podcast of the Belfast Giants, part of Kingdom Of The Giants.New Editions are online EVERY WEDNESDAY through the season, at 8am from Apple Podcasts, Spotify, The Cool FM App and all other good podcast providers.
Words: Patrick Smyth
Images: AVFTB, Cats Whiskers, Glasgow Clan, 4000 and Counting, Door 14 Hockey,