September 01, 2013

Game Day Experience - Villach Austria

It was great catching up with Marc-Anthony Zanetti when his team played in near-by Villach Austria.  The game-day experience was interesting too.  My cousin Lydia and her spousal unit Hannis are very proud EC VSV fans and they had given us some insights previously.  But there's nothing like seeing it up-close. 

Getting to your seat - or spot...

Stadthalle Villach holds about 4500 fans.  There are seats along three sides of the rink and on the 4th side, the side behind both benches, all spots are standing spots as well as standing along the rails around the rink and standing bleachers in the corners.  Most of these are sold as season tickets.  And there were more folks in the standing spots than seats.  The seats are cold metal so that might be part of it, as well as the price:  11€ to stand and 21€ to sit.  

But before you get to your spot, you must enter the specific entrance that goes with your ticket, be frisked, and you may not move freely around the rink.  You actually need a pass to go to the washroom.  The many, many security personnel in florescent yellow vests keep everyone in order.

The Fans

There are no casual fans as far I could tell.  Everyone flew the colours of their teams - from wearing jerseys (I hope NA teams never adopt sponsor names on jerseys; it's awful), to sporting team scarfs or at least a golf shirt with the team logo. Didn't see any face paint - maybe during the season or playoffs.

The fan club sits ... I mean stands in the spots that are in the middle of the standing seats/spots behind the benches.  Not a large group but a non-stop noisy bunch.   And I mean non-stop.  All game.  Think of The Asylum on steroids.  Banging their drum, singing, shouting, whistling when they didn't agree with the officials, and with 4 minutes left in the game and the home team up by 1, they took their shoes off and held them up.  We couldn't figure that one out. 

The fans from Dusseldorf, very visible in their own team regalia, were located at one end of the standing "seats" and were as noisy as they could be.

As I was interviewing Marc after the game, the fans were still singing and shouting in the arena and taunting each other, which explains the strict control of movement inside the arena.  But once outside without any barriers to separate them a few scuffles broke out that security had to deal with.  And these teams aren't even in the same league much less rivals!  The Dusseldorf fan bus came quickly to gather its passengers and whisk them away.   
It can be rather intense between rivals.  My cousin told us that when a train-load of EC VSV fans arrived in Klagenfurt for a playoff game against their arch rivals they were met at the train station by the police to escort them to the game and make sure nothing started...well at least before the game.  
They are serious about their hockey.  
When Lydia and Hannis were in Ottawa in 2010 and attended a 67s game, wearing their EC VSV jerseys, they noted how quiet the fans are compared to their own games.  I'm not sure that NA fans are ready to make / endure that much noise during a game.  Many just want to watch hockey and pay close attention to what's happening on the ice. 
If we're back here next winter, I'm going to try and see a game but tickets will be hard to get as they have so many season ticket holders and single game tickets go quickly.  I'll be sure to wear a 67's jersey to stay out of trouble.  
And now it's back to splitting and stacking more wood than I thought possible (day 3).  Looking forward to getting back to Canada and to the start of the hockey season!

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