The Beatles famous lyric on the Sergeant Pepper Album starts with the words ‘it was twenty years ago today’, and that was the song going through my mind when I picked up the microphone to announce our first night back as Manchester Storm.
The journey to that moment had been swift. From an interview with Claire Freeman on the Podcast about the old days, to a call and subsequent meeting with the force that is Neil Russell, was a matter of weeks rather than months.
Neil talked me through the plans for the Storm, his passion and energy winning me over – so, when he asked me if I would come back to announcing, I said yes!
Then I spent a few sleepless nights wondering if I’d made the right decision.
It’s no secret that twenty years before I had been asked to announce at the Nynex Arena (subsequently becoming the MEN) knowing absolutely nothing about ice hockey. My induction was one evening observing at Blackburn and then fully into the deep end on opening night in October 1995.
Memories of that night include Lightning Jack abseiling with the first puck, but getting stuck at the top of the rope, the new announcer (yours truly) almost celebrating a goal in the wrong net, together with the trials and tribulations of having a live microphone half way between opposing players in the penalty box shouting words of ‘affection’ to each other. Never has a mute button been used as much as in that opening season!
So without the need for a DeLorean, let’s skip forward twenty years to my first night at the new Storm Shelter.
I had several unanswered questions.
Would I remember the rules?
Would the crowd be as responsive?
Would the dynamic not be as good as before?
It didn’t take long to answer all the above.
A little like riding a bike (and with lots of generous support from Michelle, Wes and Gareth in the box) I picked up the game again.
The supporters were not only MORE responsive, but warmer and more enthusiastic than ever. For some of them it was their first experience of ice hockey and they joined in unreservedly (and thank goodness are still doing the same). I think everyone has been blown away by the warmth of welcome from all the volunteers, the team at Silver Blades, and our technical crew. It’s been a privilege and a pleasure to work with you all.
Our team are not just remote figures, as in so many other sports, they are real human beings putting themselves on the line every week. They are special talented people on the ice, but it shows off the ice too in how much they care and get involved. To Pach and the guys, a huge thanks and well done.
Neil deserves special mention. His energy and passion, as well as working as many hours as the day can give, has been integral in the re-birth of Manchester Storm. Without him, we wouldn’t be where we are today in such a short period of time.
Someone asked me just the other day about what is the main difference between then and now?
My reply was, like in life, things move at a quicker pace. Twenty years ago, social media was an article in the MEN. Now we are all instantly connected on twitter, facebook etc. (by the way I’m @jonhammondtweet if you’d like to join me)
The internet has given us all the opportunity to get closer to the team and the game like never before, so within seconds, thousands of people can show their support from wherever in the world. The Storm is now Global!!
It’s been a very special journey for me, which is getting better and better.
It’s great to be back and thank you for all your warmth and friendship
Here’s to a great 2016 for Maaaanchessssttteeeer Stoooooooormmmmm