Saturday, May 18, 2024

Where to watch? Taking a look at some of hockey’s best venues

For many of us, our exposure to watching hockey is being propped up against a fence somewhere, doing our best to shield from the elements as we take in the spectacle of whichever game we’ve decided to watch. That doesn’t mean every spectating experience is like that, though. There are plenty of places to watch hockey that go far beyond this, from the weird to the wonderful, here’s a quick look at some places where watching hockey becomes something altogether different.

The Trip Down Memory Lane

Whilst it’s not the exact stadium that was used for the 2012 Olympics, a trip to the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre always makes me feel nostalgic.

The summer of 2012 was one of the best summers of my life as I managed to spend very little time at work and a hell of a lot of time at the Olympics.

As you’d expect, I watched my fair share of hockey, including being in the stadium for Dan Fox’s only international goal – a sweeping move and an unerring finish that brought the house down.

Although the current setting on the Olympic Park perhaps struggles to capture the atmosphere of that summer, it’s not without its triumphs. Being present for England’s 2015 European Hockey Championships win will stay with me forever and will always make me look at the venue fondly. One thing I would say if you’re going there though – wear or take extra socks. It’s always colder than you think. Seriously.    

The Bucket List

Going to watch hockey in Argentina is something that has always piqued my interest. I’m fascinated by the passion and devotion to the sport in the country and it always looks like it would be an unforgettable experience.

Any of the places where the national teams play would do, but where better to take in a game than the Estadio Mundialista Luciana Aymar? The venue for the 2010 World Cup was renamed in 2015 in honour of the greatest female player to ever play the game and seems as good a place as any to go!  

The Must-Visit 

Nowadays, it seems to be the case that if you want to watch top men’s hockey tournaments, India is your destination.

One the venues for the next men’s World Cup, The Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneshwar is well known to hockey fans already, hosting as it has The Hockey India League (remember that?!) as well as numerous international events and tournaments.

The second venue, Birsa Munda International Hockey Stadium is still under construction and I’ve got to say it looks like it will be incredible. It will be the biggest hockey stadium in India and have a capacity of 20,000. Imagine that full of fans baying for their side to win the World Cup final. Yes please! 

Go for the hockey, enjoy the atmosphere

An oft-cited criticism of hockey crowds in England is that they are too quiet. If you’re aiming for something a little more lively than a few hushed conversations and the occasional round of applause, may I recommend the Sultan Azlan Shah Stadium, at Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia?

The stadium plays host to the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup, an invitational tournament which is highly competitive and boasts some of the best teams in hockey as participants. One of the things I love about the tournament is the organisers’ willingness to fill the stands.

Worried that say, Great Britain vs Australia will be empty? Fear not, the local schools are given a team in the tournament to adopt as their own. And boy, do they embrace it! The noise is deafening and it makes the experience for the players something to remember. Magnificent.   

The one(s) to post on Instagram

It’s back to India for this one. If you want breath-taking views that you’ll never forget, Shilaroo Hockey Stadium is where you want to go. It’s the world’s highest altitude hockey stadium at around 8,000 feet (almost 2,500 metres above sea level) and is surrounded by the Narkanda and Hatu Peaks. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so just take a look. Wow. 

If that one doesn’t quite do it for you, perhaps the Hartleyvale Stadium in Cape Town is more to your liking? It has four pitches and seating for 1700 fans, oh and there’s a stunning view here, too. What a place!   

The most welcoming  

I love going to watch hockey in the Netherlands. The crowd noise, the quality of the matches, the welcoming nature of the people and the clubs all contribute to a superb experience. I’ve been to a few places of note over there, including the Kyocera Stadium in the Hague. This was the venue for the 2014 Hockey World Cup. For matches involving Netherlands and of course the World Cup finals, it was quite some place.

The Kyocera Stadium saw packed out matches in 2014 PIC: FIH

Packed to the rafters and a vibrant, party style atmosphere. However that was a football stadium with a hockey pitch dropped in, so probably doesn’t count. Instead, I give you the Wagener Stadium in Amstelveen. Not only is it where England’s men won the Euros in 2009, it’s also the place where they have a free bar and a seemingly unlimited supply of bitterballen in the media centre. Top marks in my book!

So there you have it, a whistle-stop tour of some of hockey’s more striking venues. Which ones would you go to?

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