A hockey night with SC Bern – Europe’s most popular bears
The Swiss capital might not be the first on people’s mind when it comes to a city break in Europe, but when it comes to the sport of ice hockey Bern tops one European list – the higest average of spectators per game.
In fact, more than 16.000 fans in average find their way to the huge PostFinance Arena each time SC Bern takes to the ice in the best Swiss hockey league. A number that might not sound of much to a football (soccer) fan, but which is definitely impressive in the world of European ice hockey. Not at least due to the fact that Bern is a relatively small capital city, with just about 140.000 inhabitants.
So, as a big hockeyfan myself, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to attend a game in Bern back in January, when I was in town to write a travel article. Sports games can often be good occasions to get a different perspective on a city’s atmosphere and local life.
There were definitely a lot of locals heading in the same direction as me, as I jumped on a tram in downtown for the short ride to arena – just 10-15 minutes northeast of the city center. And the team’s popularity was felt immediately after my arrival, as many fans aimed straight for the several outdoor fanshops, selling everything in the club’s black, red and yellow colours – from baby equipment to shirts carrying the iconic bear-logo.
Not surprisingly the Bern club is known as the bears, as the city itself is heavily connected and identified with the symbol of the bear. Something I’ll be writing more about in a future post with tips to this wonderful city.
Inside the PostFinance Arena the roar of the crowd also sounded like bears, when the puck-chasing men in black entered the ice in the “unevenly” built arena, meaning that one side is taller than the other. The one carrying the most hardcore fans that are standing. The same side I had decided to join, although sticking to a corner with surprisingly good views to the ice surface.
‘Hardcore’ might be the wrong word actually, because if you’re not familiar with ice hockey it’s important to know that the fans are generally much more well-behaved than in football (soccer), and that it’s very rare to experience any kind of trouble in a hockey arena. So the word passionate is much more fitting. And the passion is let out through songs and chants throughout the game – and during what seemed to be a traditional anthem or fanfare for SC Bern.
On this specific night the Swiss hockey legend Martin Plüss was celebrated after retiring as the club’s captain, and had his shirt number retired and raised to the rafters. A celebration that showes how much the locals of Bern appreciate their hockey heroes. A love for the club that has probably grown even stronger after becoming Swiss champions two seasons in a row (in 2016 and 2017). And now they’re hoping to make a rare championship hattrick in 2018.
Unfortunately that night’s result wasn’t to be celebrated though. The bears lost a close and hard fought game to the ZSC Lions from Zürich, but remained in 1st place in the league, while keeping up their spectator statistics, as more than 16.000 people (including at least one Dane) attended this game. And it was nice to hear that the fans kept singing even after a loss, before leaving the arena to continue their night in downtown Bern – or to return to their bear caves until the next battle on ice.
I have had the pleasure of watching top hockey in several arenas around Europe, and watching SC Bern was definitely one of my best experiences! A great combination of a high level of hockey, a fantastic arena, great atmosphere and good entertainment during the breaks. An experience I can highly recommend if you find yourself in the Swiss capital on a game night – even if you’re not a dedicated hockeyfan like me.
Visit the club’s website at scb.ch where you can also book your tickets.
SEE ALSO: A gigantic hockey experience in Belfast
AND DON’T FORGET to follow Travelooney Blog on Facebook for the latest updates and much more travel inspiration from around Europe.