Hockey in Bremerhaven (1941-2003)
Hockey has found itīs place in Bremerhaven, located directly at the North Sea and being the harbour-town of Bremen, in 1941. But only since the Civic Hall was constructed in 1975 hockey has really taken off, at least by Bremerhaven-standards. And we are not talking about Berlin or Cologne here.
The first-ever game of professional hockey was played prior to the 74/75-season when Bremerhaven played Hamburg in an exhibition game and lost 4:7 in front of 2.500 hopeful fans, ready to embrace their news team. Seven weeks later the "real" league games started and 3.600 fans showed up for the first game, a 10:4 defeat of Braunlage. Bremerhaven started great, lead the standings after two games and went on a successful rampage that not only lead the team to the 2nd Bundesliga (2nd division of hockey in Germany) but also to bankruptcy.
Things started to fall apart in 1978/1979 when Bremerhaven played in the 2nd division and the town found new hobbies to spend time and money on. Attendance-figures dropped, the team was 400.000 Marks in the red (about 200.000 euro) and only a 150.000 mark-present (or 75.000 euro) of the city kept the team afloat. For a long time the team had relied on experienced but expensive foreigners on the ice, and in 1984 the curtain fell for the last time when the team went bankrupt.
But luckily a 2nd team had been founded in Bremerhaven in 1977, the EHC Bremerhaven. For years the team was nothing more than a hobby-team featuring a ton of local youngsters and only when enough of them turned old enough to play real hockey the team started to play organized men-hockey. When the team played in the Oberliga, the third division of hockey in Germany in 1984/85, only 200 fans showed up on the average though. Bremerhaven was not ready for real hockey again.
It took the EHC until 1987 until it folded but once again there was one club left in town, the REV Bremerhaven, founded in 1983 (and still alive today, even though there are financial problems around once again). The REV played in lower divisions of hockey for most of itīs existence before advancing to the 2nd Bundesliga some years ago. And this time Bremerhaven was ready to support a professional hockey team once again and in 2001/2002 the team even managed to capture the championship, even though this came more as a surprise than as a result of an excellent season (you know what can happen in playoffs, well, it happened to Bremerhaven...). For a couple of days fans in Bremerhaven even dreamed about seeing their team in the DEL, the first division in Germany, in the upcoming season. But with no adequate arena around, not enough sponsors to finance a DEL-campaign and a roster surely not good enough to stand a chance in the top division the management decided to pass up on itīs chance to advance to the DEL. A year later the team found itself in the third division, after playing a horrible campaign and going down after loosing the the relegation-games.
Visiting-experience 31th of January 2003, REV Bremerhaven vs EHC Wolfsburg
Ever since I became a hockey-fan in 1994 I had dreaded those ice-cold home-games of the Duesseldorfer EG (where I was a regular at that time) in January and February when you were almost frozen to death at the end of any given game. And even though it has been a while since I went to my last January-game in a partialy open building I really canīt recall a lot of games where I was freezing as bad as on this Fridayevening in Bremerhaven.
I had entered the arena about an hour prior to the game. When I tried to find information about hockey in Bremerhaven before my visit I had seen that their attendance figures are always pretty good with about 1.600 fans per average. At least pretty good taking into account, that only 2.050 people fit into the building. And since I didnīt want to have a real bad standing spot I went there early, only to find out that nobody else showed up until the game was ten minutes away. This might have been due to the extreme weather conditions on this day but it might have also been due to the nature of hockey-fans in Bremerhaven. At least I could have arrived almost an hour later and wouldnīt have lost as many body-parts to the extreme coldness as I did, but itīs too late to change anything about that now. I have recovered pretty well though...
The arena itself is open at both ends, and a guy from Bremerhaven told me that the wind is blowing through the building pretty uncomfortably at times. In order to fight freezing feet many people tried to stand on some sort of rubber-mats that were lying around on the ground. I tried to grab me one as well but had to find out that the one I longed for was frozen to the ground so badly that I had no chance to rip it off. My feet didnīt celebrate... At least the team handed out ice-scratchers for cars as a give-away on this night. It was a good idea as all windows of the cars parked outside were frozen at the end of the event...
The food at the game was suprisingly good, at least considering what one is used to from sporting events. There were three points of sale in the standing area and four in the whole building. There were also no long lines and they sold their stuff for good prices. On the other hand nothing is really expensive in Bremerhaven as I found out later that night in town. It might be due to an unemployment rate of nearly 20% and taking into account that Bremerhaven has lost about 20.000 inhabitants since 1995 (the town went from 120.000 to 100.000) this shows that Bremerhaven is not really on itīs upside right now.
A large number of the fans seemed to have quiet some knowledge though as I overheard many conversations about this and that player. The number of sheer "hobby-fans" as you can find at every corner in new buildings as the Kölnarena in Cologne seemed to be rather small. This might have also been a result of the weather; anybody who is not a hardcore-hockeyfan wouldnīt spend his Friday evening at a hockey-game with temperatures far below the freezing point.
The atmosphere was a bit of a dissapointment though. The game was poor as well, but that is not a big suprise when one considers the general quality of the 2nd division of german hockey. It was probably average for this division. But even when Bremerhaven crawled back into the game in the third period and turned a 0:1 deficit into a 2:1 victory the roof was never about to take off. People clapped a bit, bought another beer and stayed more or less quiet. The homepage of the team stated that there was a great atmosphere and that the fans stood behind their team like a wall. Well, I donīt even want to think about how lousy the atmosphere must be when itīs just average for Bremerhaven-standards.
I really liked the closeness of the players to the fans though. After the game the players skated around the ice for several minutes, shook hands with a bunch of kids who were standing along the boards and no security-apes held anybody back. This was quiet a contrast to the behavior of players in Cologne where I attended many games of the last couple of years. 10.000 fans in the building, a good atmosphere throughout the event and in the end the players take off into their locker rooms as fast as they can. Not everything is worse in Bremerhaven I guess...
Tipps for visitors:
I canīt really judge wether it is worth it or not to attend a game in Bremerhaven. Okay, when there is no game scheduled in Hamburg and no computer with NHL 2003 around you might start to think about it. But all in all, well, I was definetly not impressed.
In the building one has the choice between standing- and seating-tickets. There are about 500 seats along one of the straight but the view is quiet good from everywhere. You also donīt have to show up hours early to secure a good spot as nobody seems to be doing this (which would solve the problem in other places as well, for example you should really show up two hours in advance when Duesseldorf plays to a good crowd because everybody does it, and everybody does it because everybody else does it...).
The pretzels were good, really good..
The hockey was basically what you can expect when you attend a game of the 2nd division. Most players canīt skate, pass or shoot pretty straight but nevertheless itīs okay from an entertainment point of view. Okay, nothing less, nothing more...
Donīt bring ear protection, there is no reason to be scared of a rocking crowd.
Parking isnīt a problem as well as the Civic Center of Bremerhaven is just around the corner and has about 2.000 parking spaces. Even if a home-game would be sold out there would only be 50 parking spaces too few if every fan came with itīs own car (which isnīt really that realistic...).
Directions to the arena can be found on the homepage of the team. Itīs basically rather easy as Bremerhaven is not really a big town and the Civic Center is not that hard to find. And once you have found a sign that leads you there you are already at the rink. If you really donīt know how to find the arena just ask someone on the street, there should be more than enough considering the unemployment rates...
Links to the team:
http://www.revbremerhaven.de/ (official homepage of the team)