Unforgettable fans and a unique hockey culture

Richard Stirling, Murrayfield Ice Rink director, inside the ice rink.
Richard Stirling, Murrayfield Ice Rink director, inside the ice rink.

The capital may be known as the home of the largest arts festival in the world but now it appears the city is able to claim another title – as the UK capital of ice hockey.

Edinburgh was ranked 29th out of 42 European cities in a guide to the continent’s favourite ice hockey destinations, according to a Canadian travel website.

The list by the Flight Network praised the “solid and passionate fanbase” in the city, despite the Edinburgh Capitals currently propping up the Elite Ice Hockey League table.

The guide was reportedly judged on “in-depth analysis of its hockey team, league, arena, unforgettable fans and unique hockey culture”, placing Edinburgh higher on the list than Basel, Budapest and Berlin.

The Caps are vying with Dundee Stars for a Play-Off place. They have not won the EIHL since their foundation in 1998. However, owner Scott Neil believes the side’s loyal 
following in the city swayed the opinion of the judges.

“We’re obviously delighted to be named on the list, especially considering there are a few of the ‘bigger’ hockey cities further down,” he said.

“We made a very strong case, I think they took into account our fan base which is always fantastic – it wasn’t all measured in trophies.

“The city helps as well, it’s one of the most popular destinations in Europe, maybe the world, but the fact that it’s a hockey city shouldn’t be lost on people.”

The guide describes the Capitals as “underdogs who fearlessly take on heavy hitters in the league and still manage a few surprises along the way,” while Murrayfield Ice Rink – which rarely draws crowds of more than a thousand – 
reportedly “felt like a stadium twice its size”.

Many players adore the rink, it being one of the biggest ice pads in the league and it retains a special kind of atmosphere, different to modern-day stadiums.

Paisley was the only other UK destination on the list, with Scottish Hockey League side Paisley Pirates earning recognition for their community-run ethos, though Sheffield, 
home to the reigning league champions the Steelers, isn’t included.

And Mr Neil is hopeful the city being known as a European hockey destination will help to attract a larger crowd.

“It would be great if this inspired a few more to come through the doors,” he said.

“Our fans are superb, they’re among the most passionate and vocal in the league and have been with us through thick and thin. I think that was one of the big factors they took into account.

“We saw what happened with Hibs when they won the Scottish Cup, it really galvanised them. That’s what we want, to win a trophy for those fans and if this puts a few more in the seats then we’ll be delighted.”

Russian capital Moscow topped the guide, closely followed by Zurich, while 
Gothenburg, home to European champions Frölunda, was third.

The Edinburgh Capitals were founded in 1998, following the collapse of the Murrayfield 
Racers, replacing them in the British National League (BNL).