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Scenes from the USRT…How they do sports in Munich

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If there’ one thing the Germans don’t do when attending and taking part in a big league soccer event? It’s tailgating.

Munich’s Allianz Arena, home of the powerhouse Bayern Muenchen soccer team, would seem to be a perfect tailgate venue. The stadium is situated far enough out of town, located next to manufacturing plants and office parks, with oceans of space for surface parking. One would think that the smell of bratwursts would be wafting from the grills, the beer would be flowing, and kids would be kicking soccer balls around the creatively decorated vehicles and busses.

But there is none of that, and tailgate traditions would be the one cool thing we Americans could teach the Germans.

As for everything else in the game day experience, it is we Americans who could learn some lessons.

This past weekend we kicked off the 2013 edition of the Ultimate Sports Road Trip Europe journey, and things got underway in the southern German city of Munich. Besides the Bayern Muenchen soccer club, the city is home to the EHC Red Bull Muenchen ice hockey team in the DEL.

At both events, the energy of the fans, the enthusiasm in the stands, the way they take over the events without any prompting from public address announcers, cheesy scoreboard graphics or canned music is what makes attending a game here so very special.

The Olympia Eishalle in Munich is one of the smaller venues in the DEL. Fans pack the place, and just like at a soccer match, it is the end zone stands where the cheers emanate from. The chants start well before the players take to the ice, and the pregame intros involve the introduction of each player on the home roster, with fans shouting out the players’ last names. Then, right as the puck is dropped, the drums and the songs and the chants start up, some taunting the equally robust visiting fans assembled in the opposite end zone, other songs just to support their team.

No organ music. No kiss cam. No blooper reel. The one in game music interlude occurs during the single media timeout in the middle of the period.

The home team scores? The PA Announcer only gives the first name, wth the fans shouting out the last name three times; then shouting out the updated score. PA Announcer then says “Danke” (thank you), and the fans shout out in reply “Bitte” (you’re welcome).

The crescendo just rises as the game reaches its conclusion. Watching the EHC Muenchen squad nursing a 2-1 lead over visiting ERC Ingolstadt, a good number of fans in Buffalo’s First Niagara Center would be making their way to the exit and the parking lots.Not here. No one left this game. With two minutes to go, the fans all stood in unison, clapping in rhythm as the visitors pulled their goalie. Players on the ice have to feel and feed off that sort of energy.

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Then the final.. a 2-1 win for the home team, and after player of the game honors are meted out, the entire team, many already taking off their jerseys, return to the ice, some with their kids and infants, and then the real party begins. Fans are cheering, the players are joining in and even leading the chants. More waving as the player race towards the end zone and raise their arms in unison. Then it’s the goalie’s turn, and he is the last one off the ice, playing the role of cheerleader and inducing even more roars from the stands.

What fun! And it got even better when this scene was repeated before 71,000 fans at the gleaming and new Allianz Arena. The BYM have been tearing up the Bundesliga this season, and are well on their way to capturing the league championship. Their roster is stocked. and followers of international play know the names… Schweinsteiger, Gomez, Boateng, Nuner. And just like at the hockey game, they keep it simple. The pregame crescendo consists of dramatic and uplifting music tracks and the team’s anthem and fight song. The players take to the field, the fans take over with their chanting and singing, and that’s it. And for the Bayern fans, there was plenty to sing and chant about on this day, as their team absolutely demolished the visiting Werder Bremen team by a 6-1 score. They made it look easy.

USRT – Munich is in the books. Next stop, Mannheim, where the locals have a true and intense love affair with their Adler Mannheim ice hockey team. One fan even posted a note to us on Facebook “If you have Pominville and Hecht inside your luggage and will return them to us, we’ll build you guys a statue.”

Wish we could help out. Call Darcy.

Puck Stop and Play Ball columnists Andrew and Peter are on an 11 day tour of several European destinations, attending sporting events and reporting from the road. Check back for further updates.
Follow on Twitter… @pfarrellUSRT and @akulykUSRT

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