Aberdeen Lynx play with pride despite loss

Going to watch Aberdeen Lynx play is brilliant Saturday night entertainment.

Aberdeen Lynx play with pride despite loss
Photo courtesy of RS Photography / Aberdeen Lynx

It’s been a while since my last visit to see Aberdeen Lynx play at Linx Ice Arena. It was certainly before the pandemic. My friend Susan looks after the media for the club and she invited me to go along to their Pride match against the Kirkcaldy Kestrels on Saturday night.

Ice Hockey clubs all across the UK have been standing with their LGBTQ+ communities, playing under the rainbow flag, and wearing glorious special limited edition shirts. At Aberdeen Lynx, these shirts are on auction until 29 January. You can bid for one of these amazing shirts here and here. Half the profits from the auction will be donated to Four Pillars, a local charity that helps supports the health and well-being of the LGBT+ community. While the other half will go towards youth development at the club. The Lynx are the only club in the SNL to take part this year but hope they are leading the way for others.

Photo courtesy of RS Photography / Aberdeen Lynx

A little less chilly than normal

So my 9-year-old assistant and I (my daughter) arrived at the Linx Ice Arena on a cold January night with a bag of sweeties in my pocket. We headed straight for the ‘Chuck the Puck’ stand, a fun mid-game for spectators where you can win big. In the second-period break, kids throw these pucks onto the ice, and the closest to the centre point wins a prize. The kids love it, and well, so did I.

Maybe it was the cold outside or the warm welcome we received, but we both noticed that it felt a little less chilly than expected as we took our seats inside the arena.

There was a crackle in the air

As the Zamboni cleaned the ice, the growing crowd started to get excited. There was a crackle in the air as the teams finished their warm-up as they knew what was coming next. The fans were up for a big game.

The last time these teams played, it had been a strong win for the Lynx, and the crowd were up for more.

The crowd settled in their seats, the lights in the whole arena turned red and phone torch lights sparkled throughout the stands as the players burst onto the ice to the loudest of cheers. Everyone was ready for the head-to-head. The music blared stadium classics such as Guns N’ Roses, Metallica and Queen blasted over the tannoy.

Let’s GO!

Photo courtesy of RS Photography / Aberdeen Lynx

And the Aberdeen Lynx crowd went wild

The teams took their places. The referees, wearing their black and white striped shirts, gingerly found their spot. Then the whistle blew, the music stopped dead, the first period got underway and the crowd went wild. Aberdeen Lynx immediately looked like a more confident team. Each player a little stronger and more skilled than their Kestrels opponent.

This domination meant that after around 12 minutes, Kestrels found themselves two goals down courtesy of Lynx players Jack Flynn and Jordan Leydon. However, it wasn’t long before the Kestrels drew one back and things got more bad-tempered. Gloves and helmets were thrown down and fists went flying – welcome to the other side of ice hockey. All this was to the delight of the crowd, of course.

This type of on-ice fighting is allowed in ice hockey with a strange set of rules around it and everyone seems fit to allow it, even the family-friendly crowds. As soon as any player hits the ice, the refs step in. But anyone taking part knows they’ll get at least five minutes in the sin bin, and this too is accepted.

“Is that the naughty step?” asked my assistant. “Yes,” I replied, “it very much is.”

The first period ended just in time to let the players cool down and the crowd take a well-earned breath.

Photo courtesy of RS Photography / Aberdeen Lynx

Four Pillars for the LGBT+ community

We went to look at what was on offer at the stalls. I was getting the feeling that a plan was being formed by my assistant, but nothing was said as we walked past each stall to check what was on offer.

The team at Four Pillars were present at their stall, speaking to passers by As recipients of the fundraising from the Lynx pride week, they were reaching out to the Lynx fans to let them know about the services they provide. Four Pillars is a community support group that was started in 2016 by a group of people who saw a need for more support and services for the LGBT+ community in Grampian. Their goal is to help people with their mental, emotional, physical and sexual health, and bring the community together through peer education and one-on-one support.

Non-stop action, everything can change in seconds

Back to our seats ready for the second period. As the whistle blew, the sin bin was stacked thanks to the fallout from the first period. The Lynx were looking strong, and after 5 minutes they had restored their two-goal lead. Ben Edmonds is on target. This was a much calmer period though with both teams trading shots and the keepers standing their ground as the crowd ooh’d and aah’d in pure delight.

Ice hockey is a very high-paced sport. Even when goals aren’t being scored, there is always something to grab your attention. A moment a skill, a stunning shot, a group of players smashing into the perspex at the side of the rink. It’s non-stop action and everything can change in a only few seconds.

That was for the final period though.

As the whistle blew the plan that had been formed in the first break came back to the fore…”Dad. Can I have some money to get an Aberdeen Lynx scarf?” I delved into my pocket and played my part and Aberdeen Lynx had one more little cat as a firm fan.

Photo courtesy of RS Photography / Aberdeen Lynx

A wonder goal from Aberdeen Lynx’s Tom Johnston

As we headed into the final period, things looked treacherous for the Lynx. They were sitting back, awkwardly soaking up pressure from the Kestrels. It didn’t take long for the visitors to cash in on that pressure as they reduced the deficit by one. However, two minutes later, a wonder goal from Tom Johnston restored Aberdeen Lynx’s two-goal lead.

This wasn’t over, though. Not by a long shot.

As the Lynx began to assert their dominance, the Kestrels team got frustrated, punches began to fly. While this was entertaining for the crowd, it felt that on the ice, the home team had lost their concentration. As they began to tire late in the game, the Kestrels found their opportunity and scored two in quick succession.

Photo courtesy of RS Photography / Aberdeen Lynx

All square and everything to play for

With all square and everything to play for, it was a challenge that the Lynx felt they were up for. Less than a minute later Garry Kelly scored, quelling the fears of the crowd. It had been an incredibly entertaining match and the Aberdeen team deserved that lead, but things were getting a little sloppy. Kestrels didn’t take long to draw level, and just like that, regular time was over.

Overtime is a tense matter in ice hockey – The first to score takes the glory. Lynx came out determined as they always do, to reward the home crowd with a victory. And, as they mounted wave after thrilling wave of attack against the visitors, it seemed certain that reward would come quickly. The Kirkcaldy goaltender blocked, parried and redirected the puck over and over again, but the Lynx knew this was their win.

And then it wasn’t.

Photo courtesy of RS Photography / Aberdeen Lynx

The whistle blew and the crowd were stunned

Halfway through overtime, the puck broke free towards the Lynx half, and Kirkcaldy Kestrels’ Conor Duncan put it away. The whistle blew and the crowd were stunned. This hadn’t been on the cards tonight, and yet here we were, politely clapping the teams as they lined up on the ice and shook hands like true sportsmen.

Did this really happen?

And that was it. We had been thoroughly entertained, but still went home with sporting disappointment. That said, the journey home through the dark was filled with conversation about how much fun we had, but still wondering what had gone wrong.

As we arrived home, my assistant pointed out that we had never opened the bag of sweeties. There hadn’t been a single lull in the entertainment to think about them.

That’s proper Saturday night fun. Next time, and there will be a next time, I’m taking the whole family!

Photo courtesy of RS Photography / Aberdeen Lynx

The next generation is ready to step up

Aberdeen Lynx is very much a community-led organisation. Prices are fair, both for entry to the match and for snacks, drinks and merchandise. Young players get involved in the big matches, often helping out during matches and showing off their skills during breaks. There is a strong feeling that the next generation is ready to step into the skates of their heroes at any given moment.

About Aberdeen Lynx

The Aberdeen Lynx is a Scottish National League ice hockey team. They train and play at the Linx Ice Arena, regularly drawing in over 1000 fans. The team prioritises junior development, fielding teams of all ages and offering a Learn to Play program. Lynx players have gone on to play for their country. The Aberdeen Ice Hockey Club, the organisation behind the team, is a registered charity.

Photo courtesy of RS Photography / Aberdeen Lynx