For 35 years, Djurgården was a legendary team in the Swedish Elitserien hockey league: 16 national championships, 9-time runners-up and an absolutely rabid fan base.
But in 2011-12, disaster struck: Djurgården struggled mightily and ended up being relegated to the second-tier HockeyAllsvenskan. As longtime international hockey observer Szymon Szemberg put it, this was like the Toronto Maple Leafs being suddenly dropped to the AHL.
On Monday, however, Djurgården earned its chance to get back to the top tier, now called the Swedish Hockey League. Their emphatic 6-2 win over VIK Västerås HK earned them a place back in the SHL, as well as a place in the upcoming Champions Hockey League tournament later this year.
It was a really big moment for the team and its supporters. So, taking a page from March Madness, the fans stormed the ice in celebration.
Here’s another view, including the final buzzer:
And an ice view:
Climbing the glass? Crazy. Sliding around on your knees around the rink while other fans hug your hockey heroes? Awesome.
We imagine the PA announcer is saying something about fans staying off the ice until, at some point, he just throws the mic down, takes off his tie and does a belly-flop on the red line.
The best sports teams are the one that make us feel like we’re part of something, Maybe that connection’s real, maybe it’s a product of effective marketing. But in those fleeting moments when fans believe they matter enough to share in a celebration with the players they support, vocally and monetarily, are the moments that make sports indelible.
So to see this play out with a single tear gas canister hitting the ice is wonderful. It’s the congregation going to the altar to celebrate Christmas with the clergy. It’s the last scene in a Disney sports movie. It’s this silly shared experience becoming something more than fans in assigned seats, clapping screaming to the rafters; it becomes a communal experience between those that play the game and those that live and die with their failures and triumphs.