Sometimes the biggest fans come in the smallest packages and I think this is especially true for Ilves’ youngest supporters. From head to toe they are dressed in yellow and green: scarfs, hats, jerseys, socks, and flags – they‘ve got all the equipment a loyal Ilves fan must have. But it is not just their outfit that is remarkable, they have compassionate hearts to match.
The game against Jukurit did not start well for Ilves and despite a few chances for the home team, the first period ended with one goal for the opponents. Naturally, the general mood in the arena is rather depressed after such a game start, however, the youngest supporters always manage to keep their good spirit.
Then the first break is over, and the second period begins, and all children are back on their seats or their parent’s laps. Ilves still has some difficulties and Jukurit stays in lead, but nothing can bring these small ones down. Eagerly they keep waving their flags and chant ‘Ilves, Ilves’, but eventually, the second period ends without any goal.
In the third period Ilves finally wakes up and a goal by Joona Ikonen gives reason to hope for a victory. The atmosphere in the hall raises immediately and the kids are having the time of their lives. This euphoria only lasts until the opponents score their second goal and take back the lead.
The clock starts ticking, the pressure is on and the Ilves team decides to replace the goalkeeper and attack Jukurit with six players instead. Unfortunately, this tactic fails and Jukurit seizes the opportunity to shoot for Ilves’ unguarded goal. Thus, the game is decided, and some fans start to leave the arena already before the final whistle. However, the kids are cheering to the end and even after a loss they are still bouncing with happiness and proudly showing support for their team.
Every time I watch a game, I am amazed by the energy and passion that these small humans have for ice hockey and the Ilves team. There is no doubt that they feel a little disappointed after a loss, but I believe that sharing their excitement and experience with other supporters is much more important than seeing their team win every match. Dressing up, cheering to the last minute and feeling happy just by watching a game is a way of being true to the team and I think that is what makes up the biggest fans.