You are going to read a magazine article about ice hockey in Northern Ireland. Choose from the list A–I the sentence which best summarizes each part (1–7) of the article. There is one summary sentence that you do not need to use. There is an example at the beginning (0).
A New possibilities
B Clever salesmanship
C The kids love it
D A battle of the giants
E Future heroes
F Not like football
G Traditional heroes
H A surprise success
I A great game to watch
Eamon and Dean are among a group of children of all religions and none, on a visit organized by the local police as part of a community relations project. Before the arrival of the Giants, a crosscommunity trip to a sporting event would have been near impossible. Traditional sport in Northern Ireland has been split by tribal divisions. But the arrival of ice-hockey has changed this.
The Belfast Giants were formed last year to play in the UK’s ice hockey Superleague. The team started slowly but rallied in December when the arena opened and the Giants started playing at home. Support for the team surged. At present, attendance has exceeded all expectations – the average 6,500 crowd makes the Giants the best-supported team in the league.
At the merchandizing kiosk queues have built as fans snap up goods ranging from rubber pucks to Giants’ shirts, hats and jackets. Kiosk supervisor Marion Livingstone says ‘Belfast has been crying out for something like this. Soccer teams have always had either Catholic or Protestant supporters. But this is a sport for all.’
The universal popularity is not an accident but the result of a carefully orchestrated marketing campaign. The team’s communications director has worked hard at selling ice hockey as a game foreveryone. A telling slogan ‘In the land of the Giants everyone is equal’ appears on the cover of the programme sold at each game as well as on the team’s website.
The team’s name is also a clever piece of marketing. It refers to the legendary Finn McCool, whose footsteps, so the story goes, created the extraordinary geological formation which is known as the Giant’s Causeway – one of Northern Ireland’s top tourist attractions. As a Scottish-Irish hero, McCool is an icon embraced by both communities.
The family-friendly environment created at the Odyssey, the home arena, along with the game’s fast and furious qualities, have also been factors in the sport’s soaring popularity. ‘The puck can travel at 95–100 miles an hour, the players can skate at 35 miles per hour’ says Collins. The speed, aggression and showmanship can draw you into the game.
Since the Giants began playing at home, children have been flocking to Northern Ireland’s only public ice-rink at Dundonald, on the edge of Belfast. The Giants run weekly coaching sessions for young people. ‘It’s amazing’ says Steve Roberts, who plays left wing for the Giants. ‘We started out with about 25 and now there are 127 children that come regularly.’
It will probably be many years before the Belfast team is fielding any home-grown players. At present they are all North American. Jerry Keefe, a Bostonian of Irish extraction who plays centre for the Giants, says ‘All of the team started when we were three or four but eventually I think we will see some good players coming out of Northern Ireland.’