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The standing-room-only section behind the visitor’s goal is where the real hard-core fans lurk.

Well before the Frankfurt Lions take the ice to play their archenemy, the Adler Mannheim, the section fills up. Over beers, the faithful discuss the upcoming game and the team’s post-season hopes. Many are sporting Lions hockey jerseys.

Once the lights dim for the teams’ introductions, the din intensifies. Sparklers are lit, drums are struck, songs are sung and the diehards foot- stomp themselves into a frenzy.

And it doesn’t end when the lights come back on and the puck is dropped.

Before the first line change, Alex Rohloff produces a long plastic horn and begins to huff and puff his way through a cheer that runs out of steam when he runs out of breath.

"In Germany, the tradition at sporting events is to make noise and sing songs," said the longtime fan. "It’s part of the European sports culture."

The opening moments of a professional German hockey game are not unlike what a fan would witness at an arena in the United States or Canada. The difference is that in Germany, the rooting never really stops.

That, and the ice rinks are a bit lengthier than in the National Hockey League. And the players don’t fight nearly as often as their NHL counterparts.

Hockey doesn’t generate the level of interest — or revenue — that other major sports do in the U.S. The same is true in Germany, where soccer rules.

But a night at the rink is an entertaining way to spend a few hours, and ticket prices aren’t through the rafters either. Access to the standing-room-only section at the Eissporthalle in Frankfurt, for example, costs 15 euros for adults, less for seniors, students and children.

Elsewhere there are professional hockey teams in Augsburg, Nuremberg and Straubing, all within an hour’s drive or so of Hohenfels, Grafenwöhr, Ansbach and Stuttgart. Many teams have North Americans on their rosters, typically Canadians.

"The rink is noisier," Frankfurt team spokesman Matthias Scholze said when asked to compare the crowds in Europe with those in North America. "The biggest difference is fan atmosphere.

"Our fan base is very active."

On this night, the Frankfurt faithful had much to cheer about in the first period, with the home team jumping out to a 2-1 lead. The lead, however, was short-lived. Mannheim took control in the second period en route to a 5-3 win.

Food and drinks: Bratwurst, French fries, soda and beer are among the food items typically for sale.

Dress: Casual, though sporting the home team’s jersey would help ingratiate yourself with the die-hards. An official jersey of the Frankfurt Lions sells for about 80 euros.

Hours: Most games start in the early evening. The normal start time in Frankfurt, for example, is 7:30 p.m. Games last two-three hours. The season runs from September to March.

Location: The Eissporthalle am Ratsweg is in Frankfurt’s Bornheim district.

Web site:www.frankfurt-lions.de.

Phone: 069-40-588-40.


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