Aries 28, 2078, m249
When the Mars Aero Football league began its inaugural season there was already buy-in from across Mars, with each settlement fielding a team. It was a huge risk starting something like soccer on Mars, but it started big. ISMO took a very different strategy and decided to build their fan-base slowly from a small number of intimate exhibition games.
These games would allow the organizers to work out any kinks in the sport, and (hopefully) generate some sort of interest in the sports-watching populace of the red planet. I’m not sure that they’ve fully succeeded on either front, but the ISMO has decided to take the sport to other colonies. Born in Korolev, it is now time for ice hockey to leave the nest and go on the road.
The exhibition game period has been extended and Martian hockey is coming to Marineris, Wendland, Europa, and Noviymir. And just like a bird leaving the nest we are about to see if this sport can fly on its own.
MAFL’s success has proven that there is interest in competitive sport on Mars. But there is always a chance that the interest lies in only that specific sport; there has always been something more relatable about football than hockey. Even a century ago on Earth, football was the dominant and most played game in the world, whereas hockey, while popular, was restricted to far fewer countries. Some of this is due to the age of the respective sports: ice hockey as we know it is only about three hundred years old while football (or some variation) is thousands.
Then there is also the specific equipment and area needed to play ice hockey. Yes, MAFL needs quite a large area, state of the art stadium, and specific equipment, but ISMO games need even more (technology, not physical space). Similarly, hundreds of years ago the sport was mostly popular in countries and settlements were you actually had ice for a good chunk of the year. And, in many cases in Earth’s not so distant past, for soccer all you needed was a ball to kick and a patch of grass to kick it on. Boom, you have a football match.
The other obstacle that ice hockey will need to conquer is that interest in a sport tends to develop faster when spectators can learn the sport themselves and play a variation with their friends. Now, it won’t be played at the same professional and competitive level, but they at least get to put the rules into practice firsthand.
The average Martian isn’t going to be able to get ice time and just play with their buddies whenever they feel like. I’m not trying to be a downer; I just want to paint a clear picture of what an uphill battle ice hockey faces, and how the stakes are pretty high if they want to move past exhibition games and develop a real, professional league.
So, travelling to new settlements is about showing off the sport and attracting new fans, but it is also about showing off to those investors who may share the same vision as the ISMO and think that it can grow beyond its humble origins.
I hope it works out for them.