There isn’t much hockey news pertaining to the Kings these days. Thoughts of those in Powell River are more about the lake or Savary Island than they are sticks and pucks. In fact with the draft and free agency come and gone, hockey is about as far from the Canadian thought process as it will probably ever be during the year. In Australia however, things are a little different.
For those that don’t know, I was born and raised in Australia for 15 years, before moving to Canada 12 years ago. It’s in Australia where I am right now, on holiday with my fiance, catching up with family and being a tourist back “home”. Today (Sunday the 13th), I went to my first AIHL (Australian Ice Hockey League) game, pitting the hometown Melbourne Ice against the visiting Sydney Bears. The game was played at the beautiful Heinke Arena inside the Medibank Icehouse, right in downtown Melbourne.
Given Kings news is a little light right now, and there are a handful of ex-BCHLers playing in Australia, I thought I could extend the reaches of this blog to include a neat experience in Australia. Here are some highlights from the game from my shaky camera in my seat, with Melbourne in blue and Sydney in white:
Final score was 10-1, this game was unfortunately well over by the end of the 1st.
For those curious, here are some key differences between the Canadian and Australian game:
- Teams complete a 15 minute warmup, then immediately line up for the National Anthem and opening faceoff. There is no opportunity to warm up, then head back to the room to fine tune gear and get ready for the game. There was also no zamboni flood between warmup and the 1st.
- The “rink rats” as we would call them were dressed for the occasion, with one in shorts.
- The AIHL plays 3 periods, however the first two are only 15 minutes long. The third is a full 20 minutes, not that it mattered in this game. The Ice (in blue) were up 4-0 after just 6 minutes.
- Passion for the game in Australia is excellent and well beyond expectations. The league is relatively new, but the Ice have done an excellent job with club memberships (similar to a Kings Society Membership) and building a good fan base. I would suggest around 1500 people were at the game, with the stands around 95% full and many others standing at ice level. That’s pretty good considering there was a football game (Australian rules football, or AFL) just across the road at the same time.
- These two teams were at opposite ends of the standings (or the “ladder” as its called in Australia). Melbourne were in 3rd heading into the game, with Sydney near or at the bottom. However, despite the big loss, Sydney had just come off a win over the other Melbourne team (the Mustangs) the night before. The Mustangs lead the AIHL standings.
- Teams shake hands at the end of game, a tradition in Canada typically reserved for playoffs.
- 3 official system that seemed to work the same as it does in Canada. There were a lot of interference calls that could have probably been labelled something different (hook, etc) but it all amounts to the same time in the box.
- The understanding for the game seemed to be pretty good too. There were no random screams of “shoot” on Melbourne’s ample powerplay time. The fans seemed to understand “working the puck around”.
- Skill level was probably a bit better than the BCHL, but chalk that down to age and experience as this would be equivilent to a semi-pro league. Systems, and the other “technical” stuff is probably a bit better and more consistent in the BCHL.
- The AIHL also has an import rule, with only 4 players apparently allowed to be non-Australian (or New Zealanders). Sydney has apparently found a loophole in this system, scouting a pair of Canadian players with New Zealand family. The two quickly got New Zealand passports and now play as “locals” for the Bears.
All in all this was a fabulous experience. The Icehouse is a great facility with a good fan base in a nice part of Melbourne. The league has grown leaps and bounds in recent years with online streaming and social media a big reason behind that. If you’re planning a trip to Australia and need a June/July/August hockey fix, this is an excellent way to get it. Here are some photos that I managed to grab from the game:
For the Kings, the players are due to begin returning/arriving in mid-August for hockey schools in Powell River, followed by camp on the final weekend of the month. The team will play a handful of exhibition games September 11-13, before beginning the season September 20th at the BCHL Showcase in Chilliwack.