The sport of Ice Hockey doesn't have the profile of many other elite sports in Australia, but support for the coolest game on ice, continues to grow. The latest result of this, was the recently built Icehouse which sits located in the heart of Melbourne's water front. The $58 million facility, not only plays home to the cities very own Melbourne Ice, but is also the home of the Winter Olympic Institute of Australia.
Ice Hockey has been a part of Australia for over a century, with games being played at club level since the early 1900s. Teams across Australia have been playing for the Goodall Cup since 1909 & it still stands today as the major prize, for winning the Australian Ice Hockey League. The most recent champions being the Melbourne Ice, who broke a 28 year drought, 1982 was the last time it was held in Victoria. The Goodall Cup has a very rich history in Australian sport, and now with the formation of the AHIL back in 2000, it seems destine to continue that very tradition.
So, what is the AIHL?
The AIHL is a club based competition which contains seven teams, ranging from different states throughout Australia. Funding is limited for the competition, which means players throughout the league, aren't on full time contracts. Most, if not many also have other occupations when not hitting the ice. The popularity of the sport has grown over the past few years, with bigger crowds attending games. Melbourne Ice are a team which has been able to highlight this area of improvement, with the Icehouse constantly being packed to capacity.
The AIHL doesn't clash with major ice hockey leagues around the world, due the geographical location of Australia. Over the years many players from across the world have come to play in the AIHL, as both a form of experience & also fitness. Mel Angelstad, Steve McKenna & Rob Zamuner are just a few of the former NHL players, who have graced the ice here in Australia. The reputation of the game here down under, will only increase over time, as the game strives to gain more exposure on the media front. The most recent was action being shown on a recent Channel 9 news service, which highlighted the AIHL Finals Series.
The AIHL isn't only home to International players, plenty of home grown talent can also be seen skating up a storm. With many of the stars from the AIHL hitting the ice for the green and gold, Greg Oddy, David Huxley, Lliam Webster & Matthew Ezzy are just a handful of International players, who are skating the ice of the AIHL. Of course the level of play isn't what you can & usually get from leagues throughout the USA & Canada, but it's Ice Hockey on our front door step & it's ours.
The AIHL has something for everyone, fast paced action, International stars & plenty of big hits. So do yourself a favour, head down to your local rink & see some action from the coolest game on ice, with an Australian flavour.
By Andrew Macdougall
By Andrew Macdougall