Any hockey fan will tell you: ice hockey is Canada’s sport. It’s North America’s past time, with the official contemporary development of the game dated in Montreal in the late 19th century. 2017 is the National Hockey League’s 100th year, with multiple events spanning the 2016 – 2017 season leading up to the anniversary in November. What most people don’t know is that while the NHL reigns supreme in the hockey world, ice hockey has long been a mainstay in Australian history.
While informal games were played Down Under in the early 1890’s and 1900’s, the first official ice hockey association was established in 1908 with the first inter-state hockey tournament beginning in 1909. It wasn’t until 1911 in which the Goodall Cup (the Championship Trophy still awarded to this day) was awarded to the winners of the inter-state tournament. Interestingly enough, this association also included a women’s team. Women had been playing the sport since three years prior but the first official female match was in 1908 with the inaugural inter-state women’s championship in 1922.
Ice hockey in Australia continued throughout WW1, but it wasn’t until 1923 when the players began to use protective equipment (with some being donated by Canadian teams) but mostly homemade. 1923 was a big year for ice hockey in Australia with the creation of the Australian Ice Hockey Association and the sport only grew from there.
Australia’s current league, the AIHL (Australian Ice Hockey League) was established and had its inaugural season in 2000. Most of the players are international imports, hailing from America, Canada and various European countries. Players in the AIHL are not paid to play and are considered amateurs. The rules slightly differ from NHL rules, with two 15-minute periods being played and a 20-minute third, rather than the traditional three 20-minute periods.
The current league consists of 8 teams;
- Adelaide Adrenaline
- Newcastle North Stars
- Sydney Ice Dogs
- Sydney Bears
- CBR (Canberra) Brave
- Melbourne Mustangs
- Melbourne Ice
- Perth Thunder
The season spans from mid-April to late August and consists of 28 regular season games played only on weekends, where the playoffs consist of the top 4 teams on the ladder. The current reigning Goodall Cup Champions are the Newcastle North Stars and, as we are in the middle of the regular season here in Australia, no clear contenders stand out as of yet.
Most notably from the AIHL is former Sydney Ice Dogs player, Nathan Walker. Walker has played internationally for Australia and claims he gained inspiration to play ice hockey from the Mighty Ducks movie franchise, along with Mystery, Alaska. Walker was the first Australian drafted into the NHL by the Washington Capitals in 2014 and currently plays for their AHL affiliate, the Hershey Bears, with Bears coach Troy Mann quoted as saying that Walker is “as close as anybody” to play in the NHL.
Fingers crossed, Nathan.
An Introduction to The Canada vs. USA Ice Hockey Classic
Kerry Goulet is a former ice hockey player. He has played for the Manitoba Junior Hockey League, the Western Hockey League, the Ontario Hockey Association, and various German hockey leagues. Keith Primeau played 15 seasons in the National Hockey League with the Detroit Red Wings, Hartford Whalers, the Carolina Hurricanes and captained the Philadelphia Flyers. But this is not about Kerry Goulet or Keith Primeau’s careers, abilities, skills or points; it’s about the work after their retirement and the legacy it has created.
Kerry Goulet and Keith Primeau alongside Keith’s younger brother, Wayne (also boasting an illustrious NHL career), are the co-founders of a charity called StopConcussions. StopConcussions is a concussion and neurotrauma educational awareness platform for sports to address the growing trend of concussions amongst players. It is a nonprofit foundation based in Ontario, with affiliates based in the USA and Germany.
Meanwhile, Brain Injury Australia is a centralised agency and gateway for Australians living with brain injury to find referrals for services and information relating to their conditions.
StopConcussions and Brain Injury Australia have teamed up to help educate Australians and Australian sporting professionals on concussion cause, effect, and consequence. It is this partnership that has led to StopConcussions sponsoring concussion protocol for the Australian Ice Hockey League and Ice Hockey Australia. Thus birthed the idea of an exhibition game in Australia between Canada and the USA, featuring prominent hockey players from the NHL and AHL.
Its inaugural game in 2013 boasted Kyle Quincy. In 2014, Emerson Etem and Matt Kassian came down. The game really took off in 2015 with the addition of fan favorite, Brent Burns, and goalie, Garrett Sparks. 2016 brought Brandon Bollig of the Calgary Flames, Adam Cracknell of the (then) Edmonton Oilers, Ben Scrivens, Bryce Salvador, John Scott, and recent Stanley Cup Champion Scott Darling, and (as an ambassador) Wayne Gretzky himself.
Stay tuned for our upcoming interviews with Brandon Bollig, Adam Cracknell, and others from this year’s Ice Hockey Classic.
– Danii Gersbach