Before the third Battle of Sydney for 2016 at the Liverpool Catholic Club Sports Complex on Saturday night, the Sydney Ice Dogs honoured the members of its 2004 AIHL Championship team.
12 players of the 2004 squad were able to make the night including Captain Anthony Wilson, Nick Windle, Dave Campbell, Gabe Robledo, Jason Gibson and Brett Thomas as well as current Ice Dogs GM Jason Juba, Assistant Coach Chris Sekura, and current players Andrew White, Dave Dunwoodie, Todd Stephenson and Scott Stephenson, along with 2004 Coach Dion Dunwoodie and Founder/Owner John Wilson.
The night was the brainchild of Jason Juba, who moved into the General Manager role of the Ice Dogs earlier this season.
“It was just a thought I had when I came into the GM role,” Juba said. “I always thought back when we played that these were the things we should do. These guys have put their blood, sweat and tears into playing for the Dogs and should be honoured for that.”
“It was great to see their faces. Everybody was laughing back in the change rooms like they used to. It was a tough loss obviously losing like that but we’ll shake it off. It still feels the same way as when we played.”
Standing rinkside for the entire game, Anthony Wilson said it was great to catch up with his former teammates.
“When you win a cup with a team, you have to bleed for them and put your body on the line for them, so catching up 12 years on was truly special,” Wilson said.
“It is a great honour to captain any team, win or lose. What Jason Juba and the club pulled together this last weekend was great. The Ice Dogs have never really made a habit of recognising old players - probably because I was still playing. It is a great club now and seems like their direction is on track and I was really honoured to be a part of this last weekend.”
The 2004 AIHL season was a fascinating year. The Newcastle North Stars, fresh of its first AIHL Championship in 2003, dominated the regular season, losing just one game and claiming the Minor Premiership with a 16-point lead over the Ice Dogs in second place.
However, the Finals series was a different story, with the North Stars pushed to double overtime by the fourth-placed Adelaide Avalanche in the first Semi-Final, while the Ice Dogs defeated the Sydney Bears 5-4 to reach the Grand Final.
Wilson remembers the Grand Final fondly, as he claimed the second of three Goodall Cups in his Australian ice hockey career, downing the North Stars 3-1.
“My most striking memory is winning,” Wilson laughed. “Newcastle had a great team that season, and a great coach in Robert Barnes. Our work rate and culture allowed us to bond so strong that no one would have beaten us in the final.”
Wilson also won Goodall Cups in 1996 with NSW and in his final AIHL season in 2013 with the Ice Dogs – the club’s second Goodall Cup - and has great memories from all three.
“They are all special,” Wilson said. “Winning against Adelaide in ‘96 was special because I scored two goals in the Final, and our coach was an ex-NHL player Dave Dunn. The last two however are just as special.”
“The last one in 2013 was great due to how strong the team was and being led by Robert Malloy. He was awesome and instrumental in us winning the Cup and he could not walk let alone skate by the end of the game. It was probably one of the most heroic things I have seen, then he handed me the Cup. That was special.”