|AIHL and the Great White North
The AIHL is a league that has reached all around the world. One of our Canadian fans, Ashley March, explains how she found and got hooked on AIHL hockey.
I hail from a small city in Eastern Ontario. Our winters are long, cold and depressing. Along with our warm Tim Hortons coffee and poutine, hockey is how we pass the time until the days get longer and the grass starts to grow. Canadians are pre-programmed to start studying the game of hockey as soon as they come out of the womb.
It’s no lie. Hockey is more than just a game for the people of Canada. It’s a way of life. Everywhere you turn, you will be subjected to all forms of hockey all over the country. Drive through any town or city and you’ll find multiple rinks dedicated to the sport. Hockey schools in every aspect of the game (for instance, goaltending schools and power skating schools) pop up every summer for players to work on their craft. The sports page in the newspaper is usually dedicated to 2 or 3 pages of various hockey games throughout the region. A hockey highlight will sometimes play the lead on the evening news. Every single store sells some kind of hockey memorabilia; from grocery stores to lingerie stores, there’s something with a team logo on it. We just can’t get enough.
The year of 2013 was not very kind to me. Beginning in January, I underwent 3 different surgeries to correct numerous health issues that I’m still currently dealing with. To help pass the time, I started my own blog dedicated to the fastest game on earth in the end of May. I had no idea it would blow up the way it would but I wouldn’t change a thing. I spent most of my summer up at all hours of the night. It was then that I came across a strange site. One pain-ridden late night on Twitter I came across a tweet showcasing the Melbourne Ice DVD “The Ice-Road to 3peat”. I looked at the title again and thought to myself, ‘Melbourne eh? Surely that can’t be Australia they’re talking about.’ I watched the trailer and sure enough, it was. I was floored.
Like any other crazed Canadian hockey fan, I researched everything I could about the team. I excitedly found the Australian Ice Hockey League and was amazed at the fact that a game was playing at that very moment! I looked over at my clock; it was 3 in the morning in the middle of a hot June summer night. I was baffled. I could not believe that people were packed in an arena in AUSTRALIA to watch hockey. I watched the whole game between the Ice and the Melbourne Mustangs until 5 in the morning. I didn’t think about the pain once.
I was fascinated that there were other hockey fans in the southern part of the globe. Along with the AIHL, I found the New Zealand Ice Hockey League. I started interviewing and asking players about both leagues as there are some aspects that were completely new to me and I am a seasoned hockey veteran. I had to have the word “derby” explained to me - I had never heard of that word in my life until I started following Australian hockey. The fact that a complete season goes from April to August in 30 degree weather is unthinkable to me.
I followed the league until I went back to work. I was able to catch many games by taking a little nap in the evening and waking up around 2:30am to tune into the FREE (another thing that boggled my mind) webcast! The season ended just in time for my local Ontario Hockey League to start up. I went a full year watching hockey; so long to summer baseball! The Australian Ice Hockey League became a blessing in disguise and got me through a couple of hard months.
While the skill level of the AIHL can’t be compared to that of my familiar North American leagues, it’s still great and competitive hockey. Aussies fans should be extremely proud about their hockey league and what it’s accomplished. The CBR Brave story is just one example of how much Australians care about the game of hockey.
Don’t be intimidated by your North American and European counterparts. Your league is a viable option for many players around the world. I will do my best to continue to spread the word around Canada that there’s a threat coming from down under and one day, Team Canada better be ready for them.
Ashley March is the editor-in-chief of March Hockey. She is also writer for In The O: The Radio Show and The CCHL Network. Follow Ashley at @MarchHockey on Twitter.