Earlier in the week Andrew Hewitt reported that the formation of a new junior competition run by Ice Hockey Australia was due to start over the summer. After receiving details on the new league from IHA, Hewitt gives an update on the situation.
The news that a national elite junior league had been formed and would start play in just over one month’s time was music to the ears of almost all hockey fans in the country when it broke earlier this week.
While the joy and benefits of such a league was clear, some were concerned of the ramifications that it would have on other leagues and players development.
IHA President Don Rurak was able to clear some of this up by telling HSN that all teams would be IHA state affiliated and not connected in any way to any AIHL franchise.
Underwritten by the IHA, Rurak also stated that “costs are at 100% of the players post IHA subsidy”.
As with any competition, each team’s roster in the AJIHL will have limitations. The AJIHL will run under the same regulations that are seen at the IIHF World U20 Championship level where each roster will consist of a minimum of 17 players (15 skaters & 2 goalies). These regulations allow for a maximum roster of 22 players which will give the AJIHL room to grow.
Growth is exactly what those behind the AJIHL had in mind when the concept first came to hand as Rurak explained.
“IHA had seen a need for the league some 4 – 5 years ago as a number of junior aged players had no place to play at a national level if they could not make an AIHL team. Because of this, many players stopped playing. It is expected the league will now retain junior aged players and have them better prepared for consideration by AIHL, National U20 & National U18 teams”.
The timing for the league has also been a point of conjecture amongst social media channels with some suggesting that the AJIHL should be played as ‘curtain raisers’ to AIHL fixtures. Rurak makes a very good point for the summer program that can only be seen as a positive for the sport.
“By playing the league over the summer months, ice time is more readily available and does not impact on the winter season’s programs & leagues (AIHL & state). In addition Australia’s players will now be “game ready” when participating at the World U20 & U18 Championships as they will be playing in a high level competition same as their Northern Hemisphere competitors. Previously, players attempted to retain their playing skills through summer leagues and trainings and did not seriously train until the pre-championship training camps.”
AJIHL Assistant Commissioner Andrew McDowell informed HSN that the Victorian tryouts for their two teams will take place this coming Saturday evening with some well known young stars of the two Melbourne AIHL clubs confirmed to be skating. Running the Victorian on-ice tryouts will be IHA Coaching Director Jeremy Muir ensuring the highest quality possible.
So, who are the teams that you will be cheering for?
Both NSW clubs will be run out of the Harbour City with clubs the Sydney Lightning and Sydney Maple Leafs to represent their state. In Victoria it will also be the state capital that will host the AJIHL clubs as the Melbourne Blackhawks and Melbourne Redwings to take the ice in this exciting franchise.
With rosters and coaching staff yet to be named, be sure to check into HSN regularly to catch any of the latest news on the AJIHL.
by Andrew Hewitt
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