Whale Of a Time At The Icehouse

The 2013/14 Australian Junior Ice Hockey League season kicked off for the two Melbourne teams recently. Ian Douglas was there to witness it and gives us his thoughts.

Photo: Andrew Mercieca

Photo: Andrew Mercieca

“That…must have hurt!”

“You think so?”

“Every surface is hard, is this arena just meant to cause pain or what? Oh…I think I missed something. Was that a goal?”

Kishna is from Bombay. Shockingly, she’d never seen a game of ice hockey, and I felt keenly obliged to educate. In a land when cricket is king, the physicality of hockey clearly takes some adjustment.

And it was a fine display down at the Icehouse last weekend, as the newly branded Melbourne Glaciers and fellow civic locals, the new Whalers, kicked off a spirited home-and-home. The Whalers used a strong two-goal second period to their advantage to take the Saturday game 3-1. Strong defensive play and puck possession allowed them to overcome a late surge by the Glaciers, who made it close in the dying minutes with a tipped-in knuckleball on the doorstep.

The game was not without it’s scrambles, as early-season jitters can turn even the softest hands to stone. A three-on-one opportunity for the Whalers in the third period was nixed by an unnecessary extra pass, and most goals came from goal mouth drives, some to the tune of ‘play the man!’ echoing from the stands.

“(It) was a real tight match, a few lucky bounces and a few unlucky ones here and there didn’t help us,” said Glaciers Coach Nick Trusewicz.

It is early season, to be fair.

Chris Wong, the youngster who gained some experience in a call-up to the AIHL last season, put his skills on display in the attacking zone. He was able to demonstrate his skating prowess on the Glaciers defence, executing some fine stick handling and strong movement. Even he wasn’t exempt from taking his lumps, as he bobbled several possession plays and found himself unable to complete some easy passes.

The Glaciers were taking positives from the game. “The team showed they can respond when they need to this weekend past. If we can lock in consistency, we’ll play good hockey. Most of all this group will play fun hockey. Fun to play and fun to watch,” said Bowen.

In only it’s second year, the AJIHL is a nigh-unknown quantity among Australian sports, gaining far less coverage and exposure than other competing junior sports in the southern half of Australia. This is not for lack of talent or viewing value. The juniors provide a proper exhibition of the game, complete with crunching hits, fine defensive plays, good goaltending, and some sweet hands. In hockey-mad North America, this same age group can fill a stadium of 20000 at the WJC.

It’s all the more compelling when you consider the odds that are overcome to keep these players on the cold stuff. Summer hockey in Australia is not for the casual player: ice time is difficult to find, hours are short, and the surface can be downright soft. It demands a degree of perseverance and devotion to stay on ice.

Such a display of devotion sets a high standard, a fine demonstration of Australian hard-nosed work ethic and love for the game. Meanwhile, the entry fee to absorb these games is negligible. It’s entirely worth the effort.

And oh yea! They have air con.

Interested in helping out? The league is looking for volunteers. Follow this link:


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Ian Douglas

Ian Douglas

Ian Douglas

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