Hockey is awesome. That’s what every hockey fan thinks, and that’s what I thought as I sat in a sold out Allphones Arena in Sydney, where I had travelled 4000km from Perth to watch a single game.
20,000 hockey fans all in the one place for the pure love of the game. This game was a few things, and all of these things are excellent.
- It was a spectacle. The atmosphere was the closest thing you could get to an authentic North American Hockey game in your own country.
- It was an amazing game. The players made the game such an exhibition to the point where there was over six fights, nine goals and one of them was a game winner in overtime.
- It was a marketing ploy. The people running the event wanted to let hockey fans in Australia know that we indeed have a league. And it could be just as awesome as this event.
I have been a hockey fan since I was 15 years old. I sit here today at four years later typing this article and I look back on the time I was completely oblivious to the fact that there was an Australian Ice Hockey League. “THE” Australian Ice Hockey League, in fact. The ‘AIHL’.
I had never watched a game of hockey in person until that night at Sydney Olympic Park. And this was because it was not thrown at my face. It took me, a hockey fan for a big chunk of my life four years to find live hockey. And this is purely because the game was advertised and marketed well.
I found out about the AIHL sitting in Allphones Arena when the announcer said “Fans you have two local hockey teams, the Sydney Bears and the Sydney Ice Dogs.”
This made me think only one thing. Perth must have a team that I am able to go and watch. I returned to Perth and immediately booked two tickets to the next Perth Thunder game.
I knew there was Ice Hockey in Perth, but every rink is out of the way for most people in Perth, and for years it seemed like it almost was not worth worrying about.
I went to watch Perth Thunder vs. the Melbourne Mustangs twice in the one weekend. Two things fascinated me about this, and a few things made me question the state of Ice Hockey in Australia.
The things that fascinated me were the fact that I was watching another live hockey game. But this time it was in Perth, and I had only travelled 40 minutes by car, not five hours by plane.
What I did not like at the Perth Thunder game was the obvious lack of funding to such an amazing sport, and the fact that myself, as a relatively long time hockey fan had no idea it existed in previous years.
Why was it that I did not know this? Because the AIHL does not market to pure hockey fans. They market to people who live in the area near the ice arenas, and they market it as something that would be a fun event for the family. They don’t take advantage of what they already have, which is hockey! If the AIHL simply marketed to fans that already followed the NHL, they would increase turnouts and would have a strong, committed group of fans ready to watch live hockey.
Back to the Present
This is why it is so important that the International Series is coming back to Australia. It makes hockey look awesome. It encourages people to come to a hockey game by advertising the fact that they are playing hockey. Not scraping the bottom of the barrel, trying to come up with clever ideas like “get your family down and have some fun”.
I truly hope that a long time NHL fan, like myself 7 months ago, goes to the International Ice Hockey match and discovers the AIHL. It is so important that this happens. It is the premise of the event. Even if one team gains one extra fan each, that is a number of people who will become AIHL fans for years to come, and continue to grow the game in numbers.
So please buy a ticket when the International Series comes to your state. If you’re a journalist, apply for a media pass and write a match review. Even if you’re not a journalist, still write a match review! Do anything you can to grow the game. We cannot thank the people who made sure this event came back to Australia enough. The AIHL will only grow in numbers, and more pure hockey fans will attend AIHL matches, and teams, even the lowly Perth Thunder will begin to get the type of following the Melbourne Mustangs have. A passionate and awesome following.