There are some countries you wouldn’t necessarily expect to find ice hockey being played, and the uninitiated may be surprised to know Australia has a league.
The Australian Ice Hockey League (AIHL) is Australia’s top-level ice hockey league, but the player’s are semi-professional.
The season commences mid April and runs through to the last weekend of August or the first weekend of September, with games played at the weekend.
Due to the semi-professional nature of the game, some players often need to take Monday’s off work if having to travel a long distance back home after games.
There are just eight teams competing in the league which has only been in existence since 2000, forming after the collapse of the former national league.
The league hasn’t been without its troubles though, as teams have had to reform themselves during it’s tenure and just last year the Gold Coast Blue Tongues based in Queensland, were suspended because they were unable to secure a home venue for the season.
With this in mind it’s sad to hear of what’s happening to the Canberra Knights.
Knights owner John Raut pulled the plug on the team after 33 seasons and gave funding and lack of players as the reason for folding.
The inconsistency to his story is baffling as Raut told Canberra radio it was the shortage of players that was the problem while informing the written press that it was finances to blame.
As if this doesn’t add up, various figures have been bandied about as to much it costs to run the team and no one seems to know if the government grant for the team has been returned or not.
The players have been in pre-season training since January and were informed of this decision by email and social media, which is just mind boggling.
How did it take so long for Raut to make this decision with the season only seven weeks away and why couldn’t he show those he employs some respect by informing them in person?
It’s those affected player’s who are fighting to keep this Canberra club alive.
A consortium has been put together and in good time they will know if they have met the necessary criteria with the AIHL to be able to compete in the 2014 season which is due to begin on April 12th.
It will include showing the AIHL forecast budgets for the coming season, proving the team can be competitive on the ice and having an agreement to play at the Phillip Swimming and Ice Skating Centre, which is their current home.
It may well have to be a fresh start and name for the Canberra Knights, as current owner John Raut wants to retain the licence in the event he re-enters the team in the future.
He is said to want compensation if the player’s want to keep the name of the team, which from the outside looking in, looks preposterous when you consider he seems content to fold the club.
The AIHL have removed the Knights logo from their website, which could be a sign of a change, but that is mere speculation at this point. As far I’m aware from the research I’ve done, the league has made no official statement on the future of Canberra
Fan support has proven to be crucial up to now in backing the campaign to save the team.
As I’ve learnt in my time following hockey, communities with a team are very passionate and care deeply. The Canberra fans are no different and have been trying to raise $50,000 to help save their team.
The donation page if you’d like to help their effort is http://www.mycause.com.au/page/66980
The power of social media has come to the fore as they’ve set up a “Save the Canberra Knights Facebook page” which you can find here https://www.facebook.com/pages/Save-the-Canberra-Knights/272878626221157?fref=ts
The consortium led by Canberra captain Mark Rummukainen, a stalwart of the team since 1998, has indicated the name of the team would change should they be successful in their bid and the cost of new signage, uniforms and licensing agreements had been factored into the club’s business plan.
Former Canberra Knights player and coach Matti Luoma will arrive in Australia on Tuesday, March 4th to be the head coach of this team as they try and go about business as normal.
It’d be one hell of a story if these players and fans are able to keep hockey in Canberra, whether that’s this season or in 2015.