This guest post comes to you from my go-to sports guy, Tony Perna of It’s Good Overseas! Did you ever think that Australians would play ice hockey? Well, they do, and here’s the post to prove it:
Winter is thankfully over in Sydney, and I must say I had been holding out for the chilly weather to end. However, winter wasn’t all bad: I got to enjoy a little known winter sport in Australia: Ice Hockey.
The Australian Ice Hockey League (AIHL) has been running since 2000 and is played by semi-professional players including ‘imports’ (players from overseas). There are 8 teams from 4 states – ACT, NSW, QLD and VIC. My nearest team is the Sydney Ice Dogs so I went along one Saturday evening during the regular season to watch them square off against the Gold Coast Blue Tongues in the south-western suburb of Liverpool.
When? The season runs from April to September when the finals are held, and the Sydney Ice Dogs play each of their opponents 4 times through the season.
Where? Liverpool Catholic Club Sports Complex. You can drive there in 45 minutes or by train (Liverpool station) and bus (T80 route) in about 80 minutes.
Cost? Adult tickets are $15.
Queuing time? About 10 minutes.
As you pass through the boom gate into Liverpool’s Catholic Club, you can’t help but notice the pretty water features and plants to your right hand side. If you’re on Twitter, the first thing you’d do is check in on Foursquare and read the tips.
With such nice water features, I was expecting big things. Instead, I found myself uncontrollably laughing at this tip from Chris S:
It’s damn cold when you take your seat. The ice rink is chilled to 3-4 degrees centigrade so you definitely need to rug up.
I was also slightly surprised by the small seating area. There’s only about a 100-person seating capacity but if you’re lucky like us, you might get to sit next to Peter (far left below) – father of the 2011 Ice Dogs’ player numbers 1 and 7.
Eat and drink
Being a big eater, I always suss out the food options at sporting events as soon as I arrive. You can expect the usual hot chips and hot dogs but disappointingly, I didn’t see any hot pies. I really think they’re missing a trick there. People LOVE hot pies.
I was impressed by the food options however. Lovingly cut triangle sandwiches, large royal gala apples and boxed fruit. If I hadn’t eaten before the game, I would definitely have sampled the smoked salmon. I’m not sure how the locals would’ve taken to me though.
Tip: There is only one lady serving at the kiosk during the breaks. If you want a hotdog, don’t wait until after the first period. Two kids in front of me looked devastated when they heard the news they were all gone.
There are no alcoholic drinks in the café but you can score all types of tea and coffee. I ventured out after the first period for a cup of tea but since the queue was so long, I missed five quick goals at the start of the second period!
Unlike in other sports where the captain leads their team onto the field, in ice hockey it’s tradition for the goaltender to do this. It seems a little odd to me but Peter assured us that was the case.
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Proceedings are kicked off with the Australian National Anthem. I imagine budgets don’t allow for someone singing live hence why we just heard the anthem play through the tannoy.
The game started in a conservative fashion with a quiet first period in which there were no punch ups (as far as I recall) and no goals scored.
Despite missing the aforementioned five quick goals at the start of the second period, I did make it back to see subsequent goals.
Probably the best goal of the night came when the Ice Dogs scored a screamer through the legs of the Gold Coast Bluetongues goaltender. Peter said this is the most embarrassing way to concede a goal in ice hockey.
Whilst I agree with Peter, I think we could extend that to most sports. Be it letting a goal into the net through your legs in soccer, or letting a catch fly through your hands in cricket, it is always embarrassing.
I took some video footage of the first period to give you a feel for what its like being at the game. You can’t quite grasp how cold it is but you can get a feel for the venue and the game itself.
When half time came we were wondering what entertainment would be laid on. Given the pre-recorded National Anthem before the game, we should’ve guessed it would be nothing special.
How special was it? Not very. We got to watch a Zamboni (ice resurfacer) doing laps of the rink.
The second half brought drama as well as more goals.
The most notable moment was when one of the Ice Dogs players punched number 15 Matt Amado of the Bluetongues. Peter informed us that this Canadian import is known to have a short fuse so it was no surprise when he threw a punch back and ice hockey helmets flew high in the air!
Peter also noted that bad refereeing causes fights in ice hockey. In the same breath, he also said this game was being officiated by the best referee in Australia. We have no hope.
The game finished 8-3 to the Sydney Ice Dogs which was great to see.
Being quite a competitive person, I can’t help but think it would’ve felt like a wasted trip to Liverpool had the Ice Dogs lost. I love to see a team win. Particularly the one I’m barracking for.
The staff put on raffle each game for you to enter. At this game, the poor ticket girl didn’t seem to be getting much interest until she reached Peter. She more or less begged him to buy some so he bought five.
I didn’t buy any raffle tickets initially but when I went out to buy some tea and found out you could win a signed Ice Dogs jersey, I was sold. I bought three tickets for $2 and had high hopes.
Before I went back to my seat, I asked the ticket girl when the winner was announced. She said it was at the start of the third period over the tannoy. I mused that it was unlikely we’d hear the winner since the announcements had so far been muffled. To her credit, she gave me a big smirk.
If you’re wondering if I won, I have no idea – the announcement was muffled.
Also, keep your eyes open for people in random dress ups. Arguably, you wouldn’t expect to see someone in a zentai suit at an ice hockey game:
I knew relatively little about ice hockey before I went to this game but I learnt a lot and thoroughly enjoyed myself. Going to watch some Australian Ice Hockey is good sporting alternative to the AFL (Aussie Rules) and NRL (Rugby League) during winter and can also be done on a budget.
And who won the 2011 AHIL Championship? Melbourne Ice. They won back to back championships while the Ice Dogs were beaten in the semi finals.
Three cheers for Tony’s insightful post into a day watching the local ice hockey here in Sydney! If you’d like to read more from Tony, be sure to check out his travel blog, his previous post on a day at the cricket, or follow his Twitter. What’s next from Tony? We’re hoping to get some insight into the world of the ABL – the Australian Baseball League!