Visors and cages: the low down on all the gear that keeps the smile on your dial

tim hughes mohawkphotosIn this edition of the Gear Insider, we take a look at the various cages and visors available to players on the market today. I will be covering everything from sizes and shapes to brands and designs.

The visor or cage is an integral part of any players kit, protecting the wearer from stray pucks and sticks during a game.

A full face cage is now mandatory across Australia for any player under 18. It is also mandatory for all players 18 and over across NSW, Australia, to wear a minimum of a half face visor.

Full face shields come in a variety of shapes, sizes and styles. You have your classic full face cage, usually made with carbon steel wire and traditionally either black, silver or chrome. Built in a traditional straight bar fashion, cages such as the Bauer RBE III, 2100, and 5100, along with the Easton E300, provide good protection at a budget-conscious price. The more advanced full face cages such as the Bauer Re-Akt are made from titanium for a lighter cage without sacrificing strength.

Full face cages are the safest facial protection available on the market and are also the cheapest out of the facial protection range. This in mind, all female players under the IIHF are required to wear a full face shield.

Over the last few years, there has been an emergence of a new category of facial protection: the combo.

The combo is a half-visor/half-cage assembly which provides much better optical clarity whilst still completely covering the face and chin. It is legal for women to use the combo visor/cage. The main manufacturer of the combo is Bauer and they have 2 main designs.

The Bauer Concept 3 looks like it belongs on the head of a futuristic soldier. It is a solid, lightweight, one piece, polycarbonate construction. The Concept 3 provides a larger viewing area without any vertical or horizontal bars. The mouth and chin area are covered with a polycarbonate grill which provides excellent protection.

The new Bauer Hybrid is a more traditional style of combo shield. The same polycarbonate is used on the visor and, again, it provides a much clearer and bigger view than full-wire cages. The big thing about the Hybrid is the wire cage lower. One of the biggest benefits of this, compared to the Concept 3, is the amount of free and open space for air to flow.  The thinner wire versus the thicker polycarbonate means you can suck in the big ones between shifts with almost nothing in the way!

This leads us to the half-face visors. Half-face visors have really grown in popularity amongst players because of the eye protection offered without having to sacrifice any clarity or vision.

There are plenty of different brands producing visors, such as the popular Oakley, Bauer and Tron. Other brands include Avision Ahead, Hejduk (created and designed by 2001 Stanley Cup Champion Milan Hejduk), and other smaller ‘Ebay’ brands.

Bauer has stepped up as one of two main contenders with the acquisition of the Itech shield range. Having released their new HDO range, Bauer have changed how we think about visors with the introduction of the clip-in, clip-out system. Instead of having to take apart all those screws and washers every time you damage your visor, you simply press in the clips, slide out the visor and replace it with a new one. Another benefit of this system is being able to store your visor so it doesn’t get scratched up in your bag. This also means you don’t have to explain to your partner, mother, or mate, why there is a missing pillow case in the linen closet.

Oakley has long been associated with quality optics and bringing out a protective, stylish range of visors has seen their popularity grow even more.

I have tried and tested (not on purpose) a number of different brands and styles of facial protection and would highly recommend the following items.

The Bauer Re-Akt full face cage is lightweight, sturdy, and provides a great field of vision whilst remaining comfortable during games and training.

The Bauer Hybrid (known as the Combo Deluxe in Australia) is a brilliant design and provides a great field of vision and protection. The adjustable floating chin cup provides a snug fit on the chin and reduces movement of the cage and visor.

The Bauer HDO clip-in visor range is great for players who demand the best in vision and half-face protection. The range of visor shapes mean the perfect visor for every individual is only a clip away. Lightweight, durable, and with an anti-scratch layer, the HDO visors tick all of the boxes.

The Hejduk visors have been hugely popular in Europe over the years and are slowly starting to trickle into the country with import players. I am currently using one and have nothing but good things to say about it. Its distortion-free view and anti-fog and anti-scratch coatings mean I can always see what is happening on the ice.

Now for the ones that weren’t up to scratch (excuse the pun). Let’s start with the Avision Ahead Combo. While having the advantage of a replaceable visor component, the combo was extremely heavy and bulky. The visor fogged very easily as a result of poor ventilation. The cage section was bulky and restricted airflow through the mask.

Tron visors were the other big disaster. Having purchased one at a rink shop after realising I had forgotten my helmet and visor, it lasted all of half a game. The slots for the screws snapped away as I was doing no more than skating casually towards a face-off. I didn’t notice this had happened until I finished my shift, got to the bench and removed my helmet to wipe the fog off the inside and outside of the visor.

I would not recommend anyone purchase one of these visors. I am glad I had not taken any impact to the front of the visor as it may or may not have withstood it.

Shoot out Showdown in Newcastle

 It was with some apprehension that the fans returned to Hunter Ice Skating Stadium on Sunday morning after the 7-3 home defeat at the hands of the Brisbane Goannas the day before.  It had been considered possible that the vastly improved Brisbane side would take at least one win this weekend but the Sirens performance had been less than ideal.

Time would tell if they could come away with the victory they were capable of.

sirens v goannas 2nd game9

Photo: Debra Jean Photography

Whether it was the early start or the demoralising defeat the day before, the first period started slow for the Sirens.  Communication seemed to break down, and uncharacteristic mistakes were made by experienced players.

Passes were made to no-one, and shots were fanned on.  The Goannas likewise seemed to gain momentum slowly and were unable to capitalise on the chances that the sirens gave them.  Two women who were on task from the puck drop however were the goaltenders. Dogramaci and Bruske worked hard relentlessly to keep their teams in the game .

The Sirens did slowly find some rhythm, as key forward pairing Amelia Matheson and Sharna Godfrey began to find their famous chemistry.  They opened the scoring three minutes in, as Mathieson put away a rebound.  When faced with a five on three penalty kill, the sirens banded together with some tight defensive play from Bow, Moon and White.  The two man advantage was successfully killed despite play staying in the Sirens’ end.

But soon after the game returned to five on five the Goannas tied the game by a swift wrist shot from Natasha Farrier.  The Sirens answered on back by a breakaway from Sharna Godfrey. As would continue to be the pattern for this game the goannas quickly evened the score.   Both teams gained momentum despite a power play to the Goannas, and more battling for possession through the neutral zone ensued.  The period ended tied 2-2.

The Sirens stepped up in the next period, battling for puck possession wholeheartedly. Both sides made promising runs into the other’s zones but strong forecheck from the Sirens and decent chemistry between the goannas’ defense kept the score tied.  Finally after eleven minutes of battle the Sirens broke through, with a deadly Kaylee White slap shot putting them ahead 3-2.

Undeterred, the Goannas continued to test the sirens, who were showing frustration as their communication began to break down again.  Dogramaci was relentless in net to keep them ahead, even saving two slap shots off the mask within a few seconds.  Eventually the Goannas found a way past, taking advantage of a defensive goof by the Sirens.   Johanna Frankenburger was allowed to walk through the slot unmarked and score off a perfectly timed pass, tieing the game 3-3 with twenty four seconds to go.

Once again, the period ended on a tied score and renewed determination for the two point starved teams.

The Sirens returned to the ice in the third sharper than ever, their plays executed with confidence not seen all morning.  Again puck possession was equally shared between both sides and both goaltenders were on hand to deny any opportunities around the net.  It took another Kaylee White slap shot from the point to open the scoring but again, an answer from the Goannas followed soon after.  Despite efforts from both sides the tie could not be broken, and the game ended with the score 4-4, forcing a shootout.

In the marathon of shots that followed, the crowd at hunter ice skating stadium were treated to a showcase of the skills of the two national team goaltenders, Bruske and Dogramaci.

It took eight rounds each side to reach a result – Melissa Rulli opened the scoring first on the seventh shot, but Michelle Clarke – Crumpton scored on the next turn, keeping the shootout alive.  It took five more rounds to settle the game.   Melissa Rulli scored again, drawing out Bruske then snapping the puck five hole in a classy move that had even Bruske tapping her stick in appreciation.  Dogramaci saved the next shot, tossing her stick behind her in elation as she sealed the Sirens overtime victory 5-4.

Despite an impressive effort by the Brisbane Goannas, the Sirens were able to salvage a single point from the weekend.  It may not have been their best showing but they now have two weeks to regroup and prepare for their final series where they face the Melbourne Ice in Penrith starting on the 23rd of February.

Kelly Geoffrey fits right into CBR Brave life

Despite a three-year layoff from ice hockey after taking a puck to the face, 25 year-old CBR Brave Canadian import Kelly Geoffrey is playing like he never left the sport, and adjusting well to the Australian Ice Hockey League.

Geoffrey has proven himself to be an asset for the Brave already, the left winger has already racked up 12 points this season, averaging two points a game. He has also scored in all six of his appearances for the side thus far.

Geoffrey decided to come down to Canberra and play for the CBR Brave after speaking to coach Brad Hunt, and stayed after having positive experiences with management.

“I came to Canberra because I really hit it off with coach Brad (Hunt) through Skype and emailing back and forth, that sort of thing,” he said.

“He told me it (Canberra) was a great place and that the team and management would treat me well.

“So far they have done that and that’s why I’ve stayed, they’ve treated me really well the coaches and players and it’s been great.

“It’s hard not to stay here the place has been great so far, it’s definitely different but it’s a lot of fun, the team that I’m in has a lot of great guys and a lot good players and it’s been real easy to fit in.

“So far we have had some success, I know we can get better but so far it’s been great.

“I’m just taking it a game at a time, I’ve had a great time here and the fans are definitely the best in our barn so it’s been amazing”.

Despite travelling the globe to be here in Australia, the style of play in the AIHL remains similar to how Geoffrey played back home.

“It’s definitely similar, there are little differences but overall it’s still a rough and tough hockey league,” he said.

“That’s what I’m used to, a lot of hitting and that sort of thing and I think the game out here has a lot of intensity”.

The biggest difference of the AIHL for Geoffrey came as a result of the rink.

“Playing in a rink without glass is definitely really weird,” he said.

“I’ve never played in a rink without any glass in it in my life before this, it’s been weird adjusting to that.

“Other than that, I’ve played in small rinks before and it always brings in a nice crowd and good game and with the crowd we have this rink is definitely the best to play in”.

Geoffrey has shown impressive form so far, and is proving himself to be a key player for the CBR Brave this season.

The Brave host the Adelaide Adrenaline this Saturday for a second time, their first match ended 5-3 in favour of the Brave.

Puck drops at the Phillips Swimming and Ice Skating Centre in Canberra at 5:30pm AEST.

Canberra’s future bright in the hands of the Junior Brave

The CBR Brave was the Cinderella story of the Australian Ice Hockey League in their debut season in 2014, and the Junior Brave have taken that position this season.

Formed earlier this year through a series of tryouts and invites, the Junior Brave have been in impressive form sine their entry into the New South Wales Midget League, which is an under 18s competition consisting of six teams.

The Junior Brave consists of players aged between 15 and 18, with some of the boys having played ice hockey together for up to ten years.

The self-funded side plays their away games in NSW, hiring a 22-to-24 seater bus which consists of the players, head coach Andrew Brunt, manager Tanya Brunt, assistant coach Nick Sault and equipment manager Darryl Day who also drives the bus.

Due to Canberra’s smaller population in comparison to cities and towns within New South Wales, the team consists of players of all skill levels.

However, despite not having the biggest talent pool to choose from, the Junior Brave have found themselves in second place on the Midget League standings, just one point from the top.

On top that, three of the Junior Brave make up the top ten scorers of the Midget League so far, with captain Jordon Brunt, Corey Banks and Jayden Lewis all making their way into the rankings.

Manager Tanya Brunt says that the boys play well together, have become a family and look to stay humble.

“We’ve become a family rather than a team,” she said.

“We like to promote that no one player is above the team, we promote staying humble”.

15 year-old Jordon Brunt captains the Junior Brave, and takes a similar view when it comes to being a leader for his side.

“As captain I try to lead the team both on and off the ice,” he said.

“I just try and be a great role model and lead by example.

“I try and inspire the other players and be a leader”.

(Jordon) Brunt has been playing ice hockey for ten years, and aspires to one day play in the AIHL and for Australia.

“I want to play for the senior Brave when I’m older,” he said.

“Soon I’m trying out for the under 18’s youth team, and I want to make it in the under 20’s and Australian men’s team”.

(Jordon) Brunt isn’t the only one who wants to make it in the AIHL, manager (Tanya) Brunt says that a few of the boys are destined to be in the senior Brave side.

“When we look at our side, we can definitely see some future Brave players” she said.

Head coach Andrew Brunt played for the Australian under 18 division, however he mentions how the side struggled to skate with the more developed hockey nations.

“I actually played for the under 18 Australia side that Jordan (Brunt) is trying out for, and we weren’t the best developed skater on the world stage” he said.

However, when (Andrew) Brunt looks at Australian ice hockey today, he sees a bright future ahead.

“I see Australian ice hockey growing and becoming more competitive on the world stage,” he said.

“What Australian ice hockey have done from about ten years ago, is that they have implemented a junior training camp ranging between pee-wee up to midget.

“They run a camp in January that goes for a week for each age group and they have a professional skating instructor who comes in and does that.

“Since Ice Hockey Australia has implemented these camps we are starting to skate with all the Northern Hemisphere nations.

“I see the future looking really good”.

Stephenson ready for Goodall Cup tilt

With his return to the Sydney Ice Dogs on the weekend, Scott Stephenson’s influence and experience out on the ice will be a much needed boost to the Sydney outfit, as they look to break their Goodall Cup drought.

icevice dogs

Photo: Pic by Wulos.

Speaking post Mustangs victory, Stephenson was happy with where the Ice Dogs currently sit this early in the season.

“It’s really good to come back and be 2-1 on the season. Personally, my goal this year is to win the Championship – I was away representing Australia at the U-18s in 2004 when the Ice Dogs last won it, so it’d be nice to achieve that this year,” said Scott Stephenson.

Australian players and staff recently returned from a trip to Croatia to compete in the IIHF Division II Group A World Championships tournament. The Mighty Roos would finish the tournament on 7 points from 5 games played, earning them a fourth place finish and guarantee them Division II Group A safety.

“I’ve represented Australia 8 times now. It was an interesting tournament. We had 9 new players in the team, so it took some time to develop chemistry.

“We should have beaten Iceland [a shootout loss] and Serbia [5-3 loss]. We outshot and outworked Serbia but gave away bad breakaways – weren’t on our game defensively. Anthony [Kimlin] stood on his head for us, but he just wasn’t backed up by the rest of the team. Having him there was a big plus for us, and he’s a big plus for the Ice Dogs this season too. To let him start the season 2-1 is good for him to build on. As long as we don’t take him for granted, we’ll do well this year. Dale [Burgess] did a great job in net whilst Anthony was away.

“Was great to have Billy [Cliff] on the National team. Played a lot with him and my brother [Todd Stephenson]. Billy was getting more ice time at the end of the tournament and he’s stepped up since coming back to the Ice Dogs.

“Every team in the Division we played in has won gold at one point or another – a really good experience for the younger guys and helps them build upon in the future – both in AIHL and at National level”

Team focus as Perth Thunder rise up standings

If you live in Melbourne, Sydney, Canberra, a shoebox or under a rock, you may not be aware that the Perth Thunder are sitting on top of the Australian Ice Hockey League standings, with a 6-0-0-0 record.

But how does a team go from a non-playoff, seventh seed team in 2014, to an early cup favourite? Well, let’s investigate.

At the helm of Perth’s success was interim import goalie Peter Di Salvo from the Southern Pro Hockey League. Di Salvo sits first in the league with a 1.33 Goals Against Average, and a .944 Save Percentage, letting in only eight goals in six games.

He has now left the league, as his time as an interim import expired after only four short weeks, one of those weeks being a bye.

Perth Thunder coach Dave Kenway said they didn’t know what to expect from Di Salvo before he came into the league.

“Peter came in temporary until our full import goaltender arrives,” he said.

“We didn’t know what to expect with Peter, we knew he had good stats but, from the first time he turned up he fit in with the team and he was outstanding, he just really supported the guys.

“[Peter is] one of the most puck-handling goaltenders I’ve ever had in a team, which sort of took me by surprise but he did it well.

“He certainly told the boys what he wanted out of his team, and his defence in front of him, and he fit in really well and it turned out good for us.

Kenway said he will play an almost unchanged lineup from the weekend series against theNewcastle North Stars and Sydney Ice Dogs.

“I don’t think there is too much we can change from the lineup,” he said.

“We had a couple of guys out due to work commitments, so we brought in a couple of young players.

“That being said, all our young squad members are playing well when they’re asked to perform and there is not going to be many changing for the weekend.”

And, of course, he is correct.

Leaving the Thunder lineup unchanged for this weekend will be a very wise move after the success they have had together, not just last weekend, but the whole season.

Their PDO currently sits at 104.67% (Kevin Flynn, PDO is a hockey term used to measure a team’s overall production by adding together their overall save percentage and their shooting percentage. It is believed by some to be one of the most effective analytics in hockey when looking at a team. A PDO of 104.67% is not completely unsustainable, and there are three other teams in the league with PDO’s over 100.

However, it is their overall shot differential that is the most shocking part. Di Salvo and the Thunder defence have only allowed eight goals, and have scored 24, both statistics that are much higher than any other team.

But despite having so many goals, they only have one player registering in the top ten league leading scorers, being Luke Judson.

Judson has 12 points made up of five goals and seven assists, which does not compare to Newcastle North Stars forwards Geordie Wudrick (21 points) and Luke Moffatt (17 points).

Kenway said for his team it is not about having the league leading scorer, but a team who is driven to win games.

“The boys, they’re playing for the team this year,” he said.

“Obviously being the top point scorer in the league is a great honour, but at the end of the day there is no point being a top point scorer if your team finishes fifth and doesn’t make playoffs, so the boys always have that in mind.

“They just want to win, and it doesn’t really matter to them who is scoring the goals.”

2015 Mastercard Memorial Cup Preview

The most prestigious tournament in junior hockey is back in a big way for 2015, as the Mastercard Memorial Cup tournament will get underway in Quebec City, QC this Friday, May 22nd. The ultimate Canadian Hockey League prize is considered the most difficult trophy in hockey to win.

The Memorial Cup tournament is unlike any other in hockey, because it is contested between three league champions and a host team. The champions from the Ontario Hockey League,Western Hockey League, and Quebec Major Junior Hockey League join the host for the tournament. Should the host team also win their league, the runner-up will represent that league in the tournament.

This year’s host is the Quebec Remparts, who fell to Rimouski Oceanic in the QMJHL Final, even though both teams had already clinched their trips to the Memorial Cup. The Oshawa Generals will represent the OHL, after they took down Connor McDavid and the Erie Ottersin the OHL Final. Finally, the WHL is sending the Kelowna Rockets to Quebec.

Let’s take a look at some of these teams, and which team has the best shot at the Memorial Cup:

Oshawa Generals

The Gens are an offensive juggernaut, as they boast five of the top 10 players in playoff scoring, as well as the ninth-best in scoring during the regular season in Michael Dal Collewith 42 goals.

They finished as the top team in the OHL’s Eastern Conference, with just two points less than the Western Conference’s top team, the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. Oshawa was able to take down another offensive juggernaut in the Erie Otters on their way to the Memorial Cup, who had three of the top four in the OHL in regular season goals.

What makes the Generals so dominant is their incredible goaltending to complement their offensive weaponry. Their goalie, Ken Appleby, is statistically the OHL’s best goaltender by a long shot. He leads the league in SV% and GAA. Appleby also finished second in wins and shutouts.

Oshawa is a force to be reckoned with, and will give any team trouble.

Kelowna Rockets

Much like the Gens, the Rockets have been dominant all season out West. They lost three total games through four rounds of the WHL playoffs, and even swept the Brandon Wheat Kings in the WHL Final.

Kelowna has four of the top ten in scoring throughout the playoffs, including Edmonton Oilerstalent Leon Draisaitl, and also have one of the best offensive defensemen in the WHL in Madison Bowey, who finished fifth in the league in points during the regular season.

Their goaltender, Jackson Whistle, was third in the regular season in GAA as well. The Rockets have had an easy road; will it be any easier in the Memorial Cup tournament?

Rimouski Oceanic

The boys from the small Eastern Quebec city of Rimouski have dominated the Q all season long. They finished atop the QMJHL standings at 99 points, and their playoff performance showed why.

Rimouski dominated Victoriaville Tigres in the first round with a sweep, beat Gatineau Olympiques in the second round by a score of 4-1, and swept the defending QMJHL champs, the Val D’or Foreurs, to reach the Final. In the Final, Oceanic won Game Seven in double overtime to take the championship.

Oceanic boasts two +90-point-getters in Alexis Loiseau and Anthony DeLuca. Once again, the common thread is goaltending. Rimouski has Philippe Desrosiers leads the Q in GAA at 2.50. In junior hockey, success starts with solid goaltending. Every team has scorers, but if you can’t stop pucks, you can’t win.

Quebec Remparts

The Remparts, QMJHL runners-up and host team, have many NHL-caliber talents, including Arizona Coyotes prospect Anthony Duclair. However, Quebec isn’t exactly a flashy team. They didn’t have any players in the top ten in scoring in the regular season, finished fourth in the standings and only boasted one 90-point scorer, rookie Dmytro Timashov.

Quebec also has arguably one of the best junior goaltenders around in Zachary Fucale. He came over from Halifax Mooseheads via trade midway through this season. He won gold with Canada at World Juniors, and led the Mooseheads to their first-ever Memorial Cup in 2013. The Montreal Canadiens prospect will be hungry for a second title.

Champion Pick: Oshawa

The Gens should win it all for two reasons: they have dominated, but haven’t coasted. Oshawa has played phenomenal hockey all season, but hasn’t basically swept every series like some other teams.

With their combo of offense and goaltending, look for the Oshawa Generals to win the Memorial Cup.

Brave selfie goes viral


It was the selfie that went viral throughout the Australian Ice Hockey League, two CBR Brave fans getting up close and personal with star import Stephen Blunden.

Blunden summonsed to the penalty box during the first period would sit in the box with two Brave fans and take the photo snap.

The AIHL is a tight-knit community, it’s what makes the league a special one compared to your more high profile competitions in Australia.

While the two Brave fans who were involved in the photo are passionate loyal followers, should it be something that we are promoting as acceptable?

As the AIHL continues to strive to look and act like a professional league, the image of the fans and Blunden in the penalty box – while entertaining – could have ended badly if the wrong people were involved.

The two fans are well known throughout the Phillips Ice Skating Centre and parts of the AIHL, even described as ‘mascots’, Blunden was obviously comfortable with their presence, so no harm was done.

I wonder if the actions of two honest supporters will be looked on as though a player in the penalty box is free to approach from other fans on game day.

For the majority of circumstances AIHL fans are well behaved and some of the best in the country, but it only takes one person to turn the accessibility to players and coaches into a closed shop.

We see in North America the green men of Vancouver, fans giving lip service to players in the penalty box, a point of difference is players having the safety of perplex glass protection from the crowd.

In the AIHL some rinks don’t give players that luxury.

Players who enter the penalty box are generally not in the ‘selfie’ mood following their on ice indiscretion, even for the fan it’s a risk to make their way into the penalised area.

Fan safety should also be a high priority on game day.

When speaking to AIHL fans and people involved at club level, it was described as “not a good look” and “promoting bad behaviour” something which wouldn’t be limited to just the few I spoke to.

Keeping the community feel and engagement with the players is something the AIHL needs to continue to embrace, fans love it, and fans relate to it.

But we need to make sure players and spectators are protected during the 50 minutes of match time out on the ice.

Better equipped penalty boxes or stewards guarding the area will help keep players safe from eager rink fans.

Fans get the opportunity to take photos, get autographs and chat with their favourite players when clubs allow supporters access post match.

Penalty boxes are a safe haven for players to cool off.

Maybe we should keep the selfies until after the final buzzer.

AIHL gaining UK popularity

The Australian Ice Hockey League continues to grow in popularity across Australia with Fox Sports exposure and terrific online interaction, while abroad the league is starting to find a steady increase in fans tuning in.

With most AIHL clubs now showing live streams of games each week fans from around the globe are able to tune in and watch their favourite teams, in the United Kingdom, we have recently seen a rise in popularity for the AIHL.

Facebook and Twitter accounts have recently been created for UK AIHL Fans to gather information about the league, players and game time streams.

@UKAIHLFans and the accompanying Facebook page were really bourne from a twitter exchange between myself (@theangrybudgie) Paul England (@inges245) were having one weekend discussing the AIHL,” said UK based AIHL fan Mark Woodcock.

“We were just talking about how entertaining the games were and, how it so so great numerous teams streaming their games online.

“We then talked about, ‘wouldn’t it be great if there was one place UK fans could get their AIHL info?’ I was thinking about a directory of clubs media outputs, like locations of streams, live radio links etc…and faceoff times adjusted to UK time.

“As the discussion went on, I set up the @UKAIHLFans page and Paul set-up the Facebook group. Big thanks has to go out to Sam (@rokasako) for producing a full AIHL schedule with UK faceoff times by the way!”

For UK fans the AIHL fits perfectly into their off season, as clubs from the Elite Ice Hockey League and below wind up, the AIHL kicks off its season.

The AIHL clubs ability to produce high quality video and radio streams is a big lure for UK fans, while the competitiveness and quality of hockey is also a big drawcard.

“The AIHL season fits so perfectly with the UK hockey offseason. As we are all coming to terms with another season in the books, the AIHL season is getting up and running,” said Woodcock.

“A second big reason is the online output across the AIHL. The number of live streaming (video and radio) of games means UK fans can really get involved and watch games the other side of the world.

“So far I have been to one game, the Melbourne derby, and another attraction is the quality of hockey. It is competative, big crowds make games have a fantastic atmosphere.

“Plus, it’s not far off the English Premier League (second tier league in the UK) in terms of quality. More and more players who have played in the UK are now filling in their offseason by signing for teams in the AIHL so, there are familiar names for us to follow.”

A minority sport in Australia, hockey in the UK is in the same position as a sporting code, but is gaining steady popularity.

Social media is an indication of just how much the AIHL has continued to grow its fan base abroad live streaming and online club and league interaction with fans.

“The percentage of UK hockey fans who now pay attention and actively seek out the AIHL is growing,” said Woodcock.

“I see lots of social media interactions over a weekend focused on the AIHL.

“On the livestream pages for (Melbourne) Ice and (Melbourne) Mustangs games there looks to be a few UK fans on there talking, along with other nationalities too. Facebook and Twitter really help UK fans interact with the AIHL and spread the word.”

Minority sports have a loyal following, a small group of passionate and diehard supporters that are the pillars of the sport from juniors to the elite level. It keeps leagues like the AIHL and EIHL continuing year after year, without this loyal support minority sporting codes wouldn’t survive.

Hockey quality is also a big factor when fans start tuning into live streams of hockey leagues across the globe, not only do they want to get their hockey fix, they want to watch top quality hockey.

With the AIHL increasing in exposure every season, hockey performance from local players and imports has continued to rise.

“I’m not an aficionado on the National Ice Hockey League but, being a fan of an EPL team(Manchester Phoenix) and having been to an AIHL game (Melbourne derby) I think the AIHL stacks up pretty well with the EPL,” said Woodcock.

“It is not on the same level, as I believe the semi-professional aspect of the EPL does attract, on the whole, a better player.

“That’s not me doing the AIHL a disservice, the games I have seen have been really competitive and entertaining. It’s perhaps more the finesse and polish. The AIHL has the raw qualities of a league like the EPL but, the players don’t quite have the same level of finish.”

With AIHL Fans setup on Facebook and Twitter, the goal for Mark Woodcock and Paul England is help promote the league, allowing UK fans to access local face off times for live streaming.

“I love watching the AIHL and will do the best I can to spread the word,” said Woodcock.

“Having been to a game and, hopefully will be attending two games this August I know the AIHL is worth investing time and effort, for UK fans.

“Plus, being early morning faceoffs and, the abundance of live stream video/radio it fits into your day so well. In terms of promotion, it really will be pushing the twitter page and facebook page for the moment. Trying to get some of the bigger UK hockey podcasts to push and mention the league and UKAIHLFans pages really to spread the word.”

Volunteer work has been a big driving factor for the growth of the AIHL, without it the league would cease to exist, UK AIHL Fans shows that volunteering isn’t just limited to Australia.

It’s this passion and volunteering that will see the AIHL grow from strength to strength.

As it’s attraction is slowly becoming a global one.

Adam Blanchette Announces Immediate Retirement After Concussion

Hockey is a hard sport. Anyone who’s played at any level can tell you the toll it takes, and the higher level of competition, the more players ask of their bodies.

When a player announces that they are retiring from the sport due to injury sustained in play, it comes like a kick in the gut. Not just because your team has lost a valuable piece of their lineup, not just because an athlete you’ve enjoyed watching is suffering, but because for a moment, you put yourself in their skates. You wonder how it would feel to lose that part of your life.

Adam Blanchettex

Photo: Chris M Photography.

Adam Blanchette sustained a concussion during play against the visiting Dunedin Thunder on Sunday, and while I didn’t see the play in question, I heard about it after the game.

Out of courtesy for the team and Adam’s privacy, I decided not to publish anything about the injury until the Stampede made it public. Injuries can be a tricky business in hockey, and as much as I appreciate being able to inform NZIHL fans about current news, I will never do so at the expense of a player’s private life.

The week dragged on with no word from the Stampede, which left some of us hoping for the best and others fearing the worst.

This morning, Stampede Captain Bert Haines had the following message for the public:

It is with deep hearts that we announce the immediate player retirement of American import Adam Blanchette. Our top defenseman for the past 2 seasons, Adam was recently involved in a physical play, sustaining a knock to the head and subsequent concussion. Unfortunately Adam has suffered a few concussions throughout his career, which has stretched across North America, Europe and Australia/New Zealand.

Adam brought with him to the ice a fierce competitive streak and amazing playmaking abilities. In addition, he also brought a great attitude and personality in the locker room. His presence on the ice will be missed. However, it is with great news that Adam will stay on with the team in a coaching/leadership role to help continue to grow and contribute the Stampede!!

Please take this opportunity to join me in thanking Adam for his contributions as a player (also in coaching junior hockey) and welcoming him as he continues to coach/provide leadership for our team.

Let’s go Stampede!

Bert Haines (Captain) and the Southern Stampede Team Management

That must have hurt to write, and I appreciate the Stampede’s honesty. The link above goes to the Stampede’s Facebook page, where I encourage OTF readers to leave their thoughts and well wishes for Adam Blanchette.

The fact that Blanchette is staying with the team in a leadership capacity is a heartwarming silver lining to a horrible story that I wish I didn’t have to write. Post-Concussion Syndrome is a nightmare for those suffering it and Blanchette is absolutely making the right decision to focus on his own health and safety, even at the expense of hockey.

This continues to be a rough year for the Southern Stampede, who take on the Botany Swarmtonight at Queenstown Ice Arena.

And it will be a rough game for Stampede fans, possibly a weird one, considering how used to Blanchette’s presence we’ve become on the ice. He was particularly visible on the penalty kill during last weekend’s games against the Dunedin Thunder–I recall a particularly triumphant moment where he broke up the Thunder’s play with a skillful poke-check.

Sometimes it’s those little things that stick in your memory–the little signs of a good defensive player who does things right.

I’ll be writing a retrospective piece on Blanchette’s storied career later this week, and I’d encourage anyone who wants to share memories or experiences they had with Blanchette in the NZIHL and AIHL to leave a comment here.

Get well, Adam, and this Stampede fan is glad you’re sticking around in Queenstown. All of our staff at OTF send our regards.