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.

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