Browse Tag: Melbourne Ice

The importance of rink crowd-capacities in the AIHL

 Australian Ice Hockey

Traditionally, ice hockey is not a sport you’d associate with Australia.

However, in recent years the sport has increased in popularity here. Bigger crowds are now turning out to watch Australian Ice Hockey League games, and there is a greater opportunity for kids to learn how to play the game.

With the rapid progression of technology and social media over the last decade, world-famous ice hockey leagues such as the NHL of North America and the KHL of Russia are a lot more accessible to fans all over the globe.

Games can be broadcast live and streamed on laptops, clips can be shared on facebook news feeds and match notifications and statistics can be sent straight to your phone.

This has undoubtedly been a large factor in the rise of Australian ice hockey. You only have to take a look around at AIHL games to spot a mix of NHL jerseys littered amongst those of the AIHL teams. Clearly plenty of Aussies are hungry for ice hockey to sink its skates firmly in Australian ice.

However, the AIHL is a semi-professional league. A bigger proportion of the fanbase attend the games in comparison with the aforementioned leagues.

There is a strong case for the argument that a huge part of semi-professional ice hockey stems from experiencing the game in person and soaking up the atmosphere, with less emphasis on post-match media and journalism in comparison to professional leagues.

Therefore it makes logical sense that if ice hockey in Australia is to continue to snowball in popularity then the venues for the games will need to improve to meet the demand of the fans. There needs to be reliable rinks with higher crowd capacities.

The Medibank Icehouse is home to the Melbourne Mustangs and the Melbourne Ice. It’s the best venue in the league. With two Olympic-sized rinks, one of which has a 1,000 seat capacity, it can be considered a world-class facility.

Apart from the game-day attributes, the Icehouse boasts a busy daily schedule of public skates, lessons and ice hockey training sessions.

Subsequently, the fanbases of the Mustangs and the Ice have both dramatically increased since it opened in 2010. If other teams in the league had the same quality of arenas as the two Melbourne teams currently do, perhaps we would see an even bigger rise in AIHL-followers.

Take the Sydney Ice Dogs for example. A great organisation with some great players, yet they play their games at the Liverpool Catholic Club Ice Rink which has a seating capacity of 500. A regular season home game there might see around 450 supporters attend the game.

This is a strong contrast to some of the Melbourne Ice games that can often sell-out of all 1,000 seats. Melbourne derby games are especially jam-packed.

The point to realise here is that clearly the restrictions of the rink have a big impact on the size of the fanbase. The Melbourne Ice’s fanbase eclipses that of the the Syndey Ice Dog’s, and the Medibank Icehouse has double the capacity of the Liverpool Catholic Club.

There will of course be a multitude of other reasons that affect how many followers a club will attract. Some argue that the quality of play of a sports team, and their overall success on the ice or the field, often dictates the size of the fanbase.

But one thing’s for sure, if clubs such as the Ice Dogs and the Ice regularly come close to selling out home game tickets, a bigger arena is needed. A semi-professional league is more dependent on game attendances than professional leagues, to both help improve the fanbase and to help boost team revenue (which is additionally important for further team development).

Some AIHL teams now stream games live in an effort to improve publicity. The Melbourne Mustangs games for example are generally streamed by 1,200 to 1,500 people. This is only roughly twice their normal game attendance.

If you compared the number of people watching an NHL regular-season game either on TV or via the internet against the number of people at the game itself, with that of AIHL games, the ratios would be much much different.

This signals the importance of crowd capacities in AIHL rinks, and leads to the question: As good as the Medibank Icehouse is, has the AIHL outgrown even this venue?

Melbourne Ice Take Third AWIHL Championship

The 2013 AWIHL final came down to the Melbourne Ice vs. Adelaide Adrenaline, as many had predicted.  Despite a loss at the hands of the Ice the day before, the results were by no means clear cut.  The Ice’s victory over the Adrenaline had been narrow, possibly due to a penalty ridden first period.  Both teams were in for an uphill battle for the Joan Mckowen cup, and neither was willing to give way.

2013 AWIHL

Photo: Pic by Wulos.

If either team could learn anything from the semi-final the day before, it was that the match could come down to who can stay out of the penalty box.

These teams were fairly evenly matched – Adelaide may have more depth, but Melbourne seemed better prepared – so power plays could prove costly.

The first period started with fast, physical but relatively clean hockey, at least compared to the parade of players to the penalty box from both sides the day before.

The Adrenaline were slower to find a rhythm but once they did, they managed to force the Ice into their own end.  Like the game before it, most of the first period consisted of deep offensive runs on both sides, but neither were able to find the back of the net.  Unfortunately their challenge to the Ice was derailed by a pair of minor penalties, giving the Ice nearly four straight minutes of power play. A tight penalty kill by the Adrenaline kept the Ice at bay.

However once back at full strength Ice opened the scoring first after fourteen minutes of play.  Another penalty kill for the adrenaline stalled their attempts to match the Ice, and the period ended with the Ice leading 1-0.

Frustration began to boil over in the second period, and it began to show in the play.  On both sides the physicality began to cross the line from clean to dangerous, and many minor penalties were handed out.  For the Adrenaline the minors seemed to come in twos, and they spent much of the period attempting to kill a three on five or three on four power play.

In brief period of five on five, Adelaide proved they were still a force as Andrea Steranko broke past the Ice’s defence to tie the game.  This time it was the Ice’s turn to have their scoring hampered by a minor penalty, and the period ended 1-1.

The start of the third proved what a force both teams could be at even strength, as both managed to score in the first half of the period.  First Frances McPhail took the lead back for the Ice, but the Adrenaline had their answer ready by a rush from Kirsty Venus.  Most of the period was a tense battle for possession as the score was locked 2-2.

Unfortunately for the Adrenaline frustration seemed to get the better of them, and after a series of heated exchanges, they found trying to kill a five on three yet again.  Even then they couldn’t pull themselves together.  After a scrum in front of Adelaide’s net, the tension came to a head on both sides Kirsty Venus became the third Adrenaline player in the box after punching Shona Green to the ice.

Having three players in the box added to Adelaide’s troubles as they faced let another lengthy three on five penalty kill. Unfortunately one of the penalty box attendants added to the confusion as they released an Adelaide player prematurely, and a stoppage in play was needed to sort it out.

After a brief meeting of the officials, play was resumed but Adelaide was still faced with a lengthy power play.

Despite being forced into their end for the penalty kill the Adrenaline managed to stifle Melbourne’s scoring chances for the most part.  However the Ice did eventually break through by a Nicole Tritter slap shot.  In the remaining minutes of the period they made several deep runs into Adelaide’s zone but a calm and collected Claudia Tom kept them out, deflecting several powerful shots including one square in the mask that had her shaking her head to reposition her helmet.

In being tied up keeping the ice out of their zone, the Adrenaline could not answer back and the game ended with a Melbourne Ice victory of 3-2.

As the 2013 Joan Mckowen cup champions, the Melbourne Ice have won their third AWIHL championship since the beginning of the AWIHL competition.  Despite falling in the standings, the Adelaide Adrenaline had a silver medal to celebrate, and a promise to come back stronger than ever in 2013.