So your NHL season is ending and you’ve discovered there’s a hockey league in Australia that will fill the off season gap for you but you’re not sure where to start?
Well, we here at The Other Half Sports have got you covered. We’ll teach you how to tell your Bears from your Brave, why there’s two teams in Melbourne and why you can’t fight (or at least shouldn’t).
Welcome to AIHL 101
The AIHL is Australia and the Southern Hemisphere’s premier ice hockey league. Founded in 2000, 2015 will be the league’s 16th season starting on ANZAC Day weekend (Saturday 25th April) and running through to the Finals weekend, this year to be held on the 29th and 30th of August, apparently in Penrith.
The AIHL is a semi-professional league, which means that whilst players not paid, they receive many benefits including accommodation, help finding employment, flights and travel expenses as well as other benefits.
Rather than the NHL points system, the AIHL has adopted an European point system awarding 3 points for a regulation win, 2 for a shootout win, 1 for a shootout loss and 0 for a regulation loss. Differing also to the NHL (and IIHF), the AIHL does not have an OT period instead going straight to the SO for a decision.
Due to the semi-professional nature of the AIHL and indeed the fact that players do have day jobs, rather than using a playoff series style, the AIHL Finals are a one weekend affair which features 2 semi-finals (1 vs 4, 2 vs 3) on a Saturday and the Grand Final for the Goodall Cup on the Sunday.
- Adelaide: Adrenaline (2009) Avalanche (2000, 2001)
- Sydney Bears (2002, 2007)
- Newcastle North Stars (2003, 2005, 2006, 2008)
- West Sydney Ice Dogs (2004, 2013)
- Melbourne Ice (2010, 2011, 2013)
- Melbourne Mustangs (2014)
If you win the AIHL, you get the Goodall Cup and it’s awesome. Seriously – I’ve been at every awarding but 1 for the last 8 years, helped hand it out twice, and even won it once and it’s the best. It’s like Australia’s Stanley Cup.
First awarded in 1909, it is the fifth oldest known ice hockey trophy that is still awarded and the oldest outside Canada. Whilst the original Goodall Cup is now enjoying a leisurely retirement in the Hockey Hall of Fame (I go visit it sometimes) the replica cup (awarded since 2009) is still doing the rounds.
Additionally, the AIHL awards it’s version of the President’s Trophy for regular season champion, the H Newman Reid Trophy. Whilst the award is “technically” still awarded, it’s rumoured the trophy met an unfortunate watery demise several years back and hasn’t been seen since. Oh Australia.
Currently, the league has eight teams spread across four states and one territory.
In the league’s 15 year history, teams have come and gone. The Central Coast Rhinos (Erina) and the Gold Coast Bluetongues(that’s a lizard) (formerly the Brisbane Bluetongues) have departed over previous seasons, with the Bluetongues exit arising due to a suspension of license by the AIHL commision due to substandard rink quality and poor management.
Several teams have also folded before being reborn through the efforts of players and new management. The Adelaide Avalanche (Now Adrenaline) were the first of these but the most recent (and dramatically successful) has been the Canberra Knights (now the Brave).
So what’s different about the game of ice hockey in Australia?
There’s several differences in the AIHL that as a North American fan may confuse you. Here’s a summary from the IIHF of the differences between IIHF and NHL rules if you want to get super specific but I’ll break down a few.
FIGHTING – One of the big rules differentiations is in fighting. Whilst in the NHL you can punch on, sit for 5 minutes, pretend to feel bad and then you’re out, the AIHL takes a slightly more extremist approach in line with the IIHF. In the AIHL a player who fights will receive a 5 minute major for roughing plus an Automatic Game Misconduct or a Match penalty. Bye bye! You’re outta here. Whilst this mostly stops fighting in the AIHL, and occurrences have dropped considerably since teams stopped recruiting players from the LNAH
MATCH LENGTH – Rather than a typical 3 x 20 minute period game, the AIHL plays 2 x 15 minute periods and a final 20 minute period. There’s a variety of reasons for this including availability of ice time, playing depth of a full squad team and the cost implications of travelling with a full squad.
SO WHAT NOW?
So you’ve got your head around the AIHL and its slightly quaint rules. What now?
Well NOW you need to pick a team.
And to help you we’ve made a chart.
(Let us know who you got for your team in the comments!)
Tomorrow: Livestreams & Loudmouths – How to follow the AIHL from halfway around the world.