I love weeknight hockey. There’s something about spending the whole day at work, knowing you’ll leave your workplace that evening and go to the rink to watch your team. Everything that happens during the day is just a distraction until you pay your money, find that perfect seat and get that game-time experience. For me, it’s a special treat, one that doesn’t happen all that often, and when it does, it makes the game I love that much better.
Watching Friday night’s AJIHL game between the Blackhawks and Red Wings, I wonder what the players think of weeknight games. Being a junior league, I’m sure they all have school or university classes and exams to worry about, so I’m not sure if they feel the same romantic way about the mid-week games as I do. With a 4-2 win to the Red Wings and a very tense game played, you would think they get fired up over a weeknight stoush, but the game took a while to fire up – and when it did, it went supernova.
In the past week we saw a cracking second round of AWIHL hockey. The Melbourne Ice won their first home games against the Brisbane Goannas, as Jane covered yesterday, and the Adelaide Adrenaline won two bruising games against the North Star Sirens. It leaves Melbourne and Adelaide tied for equal first in the standings, with the Sirens one win behind. There’s no AWIHL hockey this weekend, but it’ll resume with the Sirens playing the Ice in Melbourne on December 1 & 2.
In the mean time, this weekend features two Redwings vs Blackhawks AJIHL games at the Icehouse, one at 8pm tonight and the second on Sunday afternoon. Not to mention a whole stack of announcements about what next year has in store for the AIHL.
The Ice came away with a pair of wins from this weekend. They were two very different games–one 7-0 shutout, one 5-2 win where the Goannas actually looked like they might challenge, but ultimately fell.
I was really pleased to see the crowd turnout for the games. Support for women’s sport is always lagging behind men’s sport, but the crowd on Sunday was larger than some Mustangs’ games I’ve been to. (Sorry, Mustangs.) In particular, the South Pole turned out in force, with a new but familiar face among them–ex-President of the Melbourne Ice, Andy Lamrock. Ellen Etchingham recently wrote an excellent post on the difficulties and limitations of women’s hockey. I’m pleased to say that part of her rubrick doesn’t apply to the Melbourne Ice Women’s team – there were plenty of unattached men coming to see the game. I guess that it’s because the hockey community in Melbourne is exactly that–a community. We’re all part of it and we all support our teams, and if we don’t support the team, we support the players or just hockey in general.
(And if you’re a supporter of the Melbourne Ice, or if you just love hockey and you haven’t come on down to the Icehouse to see the Melbourne Ice Women play, then I really urge you to do so.)
This past weekend, we had HOCKEY. And not just any hockey, a Melbourne Derby between two teams that form part of the Junior league. It’s fun and fast-paced, and a fascinating glimpse into the potential future of Australian hockey. The players display a mix of skill levels, but it’s kind of neat to watch and attempt to predict which players are going to be in what role in a couple of years time. They also play the fastest hockey I’ve ever seen, and appear have absolutely no fear at all. For sheer joy of physicality and also a certain level of “I can’t believe they just did that”, it’s a hell of an entertaining game to watch.
Last weekend saw the second round of the AJIHL competition and their first round of hometown clashes, with two matches each in Melbourne and Sydney. This weekend we’re looking forward to the second round of the AWIHL, with the North Star Sirens hosting the Adelaide Adrenaline and the Melbourne Ice playing their first home games for the season against the Brisbane Goannas – among other hockey-related happenings in Melbourne this week.
Not to mention that this week also saw the announcement of the national U18 team, some excitement and reservations about next year’s USA vs Canada series in Australia and quite a show by Perth Thunder goaltender Kiefer Smiley.
The AJIHL is back on again this week with a couple of home town matchups. The Blackhawks and the Redwings meet at the Melbourne Icehouse tonight (Friday) at 8pm and Sunday at 2:30pm. Both performed well against the Sydney teams three weeks ago, so it’s going to be interesting to see how they stack up against each other. (Information about AJIHL game times has been a little fuzzy to date, but IHA plan to put up a full finalised schedule by the end of today.)
There’s also been some talk about the AWIHL’s opening games this week, how this season’s teams are looking and how they performed in their first two games. Plus we got a glimpse this week of what a few of our favourite AIHL players are doing with their offseasons.
It was the Saturday morning of an unofficial long weekend in Melbourne, and Tullamarine Airport was packed. My flight was ultimately delayed purely because there were so many planes in the air it took a while to get an opening in the traffic jam. Getting to the check-in desk was a journey in itself. When I finally made it to the departure lounge and flopped down in a plastic airport chair to catch my breath, it took me a moment to realise I was sitting right behind a group of Melbourne Ice women’s team players getting a refresher on their power play strategy. A very comprehensive talk about the power play strategy.
“Any questions?” the coach asked, when he was finally done.
“Yes,” said a bystander, who had been watching while waiting for the flight to board. “How on earth are they supposed to remember all that?”
I could have asked the same thing; I couldn’t follow half of it, and I at least know what a power play is. But the Melbourne Ice players know their stuff, and that power play served them well over the weekend’s double-header against Adelaide. Continue reading