By: Mark Allred | Follow me on Twitter @BlackAndGold277
In an article published by Sportsnet in October of 2022, NHL insider Elliotte Friedman mentioned on Hockey Night in Canada’s 32 Thoughts segment that the league will have site surveys of potential games in Australia. Friedman also said in the article, “It’s nothing firm, but I do believe the league is looking at playing a couple of games there.”
As reported by Friedman, these games could happen in the upcoming 2023 or 2024 early preseason as the NHL continues to build its interest in worldwide markets outside of North America and increase revenue opportunities. These global games have been a success in the past, growing the game globally, and a local team in the New England area could be participating in the southern hemisphere festivities.
In a past episode of the world-famous Spittin’ Chiclets hockey podcast, host Rear Admiral mentioned the reports of the NHL potentially going down under per reports in October. RA, a Boston native, also added a little nugget for hockey fans, particularly in the New England area, that the hometown Boston Bruins are rumored to be a participating member of the NHL playing on that continent for the first time.
The game of ice hockey is not new to the Australian country. Competitive games can be dated as far back as the early 1900s, slowly growing the game over the years, participating in famous tournaments like the IIHF World Championships and the Winter Olympics. Over the years, the country has developed a men’s and women’s national program and houses the popular and growing Australian Ice Hockey League.
The AIHL currently has nine teams in the league, with a tenth franchise joining the league for its inaugural season in the upcoming 2023 regular season. The new team, the Brisbane Lightning, will join the established Adelaide Adrenaline, CBR Brave, Central Coast Rhinos, Melbourne Ice, Melbourne Mustangs, New Castle Northstars, Perth Thunder, Sydney Bears, and Sydney Ice Dogs teams for the upcoming season set to kick off in mid-April 2023.
The CBR Brave are the 2022 AIHL defending Champions of the Goodall Cup, a trophy they first won in 2018. The CBR Brave organization has ties to my hometown of Amesbury, Massachusetts; as a former Amesbury High School hockey player and graduate Ryan Johnson played for the Brave for three seasons, posting 5-5-10 numbers in 54 career games. Johnson retired from the game of hockey in May of 2017 and continues to live down under. Bringing this article back to Boston Bruins talk, former 2015 fourth-round draft pick Jesse Gabrielle also played for the CBR Brave after the B’s put him on unconditional waivers for the purpose of entry-level contract termination during the 2018-19 hockey season.
Since the 2000 season, the AIHL semi-professional league has been a staple for Australia’s youth to strive for excellence on the ice in their native country but also gain worldwide exposure. This league is great for younger players to keep playing year-round as they continue to develop and often accept worldwide exports. Obviously, this league wants to cater to homegrown talents for notoriety.
In the summer of 2014, a Sydney, Australian native became world-famous in the hockey community when Nathan Walker was selected in the third round by the Washington Capitals, becoming the first player from down under to participate in an NHL Entry Draft. Walker played for the AIHL Sydney Ice Dogs during his time in the Australian winters and also spent the rest of the year playing in the Czech Republic as he continued to develop back in the day.