Now that all the playoffs in Europe are coming to an end, the World Championships are over, the NHL is it into the Stanley Cup playoffs and the weather is getting warmer, flowers are starting to bloom and you have contemplated putting away a jumper you may be forgiven for thinking that the hockey season is over till September.
Think again. The 28th of April marks the opening day of the AIHL season. The Australian Ice Hockey League has grown in popularity over recent years and has become swelled by European and North American players deciding not to hit the golf course for the summer but to keep playing.
The 2012 season also sees the introduction of the Penrith Thunder and the return to Sydney of the 2007 champions the Sydney Bears. They will be joined 7 other teams from Melbourne, Adelaide, Canberra, Newcastle and the Gold Coast. These teams are split into two conferences, Easton and Bauer, and meet in the end of season playoffs in September. The playoffs themselves culminate in the top two from each conference playing in a finals weekend similar to the EIHL with the winners taking the Goodall Cup.
2012 also see the introduction of the Trans-Tasman Champions League. It will be an end of season round robin tournament between the league and playoff winners from the AIHL and their New Zealand Counterparts.
The NZIHL doesn’t get underway until the 9th June and features 5 teams based in 4 arenas. The Dunedin Thunder, Botany Swarm, Southern Stampede, West Auckland Admirals and the Canterbury Red Devils face each other in a league format with the top reaching a grand final for the Birgel Cup. The NZIHL also features an All Star game called the Skate Of Origin that pits the North Island against the South Island.
For more information check out the links below and see the Blueliner Travel Guide.