Sunday, 23 June 2013

Hockey Night in Melbourne

Last weekend Melbourne played host to an international hockey match between Canada and the USA at the Hisense Arena. We purchased tickets excitedly about a month ago, before any seeing details of any line-up. I (mistakenly) figured that since the game was at the tail end of the NHL play-offs there might be some big names released from their clubs. Well, that turned out to be a very silly assumption! Not only was there a lack of NHL players (I think there was 5 total between each team), the game wasn't even sanctioned by the IIHF. (We later spoke to someone who said the organisers can't afford the insurance on star players for a tournament like this.) Nevertheless, we put on our CANADA clothing and figured it would be the closest thing to quality hockey we'd see in the Southern Hemisphere.

 


We arrived in good time ready for a few beers and it was a good thing as we had to wait in the longest queue ever! 20 minutes later, beers in hand we went to our seats, which were about 10 rows back at centre ice. There were American and Canadian supporter section (where we were sat) but I would say there were far more Canadian supporters at the game. The sold out arena sat 9,000 which is a small crowd by NHL standards - the game in Sydney this weekend had 20,000 - however the atmosphere was pretty good.

Hearing the Canadian national anthem always makes me feel proud to be Canadian and a bit sad to be so far from home at the same time. After the two anthems they had fake snow falling down (which was actually soap suds or something) which was really weird... like we don't normally have snow falling when watching an indoor hockey game!

So basic game details were this: It was 5-3 Canada after the first period, so it's always a bit of a worry when your first period score would be considered a high FINAL score. But I guess it was fun to see so many goals and at that point it was a relatively close game. After the second period it was 9-4 Canada which made the whole thing start to get pretty boring. Miraculously the Americans managed to close the gap to 9-8 which made it more exciting... hmmmmm I wonder if that was staged?! Canada ended up winning 11-9 after the USA pulled their goalie and Canada scored on an empty net with a minute to go.

There were some ridiculously fake fights throughout the game that I can only imagine the players were told to engage in to entertain the audience. It made the whole thing seem like a show instead of an actual game, and in my opinion undermines the fans. Now, I realize that this was an exhibition match and of course we can't expect what we'd see in a real international game that meant something. But I would think if the aim is to promote ice hockey in Australia then it would be nice if the game had had represented what you could actually expect from a "real" ice hockey match. It would be great if they had some pre-season NHL games here like they have done in London - that would bring real awareness and interest to the sport. It was a fun night for us but I don't think I'd spend the money to go again. Instead, we will be checking out our local AIHL (Australian Ice Hockey League) team, Melbourne Ice, as we've heard that is a better standard than what we saw last weekend!