Most people aren’t already part of the Ice Hockey community in Adelaide. We know that. But the rising popularity of the sport may surprise you. Far from the fanatical following it sees in North America and northern Europe it is often overlooked in Australia. Last Friday night however, it was clear how beloved the sport has become as the entertainment centre was packed to the rafters by enthusiastic fans excited to see the clash of one of the fiercest rivalries in sport, Canada v USA.
After an initial probe into Australia in 2013 the Canada v USA match has gone from strength to strength, acquiring the endorsement of ice hockey legend Wayne Gretzky and expanding across the country. Finally Adelaidians were gifted an opportunity to taste the excitement of a sport that is all but a religion in the colder parts of the world. Between the blurred rush of the puck and bodies, the scrape of blades carving through the ice and the crunch of players being “checked” into the boards Ice Hockey seems to be the perfect blend of graceful speed and finesse, and relentless brutal physicality.
With Canada 2-0 up in the series, team USA were under a lot of pressure to bring their A game, and bring it they did. It wasn’t long until the soon to be familiar chant of “USA! USA!” was drowning out the sound of the goal horn, and by the time the Canadians scored their first goal in the third period team USA had already put a second goal on the board.
Aside from the action on the ice, many of the other attractions of American sport came along for the ride. Between periods and in time outs the cameras roamed the audience allowing audience members to temporarily be the star of the show for the beloved/dreaded “Kiss-Cam”, playing some imaginary bongos, or even just having a bit of a dance and sing-along.
Coming back to the action, the Canadians soon threaded their way through the USA defence to tie the game up. But the USA didn’t even wait for the commentators to finish the goal announcement before another deafening retort from the goal buzzer. And after forcing their way into the lead again they sealed the game with one more goal, taking it out 4-2. All in all, it was exactly what you’d want from a sporting rivalry and spectacle.
Never mind the fact that it doesn’t freeze over here, if you would like to see what all the fuss is about Adelaide has a local Men’s competition is in full swing currently while the Women’s team plays a summer season. Basically, you can find a game to watch most of the year. There is also a thriving amateur league if you’ve ever wanted to strap on the skates and pads yourself.
This weekend the Adelaide Adrenaline host the Melbourne Ice at the IceArena in Thebarton. Two games will be played, at 4:30PM on Saturday, and 4PM on Sunday. Tickets are available to purchase here. So what are you waiting for, come and support your local team and embrace the religion of Hockey!