Sailors and officers are hip-checking and taking slap-shots with impunity as ice hockey joins the ranks of officially recognised sports within the Australian Defence Force (ADF).
The ADF Ice Hockey Association (ADFIHA) has grown to 147 members, held its first training camp at the end of March and played its first game on June 1.
Vice President ADFIHA Commander Mark Sirois said 70 members attended the Sydney-based training camp.
“The training camp was run over a four-day period with players coming from across Australia,” Commander Sirois said.
“The camp began with some grading of skills on the first day to assess and provide a balance of training and selection of players towards achieving selection to represent the ADF.
Matches were played between the intermedicate and advanced players on the second and third days with beginners taking to the ice on the final day before the top players finished the camp off with a game.
“The final match was played between the top 20 players in front of the Commissioner of the Australian Ice Hockey League (AIHL), who commented on the excellent skills and discipline of the players.”
The AIHL is a semi-professional ice hockey league and the highest national level of competition.
It is one of several groups which fall under Ice Hockey Australia, which was formed in 1908 and is the national body for the sport.
“A final selection of 13 players was taken from those top 20 to make up the ADF representative team,” CMDR Sirois said.
“There was referee and goalie training also run simultaneously.
“We are at the beginning of a great journey and based on the level of skills seen at the training camp, it will be exciting to see the challenges and successes of the future.”
While not as large as other winter sports in Australia, ice hockey has attracted a loyal following. A number of state branches, along with a national league, have fostered the development of the sport’s local players.
The catalyst for ADFIHA’s formation was when Leading Seaman Aviation Technician Avionics Scott Tunnard, a lateral transfer from the Royal Navy, who played service ice hockey in the UK, first proposed the idea.
“I sought out other interested members, which resulted in a committee being formed to prepare a submission to the ADF Sports Council,” Leadinig Seaman Tunnard said.
“The Chair of the ADF Sports Council approved ice hockey as an ADF Sport on February 24.
“To have my sport recognised feels like a huge win – it goes to show that all it takes is for someone to take the initiative, and get the ball rolling for amazing things to happen.”
Leading Seaman Tunnard said the standard of play was amazingly competitive.
“I think the committee was surprised by the standard – we managed to achieve a team that would be competitive in the top amateur division in this country,” Leading Seaman Tunnard said.
“The hardest part for the selectors was choosing only a squad of 17 from the 70 people who turned up to the camp.
“I am proud to have played a part in bringing this sport to the ADF, and I can’t wait to represent the ADF in the sport I love.”
In the wake of its first training camp, the immediate goal for ADFIHA is to gain full membership within Ice Hockey Australia.
In the medium-term, the Association intends to expand its membership and conduct its first interservice competition in November.
Other exhibition games, including an Anzac Day 2016 match, are being pursued and ADFIHA is also looking at the possibility of national and international tours.