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Why Australia Will Never Be a Hockey Nation
- Updated: February 8, 2021
Sport is a universal language that has a remarkable ability to bring people together in spite of differences in religious beliefs, race, and creed. It is regarded as a universal language because most countries of the world have at least one major sport they are associated with. As odd as it may sound, sports are not just a side attraction for most countries, they possesses great economic potential. It is a billion-dollar industry that has created jobs and boosts tourism.
Australia is a Rugby Nation
In some cases, the sporting identity of a nation is mainly tied to one sport. New Zealand for instance is noted for their brilliance in Rugby and Jamaica is widely known for athletics. Australia, just like many nations, also has a national sport which is rugby. Australia is a rugby nation with world cup wins and dominance in the sport. It is a sports-friendly nation with a range of sports such as football, rugby, cricket, hockey, etc being played at centers across the country.
Hockey is actually a sport with a dating history in Australia but the prospects of it hitting the dizzying heights on the bookmakers top betting markets and competing with Australia Rules football, cricket, golf, tennis, and rugby are not great. Although Ice hockey was officially played for the first time on the 17th of July 1906, it was not until the year 2000 that the Australian Ice Hockey League AIHL was inaugurated.
Australia is a sport friendly nation but their interest tilts towards sports played in a warm climate. This explains the higher acceptance accorded to field hockey compared to ice hockey. In fact, the Canadian Men’s National Field Hockey Team is currently ranked 10th in the world by the International Hockey Federation. It is worthy of note that Australia has only qualified for the Winter Olympic Games only once which was in 1960. Such is the poor state of ice hockey in Australia that the men and women’s team are classified among Division IIA which is also the lowest classification for international hockey teams.
Ice Hockey is a disadvantaged Sport in Australia
Aside from every other reason behind the lack of popularity of ice hockey, there is the imposing fact that Australia does not really have cold-weather comparable to Europe and North America. The implication of this is that even if the enthusiasm is available, the reality just doesn’t support the growth of ice hockey. Hence the low attendance rates recorded are not completely surprising. Perhaps the atmosphere in an ice hockey game doesn’t just have the feel go nature of a typical open-air game.
Attendance at sports venues does not just give players and organizers the motivation to schedule other events; it is also a major revenue earner. The low attendance at Ice hockey events makes the promotion and development of the sport increasingly difficult and unrealistic. This is unlike what occurs in Canada through a well developed and structured Canadian Hockey League making ice hockey a national obsession. The National Hockey League (NHL) which is the professional hockey competition in North America features 24 teams from the USA and 7 of Canada’s best teams.
An implication of this is that winnings from hockey competitions in the country will pale in comparison with other sports. Interested players may even have to pay from their pockets to participate. Facilities are also increasingly hard to come by as the lack of sponsorship and ice rink makes it more difficult to practice the sport.
Australians love competition, hence the potential of qualification and good performance in the global competition will help boost the profile of any sport in the country. With just one qualification for the Winter Olympics, there aren’t many perks for the average sports lover to take interest in hockey. Furthermore, the sport is eerily similar to soccer albeit with a much smaller ball.
TV coverage is another seemingly important variable in the lower acceptance rate for hockey in Australia. Even for field hockey the TV coverage available is low as most of the hockey games can only be streamed online. Meanwhile, rugby enjoys a robust telecast on TV complete with a weekly panel show to discuss issues relating to the league. The media coverage is not just the same. To an extent, this is most understandable as many resources would be committed to covering hockey which has a near 50/50 participation ratio among the two genders.
While there is a great prospect for hockey to rise in profile, there isn’t much to indicate it would surpass Rugby and Cricket which has produced some of the top sporting moments of Australian sports. As it stands, hockey is not the typical go-to game for an average Australian and any Aussie willing to make a name for himself in the sport may have to seek greener pastures abroad. The sport has never been very widely popular so it is ineffective to hope for a rejuvenation of the sport.