Hockey is alive and well in Australia. You read correctly: Australia. In July, Australia played host to the International Ice Hockey tour for the third time to benefit StopConcussions.com. The tour featured five games where the United States and Canada battled in front of sellout crowds in Perth, Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney. This event featured a local connection as Brentwood, Tennessee native and University of Alabama in Huntsville graduate, Sebastian Geoffrion, represented the USA. Last season, Geoffrion spent most of his time with the Arizona Sundogs of the Central Hockey League. During the tour, Geoffrion spent a few weeks in Australia being able to play the game he loves in front of thousands of fans and it’s an experience he’ll never forget.
“It was awesome,” said Geoffrion. “At the end of the day, it was a charity event, but it was still games against a huge rival. I play against a lot of the guys that participated in the tour during the year and there were a couple NHL guys there, so it was fun to play against them. It was a great event put on by StopConcussions.com. Every single place we went to was sold out. We were treated like VIPs while we were there in every city.”
While the hockey was played for the purpose of charity, it was some of the the most intense hockey that Geoffrion has experienced in his career.
“The hockey was really competitive,” said Geoffrion. “I wasn’t expecting it to be that competitive, but when it comes to USA vs Canada, it’s always a big deal. It was honestly some of the most intense hockey that I’ve been a part of. Every single game was close.”
Throughout the five-game tournament, the USA was victorious by winning three games out of the five. Canada won the first two games, but the USA came back in game three to win it in a shootout. Game four was held in Melbourne, where the USA tied the series. For the final game, in front of 22,000 fans in Sydney, Canada tied the game to send it to overtime, but the USA scored early to win the game and the series. Throughout the entire tournament, the crowds were raucous and completely into it.
“Of course, they loved the fights,” said Geoffrion. “They went crazy for that. Whenever a goal was scored and during the play, they had chants going. They knew it was a great game.”
Regarding his fights in the tournament, it’s not something that was necessarily expected. Since Geoffrion was familiar with some of the players, he knew that things could get a bit heated, and they did.
“I fight during the season, but I really wasn’t looking to fight there,” said Geoffrion. “There was a guy there, Kevin Harvey (Rapid City Rush), that plays in the league that I do. We went at it every single game we played each other. I guess I was dumb for thinking it wasn’t going to happen, but there was a scrum after a whistle and all-of-a-sudden I see Harvey coming at me with the gloves off. He struck me about twice before I threw my gloves off. I put on a little celebration for the fans. It was a lot of fun.”
Video of Geoffrion’s fight:
Currently in Australia, they have the Australian Ice Hockey League (AIHL). It’s a semi-professional league that is continuing to grow. Putting on event like the tour continues to increase the exposure for the sport and hopefully for the league. It’s something that Geoffrion knows will happen.
“I couldn’t believe how well they did in marketing it because every place we went to was sold out,” said Geoffrion. “Fans were there an hour and a half before we arrived. It’s amazing to see how hockey has grown so much there.”
In case you didn’t know, since Australia is in the southern hemisphere, it’s currently winter. While it’s not what most in the United States think of when they think about winter, the experience in Australia was unique for Geoffrion.
“We were there during the winter time, but it wasn’t really winter at all,” said Geoffrion. “It was so funny because it’s perfect weather. Not hot or cold. We were walking around in t-shirts and jeans and people were looking at us like we were crazy. We would walk into the stores and ask where our jackets were.”
For hockey fans, it’s always great to see continuing to grow in what used to be consider non-traditional area. Nowadays, hockey is everywhere, and it’s continuing to grow. We’ll have more later this week with Gemma Fagan of the Perth Thunder, so stay tuned.
Video courtesy of Gemma Fagan of Perth Thunder.
Photos courtesy of International Ice Hockey.