In case you didn't hear, Chowder is doing something a little different this summer.
We're going Down Under to cover the Australian Ice Hockey League and becoming the Goodall Cup of Chowder during the NHL offseason.
At the beginning of this week, we sent a challenge out to the AIHL and its fans:
We expected a few Aussies to retweet it, a few suggestions, and maybe one or two fans from each team to put their case. What we got was...er...a little more. First, we had the Melbourne Mustangs' strong pun-game:
Pun game...strong. The Mustangs are killing it here. Come on, rest of AIHL...you're falling behind...:) https://t.co/XoGVRczoO6— StanleyCup ofChowder (@cupofchowdah) April 4, 2016
Then, we had the league itself issue a rallying call across all eight teams and their fanbases:
And then...then things got REALLY crazy. At some point this week, every AIHL team has Tweeted us to put their case, from Melbourne to Perth, Sydney to Newcastle. Fans from all over Australia (and those outside it who follow the league) have argued their team should be ours. We've had team coaches contact our FB and Twitter pages to rally their teams, arguments BETWEEN teams. We've had offers of hospitality, tales of teams without rinks (Adelaide), tales of teams brought back from the brink (Canberra)... Oh yeah-and we had a moose offer to let us drive his zamboni while he skied behind it:
And, we had the current Goodall Cup Champions ORGANIZE A POSTER CAMPAIGN FOR US. No, really.
The AIHL, in short, is awesome. And we are finding it really, REALLY hard to pick just one team.
So, again...we're asking for some help. But first...a bit of info (note-these are just pen-pics. The real in-depth stuff will come, but we're just giving you an idea of the runners and riders, here.)
Based in Adelaide, South Australia, the Adrenaline were formed in 2008 to replace the former Adelaide team, the Avalanche. They have faced uncertainty this year as their ice arena has been under extensive repair since February - but they will play, albeit with a pushed back season. They've proudly pitched themselves to us as the underdogs, and are a team who've had some NHL names play for them in the past - including ex Pittsburgh Penguin enforcer Steve McKenna in their former guise as the Avalanche.
Also - picking them means we get to use this radio-rock classic every chance we get:
The Brave have a bear as a mascot (Grizzly)....and look at that logo. IT'S A B. IT'S ACTUAL FATE.
Plus, the Brave's story itself is something pretty amazing. They used to be the Canberra Knights and were one of the teams that founded the AIHL - but then threatened to fold as they pulled out of the rink, which would have led to the franchise licence being withdrawn and operations ceasing in Australia's capital.
So the new owners came in and built a franchise in seven days. If it was a movie, you wouldn't believe it. But it's true.
That's something pretty special, isn't it? But is it a story that merits being Chowder's choice? It's pretty damn convincing, put it that way. The Brave are a tale that deserves telling to a wider audience. And backing.
NEWCASTLE NORTH STARS
The current Goodall Cup Champions, the North Stars are another team that pride themselves on, as their own Twitter feed tells us "doing a little with a lot". They've been one of the most active teams in selling themselves to us, with a fan base that's stood out among the passionate AIHL fans who've contacted us (although, to be honest, it almost feels wrong calling one AIHL fanbase more passionate than any other because they all WANT to see the league succeed so badly.)
But, saying that, the North Stars have gone above and beyond. Like...getting-their-fans-to-organise-a-poster-campaign-via-their-website above and beyond.
This....that's special. That's the kind of thing that makes you sit up and take some serious notice.
There are two teams in Melbourne. We are placing the Ice before the Mustangs only by virtue of where they are in the alphabet. The Ice have traditionally been the more successful, and their fans like to tell everyone (but especially Mustangs fans) that "there's only one team in Melbourne!" There isn't, and the Melbourne Derby is one of Aussie hockey's equivalents of B's-Habs.
Plus...another selling point that Ice fans like to use with us are their jerseys. And you have to admit, you can see why. Look at these. They are SHARP:
If you're into jersey porn, it would appear the Ice have you covered, put it that way. But, there is another team in Melbourne, too:
The other team in Melbourne - the 'Stangs, as you saw earlier in this post, were the first AIHL team to get into contact with us. Their pun game is strong. They have a ready-made vicious rivalry (Boston knows about vicious rivalries). They play in colours closer to the Bruins (sure, the Ice jerseys might be stunning, but they're in red, white, and blue, colours that traditionally Bostonians don't exactly take kindly to on an ice rink). They were the 2014 Goodall Cup Champions, too, so there's recent winning pedigree here. They're joyfully the "underdogs" in Melbourne...the Ice are the established team, the Mustangs the upstarts.
And, of course, they have Patrick O'Kane, who has been described by 'Stangs watchers as basically Patrice Bergeron, only the AIHL version (he's American, but has spent his entire pro career aside from ten games in Australia, prolifically). Which is a pretty strong selling point. As is the fact that Boston and Melbourne are SISTER CITIES. That has to count for something - hands across the planet and all that.
The Thunder play in Perth, Western Australia, which...isn't very close to anywhere. It's in fact one of the most isolated cities in the world, as well as one of the most liveable. Only Honolulu is a more isolated city.
Their local rivals in the AIHL are Adelaide, a mere 1,307 miles away. The Thunder arena is closer to Jakarta, Indonesia (1800 miles) than it is to Sydney (2,000 miles).
When this team goes on a road trip, it REALLY goes on a road trip. #ROADWARRIORS isn't a hashtag here, it's a way of life and a badge of pride.
They're also a team who've never won the Goodall Cup, after being founded in 2010. So, following a team who've never won a Cup would give us an insight into what it's like to be a fan of teams like Vancouver.
Or, since we're all younger than 40, Leafs fans, too.
(Admit it, though. Imagine being in as fans when a team beats their trophy duck. That's got to be appealing)
The link here is obvious, frankly. The Bears are also one of the "original" AIHL franchises, being one of the three remaining franchises still active from the founding of the AIHL in 2000 and the only one to retain their original identity (the other two are Adelaide and Canberra, who have had name changes since then as discussed above). They haven't won the Goodall Cup since 2007, and last year they finished 7th of 8 teams. This year they're aiming to be on the way back...and they've argued that we can adopt a Sydney AND a Melbourne team to have both of the big cross-city rivalries in the AIHL covered. That could be an option that factors into the decision, certainly. We shall see.
SYDNEY ICE DOGS
The last team listed are also the team with, perhaps, the trickiest road. The Sydney Ice Dogs had a nightmare of a season last year, scoring only 39 goals and conceding 209. They lost 27 of their 28 games (the other one was an OT win and even that didn't see points awarded).
This year, they're in full rebuild mode, coming back with a younger, newer team and hoping to erase the memories of last year's awful season. They are, essentially, the AIHL's Toronto - a fact they've not been shy to mention to Pension Plan Puppets - who are also looking for a team to follow.
THE POLL PITCH
So-there are the choices. And, frankly, this is HARD.
We need a fan vote here. It's all very well seeing the AIHL Twitter army blow up and do their level best to support us/attract us...but we're after solid numbers.
Here's your chance, AIHL fans (and indeed those outside who have an opinion). You've backed your team through selling it on Twitter, mascot tweets, posters and pride and...you know what? You're ALL awesome. You have sold the AIHL to us as a truly passionate league full of pride, joy in hockey and optimism. We NEVER expected the welcome and joyful embrace that we got from every single one of you and for at least one of us jaded with their domestic league it has restored our faith in hockey.
Rest assured, here. All the teams will get mentioned by us this season as much as we possibly can. We might pick a team to back, but you are ALL welcome on Goodall Cup Of Chowder this summer.
But we still need to pick a team to cheer for just a little louder than all the others. And right now, we just don't know which one.
So that's what the poll's for. Another chance to show your support - and chance for those outside the AIHL to pick an allegiance.
You've already done and incredible job, AIHL. Now raise your clicking fingers, Chowder fans and AIHL alike.
It just might push your team over the line.