23 May 2024

Brand new Brave Cave: Canberra's home ice hockey rink has a fresh game face

| Morgan Kenyon
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Bar at the Caribou Canberra Brave games

Caribou Canberra Brave fans are enjoying the reactivation of the team’s historic Phillip stomping grounds. Photo: Paul Furness.

The thrill of an ice hockey game viewed up close and personal is difficult to match.

Thunderous collisions of players into barrier boards are punctuated by fans cheering, drumming and chanting. Every home goal is met with a roar of excitement and palpable energy – and Canberra ice hockey die-hards are well known for their distaste of rival teams.

The Caribou Canberra Brave have called Phillip Ice Skating Centre home since the very beginning. Affectionately dubbed the ‘Brave Cave’ by what managers call the most loyal fans in the country, Phillip’s rink has been around since 1980.

The small ice sheet lends itself to an incredible game experience, heightened further by the simple nets that serve as the only barrier between players and spectators.

READ MORE ‘It’s the fastest paced game you will ever see’: Why ice hockey is the hottest ticket in town this winter

In fact, the only plexiglass in the rink stands around Phillip’s brand-new VIP area – the first in rink history. Fully catered with 40 seated and 40 standing spaces, chief executive Stephen Campbell says it’s all part of introducing a new level to the Brave Cave experience.

“Having a VIP space allows our sponsors to bring their guests and creates that premium experience, which is important for an ageing venue,” he says.

“We’ve made a number of changes throughout the rest of the venue as well, including 60-plus extra seats and new food and drink offerings thanks to Phat Boy Burgers and our major sponsor, Caribou.”

Caribou staff have taken over the upstairs bar to create a mean above-rink watering hole, but it’s no longer the only place for spectators to drink, with alcohol now allowed throughout the venue.

Outdoors, fans can get the party started up to an hour early and mingle, eat and drink in the entry courtyard before the game. Kids’ activities are also on the cards with music, mock hockey games and face painting.

“Our in-game atmosphere has always been electric, with plenty of lights, music and callouts,” Stephen says.

“But our fans are so loyal, with the vast majority showing up to every home game, and we wanted to give them a place to charge up that energy before players hit the ice.”

Stephen’s passion project, currently known as the Canberra Arena, is in its planning phase through developers at Pelligra. Once complete, it will introduce a new home for the Caribou Canberra Brave in Greenway, Tuggeranong.

“We will move into the next phase very soon,” Stephen says.

“This will be the most significant ice sports facility in Australia, but until then, it’s so important that we maintain and upgrade current facilities to meet and generate demand.

“If there’s nowhere suitable to play, there’s nobody watching.”

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The new facility will have two ice sheets, Australia’s first dedicated curling sheet, a rock-climbing centre, a restaurant and a bar. Stephen says the design paves the way for new sports facilities to be built with families in mind.

“Junior development programs feed the next generation of professional sportspeople,” he says.

“The parents supporting them week in, week out deserve somewhere comfortable with proper amenities, food and drink to watch their children practice and play.

“We are emulating this at Phillip with the help of our relationship with Geocon, who came on as a sponsor this year and share our commitment to reactivating the Brave Cave, bringing it back into the spotlight as a premier fan destination.”

The Caribou Canberra Brave have three home weekends in a row coming up, facing off against the Sydney Ice Dogs on 26 May and Sydney Bears on 1 June, followed by a double header weekend against the Melbourne Mustangs on 8 and 9 June. Get your tickets here.


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