As they prepare for their first home game of the AIHL season, there is a sense of anticipation and expectation within the Canberra Brave team management and playing group.
The expectation has always been there as it is for any sporting team at the start of each season, but this time the circumstances have changed after the Brave won their first national league title.
Club director Warren Apps sums it up best, ”It is an entirely different level of expectation after so many years as the underdog”.
The profile of the team has never been higher on the back of the championship victory, coupled with the award of the ACT Team of the Year at the Sports Awards. The result has seen an increase in sponsorship required to fund the team to the tune of close to $500,000 for the 28-game national league season.
There has also been a change in the administrative structure of the Brave with the Canberra Cavalry baseball franchise effectively taking over a large proportion of the management duties. Yet the management change is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to off-season activity.
The Brave recruiting team spoke to 500 players before deciding on the roster for the four imports. A vast majority of recruiting comes from word of mouth, as past and present players tell former teammates and friends about the opportunities with the Brave.
An example of this style of recruiting is Canadain import Adam Kambeitz. Coach Rob Starke tried to recruit Canadian defenceman Max Ross to play for the side, but his career ended prematurely due to an injury opening a door for Ross to join the Braves coaching staff.
Ross contacted one of his former teammates Adam Kambeitz who signed with the club instead.
Warren believes the result is the signing of the highest calibre of imports the club has ever recruited. Heading the list is Canadian goaltender Matt Climie, who played in the NHL with the Dallas Stars and the Phoenix Coyotes.
With the majority of local players returning, there is a sense of stability, despite the arrival of the four new imports.
Also a given is the support for the team in Canberra with all 14 home games at Phillip likely to be a sell-out. The success of the team and in turn, the support it generates, will again heighten the importance of a potential new ice sport facility in Canberra. That process, though, continues to bubble away in the background.
In the meantime, the focus for the Brave is on retaining their national title. The support they receive in Canberra plays a vital role in achieving this.
AIHL Game Four
CBR Brave vs Sydney Bears
Phillip Ice Skating Centre
5:30 pm Saturday 4 May
Buy tickets here.