13 July 2023

Passionate crowds and rough skating: Caribou CBR Brave imports share their tales playing in the AIHL

| James Day
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Two hockey players on the ice.

As a forward for the Caribou CBR Brave, Felix Plouffe has so far scored 11 goals and 23 assists. Photos: David Tate.

There’s no mistake as to why the Caribou CBR Brave are dominating the Australian Ice Hockey League (AIHL) this year. On top of a fine crop of local talent, they have managed to lure some of the best players in the world from overseas.

Two of these athletes come from the place many consider to be the capital of the sport, Canada. While Australia and Canada may share some similarities in history, government and lifestyle, according to these imports, the two countries are quite different on the rink.

“The crowds are very loud and excited here in Canberra, but what I found difficult adjusting to was the use of nets instead of glass for a boundary,” says Felix Plouffe, a six-foot-two Quebecois (French-Canadian) forward.

“I don’t know why they do this, but some people get their sticks or themselves stuck in the nets, and unlike other leagues the play continues on.”

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Where Felix comes from, ice hockey is almost a religion. His dad used to be in the sport and put his son on skates at the age of three. Throughout his youth, he loved playing the game with friends, and when he found out you could make a job of it, he was all in.

From there he played all across North America, including a stint for the Patriots at the University of Quebec-Trois-Rivières, one of Canada’s most successful and respected university sporting programs.

For the last five seasons, Felix has been in France, where he met fellow Caribou CBR Brave import Cameron Marks playing for the city of Nantes.

Mario Valery-Trabucco, his former teammate at Amiens when they became the 2018-19 French Cup Champions, told Felix about his great experience with the Caribou CBR Brave and said they’re looking for players.

Mario was last season’s Caribou CBR Brave MVP and Goodall Cup Champion, so it wasn’t too hard for him to muster the passion he needed in convincing Felix and Cameron to jump across the equator to join us here.

“Growing up in Canada we always heard about the beautiful beaches of Australia, and of course its kangaroos, which I very much wanted to witness for myself,” Felix said.

“Ever since playing here I have loved it, and would like to stay so I can make the most of it.”

A hockey player and referee on the ice.

At the University of New Hampshire, Cameron Marks led his team in Blocked Shots twice.

Cameron is a six-foot-tall defenceman hailing from North Vancouver, British Columbia. While he may not have two inches on his French-Canadian teammate, Cameron did start on skates a year earlier than him at just two years old.

“It’s been in my life before I could remember anything, so it’s kind of hard to imagine my life without hockey.”

In his junior years, he played alongside current NHL players Alexander Kerfoot and Mathew Barzal, before a 150-game career at the University of New Hampshire.

After this, he began his professional career in France with Neuilly-sur-Marne, before joining Felix at Nantes for the 2021-22 season, when he served as alternate captain.

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When Cameron heard from Felix that the Caribou CBR Brave was looking for players, he didn’t take it seriously at first. But before he knew it, the contract was signed and he’d moved half way around the world.

Cameron says he was surprised by the talent of the Australian league, and especially the passion of the fans in Canberra.

“North American crowds aren’t as rowdy, they watch the game, drink their beer, and relax. Here the fans really get into it,” he said.

“They have the chants and drums going, and they don’t stop shouting throughout the game.”

Although Cameron found the adjustment to Australian life easy due to his friendly reception, he says the style of play here was a little difficult to adjust to.

“I’m used to French hockey, which has a bigger rink, and is more focused on skating, unlike here where it can get very physical.

“A couple of teams like Newcastle take every chance they can get to push you off your game.”

Despite this, Cameron says it’s all worth it when he sees the Caribou CBR Brave fans line up around the rink before the game, and go “absolutely mental” every time they score.

The Caribou CBR Brave’s next home game is against Perth Thunder at 5:15 pm on Saturday 15 July. Find out more about the Caribou CBR Brave and upcoming games on their website.

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All four imports this year are extremely talented but Felix Plouffe stands out in that with us standing down near the goals we get to see his excellent skills and determination close up. So close in fact that when Felix was having a shot at goal in a recent game and hit the ice behind the puck causing the blade to skip over the puck we christened the shot a ‘ Plouffe’…..the sound the stick made as it skidded off the ice. He will always be remembered for having created his own shot! Canberrans should take the opportunity as the season comes to a close to come to Philip Ice Centre (the Brave Cave) and get a taste of the speed, skill and impacts, the action and atmosphere that makes Ice Hockey unique among team sports.

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