Canberra Brave coach Rob Starke is a lawyer by day and a damn good ice hockey coach in his spare time!
Starke was the guiding, stabilising force behind the Brave’s incredible success this season; the side claiming the Australian Ice Hockey League’s Goodall Cup for the first time and winning 24 games out of 28 in the regular season.
Prior to becoming coach of the Brave two years ago, Starke was a star player with Newcastle, winning four titles as a player, after moving to Australia 14 years ago as an import.
It is also worth noting that he doesn’t get paid to coach the Brave in the AHL.
I highlight Rob Starke’s contribution because it is one of many memorable back-stories involving the Canberra team.
None of the players are paid. The five imports that played this season, receive housing and living expenses and front up to every game and every training run for the sheer pleasure of playing ice hockey in a different part of the world.
The average expense of running the team in the national league is between $300,000 – $400,000 with the funding secured through sponsorships, the ACT Government’s national league program, and ticketing.
This year, despite winning the title and playing in front of sell-out crowds at Philip at every home game, the Brave made a loss financially.
The Brave is one of four privately owned teams in the eight-sided competition. The directors effectively bankroll any shortfall in funds.
Advertising guru Warren Apps is one of the co-directors. He says the aim is to make the Brave genuinely sustainable, learning from the lessons of the past when the Canberra Knights folded.
But it’s not easy keeping costs down when a fair portion is taken with the expense of travel. For instance, it cost 20,000 dollars to take the Canberra team to Perth for the double-header clash. There is also the cost of hiring the venue at Philip, not just for games but also for training.
So as we celebrate the success of the Canberra Brave in winning the AHL title for the first time, it is also worth acknowledging the team behind the team and the volunteer effort that has put the side on the rink each weekend.
Without this backroom team, there would be no Canberra Brave to celebrate.