21 August 2019

What the new merger will mean for the CBR Brave, its fans and the league

| Lachlan Roberts
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The CBR Brave team, led by Jamie Wilson, Peter Chamberlain and Rob Stark. Photos: We Are Found

Last season, the CBR Brave set the standard on the ice, setting a goal-scoring record on their way to claiming their first Goodall Cup with a grand final epic in the Australian Ice Hockey League (AIHL) decider, scoring the winner in overtime.

Now they have set the AIHL standard off the ice, as the club take an important first step to become a professional sporting organisation and the ACT’s first multi-sport franchise.

Canberra Cavalry is set to acquire the CBR Brave in a deal that will set up Canberra’s first multi-sport franchise, with a staged transition throughout the year.

The Brave’s journey back from the dead to the league’s record-making team took just four years after the Canberra Knights owner, John Raut, handed back his AIHL licence and folded the team after 33 years of existence.

Peter Chamberlain, Jamie Wilson, Warren Apps and Mark Rummukainen stepped in to rescue the team on the eve of the 2014 AIHL season together with a group of players.

Since then, the Brave have gone on to become a powerhouse in the league, selling out home games and featuring in the finals for the past five years.

Chairman Peter Chamberlain said he is looking forward to spending more time with his family.

CBR Brave chairman Peter Chamberlain said he had chills thinking about what the deal with the Cavalry meant for the sport in the nation’s capital.

“I had goosebumps walking into the press conference [on Thursday morning],” Chamberlain said. “This is a huge achievement for sport in Canberra. I would never imagine this would happen to be honest.

“Speaking with Jamie, Warren and Mark just before the press conference, it felt like watching your child go off to school for the first time or go off to their first school camp, but it is all to the benefit of the sport.

“When we first sat around a kitchen table in 2014, the first goal was to get a licence and then it was to get a team, then to be successful. To now get to a point where we are really moving into a professional sporting organisation, it’s mindblowing.”

For the first time in the CBR Brave’s history, there will be full-time and paid CEO, general manager and customer services manager. No other team in the league currently pays its staff and the AIHL itself does not have full-time staff.

It will be no surprise if other teams around the league will look to the Brave to duplicate their progress of having full-time resources and a professional sports management structure to support the team.

CBR Brave coach Rob Stark helped the side to their first Goodall Cup last season.

Chamberlain also wanted to reassure Brave fans that the team was not sold to the Cavalry, promising their dedicated fan base that their game day experience is only set to get bigger and better.

“Week one there will not be a huge difference,” he said. “Through the partnership, we have managed to sign some new sponsors which will bring some exciting new initiatives for game day.

“We will start to work with their game day crew and look at how we improve what we are doing already. Fans should expect beefed-up entertainment.

“We are going to do some cross-promotional memberships for fan bases and cross-promotional merchandise, which is a win-win.”

And who knows, maybe this will help speed the ACT Government’s promise of a new ice rink.

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