After winning their second Australian Ice Hockey League title last season, the CBR Brave is the team to beat as the competition heats up.
Established in 2014, CBR Brave has quickly become one of the most successful franchises in the competition and heads into the 2023 season with Caribou Kingston as the naming rights sponsor. It’s the single largest sponsorship in the team’s history, and CBR Brave owner Stephen Campbell welcomed the deal.
“This is an important sponsorship that goes beyond a financial contribution to the team,” he said.
“This is about establishing a partnership with a natural connection to promote the exciting sport of ice hockey and a piece of Canadian culture. Caribou is the perfect fit for our team. The owner, Leeroy [Peterson], loves his hockey and is a great person to have around the team.”
The Brave’s success in 2022 ensures that they have become the team every other outfit in the competition will use as the benchmark in 2023.
It also ensures the opposition brings their best when battling the Brave.
For the Brave, it also presents an added challenge to what is already shaping as a much tougher season.
Last year there were six teams. In 2018, when the Brave won the title for the first time, there were eight teams. Now, in 2023, the competition has expanded to 10.
The Perth Thunder and the Adelaide Adrenaline return. The Central Coast Rhinos are back after 11 years away, while the Brisbane Lightning is the new team in the league.
With 10 teams in the AIHL, conferences organise the season. The CBR Brave is in the same group as Newcastle, Brisbane, Central Coast and Adelaide.
The Brave will play these teams four times this season while playing sides in the other group twice in 2023.
The CBR Brave has already played one game this season. They came away with a 5-3 victory over the Central Coast.
They did it without a number of key players.
The team includes four imports who have signed but are currently overseas playing in finals.
Meanwhile, Bayley, Casey and Tyler Kubara and Andy Camenzind are with the Australian team playing in the Division 2 Group A World Championships in Spain and won’t return until next weekend when the Brave travels to Melbourne.
This means that this weekend when they face the Sydney Ice Dogs at Phillip on Saturday night for their first home game and on Sunday against the Bears in Sydney, the Brave will again be reliant on a core group of local players who proved to be highly effective in the opening round victory at Erina.
Stu Philps, who successfully guided the Brave to the championship last season, returns with Jeff Helbren appointed as his assistant coach.
An exciting addition to the Brave line-up in 2023 is forward Kale Costa, who has played over 200 games in the juniors in the strong Czech League and has experience in the AIHL.
With the bulk of the team returning to defend the title, it ensures the Brave will hit the ice with momentum this season, buoyed by a significant increase in their supporter base following the success of 2022.
The expectations will be higher than ever, so will the intensity.