13/04/2024

Adelaide Rush and Melbourne Ice in action during a previous AWIHL season. (Photo: AWIHL/Facebook)

The AWIHL is finally back – the highest level of Australian women’s ice hockey with the country’s brightest and most talented stars hitting the ice.

With the Australian Women’s Ice Hockey League returning on November 5 after a long three-year hiatus due to the COVID pandemic, there is plenty of intrigue heading into the new season.

Getting the AWIHL back for a full competitive season is vital for player and sport development in Australia. The success of the U/18 Australian women’s team – winning Bronze in a recent Division II World Championships – the AWIHL returning to help continue this momentum has come at the right time.

During the off season we have seen plenty of changes both on and off the ice. Here are the five things The Inner Sanctum has chosen to watch before the first puck drop.

It’s simple, the AWIHL is back…

Sometimes the most obvious answer is the right one – quite simply, the return of the AWIHL itself. The last season for the AWIHL was the 2019/20 campaign that would see the Sydney Sirens claim the Joan McKowen Memorial Trophy.

The Sirens took all honours that season, finishing top of the standings and taking all before them in the finals. Getting high level women’s ice hockey back is enough to get excited about.

Return of the forgotten states

Along with the return of the AWIHL we will finally see representation from Western Australia when it comes to premier ice hockey leagues in this country.

With COVID restrictions causing havoc for WA based clubs, ruling out the men’s AIHL team until 2023, the Perth Inferno will be representing the state of WA on the big stage.

The Inferno finished in the finals during their last campaign, and will be looking to return there once again and give themselves every chance of claiming their first Joan McKowen Memorial Trophy.

New stream, new dream?

Often spoken about leading up to the start of the upcoming AWIHL season was whether or not the league would be able to secure a streaming service to cover the competition.

After years of having live action broadcasted through Thought Fox Media Group, it was announced the AWIHL would be moving into a new direction.

They have partnered with Cluch TV, which is an on-demand streaming service which is dedicated to providing high quality community sports streaming.

It’s the start of a new era for the AWIHL, and one that looks like a great fit for both parties and what could be a terrific success.

More Ice Hockey News:

Perth Thunder set to return for 2023 AIHL season

Ethan Hawes is a young Aussie with an NHL dream

Tetreault: ‘This is the biggest championship I have ever won’

Goannas become the Lightning

It was announced on October 3 that the Brisbane Lightning and Goannas would be joining forces to compete as the Lightning in the AWIHL.

The Lightning are an expansion team that will be joining the AIHL for season 2023, and are trying to get a footprint in the Brisbane sports market.

On face value it looks to be a smart move for the Goannas, who are now able to tap into the resources the Lightning have and move into the market jointly together as one club.

While the Goannas brand has been in play since 2006 and it will be sad to see it disappear, having one united club across both elite level competitions in Australia is a positive thing.

Future stars back in front of our eyes

One of the most exciting aspects of supporting or covering a sports competition as part of the media is seeing the growth in the young talent coming through the ranks. The AWIHL is no different in this regard, with many young Australians impressing each AWIHL season and at state level.

Danielle Butler is a new addition to the Melbourne Ice roster, and looked a class above during the recent National State Championships. Her skating, puck handling and on ice awareness was a standout as she helped guide Victoria to become champions.

Butler would finish the competition with 21 points (12 goals, 11 assists), and has set herself up for a massive AWIHL season.

The opening game of the AWIHL season kicks off Saturday, November 5 at Macquarie Ice Rink between the Sydney Sirens and Brisbane Lightning.

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