In the 2023 Australian Ice Hockey League’s (AIHL) opening weekend, 18-year-old Henry York scored his first-ever goal for the CBR Brave against the Central Coast Rhinos in his AIHL debut. The goal was a testament to the perseverance and determination of the young forward.

York is part of a hockey family; his sister, Lucy York, played for the AWIHL championship-winning Sydney Sirens this past season and won gold at the IIHF Division IIA Women’s World Championships in Dumfries, Great Britain, earlier this year. His older brother, Charlie, is also part of the Brave squad.

Asked how he felt about playing with his brother on the Brave, Henry responded, “It’s a lot of fun, and that’s stuff you dream about growing up, playing in a team like this with your brother. Sometimes I even get to play on a line with him which is great! We have immediate chemistry and complement each other’s game really well. I also know he always has my back, so a little bit of extra protection out there!”

York’s introduction to ice hockey

The family was introduced to hockey by one of their neighbours, Matt Taylor. Taylor played for the Canberra Knights and Newcastle Northstars in the AIHL and coached the ACT representative teams for the Ginsberg (U13), De Fris (U15), and Tange (U18) tournaments.

Henry became friends with Matt’s son Marlon, a few years older than Henry, and they started rollerblading together. Henry was hooked when he watched a Senior B ice hockey game. “I ended up going to a ‘Come and Try’ day and fell in love straight away pretty much”, York said.

Born and raised in Canberra, York went to watch the CBR Brave several times growing up. The 2018 championship season was a highlight for him as a team fan.

“I think we were watching that [the 2018 AIHL Final] on the bench of one of our peewee games. We had it on the phone, which was pretty cool. I remember that.”

Injury ‘a blessing in disguise’

Last year, York, then 17 years old, made the Brave squad. However, an MCL injury derailed his season before he could debut. Although he recovered before the season finished, he could not crack the championship-winning line-up.

“It was almost a blessing in disguise, honestly. I don’t think I was ready to play, so it was good to keep training and keep hungry for it.”

York got some opportunities in the exhibition games earlier this year and was rewarded for his hard work with his debut in the Brave’s season opener against the Central Coast Rhinos at Erina Ice Arena.

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He is wearing the number 91 jersey rather than his preferred number 9 jersey, not wishing to take the number out of respect for the recently departed Wehebe Darge. York played an effective two-way game, culminating in his goal midway through the third period.

York described how scoring his first AIHL goal in his first AIHL game felt. “It was pretty exciting. Great pass from Lachy [Lachlan] Fahmy, one of the new D boys coming in, and just got a shot off. I didn’t even see it, I just let it go and got pretty lucky that it went in.”

The goal is well worth watching. The Rhinos turned the puck over to Fahmy at the blue line. York, who had been looking to backcheck and exit the zone, circled to provide Fahmy with an option, received the pass in the right faceoff circle, used the defenseman as a screen and opened his body to shoot past a frozen Rhinos goaltender into the top-right corner of the net.

When asked to provide his scouting report for the type of player he is, York said that he plays a responsible, gritty, two-way game and tries to make plays for his teammates to get them on the scoresheet.

Looking Forward

York’s goals for this season are to make as much of an impact as possible, work hard in training, and try to make the team sheet each week. “Wins are obviously the main reason we play,” he said, “hopefully get another cup; that would be nice, so just work towards that.”

York praised the atmosphere and culture of the team, both on-ice and off-ice personnel and was incredibly grateful for the encouragement of last year’s assistant coach, Andrew Brunt. “Last year, he really helped me get through those training sessions and helped me to keep going even though I wasn’t playing.”

The Brave Cave often gets harsh criticism from opposing players. However, the atmosphere is unique, and York looks forward to playing in front of the home fans throughout the season.

“I’m pumped. There’s nothing else in the league quite like the atmosphere in there. We know everyone hates playing there, but we absolutely love playing there. Small ice, a small rink, it’s always loud, it’s tough to play in there, really tough for away teams. You have to adjust to that small ice, you have to make plays that much quicker and get rid of the puck quicker, get hit, and obviously, the fans are pretty ruthless down there; they love it.”

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