Emerging from the shadows of COVID was the Pacific Hockey League (PHL), a brand-new league looking to become a major player in Australian ice hockey.
Consisting of four teams initially but looking to expand into new markets including New Zealand from 2023, the sky is literally the limit for the PHL.
Giving more options to players to play high level league ice hockey, the PHL has in fact seen strong support and growth in its first season.
“Like all start-ups, there have been and will continue to be challenges to ensure we produce a product we are happy with,” PHL Director and Secretary Ross Fisher told The Inner Sanctum.
“We are extremely pleased with the actual hockey and the balance of each team.”
As with any first-year business, getting a foot hold in the local ice hockey market was a challenge.
Notably for the PHL a strong focus on social media and branding was a big part of their plans when launching the league.
“We have some amazing people involved in our social media and branding,” Fisher continued.
“Eric Balnar, Ryan Rintala, Alexandra Davis, John Hatfield and more do a sensational job.
“That is not just to promote Pacific Hockey League, but ice hockey as a sport, to help grow the game from a spectator and player perspective.”
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Fan engagement and a strong meaningful brand attracts people to buy into a new product.
For a new ice hockey league in Australia, becoming something that supporters can relate to was important.
The PHL prides itself on a great spectacle and good clean ice hockey.
“PHL is tough, clean hockey. Players love to get in the corners and genuinely battle for the puck,” Fisher said.
“The fans love the skill and physicality of the PHL game.”
Furthermore, the PHL has been able to get Australian ice hockey league stars to suit up for the inaugural season.
Equally important for the PHL was the high-level ice hockey talent moving across to the new league.
“It was definitely great to get support from top end talent players who appreciated the vision and purpose of the PHL,” Fisher continued.
“Players are a major stakeholder in our sport and part of our decision-making processes through the players association.
“They haven’t had that opportunity before, so it is important they feel heard and appreciated.”
The PHL is very mindful of expansion and longer seasons.
Although it is part of the strategic plan, while not wanting to dilute the quality on the ice is equally important.
The 2023 PHL season will have a bigger focus on imports coming into the league, coupled with the local stars improving the product even more.
“Expansion is part of the league strategy. We are very mindful to ensure quality of teams stays very high,” Fisher said.
“Imports will be more centre stage going forward.
“This will increase the standard even more and provide great opportunity for our younger players to improve.
“One of the popular facets of this season, for the players, is the shorter number of total weekends they play, plus they have two hockey free weekends to recharge.
“Giving players a break will be ongoing as we expand team numbers. This may be through a bye weekend for the team, if we have an odd number of teams.”
There is optimism and excitement surrounding the PHL especially after a successful first season.
From the PHL and its clubs, the message is particularly clear. Get down to a local rink and check out the new kids on the block. You won’t be disappointed.
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