By Richard Graham

Two years ago, you could be forgiven for being oblivious to the fact that Canberra had an ice hockey team. However, in early 2014 when the Canberra Knights folded and were told ice hockey would cease to exist in Canberra, the brutal sport shot into prominence.

The leadership of some of the teams top players prompted a bold move by a team of local investors and an ‘in ya face’ marketing campaign saw the team rebranded as the CBR Brave. A sense of professionalism entered the league. In a matter of weeks their website, jersey design and marketing approach was slick, innovative and could be mistaken for something in much higher leagues. This team had a presence.

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Passionate CBR Brave fans: Photography by Paul Furness

At this point I should say, I have a close connection to the Brave. I have been involved in the creation of some of their promotional videos, so I have seen my colleagues working their fingers to the bone to give the CBR Brave an edge in the league. But, there is something much deeper than this that has seen the team propel from a low finishing squad in 2013, to semi finalists in 2014, and now a hot tip to take out the league. I believe its fans have a lot to do with that.

As a sports fanatic, I have been a spectator of almost every sporting team that there is in Canberra, and the atmosphere when you enter the Phillip Ice Skating Rink on a Saturday night is second to none. As the flat black puck flies through the air, a capacity crowd line the rink screaming encouragement whilst heckling the opposition.

Their fans have always been loyal, so much so that areas in the stands have become reserved for groups of fans, not signified by a reserved sign, but a deep respect by fellow ice hockey goers that this is their territory. ‘Hecklers Corner’ and ‘The Bravehearts’ paint their faces and slide on their colours to make it clear that they are here to energetically push their team through.

Braveheart supporter: Photography by Paul Furness

Braveheart supporter: Photography by Paul Furness

I have spent some time filming in both of these sections of the stands and I have to admit I was a little nervous attempting to enter their circle. But I was met by a passionate, energetic and happy bunch of people just looking to share their enthusiasm for a sport they love.

There is a tight-knit community in ACT Ice Hockey. This is something absent from any other sport I’ve observed here. Since the birth of Ice Hockey  in Canberra, it’s fan base has grown, relationships have developed and legacies have continued. When the Knights folded, the fans and players’ underdog spirit was their biggest asset and a new breed of fan was born in Canberra.

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