Ice Hockey Draws Record Crowds

Ice Hockey Draws Record Crowds

Also, a record number of people named Dave in attendance

Ice hockey’s popularity in Dunedin is only growing. The Dunedin Ice Stadium was chock full on Saturday 31 July for the last home game of the year. Over 700 people donned their warmest layers to watch the Phoenix Thunder (Dunedin) play the Skycity Stampede (Queenstown), a record for a regular season game at the Dunedin venue. 

The sport’s popularity has grown rapidly, with many fans excited to watch something other than rugby. Critic attended the game and interviewed some first-timers. Dave told us that his first ice hockey game was “absolutely fucking mental”. Sarah said to Critic “I have no idea what’s going on but I love it. I didn’t know that a human being could move that quickly.” 

Grad student Millie, who self-described as “not a sports kinda gal” said that she just came because someone bought her a ticket. “But this is great. It’s way more exciting than the rugby, so much faster. It’s kinda scary, actually.” She was stoked to hear that while the men’s season is ending, the Women’s Thunder season is about to gear up. She asked Critic “are they as scary as these guys are?”

Many of the team’s members are Otago students, whom you may identify in class by their lack of teeth, length of hair, or otherwise purely by odour. The team’s General Manager, Rick Audas, said that next year the team would like to reach out to more of the student body and introduce them to the sport. 

Ticket sales suggest that more and more people are getting into ice hockey. Rick told Critic that he believed attendance was up about 20% this year, and that responses have been “uniformly positive”. He cited the “physicality” of the game as an interest to Kiwis, a sentiment that everyone we interviewed seem to echo. 

A different Dave, not the one who was quoted earlier, told Critic that “it’s all of the heavy-hitting of the best rugby games, but it’s twice the speed, and they have knives on their feet.” Ice hockey seems to be a hub for Daves in Dunedin. We spoke to four of them for this article. This set a new Critic Te Arohi record for “most Daves interviewed for one piece”, and there were likely more who went undiscovered.

Also of interest to the first-timers was the new intermission entertainment. Students Kaeli and Alex were slingshotted across the rink on a sled, in a sort of human-bowling game. Others donned Zorb balls and tried to barrel each other over on the ice. Rick cited the lowered ticket prices, new intermission fun, and new sponsorship deals as responsible for the record-setting year. The stadium has packed more people in for international tournaments, but rink duty manager Eva said that that wasn’t a fair comparison, and that this past Saturday was “the biggest day of the year.”

Saturday’s game was an 9–2 loss to Queenstown’s team, which didn’t surprise a veteran fan, who was also — unsurprisingly —named Dave. He told Critic that “Queenstown always wins, but surely more Dunedin fans will change that.”

This article first appeared in Issue 18, 2021.
Posted 1:36am Monday 9th August 2021 by Fox Meyer.