Tommy Powell has been on Melbourne Ice’s roster since 2004 (and started playing ice hockey at age six!)
Twenty-four years later, we don’t see him slowing down. Tommy’s in good company, too. The Ice’s oldest player is 41 years old, “Chris Yule (Batman). He’s still a stud; a legend. He’s played in the 1998 Nagano Olympics.”
Sitting at the top of the Australian Ice Hockey League (AIHL) ladder, it’s no secret Melbourne Ice have many star players. Tommy Powell is a veteran, so we caught up with him for the lowdown on the team and the sport.
How are people finding out about ice hockey in Melbourne and the Melbourne Ice?
A lot of it comes back to people being interested in the NHL or being exposed to hockey on TV and in movies. Especially The Mighty Ducks. That movie still brings people into the sport. A lot of people I talk to, even today, don’t realise there’s hockey in Melbourne. the sport is growing rapidly and we need more rinks.
What’s it like when Melbourne plays Melbourne?
The Mustangs are our biggest rivals. The atmosphere isn’t like other games. The crowd gets loud–really loud. It’s defending! When a team scores, the place erupts. The atmosphere is electric and there’s no holding back. Both teams bring their A game.
You’ve been with the Ice for over a decade. How has the Ice progressed in this time?
Not only have the players progressed, but management and coaching staff, too. Our imports are more and more skilled with each season and we’ve had help from two top Swedish coaches for six weeks. This engages our Aussie players to constantly raise their game. It has been great for the sport and the Australian National Team.
How does the team engage the fans?
Our fans are such a big part of our game days. We really love giving back, so after all home games, we meet with fans immediately afterward to sign autographs, take photos and chat with everyone. Then, we meet across the road at Harbor Town Hotel for a meal and everyone is welcome. This is a great thing with the AIHL and I don’t know of other top sports that do this.
What’s it like to play for Australia?
It’s a big deal to represent country; it’s an honour. You want to do your best get to highest level and winning a gold medal was pretty Awesome – maybe say i am lucky enough to win 4 gold medals while representing Australia. My favourite memory overseas is winning gold medals for my country.
Who has been your favourite international team to play?
You can’t go past the Australia/NZ rivalry. It doesn’t matter who’s winning or losing – it’s a showdown. We exchange a few choice words, but the players are always fun to compete against.
To climb the rankings and reach the highest level – a couple of gold medals is good to have. For the sport, it will be great to have more people watching; more fundraising and sponsors; to have another tournament here at O’Brien Group Arena. Players aren’t paid, so we’re incredibly grateful to all of our sponsors (shout out to Warrior Hockey Australia for all their support.)
Being so young when you turned to ice hockey, do you have a piece of advice for kids interested in taking up the sport?
It’s a highly skilled sport. You’ll be multi-tasking constantly. You don’t only need to know how to skate, but you have to protect yourself and the puck. There’s a lot going on and it’s the fastest sport out there.
Regardless of what sport you enjoy playing, stick with it if – no matter what your friends are doing. The norm in Melbourne is footy or cricket and if you like doing something that’s out of the box, keep at it. I was the only person ever playing ice hockey at my school and I didn’t let that stop me from reaching my goals.
The Ice are on track to take home the Goodall Cup and with the finals coming up in late-August, there’s no better time to get involved in Melbourne’s ice hockey scene.