Sport columnist SIMON ANDERSON talks to departing ice-hockey star Matt Harvey about his life in Canberra and what awaits him in Canada.
WHEN the Canberra Knights folded in 2014, it could have been the end of ice hockey in the ACT.
The club’s owner cited financial pressures and a lack of local players when the decision was made to call it quits after 33 years.
Few could have predicted what would come next: Out of the ashes of the Knights, the CBR Brave was born.
In the seven years since its inception, the Brave has become an Australian Ice Hockey League powerhouse, with a Goodall Cup victory in 2018 the highlight of the club’s short but impressive history.
Canadian defence player Matt Harvey has been a part of the Brave since day one. He captained the team during the 2018 title run and has seen the sport grow during his time in Canberra.
“The level of competition has increased dramatically and that has been something that has been really nice to see,” Harvey told “CityNews”.
“We were a middle-of-the-range team when we first started, getting our bearings, which wasn’t a massive improvement from where the Knights left off.
“We then kept climbing the ranks each year, getting better and adding to the whole organisation, bringing in highlight players while also improving our local talent.
“It has been an absolute pleasure to see that all happen and be a part of it.”
It was this growth and development on and off the ice that enticed Harvey to stay on beyond his first season in 2014.
“I only thought I would be here for one or two years, but once I found the family base in the team and experienced the support of the people of Canberra I decided to stay.
“One thing led to the next and I kept coming back while going home between seasons.
“I’ve really appreciated that opportunity to come here and play at a high level where you have fans in the stands who make everything awesome and a great community around the team.”
Ice hockey is one of the more niche codes in a burgeoning sporting landscape, and while it may not have the large following of some of its rival codes, the passion of the fans is unmatched.
Nowhere is this more evident than the club’s home, the Phillip Ice Skating Centre, or as it is known to the club’s loyal fans: the Brave Cave.
“The experience with the fans is something I had never experienced before coming to Canberra,” said Harvey.
“Having that proximity to people on the other side of the chicken wire, they’re breathing down your neck, you can hear everything and it just intensifies the atmosphere.
“It took a while to adapt and get used to it because there is no separation and you are all in this giant bubble in the Brave Cave.”
A recent exhibition game at the venue served not only as the 40th anniversary of the Knights’ inception, but also as a farewell for Harvey, who has decided to return to Canada.
“It has been a while since I have been back home,” said Harvey.
“Now I have a two-and-a-half-year-old son and I would really like to give him an opportunity to spend time with my family and learn to play hockey there, and I would like to finish up my psychology registration.
“I also have a spot on a ‘beer league’ team with guys I grew up playing hockey with so I’m looking forward to linking up with those guys.”
After spending the better part of a decade playing in Australia and seeing the sport improve both on and off the ice, Harvey is hopeful ice hockey can continue growing in Canberra and across the country.
“It has been disrupted the last two years because of covid, which is unfortunate, but once that goes away there is no reason we can’t continue to grow the game and expand it,” said Harvey, with the belief there is untapped potential for the sport in Australia.
“Potentially an end-of-league tournament with NZ that makes the game more international.
“The other thing is the infrastructure – a new rink for Canberra would be a great way to draw more people to the game.
“The Brave Cave needs some structural improvement and it is on its way out, we all know that.
“Sometimes with new arenas they make it for public skating, and don’t have the capacity for fans and a hockey atmosphere.
“You need to look at how you can recreate the old with the new and have a taste of both because you definitely don’t want to lose that atmosphere and the appeal that it brings.”
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