WHO is the fastest skater in the Australian Ice Hockey League?
Which forward possesses the hardest shot and the greatest accuracy?
Those questions will be answered next month when the Hunter Ice Skating Stadium hosts the inaugural AIHL All-Stars weekend.
The initiative has been launched to roadshow the top talent in the league and expand the under-rated competition’s audience.
The National Hockey League in North America first launched its own all-star game in 1947 and it has since become a popular part of the calendar.
‘‘This event will give fans a chance to get up close with the best skaters and players in Australian ice hockey.’’ – AIHL commissionerROBERT BANNERMAN
The AIHL weekend begins on September 12 with six skills-based competitions – breakaway challenge, fastest skater, elimination shoot-out, hardest shot, shooting accuracy and puck control.
The all-star game will be held the following day.
Newcastle North Stars forward Brian Bales will captain one team and Sydney Bears favourite Michael Schlamp leads the other side. Bales’ side will be coached by North Stars mentor Andrew Petrie and features teammates Josh Broekman, John Kennedy and Matt Lindsay.
North Stars Dayne Davis, Robert Malloy and Matt Wetini have been selected for Schlamp’s team.
‘‘We’re aiming to not just showcase the talent of the players, but also a bit about their personalities,’’ AIHL commissioner Robert Bannerman said.
‘‘This event will give fans a chance to get up close with the best skaters and players in Australian ice hockey.’’
The weekend will also include autograph and photograph opportunities for fans.
Most of the AIHL’s import players will have returned home after the season concludes on August 30 and will be unavailable for the All-Stars weekend.
The plan next year is to host the weekend mid-season to allow imports to compete.
Bannerman predicted the skills challenges will become hotly contested by various players in the league.
‘‘You always have some ideas or hunches, but we’ve never had any mechanisms to say ‘Hey Luke Moffatt was a really fast skater for the Newcastle North Stars and Patrick O’Kane from the Mustangs has a lot of speed,’ but you can’t really compare the two,’’ he said. ‘‘They are not generally racing side by side.
‘‘This gives us that opportunity and some bragging rights for the players too.’’
Bannerman said Newcastle was chosen to host the inaugural All-Stars weekend due to its beautiful destination, strong player and crowd support and the quality facilities at the Hunter Ice Skating Stadium.