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Canberra Knights on thin ice after 33 years in existence

Canberra Knights players, Jordie Gavin, Maxime Suzzarini from France and Mark Rummukainen in April 2013.

Canberra Knights players, Jordie Gavin, Maxime Suzzarini from France and Mark Rummukainen in April 2013. Photo: Melissa Adams

A lack of local players and increasing financial costs are the reasons behind one of Canberra's longest-running national sporting teams folding after 33 years.

Established in 1981, the Canberra Knights announced on Wednesday they had pulled out of the Australian Ice Hockey League just six weeks before the start of the season.

Knights owner John Raut, who runs the Phillip Swimming and Ice Skating Centre, met with team captain Mark Rummukainen and fellow veteran Jordan Gavin on Monday night to discuss his concerns.

Players trained on Tuesday night before being told on Wednesday, either by email or through the team's Facebook page, that the Knights had withdrawn from the AIHL.

Raut said the team cost between $160,000 and $170,000 per season to run and annual losses were between $10,000 and $20,000.

The Knights received a $29,000 national sporting team grant from the ACT government, which they will return.

Raut also pointed to the team's lack of Canberra-based players and lowly position on the table over the past few seasons.

''We were offered an extra two import places for this season, but it wouldn't have solved the situation because the local talent we have is two or three years away before we have the numbers so we can field a competitive team,'' Raut said.

''We have the best fans in Australia and that hurts too, knowing we're going to disappoint all those people.

''The bottom line is, do we keep throwing money out and accepting a loss as we have in the last couple of seasons and not be able to do Canberrans proud by putting a competitive side on the ice?''

The Knights were founded the same year as the Canberra Raiders and 15 years before the ACT Brumbies were admitted into the Super Rugby competition.

They are the latest in a long line of Canberra sporting teams to fall by the wayside, following the likes of the Canberra Cannons in the NBL and defunct NSL side the Canberra Cosmos.

Rummukainen has been with the Knights since 1998.

He is uncertain of his playing future after he tours Serbia with the Australian team in April.

''When I came into the team it was a fight to get into the team, a fight for ice time, and the last couple of years it's definitely dropped off,'' he said.

''Last year it was a case of if you can play, you're on the team.

''I've got two young kids, so I could play for the national team and hang the skates up after that.''

The move leaves the AIHL with seven teams - two each in Sydney and Melbourne and ones in Adelaide, Newcastle and Perth.

AIHL deputy commissioner Alex Lata said it was disappointing to lose the Knights from the competition given the fantastic crowd support the team enjoys.

''It's a bit of a shock,'' Lata said.

''Canberra fans are renowned around the league for being very passionate and determined.

''We definitely want to have a presence in Canberra.''

11 comments so far

  • Shame this has happened, but I cannot recall any marketing done by them apart from one TV ad and a coupon in the Entertainment Book. Hopefully they can stage a comeback in a couple of years time when they do have the local talent to compete.

    Commenter
    Sad to see them go
    Date and time
    February 27, 2014, 7:47AM
    • Sad but a fact of life, the majority of Aussies simply just don't take to sports like this, baseball, basketball and even to some degree soccer(watch the interest wane yet again after we early exit the WC and for those who would further argue, if soccer was any good in this country why are all our good players playing overseas and overseas has- beens playing here and sucking the guts out of whats left of any finances). The test I guess is crowds, club survival - I rest my case.

      Commenter
      Ted
      Date and time
      February 27, 2014, 7:51AM
      • Remember that we have the diplomatic staff from Canada and the Scandinavian countries who love their hockey. Perhaps they might like to make a few donations to see Canberra remain in the national league.

        Commenter
        farnarkler
        Location
        Canberra
        Date and time
        February 27, 2014, 2:58PM
    • Spoken like a true Mungo Leaguie.. How are the Raiders travelling?You know they add 5000 to each home attendance to make it look half respectable cause noone cares

      Commenter
      markyjj
      Date and time
      February 27, 2014, 9:28AM
      • So the ACT Government pumps in $23 million to support a Western Sydney AFL side, but won't kick in $20-30k to keep a genuine Canberra team competing in a national competition.

        Commenter
        Terry
        Location
        Cronulla
        Date and time
        February 27, 2014, 10:02AM
        • Good point Terry. Don't forget the $500,000.00 for our stupid beach volleyball courts!

          Commenter
          Deutsch
          Location
          Canberra
          Date and time
          February 27, 2014, 12:35PM
      • Why was a club not set up along the lines of the Ainslie or West Belconnen football clubs? The poker machine income would have absorbed any losses. There might have been enough to upgrade the facilities too.

        Also, what is the Southern Cross club's involvement in this? It's well known that they want to own that whole strip of land along Irving st starting at Launceston st.

        Commenter
        farnarkler
        Location
        Canberra
        Date and time
        February 27, 2014, 11:20AM
        • But at least we have GWS, the worlds largest cat litter tray about to go in at Lynham and the absolutely gorgeous & majestic Sky Whale

          Commenter
          Milo11
          Location
          ACT
          Date and time
          February 27, 2014, 2:23PM
          • I've only ever seen it on TV during various Winter Olympics. They appear to me to be a bunch of thugs. All that extensive body armour is enough to put most, AUSTRALIAN sports-loving people off. The same goes for Gridiron. Rollerball on ice!

            Commenter
            Eudaimonia
            Location
            Kingston
            Date and time
            February 27, 2014, 3:04PM
            • Sad , as a past player it will be a real shame to lose the Knights. We have a world class Ice Rink down here in Melbourne. With two National men's teams , which are a sell out , standing room only every week. If you build it they will come , spend the money on a world class facility and you could sell out a 3000 seat arena every weekend.
              It is a fast paced game and everyone I ever took to the games loved it. As for Thugs , in the recent Olympic game , not one fight ! Where is Sen Margaret Reid our number one ticket holder ??
              Ken Bennett Canberra Knight 1983-1997

              Commenter
              kenben
              Location
              Melbourne
              Date and time
              February 27, 2014, 8:06PM

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