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Canberra ice hockey bid seeks 'fresh start' with name change

Assistant captain Jordie Gavin and goal Keeper Nick Eckhardt of the Canberra Knights.

Assistant captain Jordie Gavin and goal Keeper Nick Eckhardt of the Canberra Knights. Photo: Melissa Adams

A CANBERRA men's ice hockey team won't be known as the Knights and will embark on a ''fresh start'' if they re-enter the Australian Ice Hockey League.

A group led by the players is gaining momentum to revive the team after the Knights withdrew from the competition after 33 seasons last week.

The Canberra consortium will have a phone hook-up with the AIHL on Monday night to determine if it has met the necessary criteria.

It includes showing the AIHL forecast budgets for the coming season, proving it can be competitive and having an agreement to play at the Phillip Swimming and Ice Skating Centre.

Knights owner John Raut wants to retain the licence in the event he re-enters the team in future years and has floated the idea of receiving compensation to account for the brand's value and goodwill if the players want to keep the Knights' trademark.

Canberra captain Mark Rummukainen, who has been with the team since 1998, said the name would be changed if it got the approval from the AIHL.

''We feel a fresh start might be the way to go,'' Rummukainen said. ''The Knights are a great story and have a lot of history there, but it's John's team and he wants to reserve the right to have a team in the future.''

Rummukainen said the cost of new signage, uniforms and licensing agreements had been factored into the club's business plan.

Fan support has been crucial in the Canberra men's ice hockey team remaining a chance of getting back in the AIHL.

More than $20,000 has been pledged through donations since Thursday, with memberships to be launched in the next week.

Supporters could get a say in what the team's new name will be, but that will be determined by the short time frame involved, with the season to start on April 12.

''Time isn't on our side,'' Rummukainen said.

''With our backs against the wall we have to have something and run with it. We want it to be suitable for our fans and our identity.''

The AIHL isn't simply looking for the Canberra team to be financially viable before it gives it the all-clear to return. Being competitive on the ice is a major concern to ensure the competition delivers an enticing product to sponsor.

The Knights finished on the bottom last season and regularly lost by double-digit margins.

They are waiting to receive the green light before signing any imports for this season.

Coach Matti Luoma will arrive in Australia on Tuesday and has been kept informed of progress.

''We spoke on Facebook and email and he's pretty pumped that everything's going ahead,'' Rummukainen said.

''He's proud of the fact we're trying to get it done.

''He's a guy we definitely need on board and looking forward to seeing him.''

The Knights players are amateurs and have to pay a registration fee of $750 each to the AIHL each season, except for the imports, who have all their costs covered.

Only their flights and accommodation are covered by the club, with players footing the cost of transfers to and from airports to away venues and food while they are away.

Players often need to take four or five Mondays off work each season when they are travelling back from Perth, Melbourne (two teams) or Adelaide.

The eight-team AIHL also has two teams in Sydney and one in Newcastle.

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