CBR Brave captain Mark Rummukainen and chairman Peter Chamberlain at the Phillip Swimming and Ice Skating Centre. Photo: Jeffrey Chan
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CBR Brave skipper Mark Rummukainen is not putting a lid on the club's first finals campaign.
Brave is not following the same routine it has used all year. It is happy to admit that it is excited to be involved in the playoffs.
CBR Brave celebrate a home win. Photo: Rohan Thomson
Like everything to do with CBR Brave in 2014, its approach to the Australian Ice Hockey League playoffs this weekend in Melbourne is refreshing.
"It is the biggest game of the year, and the biggest game of our careers," Rummukainen says of Brave's semi-final against Melbourne Ice on Saturday.
"This isn't going to happen every year… we're excited by the opportunity," he says.
The CBR Brave team have a background in advertising and media, and it shows in everything from their videos to their logo. Photo: CBR Brave
Win Saturday evening's sudden-death match-up, and Brave are into the grand final on Sunday, less than six months after the Canberra Knights were wound up, and Brave was born.
Rummukainen played a seminal role in kick-starting the new entity, and he admits that at first the new club was intent on survival and avoiding "blown-out" results.
It soon became obvious that Brave's frantic recruiting drive had borne fruit, as CBR knocked off pacesetters and headed to the top of the standings.
Some of the 'Braveheart' fans likely to join Mark Rummukainen at the Icehouse. Photo: Jessica Schumann, Rambling Ranga Ink
At that time, Rummukainen wanted to see how the fledgling club, full of newly enlisted volunteers, would cope with a run of outs. The "mid-season" blues duly arrived, but the sense of momentum surrounding the club did not dissipate.
Once the "element of surprise" was gone from Brave's 2014 campaign, "it would have been easy to say 'here we go again'," Rummukainen says.
"But we said 'we've done so much together, we can get out of this little funk. If we get back to what we were doing we can turn it around.' We passed that test, no-one freaked out. We said 'we're better than this'...
"It's definitely a new club, a new culture."
That new club is likely to have to push on without first-line star Mathieu Ouellette, who has badly injured a knee. He was undertaking intensive treatment in a bid to play, but contingencies are in place should he be unavailable.
Rummukainen could be forgiven for his enthusiasm. He has played in a Goodall Cup-winning team. But it was for the ACT team when the Cup was contested by Australian states, prior to the onset of the national league. It was 16 years ago. In 238 games and 14 years of AIHL hockey, Rummukainen has not played in a final.
He was 16 when the ACT won it.
No wonder he is excited about getting a chance to play for it again.
One thing never in doubt about Canberra over all those fallow years was the enthusiasm of its inhabitants for hockey.
"Even when we were losing, we were packing them in. We've sold out every home game prior to game day this year. There's people waiting an hour lined up in the cold… I wouldn't do that in the Canberra winter!
"The fans we have astound me."
He says Brave players are looking forward to playing on the bigger, better Icehouse rink, but they hold a lot of affection for the dilapidated Phillips Centre where they play home games.
"It's a fortress. It's a fun place for us to play."
That fortress is in need of a revamp, and it is no secret the club would thrive in a bigger venue.
But even if much-vaunted hopes for a new rink do not materialise in the short-term, Rummukainen hopes the capacity of the aged facility can be renovated to get even "10 more voices" in the barn.
He is looking forward to the different clans of Brave fans – the infamous Hecklers, and this year's colourful Bravehearts amongst them – bringing some of their mania to the Icehouse this weekend. Several busloads of Brave fans are making the trek.
"They're close-knit, all the families know each other," he says, explaining the particular bonhomie of the boisterous Canberra crowd.
He believes that having fresh faces in this year's playoffs – Brave and the Mustangs, also first-time finalists – is good for the competition.
He is right. It is exciting. Why deny it?
Australian Ice Hockey league finals series, Docklands Icehouse
Saturday 30 August
12.30-2pm: Skate with the Stars (NHL signee Nathan Walker in attendance)
3pm: First semi-final: Melbourne Mustangs (1) v Sydney Ice Dogs (4)
6.30pm: Second semi-final: Melbourne Ice (2) v Canberra Brave (3)
8.30pm: AIHL Awards night, Groovetrain restaurant, Docklands
Sunday 31 August
3pm: Final winner of semi-final 1 v winner semi-final 2
5.30-8pm: Icehouse: After party
Standing room tickets remain available. Click here.
ATC Productions will livestream the finals series live. Viewers are requested to make a donation to the Soldier On charity in lieu of an access fee. Details here.
Fox Sports Broadcasts
All three games of the series will be broadcast on Fox Sports at 4:30pm on September 9th, 10th, and 11th.