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From Down Under to Frozen Over: Aussie Hockey Team Braves Canadian Ponds

Braving a 13,000-kilometre journey for the love of the game, the Canberra Senators prove that pond hockey is more about passion than location

A recreational hockey club from Australia went the extra mile – in this case, 13,000 kilometres–to compete in the University of Alberta Pond Hockey tournament in Edmonton on January 20.

The skaters from Canberra, which is the Aussie capital,  became the first pond hockey team from down under.

Like the NHL team in the Canadian capital, the hockey team is named the Senators.

Three Australians and nine ex-pat Canadians who have settled ‘down under’ make up the Aussie squad.

Stephanie Boxall, former Australian women’s hockey team captain. After retiring from hockey, Boxall became a high school teacher | The Canberra Times

“Given ice hockey is Canada’s most popular sport, you’d expect a lot of expatriates who’ve made Australia home have found an ice rink to pursue their passion, so it follows quite a few Canadians make up the Canberra Senators club,” said Canberra Senators team manager Bill Kourelakos.

The Aussie team has an average age of 60; the youngest member is 51, and the oldest is 67.      

Stephanie Boxall is the team’s only woman. 

She is also the former Australian women’s hockey team captain, bringing some serious firepower to the Canberra Senators arsenal. 

When they aren’t playing pond hockey, the teammates work as senior defence personnel, public servants, business operators, teachers, and first responders. 

The Canberra Senators claim to be Australia’s first pond hockey team. 

That’s because Australians can’t enjoy real pond hockey Down Under.

Temperatures rarely fall below 0 degrees Celsius in Australia, let alone in Canberra. 

The lowest temperature ever recorded in Australia is -23 degrees Celsius at Charlotte Pass, nestled in the Snowy Mountains of New South Wales. 

Kourelakos claims the only way to have outdoor ice in Australia is to use glycol, an artificial liquid that absorbs water.

“…you’ve got to run piping underneath the surface and run glycol through it and freeze the glycol and then put the water on top, and that’s how they make outdoor ice,” explained Kourelakos

Canberra Senators' Scott Marshall looks for a shot during an exhibition match at Lake Louise | Matthew Thompson | Rocky Mountain Outlook
Canberra Senators’ Scott Marshall looks for a shot during an exhibition match at Lake Louise | Matthew Thompson | Rocky Mountain Outlook

Breaking The Ice

When the Canberra Senators arrived in Alberta on January 18, the weather wasn’t quite what the team expected. 

Instead of the bitter cold of the previous week, the team was greeted with unseasonably warm temperatures

The warm weather led to rough and wet conditions on the ice.

The Senators spent most of their time playing pond hockey matches in Lake Louise and Jasper. 

“It’s not smooth. It’s quite rough and rustic, so it’s quite hard on the legs, and we don’t have the youngest legs going around. “That’s been a bit of a challenge, and we have become quite tired from playing on it,” said Stephanie Boxall. 

In Australia, the team practices in one of Canberra’s oldest ice rinks, where ice conditions constantly change and is usually soft.

The team found Canadian ice to be much better than the artificial ice in Australia.

“…what we’ve noticed is the puck is moving a lot faster than we’re used to because we’re used to soft ice, and the ice here is quite hard, so the puck is outpacing us a little bit more than we’re used to,” explained Kourelakos.


The Senator’s 15-day trip wasn’t just about pond hockey. The team also took in the sights around the province.

Boxall was in awe of the Rockies, stating, “It’s a little bit surreal coming here and then seeing it in the flesh. I just can’t stop looking at the mountains.”

The Canberra Senators facing off against a local Lake Louise pond hockey team | Matthew Thompson | Rocky Mountain Outlook
The Canberra Senators facing off against a local Lake Louise pond hockey team | Matthew Thompson | Rocky Mountain Outlook

The team started their trip in Calgary to watch the Calgary Flames play the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Saddledome, where Toronto took home a 4-3 win. 

After watching an NHL match, the Senators were itching to get on the ice themselves. 

After a quick stop in Red Deer, the team headed to Edmonton for the University of Alberta Pond Hockey tournament on January 20. 

The team performed well for the team’s first time playing on Canadian ice, going goal-for-goal against most teams. 

“I thought when we came here that we might experience a couple of blowouts in terms of, you know, 20 to nothing sort of scores…we haven’t been blown out, so we’ve held our own. All the games have been closed to par,” said Kourelakos. 

The Senators rounded off their trip by watching a few more NHL matches before heading to Invermere, British Columbia, where the team faced off against the Invermere Oldtimers

The Senators might be 13,000 kilometres from Australia, but they were right at home in Alberta. 

The team is welcome back anytime. We’ll supply the ponds, and they can provide the determination!

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