“The whole time the camera was pointed at Logan Cooley, he was trying to hide the smile on his face. And his intentions failed,” writes the official NHL website.
The league brought pre-season exhibition games to Australia for the first time in its history. The choice of teams for such a distant and unusual destination did not seem the most attractive: the eternal outsiders Arizona and Los Angeles, who have not gone beyond the first round of the playoffs for nine years, were sent on an exciting journey.
But everyone can be forgiven for Cooley’s surprising goal. The case when any comments are unnecessary, just look.
Inspired by the progress of their junior, the “coyotes” won the first of two travel games (5-3). In the second game, the “kings” took revenge (3-2), finding another hero in their ranks: Mario Kempe scored a double and made Los Angeles’ comeback possible in the third period.
Cooley, 19, has yet to debut in official NHL games. The American was selected by Arizona in the summer of 2022 with the third pick and soon signed a standard three-year contract for a rookie. Cooley’s most striking appearance on the hockey radar came at the 2023 World Junior Championship. In many ways, it was his actions that led the American team to the bronze medal: in seven games, Logan scored 14 (7+ 7) points. Cooley was born in Pittsburgh but grew up in Washington and, unsurprisingly, calls himself a fan of Alexander Ovechkin. How many personal fans did Cooley have in Australia after this or that goal?
Logan, his partners and rivals were welcomed at the Melbourne Arena named after Rod Laver, Australia’s greatest tennis player. This stadium is most talked about in the second half of January, when the matches of one of the four Grand Slam tennis tournaments are held here: the Australian Open. Experiments are often carried out in the structure: previously the stadium hosted world championships in wrestling, artistic gymnastics and water sports and, of course, concerts.
However, the experience of interacting with the NHL is the most unexpected and difficult test in the life of the arena. All necessary equipment was delivered to Australia from North America by sea. The luggage even included branded zambonis and washers, the only thing missing was a cooling system: the organizers feared unnecessary wear during transportation and decided to resort to third-party help. As a substitute, the NHL team took the project of the Dutch company Ice World, and it seems that the calculation was not entirely justified.
Other details of the move:
“I check the inventory list all the time.” How the NHL moved a hockey arena to Australia
The day before the first exhibition game, the NHL planned to hold two open practices. The Kings managed to show themselves to the public, but the Arizona session had to be canceled because puddles and potholes formed on the ice. At the beginning of the games, all problems were solved; At least neither the hockey players nor the coaches complained about the quality of the site.
Information about the uneven coloring of the ice appeared in other Russian media, but all available photographs indicate the opposite. In this sense, the league, on the contrary, surpassed itself and found the opportunity to move away from the conservative style. For example, the blue lines were designed in a non-standard hockey shade: theirs. the color exactly matched the color of the Laver Arena tennis court.
Additionally, during training, the serve points were stylized as tennis balls. The logos were made of fabric and inserted under the top layer of ice. In the NHL, all types of lettering are handled by an independent company: Jet Ice.
Ice at Rod Laver Arena
Along with the equipment, the league also adopted its most important symbol: the Stanley Cup. “It’s surreal,” concluded Jacob Hawk, who took the starting spot in line to take a photo with the trophy. “I would never have imagined that one day I would see the cup in this country. “It’s very, very cool and I think it’s something special for everyone in Australia to see hockey on a national stage.” Melbourne-born Hawk said he previously played, coached and worked in hockey analysis in Australia.
Kings fan with Stanley Cup
Just over 13 thousand spectators attended the first match. Steve Dimopoulos, tourism and sport minister for Victoria, which owns Melbourne, said more than 40% of spectators had bought tickets from outside the state, meaning the games were literally coming from all over the country. Dimopoulos says the NHL’s visit will boost economic growth in Victoria.
Hockey players did not miss the opportunity to soak up the unusual atmosphere. The teams spent 15 hours on the plane, their routine was completely altered, and the Arizona coaches came up with a clever way to cheer up their subordinates. The players were divided into mini-groups, in which they had to find traditional Australian costumes for a pre-season party on the streets of Melbourne.
“We explored the city a little. I think the coaches wanted to keep us out of bed so we wouldn’t go to bed in the morning and wait until nightfall. It was a good plan, we were busy and we had to walk,” said Nick Bjugstad.
Meanwhile, the Kings’ Drew Doughty played tennis with Australian number one Thanasi Kokkinakis. In the video, Doughty looked decent, although he wasn’t pleased with himself. “When the ball came towards me, I panicked. All I could do was turn it into reverse. “I probably have no chance of achieving anything in tennis.”