DRESDEN – Australia has been the surprise team in the lower division of the 2013 IIHF InLine Hockey World Championship.
The team finished Group C in first place ahead of Great Britain, Croatia and Bulgaria. Only Austria in the other group had a better preliminary-round record in Division I.
Today Australia plays Argentina in the quarter-finals. The other pairings are Great Britain vs. Japan, Hungary vs. Croatia and Austria vs. Bulgaria.
IIHF.com talked with Australian captain Jordan Gavin before the final round. The 30-year-old forward has played for the inline hockey national team for several years and also represented Australia in two IIHF Ice Hockey World Championships at Division I and Division II level.
You must be pretty happy after winning your group.
We’re first for the first time ever. We’re pretty excited. We came here with a pretty good team this year. We made a few changes and we’re definitely looking to improve this year. We’re first in our group and we’re making a big step forward with inline hockey in Australia. We’re pretty positive. It’s been fantastic for our team.
What makes the team better than last year’s?
I just think we’re a bit deeper than in the past. Because we have to come from so far away it’s often difficult to get players and in the past it also had to do with finances. This time we put the team together earlier to make people aware who we want on the team so they had time to plan. They’re still a couple of guys we would obviously like to have on the team but they couldn’t come for various reasons. I think we definitely have a good chemistry this year.
You also had a camp in Europe before the World Championship.
We always have a camp in Finland. We have a pretty good relationship in Finland. A couple of our guys played in the inline SM-liiga, I was also there in 2004 and 2005. Some other guys and our coach played there also. We built up a good relationship since 2004 with those guys and we go back every year and they do a lot of help on and off the rink. It’s always a good start for us to get the team together because we’re so far away in Australia. We also live far away from each other in Australia. We have guys from everywhere this year. We have guys from Perth, which is on the far west coast, and guys from Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, all around the east coast. So the only time we get together is the week before we’re here. We definitely have trained to go far this year so let’s hope we can get the job done.
How was this camp in Vantaa?
The camp was really good. It’s a great facility. It’s like a rink and hotel altogether and it has a gym. It’s not a very big town so we can focus on hockey which is the most important thing.
Do you consider yourself more an inline or and ice hockey player?
Hard to say. Inline hockey was very big ten years ago in Australia. It came with a big boom when I was a lot younger. It exploded in Australia. It was huge and everybody was playing it. I think ice hockey started to take over a few years later but it seems inline hockey is also coming back now, especially this year. We had a couple of new rinks that opened in the country. There’s a brand-new facility in Sydney. Slowly inline hockey is starting to come back in Australia, which is good but ice hockey is really, really taking off with the Australian Ice Hockey league that we have. Ice hockey is getting good in Australia and has taking big leaps in the last couple of years. It’s played all over the country now. We’ve had ex-NHL players coming to our league to play and it’s only going to get bigger. We are in the ice hockey season now, so we miss a couple of games at the beginning of the season. There are a lot of guys from us who play in that league. I would probably consider myself more of an ice hockey player now but inline hockey was definitely my first love so it’s always good to come to this tournament once a year and hopefully with the new rinks we can get some more inline hockey in Australia.
Which city are you from and where do you play?
I’m from Canberra. It’s the capital city, in the middle of Melbourne and Sydney. I play there for the Canberra Knights in the Australian Ice Hockey League. It’s a pretty good league. It’s a tough league. Every team in the league gets to have four imports in a game but they can sign six imports. It’s a big lottery every year depending on which team gets which players. The team from Perth got two ECHL players and we got an ECHL player, and one player from the Mestis in Finland and from the Ligue Magnus in France. It’s really good and interesting because every year there are new players and it’s exciting to see. It’s good fun and it keeps us busy.
Do you make a living with hockey?
No one makes a living with ice hockey in Australia. We all work. I’m a builder. I work eight hours a day Monday to Friday and train in the evenings and take time off work to come here and play. It’s a lot doings but I never stop doing it as long as I make the team. It would be lovely if it happened that you can make a living of ice hockey in Australia. Maybe it will happen in the future. Maybe not in my time but seeing the growth of ice hockey in Australia is unbelievable and who knows, maybe in ten years from now we’re getting paid some sort of money to play hockey. Hopefully I might still be around when that happens.
What were your experiences with playing abroad?
I played inline hockey for two seasons in the SM-liiga in Finland and in 2009 I went to America and played in the American Inline Hockey League in Washington, DC. That was good fun. It was good to see a different hockey world especially in the United States which is a huge inline hockey country. I was pretty exciting to go over there. There are great players and it was a really good time. Also being in Finland taught me a lot about hockey when I was there as a young guy who was a pretty keen hockey player. I had really good coaches, awesome teammates and great management. That taught me what I’m supposed to learn to take the next step and become an even better player. That was a great time when I was there.
And you also played for the ice hockey national team.
Yes, I was a national team player. I was picked in 2011 when we had the World Championship Division II Group A in Melbourne in Australia. We were lucky enough to win the gold medal in that championship. We beat Serbia in the final and rose to Division IB, which was in Poland the year after. That was a huge step for ice hockey in Australia. We went over there and we were very competitive. We’ve been in Division I just once before [in 2009]. We performed really well. We didn’t win a game but we were competitive. We lost 5-3 to Poland, 5-3 to Romania, 3-2 to Lithuania, 8-4 with Korea who ended up winning the championship and 6-2 with the Netherlands. We were by no means disgraced and are proud of what we did. It would have been good to win a game there and stay but we performed well especially considering that we come from sort of a minnow ice hockey country like Australia.
You often observe practices and game of the top division teams here at the 2013 IIHF InLine Hockey World Championship.
Always. We have a lot of young players coming every year and you try to explain them to come to the rink as much as possible to see another level and hope to do what we see from them every day. At these tournaments you have the chance to see the best playing and that’s a really good thing. Normally you just go and play with five other countries there and here you see the best 16 teams in the world. It’s always good to come out to watch the other teams.
Could you imagine playing at this level next year?
It would be fantastic but there’s still lot of work to do I guess. But that would be a dream come true to be part of a team that goes to the top division. To play against countries like these would be amazing.
What’s the game plan in the quarter-final against Argentina?
Argentina is a tough team and they’ve shown that in the preliminary round. They seem to be a disciplined team. They have some really good skaters. We definitely cannot the game lightly and we definitely won’t by any means. We’re going to approach the game and prepare like for every game we had. We’re a strong skating team. We have some great players this year and we’re just going to go out there and not change anything we’ve been doing. We’re going to take it just one step at a time now.
What would be the dream final in your division?
Of course I have to say we want to be there. Great Britain has always been a great rival for us. We’ve been in medal games many times but the last time we won a medal was in 2003 and it was bronze. For us to be in the final would be amazing. For a dream final I have to say us and anybody who’s there. We’d just love to be there. As an Australian I can say we can rise on the occasion, we’re a pretty proud country and we’ll do anything we can to win the gold. Everyone is doing what it takes to win the gold medal and to move up in the top division next year would be just unbelievable for inline hockey and for Ice Hockey Australia as well. They’re pretty strong supporters of us. It would be awesome.