During the 2019 IIHF Annual Congress, held in Bratislava during the last week of the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship, it was therefore a pleasant surprise for many that a woman stood up as the new President of Ice Hockey Australia.
Miranda Ransome received a special introduction when IIHF President René Fasel opened the Congress, and a warm welcome from the delegates who welcomed the only female President (but by far not the only female delegate) in the room. She might arguably be the first President of a national ice hockey association ever.
“I’m not sure if I’m the first female President, there are many women involved in the sport at all levels and I’m one of two who serve on our board. Our Board recognizes the value of diversity but not just gender diversity. It is important that board members have diverse backgrounds and that they bring to the board the diverse set of skills that can work together in the best interest for ice hockey in Australia,” Ransome said.
Unlike some others in the room who grew up in traditional hockey countries, maybe even with a backyard rink next to the house during winters, Ransome wasn’t a hockey person from birth. There are many pathways to serving the sport and some, especially in smaller countries, start by volunteering when the kids fall in love with the game. That’s what happened to Ransome 12 years ago, when her then seven-year-old son Jack started to play ice hockey in Sydney.
He made it to the U18 national teams and recently played for the U20 national team. Domestically Jack plays in the East Coast Super League, one of the top regional leagues, and even has played some games in the top national league, the Australian Ice Hockey League, for the Sydney Ice Dogs.
“Being a hockey parent, I got involved in club management and that’s where it started, I got involved in as much as I could,” she said. That included at state level as team manager of the junior selects in national tournaments, as a club representative and committee member of Ice Hockey New South Wales. Ransome was involved in the National Development Camps and eventually became Ice Hockey Australia’s Director of National Development Camps in 2014, she became involved in the management of an AIHL team and in 2016 she joined the board of Ice Hockey Australia being elected as Vice President. When the previous President retired this year at the end of February, the board elected her as new President in March.
The 56-year-old is also the team leader for the Australian U18 men’s national team, after she had started in the role of team leader in 2013 for an Australian team playing at the famous Pee-Wee tournament in Quebec.
Ransome has travelled abroad with various teams in countries like Croatia, Estonia, Poland and most recently in Serbia.
Sometimes you can’t predict your path in life and that wasn’t different for Ransome.
Of course, since the work of her and her colleagues is based on volunteering, Ransome has a life beside hockey too. She studied chemical engineering, has an MBA and runs a waste management business in Sydney, an industry in which she has also been President and Chair of Australia’s national peak industry association.
“Ice Hockey Australia very much relies on volunteers. We have a volunteer board, only the executive officer is a paid job. It requires a lot of commitment, time, effort and goodwill from many people,” she said.
A recent change in the structure of the organisation has meant an increased focus on governance, she said. The membership, being the regional associations, elects an independent board normally consisting of six members that is currently at five after the recent retirement. The board then selects the president.
Ice Hockey Australia lists 4,465 registered ice hockey players that have to share 20 ice rinks. Top-level ice hockey is concentrated on the east coast with the exception of Perth in the west.
“We have a relatively small population on a large landmass almost as big as Europe, so we have long distances to travel. Most of our population live in major cities, that are up to 4 hours flying time apart, and most bigger hockey countries are away more than a day’s travel by air,” she said.
That means the challenges to grow ice hockey in the country that joined the IIHF in 1938 are different. Australia, which once participated in the 1960 Olympic Winter Games, is ranked 35th among men’s teams and 29th among women’s teams in the IIHF World Rankings.
All leagues are amateur leagues, while players who want to pursue a career as a professional ice hockey player have to move far away, such as Nathan Walker, who moved from Sydney to Ostrava in the Czech Republic as a junior and split this season between the NHL’s Washington Capitals and their AHL affiliate Hershey Bears.
“We are a very small sport but we do want people to get involved, increase the participation at a grassroots level. We’ve got the challenges of distance and a small number of rinks but we will continue to do everything we can to grow the sport and grow the skill of the players.”
While the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship was the end of the season for many, it’s just the start for Miranda Ransome not only as a President but also for a new season. Being in the southern hemisphere, the season has already started in April and usually runs until early September.