The Australian Ice Hockey began in 2000, when frustrated members of the Adelaide Avalanche, Canberra Knights and Sydney Bears started a new national league, following continued failures of the previous Superleague.
The league had a goal of a stable league where high-quality teams could develop and play against other strong opponent teams.
The AIHL’s top two teams played each other as a playoff, the Adelaide Avalanche winning in both 2000 and 2001. At that stage the Goodall Cup was still held seperately to the AIHL, and the Sydney Bears won the Goodall Cup in 2001.
In 2002 the league expanded to six teams, with the inclusion of the Melbourne Ice, Newcastle North Stars and Western Sydney Ice Dogs. The playoff format remained the same, the Sydney Bears defeating the Adelaide Avalanche in Sydney. As this was the first year the Goodall Cup was incorporated into the AIHL, the Bears became both AIHL and Goodall Cup champions.
In 2003 AIHL President Tony Lane introduced the ‘top four’ playoff format that is still running today, with the exception of the runners-up game, which was only played in 2003. The Ice Dogs eliminated the Avalanche, and the North Stars defeated the Bears. The North Stars won the final versus the Ice Dogs for their first AIHL Championship.
In 2004, the Adelaide Adrenaline were eliminated by the Newcastle North Stars, and the Sydney Bears by the Western Sydney Ice Dogs. The Western Sydney Ice Dogs defeated the North Stars in the final for their first AIHL Championship.
In 2005, the AIHL expanded to eight teams. The Brisbane Blue Tongues and the Central Coast Rhinos joined the AIHL. The playoff format remained the same, with the same four teams going through to the finals as the previous 2 seasons. The Avalanche eliminated the Ice Dogs, and the North Stars eliminated the Bears. In the final, the North Stars defeated the Avalanche for their second AIHL Championship.
The Melbourne Ice were the big movers in 2006, winning the minor premiership and making the finals for the first time. They were eliminated by the North Stars, however, and the Ice Dogs were eliminated by the Avalanche.
The North Stars won their third AIHL Championship in 2006.
The Ice Dogs missed out in 2007, with the Ice being Eliminated by the North Stars and the Avalanche eliminated by the Bears. The Bears won their third AIHL Championship.
In 2008 the Newcastle rink became the first in Australia to get glass barriers installed, as the rink hosted the 2008 IIHF World Championship IIB tournament. The Blue Tongues moved to the Gold Coast. In Adelaide a shaky start to the season got worse when the Avalanche hit serious money problems. By July, they had to forfeit away trips, and were suspended by the league and teams. A new team was formed in Adelaide, under the temporary title of the Adelaide A’s. In the finals, the Bears were eliminated by the North Stars, and the Ice eliminated by the Ice Dogs. The North Stars won their third AIHL Championship versus the Ice Dogs.
The Central Coast Rhinos withdrew from the AIHL in 2009, unwilling to accept the licence model requested by the majority of teams for participation in the league. The Western Sydney Ice Dogs became the Sydney Ice Dogs, and the Adelaide A’s became the Adelaide Adrenaline. In the finals, the Blue Tongues were eliminated by the North Stars, and the Ice eliminated by the Adrenaline. Adelaide Adrenaline won their first AIHL Championship, the third by an Adelaide team.
In 2010 a second Melbourne team (Mustangs) and a Perth team (Thunder) started playing exhibition games. In Melbourne, the new Olympic committee base rink opened at the Docklands during the Vancouver Winter Olympics Games, attracting a great deal of exposure. The Melbourne Ice relocated to Docklands from their old rink at Oakleigh, and with the TV exposure and marketing from the team and rink owners ING, the Ice attracted record crowds. In the finals, the North Stars were eliminated by the Adelaide Avalanche, and the Bears were eliminated by the Melbourne Ice. The Melbourne Ice won their first ever AIHL Championship.
In 2011 the Mustangs IHC joined the AIHL as a provisional member team, bringing the league back to eight teams. Perth Thunder continued to play exhibition games in order to prepare for a possible inclusion into the league in 2012. Finalists were the Ice Dogs, North Stars, Adrenaline and Ice. The North Stars eliminated the Ice Dogs, and the Ice eliminated the Adrenaline. The Ice won their second AIHL Championship.
In 2012 the league split into two divisions to make way for the ninth team, the Perth Thunder. In June, the Blue Tongues were forced to relocate after unsafe conditions caused their games to be cancelled. The Blue Tongues played the rest of their season at Brisbane’s Acacia Ridge rink, playing late-night games. The top two teams from each division made the finals. The North Stars eliminated the Adrenaline, and the Ice eliminated the Ice Dogs. The Ice won their third AIHL Championship.
Now in 2013, we have eight teams, with the Blue Tongues as yet unable to secure a new rink. The divisions/conferences have been abandoned for a simple eight team league. The finals location for the 2013 season is yet to be announced.