Read-ing the play

Luke Read has been in the game for a long time. The Sydney Bears and Reach Rebels (ECSL) goaltender and lifelong Boston Bruins fan has been a mainstay in the NSW ice hockey community for 18 years, enjoying all the highs and lows it has to offer. Except for his 1999 Tange initiation as part of the NSW team, which we’re told we can’t publish.

"I end up on a goalie mask and everyone loses their minds."

“I end up on a goalie mask and everyone loses their minds.”

Aside from the uncertainties surrounding their den, the Sydney Bears are playing great hockey this season after struggling to find their feet in 2013. The Bears currently sit second after a successful road trip in Perth, which saw them nearly take maximum points from the Thunder. Standout performances from Dane Ludolph, Michael Schlamp, Sean Hamilton Steen and Cameron Todd have punctuated the early season success of the Sydney club.

Read is part of a goaltending tandem with Swede Daniel Palmqvist this season, after supporting Latvian Renars Kazanovs last season.

“Pretty good shot at the Goodall this season I believe!” said Read. “I think that’s mainly due to our dedication to developing local talent, which is the reason I think the Bears are the best team to play for in the AIHL.”

Unfortunately, the Sydney Bears have been in the news for the wrong reasons this season. Questions over the future of their current habitat at the Sydney Ice Arena have dominated the headlines in Bear land. It is a topic close to the club’s heart. Read had this to say on the club’s current predicament, and hockey in NSW in general.

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“Whilst ultimately the decision will be made to keep it or make way for an apartment block, the sad fact is that we really need more facilities like SIA to help all the ice sports to grow,” said Read. “Over the last 20 years, Narrabeen, Prestons and Blacktown have all closed shop in the Sydney region and Macquarie Ice Arena is very much in need of renovations to return to its former glory. So, to lose what is undoubtedly Sydney’s premier ice sports facility would be a very sad loss for the ice skating community. It also means that whole clubs, including the Sydney Bears AIHL team, will all have to find somewhere else to play. Fingers crossed that this facility stays!”

Aside from the current rink situation, the most significant off season news for the Bears was that of club stalwart Vlad Rubes hanging the skates up for good, to focus on duties behind the bench. Read gave his perspective on the Rubes presence missing from the ice.

“It’s different, because we are getting more benefit from his focus on just coaching. What I mean by that is, other players have had to step up to fill that gap. At this stage we are seeing that happen and the team is coming together more and more each week.”

As someone whose seen a lot in his time in the Australian Ice Hockey community, Read is positive about the current health of the sport and the AIHL.

“The AIHL is working well as is, though having 2 less teams in the Central Coast and on the Gold Coast only cuts down on the number of people getting to see the sport,” said Read. “Clearly, the more teams we can get established, the more games we will get to play, and the more ice-time that players get then the sport will grow towards a much higher standard. I also love the fact that Fox Sports Australia are involved and showcasing our hockey weekly. I would dearly love to see more AIHL shown.”

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Read remains positive but also realistic about the direction and growth of the league nation -wide. He is adamant, like many others, that facilities hold the key that opens the door to the next level for the sport.

“While everyone who is involved, from the players through to spectators and volunteers, do the best they can to promote the sport, it is the need to have more games played throughout the season and larger spectator facilities that I see as the most important to the long-term future of the sport,” said Read. “Limited spectators make it hard for all teams to survive, and more often than not, the funding for all players and team officials comes out of our pockets. Larger facilities in the 3,000-6,000 seat range would allow the teams to showcase the sport to many more people. This would also help bolster sponsorship through better reach of advertising, and it would also encourage more international teams to come visit Australia and play at higher quality facilities.”

“It also may be the time for the AIHL to look at becoming their own unique business, and looking at ways to get more facilities built. Maybe the AIHL could look at recent suggestions from the hockey community to establish a dedicated Ice Hockey Co-operative to build facilities. Though at the end of the day, the sport needs larger facilities and more of them for our sport to grow.”

Aside from spending time with family and friends, away from the rink Read is a keen follower of many other sports. One in particular is closest to his heart and, much like his role as the Sydney Bears puck stopper, also duly concerned with the crossing of red lines – Drag Racing.

“My father is Aussie top fuel legend Jim Read and my brother Phil drives the family top fuel dragster now. Between Dad and Phil they have a combined 19 Australian Top Fuel championships.” said Read. Further to that, Jim Read is the only non-American inducted into the international drag racing Hall of Fame in Florida. Quite an achievement.

And as for whose going to win the Stanley Cup this year?

“Bruins.”

We’ll see about that, Luke. #GoHawks

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