- US organisers astonished by Melbourne crowds
- Sport attracted far more fans than expected
- Were blown away by reception for foreign code
An American tourism boss was so impressed by the sellout success of a National Hockey League games in Melbourne that he declared that the Aussie city has the most rabid sports fans on the planet.
The LA Kings and the Arizona Coyotes played two exhibition ice hockey matches in at Melbourne Park last weekend in front of approximately 30,0000 fans.
The league had never been so far from home and wasn’t exactly sure what the reception for the sport in Australia would be like.
Organisers picked Melbourne because they’d heard it was a sports-mad city – and the crowds absolutely exceeded their expectations.
The NHL’s recent exhibition matches in Melbourne were a sell-out success – leaving organisers very pleasantly surprised
The LA Kings and the Arizona Coyotes played two matches at Melbourne Park last weekend in front of approximately 30,0000 enthusiastic fans
‘When you have 100,000 fans show up weekly for an Australian Rules match, that shows you the fervour people have for professional sport here.
‘Other leagues will be watching [the success of the NHL games at RLA] and they’ll see a sport that’s not even broadly played in Australia, yet can achieve a complete sell out.
‘This has been such an amazing proof of concept that there’s a real appetite for professional sport in Melbourne, and it means you’re going to see other franchises wanting to bring their game here as well.’
Players were also surprised that they got such a booming reception.
‘The atmosphere here was unbelievable,’ Kings goalie Cam Talbot told NHL.com.
‘I mean, to have two sold-out games, back-to-back afternoons, it was pretty incredible. They were into it the whole time.’
Coyotes coach Andre Tourigny was shocked by the crowds and struggled to find the words to describe the turnout.
‘There’s way more hockey fans than I knew,’ he said.
Tourism boss Adam Bourke said Melbourne had the most rabid sports fans in the world
Bourke said other sporting franchises will be encouraged to bring events to Australia now (pictured, cricket fans at Melbourne’s Boxing Day Test)
The players and coaches also attended Collingwood v GWS clash on Friday at the MCG (pictured)
‘I just didn’t know. I think to see the number of NHL jerseys everywhere and the number of fans, the way the people were cheering and everything, I think that was …
‘Pretty cool is not strong enough. I think it was amazing for me to see. I was not expecting that.’
Players and coaches got a chance to see the city over the weekend, and also attended the Collingwood v GWS clash on Friday at the MCG with close to 100,000 footy fans.