Dimopoulos played to the local TV cameras, highlighting that the NHL’s first event in the Southern Hemisphere is here and not, say, in the rival city of Sydney in New South Wales.
“Of course it’s going to be in Melbourne, because Victoria is the sports capital of the country,” Dimopoulos said. “We’re very excited to welcome our U.S. friends here for such an iconic game. It’s going to be amazing.”
When an Australian TV reporter asked for his message to people who don’t know too much about the NHL, Dimopoulos said he had seen a couple of NHL games on television.
“The message is, ‘Come,’” he said. “‘It’s a fast-paced, pretty action-packed sport. Come and watch it.’”
Hockey has a modest following in Australia. The country has 6,150 players and 20 indoor ice rinks, according to the International Ice Hockey Federation.
But the sport has been played here since the early 1900s. The country has been a member of the IIHF since 1938. It has a semi-pro league, the Australian Ice Hockey League.
ESPN broadcasts NHL games here. Australia accounted for 7.7 million visits to NHL digital platforms in 2022, seventh among countries outside of Canada and the United States. It ranked fourth among countries overseas in visits to the NHL App.
“It’s a sport that actually does capture public attention in Australia,” Dimopoulos said. “There’s multiple platforms you can watch it. But to have these guys here, the Coyotes and the Kings, up close and personal, is quite special.”
Asked if he felt hockey could grow here, he said: “It would be great. It’s a great sport. It’s fast-moving, and it’s exciting. The first time I watched it, I was hooked.”
That’s the whole idea behind this.
Meanwhile, it sounds like the first time Keller saw Melbourne, he was hooked.
“It’s amazing,” Keller said. “Super beautiful flying in, seeing the water. It’s been great so far. We kind of walked around earlier, did some shopping. It’s nice to do that. I’m sure we’ll get out and explore. I think we’re going to the zoo today, so that’ll be fun.”
“What do you want to see?” a reporter asked.
“Kangaroo,” Keller said.