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Thunder Bay, Ont., hockey coach helping lead Canadian team in special series against U.S.

A hockey coach from Thunder Bay, Ont., will be behind the bench for a series of special contests this summer between teams from Canada and the United States.

Malcolm Sutherland says trip also about raising concussion awareness

The Ice Hockey Classic in Australia and New Zealand allows for more exposure of the sport to fans Down Under. (Ice Hockey Classic Australia and New Zealand)

A hockey coach from Thunder Bay, Ont., will be behind the bench for a series of special contests this summer between teams from Canada and the United States.

Malcolm Sutherland will be travelling to Australia and New Zealand for the series of six games between the two countries. The men's teams are made up of professional hockey players largely playing in European and minor-pro leagues in North America.

Some of the names on the Canadian roster, like goaltender Ben Scrivens and forward Peter Holland, will be familiar to NHL fans.

The goal of the contests is to raise the profile of hockey in the two countries, more known for sports like cricket, rugby and Australian rules football. Another reason for the series is to bring more awareness to, and raise money for, concussion issues.

"We are doing a tour in multiple sites, trying to grow the game and also raise some awareness on the prevention of serious injury in sport," said Sutherland, who will be an associate coach for the Canadian squad. 
Malcolm Sutherland is taking hockey down under. The Thunder Bay coach and concussion awareness advocate will help lead a team of Canadian pros on a tour of Australia and New Zealand 5:30

"It really gives the people Down Under an opportunity to see hockey at its finest," he continued. "We're actually doing an outdoor game, believe it or not, in the stadium where the [New Zealand} All Blacks [rugby team] play."

Sutherland, who is also the director of player safety at StopConcussions, a concussion and neurotrauma education group founded by ex-NHLers Keith and Wayne Primeau and longtime pro Kerry Goulet, said trauma in contact sports is something that needs to be addressed.

"We really want to get away from the violent aspect that sometimes clouds the sport and really promote that you can participate in a sport like ice hockey or other collision sports and be safe," he said.

The first game is scheduled for June 22 in Auckland, New Zealand. Six games — three each in Australia and New Zealand — are scheduled.

'Amazing crowds'

While hockey is more of a niche sport Down Under compared to in Canada, Sutherland said it has a century-long history in Australia alone and attracts devoted fans.

"Within a few minutes of the puck dropping, everybody's excited and into the game," he said of his impressions when he first went down with the program in 2017.

"We draw amazing crowds, last season we literally filled two stadiums, so NHL-sized crowds are attending."

Sutherland added that organizers will also run a number of seminars for coaches in youth sport in Australia and New Zealand.

"We get an opportunity to bring some players on the ice and we do a number of clinics and practices," he said. "We just highlight how important it is to teach safe outcomes as part of an ability to run an effective program."