HOCKEY DOWN UNDER
Wednesday, 06.04.2008 / 8:22 AM / Features
By Erin Pollina - Sabres.com
|Sabres Fans (Photo: Bill Wippert)
It hasn’t been easy being a hockey fan in Melbourne, Australia but after watching the Buffalo Sabres play, the 21-year-old has become possessed; both by the team and the North American game itself.
Seeing a Sabres game broadcast on an Australian television station at the age of 10 was all it took for the fixation to set in.
“I started watching when Miroslav Satan was playing in Buffalo and at the time I thought it was pretty cool that his name was spelled like Satan,” he laughed. “I’ve stuck with Buffalo ever since.”
His obsession has led him to the United States for the ultimate hockey pilgrimage, living in Toronto for several months solely to learn more about the game.
While he admits the trip has turned into more of a travel experience, Petrovski’s goal was to find a team and play competitive hockey.
“The culture back home, hockey is not big at all. We’ve got one rink in our whole state [of Victoria],” he said. “Picture Ontario with one rink… that’s all we’ve got. This is quite a change.”
The highest level of play that exists in the country, according to Petrovski, is an amateur league consisting of around 10 teams.
“One team per state pretty much,” he said.
Although the arena closest to his home in Melbourne, Victoria is more than an hour away, Petrovski said he skated at least five days a week, fitting practice in whenever he could- or whenever the ice conditions were playable.
“The facilities are terrible and if it gets hot the ice will melt and so they shut it down for like two or three days,” he said. “That happens often through the summer.”
So while in Toronto Petrovski made it a priority to see a professional hockey rink, driving to Buffalo to take a tour of HSBC Arena.
“I’ve wanted to come here for years and finally I made it,” he said. “It’s pretty exciting. Pretty cool to actually be here.”
Petrovski explored the arena, saw where his favorite team plays and, more importantly, made a trip to the Sabres Store.
“I need some blue and gold,” he said.
The journey to Buffalo was not as glamorous. Petrovski took a 14-hour flight from Sidney, Australia to Los Angeles, spent two day in Anaheim and from there flew to Toronto.
The next step was to find a job.
Appropriately, Petrovski found employment at Wayne Gretzky’s restaurant as a busboy, earning money to pay for rent and hockey tournaments.
“I just sort of winged this whole trip,” he said. “I had some money saved and the rest was just coming here to work and surviving off of that.”
And it was well worth it to be closer to the sport. Following the game and the Sabres in Australia proved to be no easy task.
“If it’s a 7 p.m. game in the United States, I normally don’t get to watch it until like 9 a.m. or 10 a.m. the next day,” he said. “So like a Saturday night game would be on Sunday morning.”
The Internet and listening to Rick Jeanneret on the radio provided the majority of the access he had to the team.
“It’s hard to listen to anybody else after you hear him do play-by-play,” Petrovski said of the broadcaster.
Spoken like a true Sabres fan.
Petrovski is set to return home to Australia from his hockey excursion in three weeks.
As for his next journey? Perhaps actually seeing a game in person.