Knights to their own rescue

Canberra Knights players are rallying together to remain in the Australian Ice Hockey League and plan to take on the club's licence themselves.

The Knights sensationally withdrew from the AIHL on Wednesday, ending a 33-year existence as one of the longest-running Canberra national sporting teams.

Knights boss John Raut cited increased costs and a lack of player depth as the key reasons behind the decision.

Raut owns the Phillip Swimming and Ice Skating Centre where the Knights are based and has run the team for the past 28 years.

The Knights boasted one of the most passionate supporter bases in the competition and regularly drew sold-out crowds of 1200 to their games.

Knights players held a meeting on Thursday night and captain Mark Rummukainen spoke with AIHL commissioner Alex Lata about the possibility of resurrecting the team.

Time is the enemy of the Knights, as the season is scheduled to start on April 12.

''The players want to keep going and we weren't given the opportunity to do anything in the first place,'' Rummukainen said on Thursday.

''If we can take control of the team and run it how we want to run it, maybe we can have a team in the league in 2014.

''The amount of public support we've seen in the last 24 hours has been very encouraging, and hopefully there are businesses who might be willing to get behind us.

''The players don't want to lose it, the fans don't want to lose it, unfortunately the only person willing to turn it in was the owner.''

The Knights will have to prove they can be competitive for the entire season, that they are financially stable and must have guaranteed ice times for matches and practice before a licence is granted.

Most clubs have already paid for flights and accommodation for the new season, including their scheduled trips to Canberra.

Lata said time was of the essence.

''There is a very limited window for resolution of the issue, with the season approaching,'' he said.

Rival teams have contacted the Knights to offer surplus players to increase their player depth.

It would not be the first time in the AIHL that players have taken control of a team.

The Adelaide Adrenaline was on the verge of collapse when its owners decided to fold before players picked up the pieces.

''It was a similar situation, the rink owned the team and they didn't have enough money for it,'' Rummukainen said.

''The team basically said 'we'll run it ourselves' and all of a sudden they had an overwhelming outpouring of support.

''They have enough money to get the imports and to travel comfortably.

''So I think with a fresh face and fresh support, the sky's the limit.''

Raut has said the Knights cost between $160,000 and $170,000 a season and that he was losing $10,000 to $20,000 a year on the team.

The ACT Government contributed $29,000 to the Knights as part of a grant for sporting teams in national competitions.

An ACT Government spokesperson said that funding wouldn't be affected if the Knights were run by a separate entity.

The AIHL had offered to increase the number of imports the Knights are allowed from four to six to help them become more competitive.

with Will Brodie

The story Knights to their own rescue first appeared on Canberra Times.

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