When the Melbourne Ice were crowned team of the year at the 2018 Victorian Sport Awards, the significance of the achievement could not be ignored.
For starters, the women's ice hockey team had just beaten out the reigning A-League champions (Melbourne Victory), the 2018 AFLW premiers (Western Bulldogs) and the 2017/18 NBL winners (Melbourne United) to claim the prestigious honour.
But what was most staggering about the triumph of the Melbourne Ice, who are seven-time Australian Women's Ice Hockey League (AWIHL) champions, is the fact their players are forced to play for the "love of the game", forking out at least $2,000 of their own money each season.
The burden this places on the players and their families is enormous, even when governing body Ice Hockey Australia (IHA) provides $9,000 per season to each of the five AWIHL clubs, the same amount it gives the men's teams.
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