Another successful year has come to an end of the New Zealand Ice Hockey League. A hard fought battle was fought between the Canterbury Red Devil and Dunedin Thunder with Canterbury coming out with their second straight Birgel Cup.
Defenceman Terry Watt as an integral part of the squad, winning his second championship in 4 years. He was a member of my close to home Akwesasne Warriors who won the Federal Hockey League championship in 2011. After a year with Canterbury, Watt is headed off for another hockey adventure in Paris, France. Could another championship be in the midst? Only time will tell. Watt gives me a look back at one of the best games of his career.
March Hockey: How did the team prepare going into the final? How was the pressure as defending champs?
Terry Watt: You have to give our coaching staff full credit. Anatoli Khorozov and Stacey Rout made sure our team was ready. We studied film on Dunedin and made all of our guys familiar with their tendencies, everything from systems right down to their power play and penalty kill. We knew the Thunders strength was their goalie so our game plan going into the finals were to drive the net hard and make it difficult for their goalie to see shots. I don’t really think our guys felt any pressure being defending champs, we used it as motivation going into the finals. Teams win championships, great teams find a way to win them back to back and that was our goal.
MH: Take me through the final minutes of the game. What was going through your mind?
TW: Well considering the Thunder made a late push we were just trying to calm the younger guys down and get back to playing a simpler game. But as we reached the one minute mark I couldn’t think anything else but how proud I was of the guys on my team. We prepared hard for two weeks leading up to the finals, we had a game plan and we stuck to it. It really shows you how well coached and how deep our team was from our goalie out.
MH: Takumi Ledbetter received MVP of the Grand Final. Who do you think in your mind could receive MVP for Dunedin?
TW: Without question Matt Canaday. Just like how our goalie Michael Colman was the backbone for our team, Canaday carried Dunedin for most of the game.
MH: Where do you want to take your hockey career now?
TW: I just want to keep competing and winning championships, I want to play at the highest level I can before hanging them up. Growing up I was never the biggest or most skilled guy on my teams, in fact I played AA hockey for most of my youth years. It wasn’t until my midget year I finally made my local AAA team (Ajax Pickering Raiders). For some reason it wasn’t until I got to college that I started to grow and get better each year. Personally I still have a lot to prove, and though I have been fortunate enough to play in some competitive leagues I won’t be completely satisfied until I reach all my goals.
MH: You’ve won two league championships in 4 years, the first being the FHL. Going to try for number 3 next?
TW: I’ve been very lucky these past years of playing on some good teams with very talented teammates who deserve more credit for these championships then I. But I’ve learned a lot and have grown as a player over these past years, as for winning more; yes of course I want another one. Championships are addicting, once you’ve tasted one that’s all you’re thinking about going into each new season.
MH: What is it like to be called NZIHL “Defenceman of the Year”?
TW: There are many good defensemen in this league so it’s an honor to receive this award. I’ve played forward most of my life and only made the switch to Deference four years ago. I owe this award to my coaches and teammates over these past few years that have helped me with this transition and the pointers I’ve gotten along the way. I still have a lot to learn on the back end and only want to get better moving forward.
MH: Any last words for the Canterbury Red Devils, the fans and the NZIHL?
TW: I want to thank the entire Red Devils organizations for giving me this opportunity to come to their beautiful country and giving me a chance to play with some great teammates. This organization is first class from top to bottom. The fans are tremendous and were very supportive throughout the entire season. Playing in the NZIHL was a great experience and I highly recommend it to all Canadians who are willing to look outside of the box and try something new. Thanks for the ever lasting memories and friendships.
March Hockey: All the best Terry, can’t wait to watch your career thrive in Europe!