More Hockey Down Under! The New Zealand Ice Hockey League

NZIHLThe NZIHL is an amateur hockey league based out of New Zealand. It’s creation in 2005 was a way to help the top players in the area have international potential. Rivaled by near by Australia and the AIHL, New Zealand wanted a place where the home grown hockey loving players and fans could thrive.

A reason for it’s growth over the years is that fact that there season takes place during the offseason of most professional hockey leagues. Many players flock down under to stay in shape as each team is allowed an unlimited number of Australian talent as they don’t count as imports and only up to 4 players from overseas. The only drawback is how much playing time they actually have on the ice. If the team acquires an import goaltender, he is only allowed to play for 60% of his teams minutes.

The league is made up of 5 teams; 2 on the North Island and 3 on the South. During the season a game entitled the “Skate Of Origin” is held almost like an All-Star game between the two islands. It’s a fun way to get everyone involved and have support for the game.

In case you haven’t had a chance to check it out, I had the opportunity to speak with the goaltender of the Canterbury Red Devils, Justin Findlay which you can read here.

It’s nice to see the sport thriving in non traditional hockey markets. Findlay also incorporated a nice Q&A about the league, be sure to check that out as well.

Q&A With Canterbury, New Zealand Red Devils Goaltender Justin Findlay

Last week we saw how hockey has taken off in Wales, United Kingdom with our Q&A with Matt Richards of the Cardiff Bay Lightning. This week we head down under.

RED_DEVILSJustin Findlay is a 25 year old Canadian playing goaltender for the Canterbury Red Devils of the New Zealand Ice Hockey League. Most people don’t even think of hockey when they hear of that country. Here’s what Justin had to tell me about the ever growing game in Kiwi land.

March Hockey: How did you end up in New Zealand, let alone playing hockey there?

Justin Findlay: I was originally born in Sudbury, Ontario. My father is an air traffic controller and with his job he moves around a lot. I moved here when I was 4/5 years old and started playing inline hockey at age 10. I then transitioned to ice hockey at 12 and continued to play both until 17 years old when I switched to ice permanently.

MH: How is the hockey there compared to that of European leagues or back home in North America? Are fans just as passionate?

971646_10151901929437345_1204126200_nJF: The league is growing in skill level and fans every season, we have a very passionate support base and I firmly believe the Southern Stampede have the most passionate fans in the NZIHL. I would compare our league to a Canadian major junior league in terms of skill level, although as I said earlier it improves every season.

MH: Is there a lot of support for hockey in New Zealand? Or even Australia?

JF: There is a great, loyal fan base down under, in both countries! New Zealanders really enjoy the sport but the problem is getting them down to their first game. We find that once people have seen one game it is quite hard to keep them away!

MH: Growing up, who was your biggest influence as a goaltender?? What is your style of play like?

296281_10151873877787345_143077362_nJF: Growing up I was heavily influenced by Dominik Hasek, Terry Sawchuck, Curtis Joseph, Johnny Bower, Patrick Roy and ‘Battlin’ Billy Smith. I play a hybrid-butterfly style of goal-tending and I love to challenge shooters and come quite far out of my net. I am confident in my puck handling, although my team members may not be as confident!

MH: And finally, if you could play with any player, past or present, who would it be and why??

JF: If I could play with ANY player ever it would have to be Scott Stevens of the New Jersey Devils. I know he would protect me in net and would give me some huge hits to fawn over on the ice.

Head on over to http://www.reddevils.co.nz for more info on the team and the NZIHL!