The current state of officiating in the NZIHL

(Photo: Suzanne Teesdale)
(Photo: Suzanne Teesdale)

Given last weekend’s drama filled antics between the Canterbury Red Devils and Southern Stampede which led to a player suspension, I assumed the quality of referring for the two game series between the West Auckland Admirals and the Red Devils would be tight to maintain order and keep control. With the beauty of technology, I was able to catch the full stream of the game without being have asleep at two in the morning. (I’m not complaining, don’t get me wrong but it’s so awesome to have the NZIHL at my fingertips during the day.)

However, my thoughts definitely got the wrong side of things. Maybe it’s just because I’m seasoned to watching professional hockey leagues (but even they have their own officials that are lacking at times), but what I saw were many blown calls that were turned around and made up after noticing the call they missed before. Easily a lack of consistency. Nobody got the better end of the stick either; the officiating was poor for both teams.

Throwing out game misconducts like they were going out of style in an attempt to control the game. That will only make things more hyped up. Well you say, how does one control the game then? By making smart judgement calls when they’re warranted.

I realize that these officials have to be certified in order to boss the game. My question is, are they having their memory refreshed during the offseason with continuing yearly courses? I understand New Zealand is fairly new to having a national league but this would do wonders for the growth of the sport. Referring clinics in the off season could even attract new people to the sport. You could import a couple of seasoned referees to help out and showcase their resumes.

Before you start to send me hate mail, this isn’t a knock on the refs. It’s more of an eye opening catch to make sure the league keeps its standards high to attract the best quality players. I understand and can not be more grateful for the sacrifice they make to pick up officiating and give up their spare time. I’ve also only watched the past two games in Christchurch, so I haven’t a clue if it’s like this in the rest of the country.

I’ve seen some leagues go down and fold due to poor officiating. I don’t want this to happen to the NZIHL.

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NZIHL weekend two preview: First games for Botany, Dunedin, West Auckland

(Photo: Gerard O'Brien)
(Photo: Gerard O’Brien)

After an exciting first week for the NZIHL, week number two is looking to keep up the pace. The Dunedin Thunder will make their way down to the Hive in Botany to start their 2014 campaign taking on the Swarm.

24 year old, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan native, Kolten Fyfe will be suiting up for the Thunder for his first NZIHL season. Fyfe has spent the five years in Canada’s Junior A system and the jump to playing hockey in another country should be one experience he’ll never forget. France’s Guillaume Leclancher will be entering his third season; second as a member of the Thunder. A solid part of Dunedin’s blue line, Leclancher finished the 2013 season with six points in 15 games. Another returning forward, Martin Pokorny of the Czech Republic will be monumental in flanking both Andre Robichaud and sharpshooter Paris Heyd.

Expect a lot of the same lineup for the Swarm that was iced last year. Solid goaltending and fire from the forwards will keep this battle in close.

Both weekend games will take place down at the Paradise Ice Arena in Botany. Puck drop will be around 4:30 local time.

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(Photo: Tarei Mackey)
(Photo: Tarei Mackey)

Coming off of a dramatic two game win over the Southern Stampede, the Canterbury Red Devils will be heading into this weekend series with a bounty over their heads. Revenge might be on the table from the rest of the league for Hayden Argyle’s knockout punch to the face of Stampede’s Matthew Schneider.(A bounty which I think is ridiculous as it was nothing more than a hockey play gone wrong). It makes for an interesting story line.

The West Auckland Admirals have picked up left winger Glen Patterson off of the Bobcaygeon Bucks in central Ontario. Goaltender Rick Parry, who will be returning after playing pro in France, had his scouting cap on and managed to bring back 27 year old Yoann Chauviere. The feisty defender racked up 49 penalty minutes in 26 games.

Another home and home stand in Canterbury at the Alpine Ice Arena. Puck drop for both games is 4:45 local time.

Stampede’s Schneider sent to hospital as Canterbury defend TKRT Trophy

(Photo: Suzanne Teesdale)
(Photo: Suzanne Teesdale)

A weekend series ended on a bit of a sour note as the Canterbury Red Devils successfully defended the Toa Kauhunga Riri Tio Trophy. A close battle with the Southern Stampede on Saturday preceded a rough and almost old time hockey feel on Sunday night.

The first matchup saw solid offence coming from Brett Speirs, Evan Zych and Vladimir Kutny. Hard shots that sailed to the back of the net early on allowed goaltender Justin Findlay to secure a comfortable win and promote the winning momentum into Sunday night’s tangle.

Unfortunately the story of the weekend wasn’t about defending the TKRT trophy, the winning ways of the red and black or the relentlessness of the Stampede. No, in fact the chatter afterwards signaled down onto something we’re all pretty familiar with in hockey: fisticuffs.

Towards the end of the second period, tempers were flaring as a tangle and scrum jumped in front of the net. We’ve seen it a million times. Whistle gets called, players start chirping, punches get thrown. Usually, referees are there in time to break it up before things start to boil over. Didn’t happen this time. Matthew Schneider of the Stampede seemed to get a pop in the mouth from a punch by what seems to be a Hayden Argyle fist. Schneider unfortunately has his back to the camera and all we get to see is the whiplash of his head slinging back and then he drops to the ice. Flat on his stomach, arms outstretched.

Not moving.

(Photo: Suzanne Teesdale)
(Photo: Suzanne Teesdale)

I’m used to the North American style of hockey and I’m very familiar with the “fight for no reason” style of the LNAH. From what I saw on the replay of the stream was nothing more than a hockey play gone wrong. Argyle gave Schneider a pop to antagonize him and when Schneider fell to the ice, he fell chin first. I’m pretty positive that Argyle didn’t intend to hurt him, at least not that extent and I can put money on him feeling pretty bad about it afterwards. These plays happen all the time over here and unfortunately some of the end up like the case of Schneider. The fall to the ice can sometimes cause a lot more damage than the fist to the face.

Argyle received a game misconduct (can’t blame them) but the official call was a “check to the head”. Hmmm. I would’ve called it roughing myself but I guess that’s why I’m not in black and white stripes. I realize that Hayden Argyle has the reputation of being the most penalized player in the league with the rap sheet to prove it. I also know that Matthew Schneider is one of stand outs on the Southern Stampede squad. Being it this early in the season, I chalk this up to nothing other than a hockey play gone terribly wrong.

Nobody likes to see a player get hurt. Schneider was taken to hospital and underwent medical observations for a concussion. The Stampede did tweet out today and Schneids is shaken up but okay and will be back on the ice next week.

When the dust settled on Sunday night, the Canterbury Red Devils managed to come away with another 4-2 win in front of a capacity crowd at their hometown Alpine Ice Arena. If there’s one tale to come out of the weekend’s series, it’s that hockey players don’t forget. Expect a bounty on Hayden Argyle’s head for the rest of the season.

NZIHL Season Opener preview: Southern Stampede take on defending champs, Canterbury Red Devils

The Southern Stampede out of Queenstown, New Zealand will have their hands full when they mark the beginning of the 10th anniversary New Zealand Ice Hockey League season with a weekend series. They’ll clash with the defending champions, the Canterbury Red Devils, who will be looking to complete a three-peat this year as Birgel Cup champs. However, the road to the final won’t be easy as the NZIHL is easily icing its strongest competition yet.

Haines celebrates after a Stampede goal. (Photo: Tim Clayton)
Haines celebrates after a Stampede goal. (Photo: Tim Clayton)

Taking the reins this season for the Stampede is Finnish lad, Heikki Grohn. The head coach plays a fairly European style of play and will be looking to keep his players on the ice and out of the box. As a woeful 2013 season ended for the Stampede, changes were meant to be made. As veteran Simon Glass announced his retirement over the offseason, Canadian  Bert Haines was given the title of captain. A leader on and off the ice, Haines is an important figure in the Stampede locker room and will no doubt blossom into his captaincy.

A strong import acquisition hailing from Tennessee, Ryan Strayer joins the Stampede after coming off two seasons spent playing in Turkey and Estonia. The defensive American had a strong collegiate career with Franklin Pierce University.

Former Red Devils coach Anatoli Khorozov. (Photo: www.reddevils.co.nz)
Former Red Devils coach Anatoli Khorozov. (Photo: http://www.reddevils.co.nz)

The Red Devils on the other hand have their own differences coming into play. Defending champion head coach Anatoli Khorozov headed to Kazakhstan with new opportunities. That gave assistant coach and Queenstown native, Stacey Rout to take over as bench boss. He has been around New Zealand hockey for over 20 years, representing teams not only locally but internationally with the New Zealand Ice Blacks. No doubt Rout knows exactly what kind of game the Red Devils need to play.

The meat of the Red Devils squad have returned, eager to have another chance at glory. The defensive might be where they struggle. NZIHL Defenceman of the Year, Terry Watt, has returned back to North America for a monumental opportunity, leaving the blue line wide open for an import. The Devils signed two as a replacement, Tamas Lancses from Hungary and Evan Zych from Canada. Zych will be coming straight out of the Southern Professional Hockey League with the Mississippi Surge.

jfHPFdSMThe NZIHL will celebrate the opening of their 10th anniversary season down in Christchurch at the Alpine Ice Arena. The blue and gold of the Southern Stampede will be herding into the Canterbury Red Devils house for a two game weekend series. Puck drop for Saturday’s game is 4:45pm local time and on Sunday, 4:30 pm local time.

One on One with Justin Findlay, the Canterbury Red Devils and the NZIHL

jfHPFdSMIn just over a week’s time, the New Zealand Ice Hockey League will be celebrating and kicking off it’s 10th season. As always, March Hockey will have complete coverage of this monumental occasion as best as I possibly can from here in Eastern Canada.

The defending champs, the Canterbury Red Devils have a bold new look with new jerseys to fend off the competition. (You’ll have to tune into the game to catch them. They’re gorgeous.) I caught up with friend of the blog, goaltender Justin Findlay on what lays ahead for the boys in red.

March Hockey: It’s early but what do you think the Red Devils will have to do to repeat as champions yet again? How are the imports looked at to help the team?

Justin Findlay: As a team we will have to come together both defensively and offensively for the entire 60 minutes. We are known for being able to score in bunches, but we also need to have a strong focus on defensive play. Our imports are looked to as leaders on and off the ice and we take a lot from having them here for the short season. Imports have always been an important feature of the NZIHL; helping local players develop, as well as being able to have the opportunity to play and practice alongside professional players. Some of the imports we have had/have in the NZIHL have been drafted into leagues as high as the NHL and have played with/against players we idolize.

971646_10151901929437345_1204126200_nMH: What kind of system does your new coach have in place? Is it difficult to transition from different coaches year after year?

JF: Coach Rout has been around NZ ice-hockey playing and coaching for almost 20 years; he has been a valuable piece of the Red Devils team since 2012 and his transition to head coach has gone as smooth as anyone could imagine. We all respect him through his time as player and coach and we all believe that he is the right man for the job.

MH: For yourself, how do you see your play for the upcoming season?

JF: All I want is an opportunity to help the boys win some games this season. Last season was not the greatest personally, but I am still proud to be a part of the defending NZIHL champs.

(Photo credit: nzihl.com)
(Photo credit: nzihl.com)

MH: How have you prepared through the off-season?

JF: The NZIHL season ended last August and I started training in September doing 2 months of cardio based training with another Red Devils member Josh Greenwood.  I then transitioned to doing weights and strength work and have been in the gym 6 times a week since Christmas as well as training on the ice 2 times per week. With the lack of actual ice time, we try to do workouts that simulate trainings/games and that will benefit us the most when we actually get on the ice.

MH: Should the rest of the league be ready to take on the new and improved Red Devils?

JF: I believe we have the most talent in the league at any position. We have a group of core guys that have been with the team for 6-8 years now and with the added imports we will always be a threat to any team. With that being said, I look forward to a competitive season this year!

The Canterbury Red Devils are in action with the first game of the NZIHL season, June 7th when the Southern Stampede invade the Alpine Ice arena in Christchurch.

Catching up with Terry Watt in Kazakhstan

(Photo: Gudrun Gisela)
(Photo: Gudrun Gisela)

Friend of the blog Terry Watt is having quite the year. He’s currently on his third team and third country in just 6 months. Little did he know that as a young Watt growing up in Ajax, Ontario, he would one day be taking his hockey talents to almost every part of the globe.

After spending most of his early career in the Federal Hockey League and Southern Professional Hockey League, Watt made the jump down under this past summer and made his debut in the New Zealand Ice Hockey League with the Canterbury Red Devils. With Defenseman of the Year honours and an NZIHL championship under his belt, the ice from France came calling.

However his adventures in France were short-lived as former Red Devils head coach Anatoli Khorozov saved him a spot with his new found team in Kazakhstan, Beibarys Atyrau. He now skates alongside Olympians and former NHlers. Not bad for a kid from Ajax. I caught up with him to see how his Kazak adventures are fairing out.

March Hockey: How different is it playing in an up and coming hockey country such as Kazakhstan?

(www.hcbeibarys.kz)
(www.hcbeibarys.kz)

Terry Watt: First of all, playing here is a tremendous honor. I’m a player that has been given a really good and rare opportunity to play with and against some elite hockey players. The hockey here is really fast and filled with lots of skill. To be able to practice and learn every day from guys who have played in the Olympics, NHL and KHL is a bit surreal for me considering almost a year ago I was playing Single A pro back in North America. One thing that is noticeably different is that everything we do here is monitored and written down. Every day at practice we all wear heart monitors and our recover time is noted in every situation we do. The big thing for me this year is to just be a sponge and absorb as much information and learn as much as I can from these guys and try and translate it into my game to hopefully become a better player moving forward.

 

March Hockey: This is your third team and third country this year. What are some of the differences and similarities between them, hockey wise?

Terry Watt: Playing here is like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. The hockey on and off the ice is very demanding. It is by far the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do physically and mentally. With the exception of myself, all the Canadians on my team have played in the NHL, AHL, ECHL and CHL – from what they tell me, playing here is very comparable to those leagues in many regards for the exception of the NHL .

a0111337f53111ca8ed52b4c90e49ba7Each day we are usually at the rink for roughly 7-9 hrs. Some days we have two practices. When we aren’t practicing we are in the gym lifting or on the ice we are doing some type of aerobic workouts. Back in North America most pro teams practice in the mornings and then are done for the day; however some guys head to the gym for a work out, but after that their day is pretty much done. In Kazakhstan they take care of us pretty well. We have all our meals catered, and even at times brought to the rink so we don’t lose any time practicing or preparing for our next game. I’ve only been here for just under a month and I will be traveling with the team for the first time this week. We are going on a two week road trip where we will play 6 games all through the country. The guys tell me that they spend hours on planes and even some 36 hour train trips to games – so conditioning is going to play a huge role in me getting use to the Olympic size ice and intense travel schedule. These are just a few things that separate the difference in hockey here oppose to back in North America. The simple answer to your question is that this experience is something completely new to me.
Continue reading “Catching up with Terry Watt in Kazakhstan”

Red Devils Championship look back with NZIHL Defenceman of the Year, Terry Watt

(Photo: Gudrun Gisela)
(Photo: Gudrun Gisela)

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?

Coach Khorozov. (Photo: www.reddevils.co.nz)
Coach Khorozov. (Photo: http://www.reddevils.co.nz)

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.

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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?

(Photo credit: Gisela Gudrun)
(Photo credit: Gisela Gudrun)

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”?

(Photo: Gudrun Gisela)
(Photo: Gudrun Gisela)

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!

Red Devils lose coach to Kazakhstan days before Grand Final

(Photo: www.reddevils.co.nz)
(Photo: http://www.reddevils.co.nz)

In another piece of shocking news, the Cantebury Red Devils announced that this was will be coach Anatoly Khorozov’s last season with the team. Having already led the Red Devils to the Birgel Cup last year, Canterbury will be looking to send off Khorozov in style with a second Cup in the Grand Final this weekend.

Khorozov will be heading to HC Beibarys Atyrau of the Kazakhstan Hockey Championship league. The team was founded in 2009 and are winners of back to back championship titles in 2011 and 2012.

The Kazakhstan Hockey Championship is made up of 10 teams across the country not including the teams who play for the Koninental Hockey League. Although it is very similar to the KHL style of play in that it is very fast paced and highly skilled. This is a major step up from the NZIHL and I have no doubt

(www.hcbeibarys.kz)
(www.hcbeibarys.kz)

that Khorozov will flourish with his new team.

Although Khorozov will be coaching in Kazakhstan, his home base will still remain in New Zealand. He will attempt to act as a scout for the Red Devils and see if he can import some new talent for the team and NZIHL in general.

The New Zealand Ice Hockey League is a great league that should be given more credit. It houses many talented players that may not get the coverage they deserve. I urge every one of you to try and tune into the Grand Final this weekend. For those of us in the Eastern Time Zone, the puck will drop around 1:00am Saturday night on http://www.nzihl.tv

Stage is set for NZIHL Grand Final

NZIHLAnd what a final it will be.

After a season filled with ups and downs, highs and lows and a tight race to the finish line, the NZIHL Grand Final will be between the Canterbury Red Devils and the Dunedin Thunder.

The Canterbury Red Devils come into the final as TKRT champs  and with a second place record in the standings. They are also the current reigning league champs looking to make back to back trips to the podium. Host team Dunedin Thunder finished in first and captured their first Minor Premier trophy.With their back to back wins over the West Auckland Admirals last weekend, Dunedin secured their home ice advantage for the final.

For a more in depth look at the Grand Final match up, head on over to OnTheFlyHockey.com and give this article a read.

The NZIHL Grand Final will take place on August 24th. Get down to the Dunedin Ice Stadium and grab your tickets now. For all my Canadian fans and readers, you can check out the action at http://www.nzihl.tv. The action will start around 1:00 am EST.

Fan Voice: Kevin Alcock and the NZIHL

The latest in our Fan Voice series features Kevin Alcock and his passion for the New Zealand Ice Hockey League. He is a proud hockey fan and takes me down under to the world of the NZIHL.

March Hockey: Where are you located and how did you get into hockey?

Kevin Alcock. Twitter: @kevinnz
Kevin Alcock. Twitter: @kevinnz

Kevin Alcock: I live in Christchurch, New Zealand. I played roller/inline hockey at high school. I went to my first NHL game in 1988 ( Kings v Canucks), soon after I found myself living in Vancouver, BC and started play social hockey. Survived the 1994 riot on Robson Street and I’ve been hooked for life.

MH: Does the NZIHL do enough to promote the league/teams and to involve the fans?

KA: I believe they do the best job they can with their limited resources. The Devils make the local paper after their games, which is very good as hockey is a very minor sport in New Zealand.

MH: Can you give a brief description of the Skate of Origin for our readers?

KA: New Zealand is made up of 2 major islands, North and South (yes us Kiwis have a great imagination). Skaters represent their home island in an annual game. As you imagine the rivalry between North and South is very intense across all sporting codes, so bragging rights are always sought after.

MH: Let’s talk NHL. Who’s your favourite team and player and why?

Trevor Linden (Photo: canucks.nhl.com)
Trevor Linden (Photo: canucks.nhl.com)

KA: After living in Vancouver for so long it is the Canucks, however I have a huge soft spot for the Leafs. People love or hate him, but I’m a huge Roberto Luongo fan, but Trevor Linden is my all time favourite as he represented what I believe a hockey player should be.

MH: Does New Zealand cover enough NHL? What would be your ultimate game to see?

KA: Hell no! Kiwi’s are great lovers of sport and if they actually could see more hockey it would give our local hockey a boost. I subscribe to NHL Game Center Live which allows me to see all the NHL I want or listen to radio broadcasts if I’m at work. Would love to see a Canada/Russia final in Sochi in 2014.

MH: Who are you pulling for in the NZIHL for the championship this season?

KA: The Canterbury Red Devils! Are there any other teams?!

If you’re a passionate hockey fan and want to represent your team or league, get in touch with me on twitter @MarchHockey or facebook, http://www.facebook.com/MarchHockey