Ignore the glaring inaccuracy of our 90s kids film reference for a second. Yes, we get it. A kiwi and a duck… it sounds like the intro of a bad pub joke. But like our favourite 10-year-old hockey prodigies, for Kiwis, hockey has always been about one thing – playing with your mates.
Whether it’s the conversations and beers in the shed, the laughs you give one another when you miss an open net, or of course the camaraderie that comes with winning your local division title – we should want to protect that. To foster it, and ultimately, we should want to pass that onto our kids.
NZ has come a long way over the years.
In 1987, we played our first international ice hockey match against Australia. The result? Well, lets just say the All Blacks beat South Africa by less at North Harbour Stadium last year. Yup… the Aussies beat us 58-0 in that inaugural match.
But from our first gold medal in the IIHF Div Three Worlds in 2003, to our overtime loss in a three game series against Australia in 2017, we’ve shown where we can go.
But it’s time now to push the game to our youngsters.
Senior leagues around the country continue to grow, but we need to put our kids feet in the skates, and keep them there.
NZ has always had the traditional sports knocking on our kids doors. The allure of the All Blacks, the Blackcaps, or the Silver Ferns can make choosing a sport easy for many youngsters.
But what about the enticement of the college system in the United States, the Winter Olympics, or even the NHL? We’ve got a great game going on here, and more Kiwis should know about it!
The New Zealand Ice Hockey Federation had their AGM in February 2018, and the message was clear. More kids in skates, and in skates for life.
In the last 17 years, the federation has helped build a stable hockey community, employed professional coaches, put into place vast “learn to play” resources, and helped NZ ice hockey grow at the junior level.
Now, it wants to go the extra distance.
Firstly, the federation is looking to roll out a new initiative called First Shift. First Shift will target kids under 10 years of age. There will be seven sessions per annum, per region. You can have a look here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vE_5o4ywS1s
Secondly, our “learn to play” programmes. Through various programmes and coaching investment, the NZIHF is aiming for 300 new players by May 2019. When split across the six regions, this seems like an achievable task.
Lastly, coach development. It’s great having kids in skates, but we need coaches to help them when they’re in them!
The NZIHF wants to increase coaching numbers and provide support and mentorship to ensure our kids are getting the best possible tutelage. As such, the pathways for coaches will continue to improve over the coming years.
Helping our kids will help our game grow. As a result, we’ll see more people coming to hockey at both the senior and junior level, we’ll see increased competition, more opportunities overseas, and an overall lift in national team standards.
Get behind the NIZHF and help get more feet in skates!