Bill Bartlett is as Canadian as they come – at least that’s how it seems.
He’s always popping up at his local Auckland rinks, he’s always showing his passion for hockey, and of course, he’s got that North American twang.
So you might be surprised to know, at 61, Bill’s only been playing hockey for eight years – starting right here in New Zealand.
That’s right, the Toronto native moved over to live with his family in 1970 when he was just 13. Little did he know, it’d be the last time he touched a hockey stick for 48 years.
Like all migrants, he discovered the charm and attractiveness of Kiwi folk, and fell in love with the girl he would marry in 1982.
That kept him here in New Zealand and away from his homeland in Canada – thought he recalls being a kid on the streets of Toronto, where his love for hockey began.
“As far back as I can remember, I was skating,” Bill said.
“We used to skate on our driveway in our backyard. My dad would put the garden hose on the driveway at night and freeze an ice rink for us.”
Bill and his friends would play hockey together out on the street all through summer and winter.
They had to use tennis balls however, as they found they just “hurt each other” when they used a real puck.
“We played all through the summer until late at night,” Bill said.
“We used things like sticks as goalposts, in the middle of the road. If a car came we’d all yell out “car” and everyone would jump in and take all the goalposts away – whatever they might be – it could be shoes, or a couple of sticks.”
But that all disappeared when Bill came to New Zealand.
Fast forward 48 years, and Bill went along to an U16 game here in Auckland to watch his nephew.
“He said to me after the game, ‘you realise there’s an adult league here,’ and I never knew that, even though I lived in New Zealand for over 40 years.”
So Bill went to the local rink, asked about the Learn to Play programme, and got his ice hockey muscle-memory back into gear.
He spent 12 months getting back into things before joining the Senior Non-Check league.
“The biggest difference was we never wore pads as kids. The first time I put pads on was eight years ago,” Bill said.
Like all of us, he enjoys the social elements of the sport more than anything. He loves the fitness – having been told at a recent doctors visit, he had the fitness of a twenty year old!
But it’s guys like Bill that keep our hockey community running. Not only does his love for the game translate on the ice, but off it too.
Bill has been involved with organising a number of charity hockey matches for organisations such as the Women’s Breast Cancer Foundation and the Child Cancer Foundation.
He also organised a charity game for the Christchurch Earthquake Appeal.
“I’m pretty passionate about that side of hockey as well,” he said.
“I like to use the game to promote charity.”
And if that wasn’t enough, he’s even hoping to pass the game onto others in the form of coaching.
“I just love the game, I love the atmosphere and everything. I’d love to start coaching, I just have to find the time!”
Written by Sam Hewat