The Glass family is no stranger to the Southern ice hockey community, with Simon Glass having captained the Sky City Stampede and Graeme Glass currently being part of the Executive Committee of the Queenstown Ice Hockey Association. However, their family’s accomplishments run much deeper than that. The Glass Family’s involvement in ice hockey dates back to over 70 years ago, and show no signs of slowing down with now a fourth-generation entering the hockey world. In part two of this two-part series, Simon Glass tells of his incredible career in ice hockey, and how the Glass family legacy continues as his two daughter’s now take on the ice.
Simon’s journey with ice hockey began at a very young age, as both his father, Graeme, and grandfather, Ben, were involved in ice hockey. Simon explains, “My family has a long history of involvement in ice hockey, starting with my grandfather, so I was around hockey since I was a young age and naturally got into ice hockey from there.” Simon’s earliest memory of ice hockey comes from a farm in Albury, located in South Canterbury. “We lived on a farm that had a natural ice rink that would freeze in the winter months, my first memories are of skating on that with my father, sister and cousins when I was around five years old.” Simon also holds memories of his father and grandfather on the ice, “I remember my grandfather skating with us a couple of times on the rink of the farm, but he had to stop playing hockey by then. I remember going to Queenstown in 1987 to watch Dad play in the 50th Jubilee of the Erewhon Cup, which his team won. I remember that trip well, how I would skate around the old outdoor rink in the dark while they were socialising with the other teams.”
Though Simon can remember his father, Ben, being part of the New Zealand ice hockey team, he unfortunately never saw him play for New Zealand. Though both Simon’s father and grandfather were heavily involved in ice hockey, they never pushed Simon into the sport and he goes on to say that “Playing was completely my choice.” Alongside his father and his grandfather, Simon’s cousins, the Lewis’s were also avid ice hockey players. “My cousins, the Lewis’s, played at the same time as me. We are all of similar ages and get on very well still to this day. They were based in Christchurch, so I would go and stay with them. All we would talk about is hockey, and we would play street hockey on the driveway all day long in the summer.” The Lewis’s also went on to play for New Zealand as Ice Fernz and Ice Blacks.
As mentioned before, Simon started skating when he was roughly five years old, and first began playing ice hockey on the rink on his family’s farm. The rink at the farm was specifically made for ice hockey. Simon describes, “The rink had no boards, just grass banks. However, it was the same size as a rink and had lights and a shed to get changed in. For tournaments in the old days, they would put timber planks on the ice to act as boards. Looking back, it was a pretty unique experience for a kid to have an ice rink on your backdoor in New Zealand.” Simon also occasionally played at the old Tekapo rink, but due to the lack of a competitive kids league in the area, it wasn’t until Simon moved to Queenstown at the age of 11 that he really started to play competitively. Simon notes that the game was much different back then. “There were a lot less players then than now and there was no national league. Getting gear was nearly impossible and so we would use whatever we could get our hands on, but nobody cared about how good your gear was back then. The Newmarket Bombers, which later became the Canadian Moose, would come out to New Zealand which was a big deal. That was pretty cool as they would play against New Zealand in Christchurch, which I would go and watch with Dad.”
Simon continued to play ice hockey in his youth and made some notable achievements such as being part of the Southern Ice Hockey League Midget team that won nationals for the first time ever. Simon was also part of the New Zealand U18 representative team, where he had the opportunity to attend the U18 World Championships which was held in North Korea. Simon retells a memorable moment from his experience there. “We knew very little about North Korea at the time except that it was very isolated. Looking back now, it seems nuts to think we went to a tournament in North Korea particularly as we were only 16/17 yrs old. The response I get from South Koreans when I tell them I have been to North Korea is pretty funny as they don’t believe me. One memory that I will remember forever is that we were in the stands watching South Africa vs North Korea and a massive on-ice brawl broke out. South Africa emptied their bench and North Korea didn’t, so it was like 18 South Africans on 6 North Koreans. The refs had their hands full trying to break it up, so the North Korean military soldiers marched onto the ice in full uniforms including shoes. They were all slipping over and smashing themselves-it was out of control, however, they had stun guns and were chasing the South Africans around the rink. They quickly stopped fighting and skated to the bench and went running down the hallway back to the dressing room. It was so crazy.”
In 2000, at just 17 years of age, Simon Glass played for the Ice Blacks at the IIHF World Championships which were held in Iceland. “The experience was so amazing; I think it was one of my fondest hockey trips. Iceland as a country was amazing. Going from U18s to Senior men’s was great too, the whole set-up was more professionally run. We had a training camp in a small town in Austria and I loved that too. Just travelling and playing hockey was a dream. I roomed with Darren Blong, who was one of my idols so that made it pretty cool as well. The U18s and the Seniors were on at the same time, so I had to decide which trip I was going to go on. It was a 1-second decision.” During that tournament, Simon scored three or four goals and an assist. Simon offers advice for any youth who hope to make the Ice Blacks someday “Going in at a young age is great as there is generally no pressure or expectation. Just train and play as hard as you can. Listen to advice from the senior guys and just soak up the whole experience.” Simon looked up to many players at that time, in particular Darren Blong. “Darren was my favourite New Zealand player. My Dad was the Ice Blacks manager in the mid-90s before I was playing for them, and I remember my Dad talking about Darren and his skill, drive and work ethic-I wanted to play and train hard like him.” Simon also loved the NHL and would watch as many games as he could. He recalls, “Back then they had a few games on SKY TV a week, but we couldn’t get SKY TV in Queenstown so my grandparents would record the games and post the VHS tapes down to me. I would get about 4 games at a time and would watch them all in one day. Wayne Gretzky was my all-time favourite player. I literally knew everything about him and all his stats.”
In 2005, Simon was named the Ice Blacks captain at just 22 years old. Simon recollects “I was already an assistant and didn’t expect at all to be voted in as the captain that early in my career, particularly as there were a few older players on the team then. We had a team meeting and it was announced that I was going to be the captain-I was over the moon, and I think the first thing I did was try and ring my Dad which back then wasn’t easy from Lithuania.” Having accomplished so much at such a young age, Simon comments “Looking back now I think it is pretty cool and I am proud of what I achieved. I just wanted to be the best, so I gave as much as I could at the time in between trying to work and have a life all at once.”
As an adult, Simon had a very successful career with the Southern Stampede. He recounts that “The years with the Stampede were awesome. The national league was the best thing to happen to Ice Hockey in NZ, the exposure it has created for ice hockey is amazing. The very first season we were pumped, I remember we got a mock-up uniform sent down the year before and we were just so pumped for the season to start. The first season was a success for us. Auckland had always dominated the senior nationals, but our team had buy-in from day one, we believed we could win that inaugural season and sure enough, we did! That first season was certainly a highlight, we had such a tight team and many of those guys are still my best mates to this day. We have built a pretty cool brand for the Stampede in Queenstown and the community and club got right behind us and they still do. We had some great players come from around NZ and the world to play with us and had such a good time over the 10 years I played for them.” Simon recognises his biggest achievements during his ice hockey career as being the Captain of the Ice Blacks and also winning the first 2 NZIHL seasons with the Stampede. Simon certainly has a lot to be proud of, but he says that his proudest moments are, “Playing for the Ice Blacks and being the first second-generation player to do so, and playing hockey with my dad in the Erewhon cup in the mid-late ’90s. Also winning with the Stampede in the first season of the NZIHL. However, I am also so proud to now be coaching my girls and seeing them loving it so much. This season we had a parents vs kids game which was very cool as Sarena my wife and my kids all played. That was really fun.”
It’s fair to say that Simon Glass had many successes during his ice hockey career, and although he racked up a lot of points and won medals, he sees the experience as a whole as the most fulfilling. “The hockey was great, however the travel, lifelong friends and memories I have from all that are the best. I have endless fond memories from what hockey has given me. I have also travelled to about 30 countries playing ice hockey which is pretty cool.” Simon believes that “Hockey has not only given me endless memories and friends, but I genuinely do think it has helped me in my professional life too. I think with the leadership and management of teams within my job it comes more naturally due to the skills I learnt from my time playing hockey.” Simon made many friendships through ice hockey with the likes of players such as Bert Haines, Braden Lee and Brett Speirs. “I’ve played with some of these gyts since I was 11 years old. One of the best was certainly Brett Speirs, along with Braden Lee (also one of the best) and I played on a line together for quite a few years on the Stampede; we were pretty dominant. I am still great friends with a lot of the hockey guys. I have just this weekend been away camping with Braden and Bert and our families, I see them all a lot.”
Though Simon has retired from the NZIHL, Simon still plays socially and coaches his two daughters, Willa and Coco, twice a week. Simon sees this as his priority, and loves coaching his kids. “Seeing them grow and learn new things is one of the most rewarding things for a parent. They both love ice hockey which is pretty cool.” Simon believes he will continue to coach his kids and their friends in the Learn to Play Programme as he thoroughly enjoys it. Simon advises for anyone looking to get involved in ice hockey “It is such a great sport to get into in NZ as it opens up so many doors for travel and a team environment. By the time I had finished school I had played in four continents. I think for kids already playing, the key is the more work you put in, the more you get out. If you want to be the best in NZ, then you need to work hard to get there on and off the ice.”
The Glass Family is truly an amazing legacy that harks back to 1946, to now over 70 years later with a fourth generation. The previous generation’s hard work and integrity showcase the selfless time and efforts that they put into the development of New Zealand ice hockey. With Ben Glass and his involvement as a player and administrator, to Graeme Glass becoming a founding member of the Ice Blacks to President of the NZIHF, to Simon now doing a full circle from being considerably New Zealand’s best player to now coaching the youth. Darren Blong comments “I first got to know the Glass Family through Graeme as a competitor playing for Southern, then later as manager of the Ice Blacks. Simon Glass used to hang around the changing rooms as a kid, then I later roomed with him on his first Ice Black trip as a seventeen-year-old, as well as playing on the same line. I have a lot of respect for Simon as a player and a person, and he grew to become a good leader and a good example for Kiwi players at the time. Four generations in one family is quite a thing.”