Wellington Ice Hockey: A Community United by Passion and Determination

Wellington Ice Hockey: A Community United by Passion and Determination

In the heart of Wellington, a vibrant ice hockey community is flourishing, driven by the dedication and relentless efforts of individuals who have made their mark in the sport. Caleb Hance, the General Manager of Wellington Ice Hockey Association (WIHA), embodies the spirit of this community, spearheading its growth and nurturing young talent. In an exclusive interview, Hance sheds light on his role, the guiding hands behind Wellington’s success, the burgeoning age groups and teams, the crucial role of volunteers, and the exciting transition from The Frosty Spot to the Daytona rink.

As the General Manager of WIHA, Caleb Hance assumes the responsibility of overseeing daily operations and fostering the development of youth ice hockey in Wellington. Hance’s journey to this pivotal role encompasses a passion for the sport, coupled with a diverse background in management within the hospitality and golf industry. “I grew up playing Ice Hockey back in the states and love being around the game, but since then have worked in management for hotels and golf courses. I’ve gotten quite lucky in joining the association, I found myself helping out with the younger teams back home and then with the Mackenzie Bull Tahrs during a stint in Tekapo, and eventually here in Wellington!”.

Having actively contributed to ice hockey clubs in the United States and New Zealand, Hance’s expertise and dedication positioned him as a prime candidate for the GM position at WIHA.

Hockey in the capital has shown a testament to the remarkable individuals who have left an indelible mark on the community. Rob Blitz, the visionary founder of Frosty Spot, epitomizes this spirit, with his unwavering passion and determination to establish and relocate the rink from Seaview to Brewtown in Upper Hutt. Rob sadly passed away last year but will live on with the rink, with his number being placed on the goal line in remembrance of his dedication to bringing ice to Wellington. 

Another iconic figure, Matt Kent, echoes the same love for the game, balancing his roles as an ice cutter, goaltender, and purveyor of spirited banter. However, the list of instrumental figures does not end there, as Paul Edlin and Luke Turner, along with Mischa Saunders, President of WIHA, and the dedicated women’s committee have all played pivotal roles. Additionally, Daytona’s Bryn and the hardworking staff have gracefully taken the reins in managing the rink, while the ever-reliable Matt Thompson ensures the financial stability of the association.

Although Caleb Hance’s involvement with WIHA spans a relatively brief two-year period, he has witnessed the remarkable progress and growth of the association. The programs have expanded, new leagues have emerged, and talented young players have emerged from the ranks. Hance lauds the unwavering determination and dedication of the Wellington community, a testament to their love for the sport. “It’s been amazing to see the progress and the determination we have here in Wellington, there are people who are at the rink more than me sometimes! It’s also been very refreshing to be a part of a hockey association at its grassroots. I was a part of large associations in the US and being at a club at its start allowed me to know virtually everyone by name and have a much more social and friendly setting around growing the club together”.

The move from The Frosty spot to Daytona has seen the association flourish and improve the rink and in turn the ice surface. “The ice in Wellington has been bootstrapped from the beginning. While I wasn’t around at the time, people still tell stories of the original tiny square ice surface that had to be shoveled by hand. That wasn’t back in 1908 either, that was just over 5 years ago! Since then, the skating community has grown by leaps and bounds, and we were so excited at the start of the year that Daytona decided to make a significant investment in improving the rink. The new ice surface is a pleasure to skate on, the viewing area has been significantly improved, and the staff, very helpful and always working to accommodate us as best they can!”. This transformative decision became a turning point for Wellington ice hockey, catapulting it into a new era defined by grand possibilities and unprecedented potential.

Wellington Ice Hockey Association has grown into a flourishing community with over 200 members. The association accommodates players of all ages, ranging from the youngest skaters at the tender age of 4 to the oldest active member, who is nearly 71. Adult social hockey comprises three grades, totaling 10 teams, while the U12 Super League, women’s league, and various youth training programs cater to the development of U18, U15, and U12 players. 

The success of a rapidly expanding association like WIHA heavily relies on the dedication of volunteers, with opportunities available in various positions, including the board, operations, coaching, and committee roles. WIHA welcomes individuals with unique talents and a passion for the sport to contribute and be part of the club’s growth.“The association has a volunteer board that anyone can apply for (President, Treasurer, Secretary, VP of Hockey Operations, VP of Adult Hockey, VP of Youth Hockey, VP of Women’s Hockey and VP of Communications) and we hold elections every year. But it takes a lot more than the board to keep everything running and growing. At the rink there is the operations side which includes the front desk, gear locker organization, game officials, scorekeepers and coaches. On top of all of that we’re starting to build up other committees such as youth, womens, fundraising, tournaments and many more! One challenge we had early on was there was so much to do that it was hard to coordinate everything, but as we’ve gotten more established we’re better able to make use of all the people wanting to help grow the sport. We’re also looking to push our social media further so a social media chair is in the works. If you’ve got a special talent or want to help the club, please let us know and attend the AGM this year!” 

All of Wellington’s events can be found on their Google Calendar, it is updated regularly and keeping an eye on their social media pages helps to stay up to date!

○  Mondays 7:00-8:00pm : Open Scrimmage/Drop in game

○  Tuesdays 6:00-7:00pm : U12 Super League

○  Tuesdays 7:15-8:15pm : Beginners Adult League

○  Thursdays 6:00pm-7:00pm : U12 Learn to Play program

○  Thursdays 7:15-9:30pm : Grade 2 Adult Social League

○  Saturday 8:00-9:30am : Women’s training

○  Sunday 5:00-6:00pm : U18/U15 training

○  Sunday 6:15-8:00pm : Premier League Games

If anyone wants to join or to find out where they need to go?

Wellington have their website wiha.nz and social media platforms Facebook and Instagram that provide information to the public but you can also get in contact with them by emailing info@wiha.nz ! If you’re interested in getting on the ice or helping out in any way, Wellington would love to hear from you!