Travelling again – NZIHF National Team Coaches

Travelling again – NZIHF National Team Coaches

New Zealand ice hockey suffered a three year drought of competing on the world stage due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This drought came to an end this year, when all of New Zealand’s national teams were able to compete in their respective world championships. The New Zealand U18 Women’s competed in Bulgaria in January, the U20 Men competed in Turkey in January, the Ice Fernz competed in South Africa in February, the U18 Men will compete in South Africa in March and the Ice Blacks will compete in Turkey in April. Prior to the teams departing to their world championships, we sat down with the head coaches from each team. 

Michelle Cox, head coach of the U18 Women’s team was looking forward to being able to travel again, especially to Bulgaria as it was a country she had not been to before. “I’ve been to other parts of Eastern Europe but never Bulgaria. I’m also looking forward to working with the new staff and players.” Regarding the tournament itself, Michelle was looking forward to “Getting back into a routine of attending world championships and seeing new players enjoy their first experience representing their country.” Michelle identified the challenges of the world championships for the U18 Women as “The unknown, we’ve been out of the programme for two years and will be playing unknown teams. We are also a largely new team, with only three returning players and so the lack of experience could also come as a challenge.” Michelle’s aims for the girls are “To see progress from the first to the last game that the team comes together and that we are progressing in our team work, on and off-ice culture and the team culture as a whole.” As head coach of the U18 Women, Michelle’s advice to the future generation is to “Get out and make yourself known. Development camps and the Triple Star are good as coaches will be able to see you. Come up and say hi to coaches and interact with them as we will be able to put a face to your name. We aren’t as scary as we look!” 

Andy Kaiser, head coach of the U20 Men’s team was looking forward to the historical aspect of visiting Turkey, “It is really great for many young players to visit such historical countries as it is an eye opener culture-wise.” In terms of the tournament itself, Andy was looking forward to “Working with new coaches and having new experiences, but also sharing my personal experience and wisdom with the players. I’m also looking forward to being able to help these young men to perform hockey on an international level, and give guidance and leadership that they hopefully will learn from” Andy saw the challenges for the team as largely financial “The cost of travel is high and so we may lose players due to finance. COVID-19 is also still lingering and could potentially hit us, meaning that we would not be able to play if any players contracted it.” Andy aimed to “See all of the players excel and strive for the best of what they are capable of as individuals and as a team.” To the future generations of U20 Men players, Andy’s advice is “Never give up, work hard and work on things that you can control.”

Jeff Boehme, head coach of the Ice Fernz, was looking forward to exploring South Africa, “Whenever I go I am always on a mission. I see this as work and in a way I could care less where we go but it’s always nice to visit a new place, but it is most important to experience a new culture and meet new people. My great grandfather sailed the Cape of Good Hope in the early 1900s and so my mum visited and it was important to her so it is nice to also be able to say I’ve also been there. I am also looking forward to seeing the Nelson Mandela museum.” Tournament-wise, Jeff was looking forward to “Being able to play again after COVID-19 and getting the team together and seeing them play for their country.” Jeff saw that the biggest challenge for the tournament will be “Lack of competition over the last couple of years due to COVID-19 and while some countries are in a similar boat, many have had more opportunities to play compared to us. Being competitive straight from the first face off and going straight into a tournament with no pre-tournament warm up is also a challenge.” Jeff aims to “Be the best we can be and play the best we can. We have a group that is ready to sacrifice for each other and give it their all for their sisters and dig deep and work hard.” Jeff’s advice to future Ice Fernz is “Set yourself short term and long term goals, like SMART goals, and work hard towards them. Ultimately there is no secret to hard work, it gets you to where you want to go.”

AJ Spiller, head coach of the U18 boys, is looking forward to travelling again, “I enjoy travelling internationally and locally, so I am looking forward to travelling to a new country and learning about the history.” Concerning the tournament, AJ is looking forward to attending his first world championships as a coach for New Zealand, “There were lots of cancellations due to COVID-19 so I am looking forward to being able to coach these young men and be with them as they compete on the world stage.” AJ believes that the challenges for this tournament is that “None of the staff or players have been to a world championship before. The process of travel and playing in a  tournament that is only three games long means that we have to be ready from the start, which is something we are not used to.” AJ aims to “Do well and win, but all of us coaches have aims of making sure that what we are teaching and delivering will make them better players in the long run, such as by instilling habits that will set them up for future tournaments and make them better players for further years and locally.” As head coach, AJ’s advice to hopefuls is that “There is no substitute for hard work and for being a good person. Work hard and be someone that is good to be around as both a player and a team mate.”

Keep an eye out for next month’s newsletter, where we sat down with players from the national teams and talked about their thoughts ahead of their tournaments.