By GUY WILLIAMS
Last year’s Winter Youth Olympics is proving to be a cradle of dreams for Queenstown’s top ice hockey talent.
In October, Mountain Scene featured a story on 17-year-old rising star Tallulah Bryant, who’s attending a private high school in Ontario, Canada, with an intensive hockey programme.
Another resort hockey tyro, Axel Ruski-Jones, with whom Tallulah went to last year’s Winter Youth Olympics in Switzerland, is thriving at a similar academy about 800km away in the same state.
The 16-year-old former Wakatipu High student won a bronze medal when he represented New Zealand in a mixed-nation team at the event.
His father, Ants Ruski-Jones, says Axel’s been at the Ontario Hockey Academy, in the city of
Cornwall, since September.
He’s boarding at the private school, which aims to prepare its 160 students for places at North American universities where they can play collegiate hockey.
Axel drove the process him self, researching the options and choosing the academy before
successfully applying for a scholarship.
‘‘After going to the Youth Olympics, for him that was a bit of an insight into what he could
possibly do, and how far he could push it,’’ Ruski-Jones says.
Axel’s 12-hour days start at 6.30am, and he’s on the ice and in the gym virtually every day.
He’s sharing a dorm room with four boys of the same age: two Brits, a German and a New
‘‘He absolutely loves it.
‘‘It’s basically boys living, eating and breathing a sport they love.’’
The 190cm-tall athlete’s already played a half-dozen games for the academy’s under-18 AAA team, playing centre in its first line.
He’s also excelling at his school work in the knowledge the higher he places academically, the more collegiate hockey opportunities will open up to him.
The school year ends next May, and if his scholarship’s renewed, he’ll return for another year, his dad says.
‘‘In that final year, he’ll look for opportunities to go to college, both in Canada and the US.’’
Whether that eventuates or not, it’s a ‘‘win-win’’.
‘‘If he ends up going to university in New Zealand, it’s still been an amazing experience, and no doubt he’ll make some life-long friends.’’
After taking up hockey at the age of five, Axel graduated through the Stampede U15 and
U18 teams before getting a spot on SkyCity Stampede’s roster this year, and getting a handful of games.
He was also in the national U18 squad, although Covid prevented that team travelling
Father and son met up in the US recently, and are now on a road trip from Los Angeles to
Jackson Hole, Wyoming, during Axel’s Christmas break.