Stampede forward Jade Portwood is hanging up his skates.
The ice hockey import, who’s played with the SkyCity Stampede for two seasons, including one as assistant captain, has returned to his native Canada.
He’s made the decision to be closer to his family – and to join the police force at home.
Coach Adam Blanchette says it’s a blow and describes him as irreplaceable.
It wasn’t an easy decision for Portwood who says he didn’t want to let teammates down.
“They were disappointed but understood I needed to leave,” he tells Mountain Scene.
While he loved his time with the Queenstown team he reckons ice hockey in New Zealand has a ways to go to compete on an international stage.
“But the heart and people are here to make it happen. I’ve said it before … playing for the Stampede renewed my love for the game.
“Right from the beginning I felt like I was part of the Stampede family. I’ve made some very close friends who I hope to see again.”
He’ll miss the banter, prepping for games and changing room celebrations.
Blanchette says the Stampede couldn’t have won the last two New Zealand Ice Hockey League titles without Portwood – whom he describes as a “greedy forward with some skill”.
“From my point of view he was a coach’s dream. It is a big loss on and off the ice.
“You can’t replace a guy like Jade – but I think we will be in a pretty good situation this year with some guys to fill the slot we need.” – LOUISE SCOTT