Bandit Bert plans Mexican raid


Queenstown’s Ice Blacks captain believes a pre-world champs training camp could help the Kiwi ice hockey team grab gold next month.

Bert Haines’ team leaves next Thursday for a nine-day camp in Calgary, Canada, ahead of the division two group B champs in Mexico City, starting April 9.

The team won bronze in Spain two years ago then, frustratingly, silver in South Africa last year.

“We dropped a game against China that we should have won,” Haines says.

The training camp will be longer than usual because the side hasn’t had any camps in New Zealand this year - partly because up to eight of the 22-man squad have been playing ice hockey overseas.

“I think this bodes well for us ‘cos that’s where everything gels.”

They’ll then travel to Mexico for a few days before the champs to get acclimatised because they’re playing at altitude.

NZ’s opponents will be Australia, whom they’ve not met since 2011, Bulgaria, Mexico, North Korea and Israel.

Haines predicts Australia, who finished last at last year’s 2A champs and were relegated, will be their strongest competition.

“We can definitely make it to 2A [by winning the 2B worlds] but it’s going to be tough for us to stay there just based on the fact we don’t always take our strongest team, just with the funding.”

Each player’s had to stump up about $4500 to travel to Canada and Mexico, which has caused some to pull out.

Haines’ Queenstown teammates are Callum Burns, who’s been playing in Sweden, Mitchell Frear and Frear’s younger brother Lachlan, who’s making his Ice Blacks debut, aged 19.

Haines’ partner Natalie Murphy is also going as physio/medical coordinator for her third world champs.

“She’ll have an important role managing the guys with the altitude,” he says.

Murphy, who most recently worked with the Highlanders rugby team, comments: “The players are in top form with fitness levels at their peak.

“We’re in a great position to take gold this year.”

Meanwhile, 35-year-old Haines, the oldest Ice Black - he joined the team in 2010 and has been captain since 2012 - won’t commit on whether these champs will be his last.

“I just won’t call it.”

One senses, however, that winning gold in Mexico might convince him to carry on.