By GUY WILLIAMS
It’s a ‘‘bummer’’.
That’s how SkyCity Stampede captain Matt Schneider sums up the end of the season after the New Zealand Ice Hockey League decided to cancel playoffs late last week.
Schneider says the team’s pride in being unbeaten in all eligible regular season games — a first in the league’s 17-year history — only partly compensates for the ‘‘unsatisfying’’ end.
‘‘The writing was on the wall, but it’s still disappointing.
‘‘It’s an event, a spectacle, especially being held here in Queenstown, so it’s too bad for the fans.’’
A NZIHL media statement says it made the call, after consulting the teams’ staff and captains, because of the ‘‘ongoing disruption and uncertainty’’ caused by Covid restrictions throughout the country.
It had already pushed the semi-finals and grand final dates twice.
League rules mean it can’t award the Birgel Cup without a grand final series, although Stampede at least gets to hang on to the Toa Kauhanga Riri Tio challenge trophy after successfully defending it against allcomers.
Schneider – named the season’s top point scorer, league MVP and team MVP – says the team had been down to one training a week, and he and his teammates were struggling to stay focused without game dates to aim at.
‘‘At least we’ve got some certainty about what we’re doing now.’’
But he’s optimistic next season will go ahead as normal, and reckon’s Stampede’s ‘‘well-balanced’’ squad — with its mixture of youth, seasoned players hitting their prime and veterans — will be ready to bring the Birgel home.