The Southern Stampede ice hockey team’s return to winning ways this season is being pinned on the return of its powerhouse captain.
In a disappointing season last year, the Stampede slumped to last out of five teams in the National Ice Hockey League.
This season, Queenstown’s Simon Glass, 29, came back from a year off – and the Stampede is back in form, sitting second behind Auckland’s Botany Swarm.
Veteran defender Bert Haines says: “Simon makes an enormous impact on our team. He’s a wealth of experience and talent.
“Last year there was a void in the team’s leadership – we really missed his experience.”
Glass’s leadership was so important to the players that when he came back they asked him to take up the captaincy.
“They wanted to have me back as captain early on and I stepped up to that role again,” Glass says.
“I felt I had something to offer.”
Last weekend, Glass made his presence felt early in Saturday’s first game against fourth-placed Dunedin Thunder by scoring the opening goal. The Stampede went on to lose 4-7 but won the return match the following night 8-4.
This season, Glass has scored three goals and made four assists, making him one of the Stampede’s most valuable players.
“I’m getting back to how it used to feel. I’m glad to be back,” Glass says.
Glass’s ever-modest attitude shines through when he downplays his impact, crediting their recent success to the three new international imports and renewed team culture this season.
“Everyone’s trained really hard – we’ve had 100 per cent attendance at trainings,” Glass says.
“The guys are really committed this season – there’s belief in the team now.”
The Stampede take on league leaders Botany Swarm this weekend, but Glass is up for the challenge.
“Even in the games that we’ve lost this season I think our team’s shown up and given a good effort,” Glass says.
“They’re a good team – we just need to continue to play as hard as we have in every other game.”