Hockey tyro takes on the world


Seventeen-year-old Ben Harford will be Queenstown’s busiest ice hockey player over the next two months.

Next month the defence player travels to Calgary, Canada, with the New Zealand under-20 team for a training camp before contesting the division three U20 world champs in Mexico City.

As if that’s not enough, in February he’s off to South Africa with the NZ U18 team to play in the division three U18 world champs.

He’ll be the only Queenstown player in both teams though in Canada and Mexico he’ll be joined by Monty Brown and Tom Carson-Pratt and in South Africa by Taylor Stewart.

Ben, Tom and Taylor also played in both the U20 and U18 world champs in Dunedin and Auckland, respectively, early this year.

Ben, who was also in the national league-winning Southern Stampede side this year, is “an incredibly talented young athlete”, Stampede and NZ Ice Blacks captain Bert Haines says.

“He’s got a very cool head on him and he’s definitely playing above his age group.”

Ben’s upcoming northern and southern hemisphere trips will cost $12,000.

In addition to funding from the local Bruce Grant Youth Trust and the Community Trust of Southland, he’s doing a TradeMe auction of product supplied by local companies including Shotover Jet, Lone Star, Glacier Southern Lakes Helicopters and the Queenstown Golf Club.

First wielding an ice hockey stick when he was about seven, Ben oozed talent early on.

His dad Kerry says he was known as a ‘ring-rat’ “because he used to go straight from school to the rink and he would be on the ice from 3.30 till 8 o’clock at night”.

“What’s got him to where he is is a passion to be his best for both himself and for the team.”

A breakthrough was a two-week training camp in Canada at the age of 12 taken by brothers Boe and Nate
Leslie who also make a coaching visit to Queenstown every year.

He (left) and fellow local players Harrison and Max Macharg and Callum Burns were rated in the top 20 per cent at that camp.

In 2012, Ben made the NZ U16 team and last year he broke into the NZ U18 team for the U18 world champs in Bulgaria.

He also puts a lot of effort into his schoolwork, his dad says - he won the Year 12 physics award at Wakatipu this year.

Kerry: “Because his studies are up there, they’re very good with respect to time off.”

Asked what he loves about the sport, Ben - who was also a member of the Otago U15 boys’ golf team in 2013 - says “it’s just fast, I guess”.

“A lot of other sports are just too slow and boring.”

Meanwile, Ben was also part of the Southern U20 team who won their league title for the third year running in a season that finished last Sunday.