Southern Stampede captain Bert Haines is stepping down.
The Canadian ice hockey player led the team to victory last year - winning the New Zealand Ice Hockey League title.
Haines, who’s had two seasons at the helm, doesn’t want to comment on the decision but says he’s happy to jump in and play when he can.
Head coach Adam Blanchette says Haines was invaluable to the organisation, a huge part of the community and someone you don’t try to replace.
“You just keep moving on. You go with the guys you have in the room – obviously he is going to be missed.
“You can’t be disappointed as he gave so much to the team last year. Life goes on, there is more to life than hockey and Bert made the decision for himself. He went out the way he wanted, too.”
Blanchette doesn’t want rumours floating around but reckons there are a few obvious choices for a replacement.
Coaches will be using pre-season games as a marker, to see which players step up. He points to three of the squad who have been round for a few years, Cameron Frear, Matt Schneider and Callum Burns.
Ultimately he reckons the players’ actions make the decision. Blanchette says coaches will be ready to announce the decision next week.
“I think the right man for the job will step up,” he adds.
The Stampede take on Dunedin Thunder in two pre-season matches this weekend.