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Ready: From left, Rebecca Dobson, Kelleye Nelson and Rikki-Lee Mclean sport their new kit

By MATTHEW MCKEW

Queenstown’s ice hockey obsession is growing and this weekend will see the launch of a new franchise to compete in the New Zealand Women’s Ice
Hockey League.

Wakatipu Wild will travel to Dunedin Ice Arena for their first ever round of matches, having splintered from the former Southern Storm team.

Queenstown’s something of a hockey powerhouse, with a strong international presence and a dominating men’s team, SkyCity Stampede.

The resort’s been a key supplier to the Storm roster over the years, taking on Canterbury and Auckland, but now there’s enough interest to split away.

Player/coach Kelleye Nelson says they have 15 skaters and two goalies signed up, with Stampede regular Colin McIntosh acting as head coach.

‘‘Unfortunately because of Covid we won’t have a game at home, we have two rounds in Dunedin … but we have supporters coming down to watch.

‘‘We had to make sure it was not going to weaken the league by dividing teams, but looking at all the players in the Dunedin area, there’s enough quality.’’

Queenstown’s hockey obsession has somewhat to do with the number of Canadians living here, but the Wild are restricted to just five imports as per league rules.

‘‘It made it hard in Queenstown because a lot of us have been living here long-term but we don’t have citizenship yet, so we have a few girls who aren’t able to play,’’ Nelson says.

She says support from headline sponsors Morrison’s Irish Pub, Golden Homes, Margos and Lil Flick Fireworks has been crucial, paying for ice time and essentials.

‘‘They knew we didn’t have home games but still gave their support and commitment to us.’’

Wakatipu Wild went up against former Storm comrades in the form of Dunedin Thunder yesterday and take on the Canterbury Devilettes today at 12.45pm, then it’s an early 8am start against Auckland Steel
tomorrow.

matthew.mckew@scene.co.nz