The Queenstown-based Southern Stampede ice hockey team has a new coach who plans to stamp out any ill-discipline on the ice.
Finnish coach Heikki Grohn has taken over the reins this season from Stephen Reid. And he’s cracking the whip over indiscipline that saw Stampede’s 2013 season marred by suspensions and minutes in the sin bin.
Grohn says: “Hockey’s a team sport and if you want to play like a bully that’s not my team. In my team, the focus is on playing hockey, actually staying on the ice with five guys at all times.
“Discipline and respect are the most important things for this season. I’ve heard about and seen the penalty minutes and videos – that’s not hockey, it’s like Goonies on ice.”
Grohn had eight years as a coach in Finland, the fourth best ice hockey nation in the world behind Canada, the US and Russia.
The 35-year-old coaches youth players at Finnish club Kiekko-Vanta, in the city of Vantaa, Finland: “We’re on the ice four to five times a week with the under 18s in Finland.
“It’s twice a week here on ice and we’ve been training for six weeks.
“But they’re very committed here and are learning even though we have only two sessions.
“I’m happy with where we started and where we are now.”
Ice Blacks captain and Stampede stalwart Bert Haines replaces retiree Simon Glass as captain.
“You’re always going to miss a guy like Simon Glass,” Canadian Haines says.
“He brings a lot into the room, his experience and ability to relate to players. It’s a new role for me – a lot more involved shaping the team. It’s been good.”
Haines is impressed with the new coach: He brings some more structure, accountability and responsibility, which is good.
“He’s bringing discipline and the boys are all on point with that.
“They know how that will affect our season – just doing everything we can not to lose guys to the bin or a full-blown suspension where they miss a game.”
Haines says Stampede go into the new season with confidence – despite first up being an away double-header against 2013 champions Canterbury Red Devils this weekend.
Talented goalie Aston Brookes returns from Dunedin Thunder and new USA imports Ryan Strayer and Brian Dunford are of a high calibre, Haines says – Strayer impressing with his goal scoring and Dunford for his quality defence.
“And our youth players have really stepped up – especially Lachlan Frear, Callum Burns and Harrison Macharg. Great to see.”
Stampede play Canterbury Red Devils this Saturday and Sunday at the Alpine Ice Arena in Christchurch.