Queenstown is set to host its first international ice hockey tournament in October, when seven teams from New Zealand and Australia contest the 2015 peewee championship.
The Southern Knights under-14 team won the peewee championship in Adelaide last November but at this year’s tournament, being held from October 12-16, three representative teams from the South Island will head into battle on the rink.
Tournament organiser Nick Flight said teams from Dunedin, Tekapo and Queenstown would contest the title against teams from Brisbane, Victoria and South Australia. One of the Australian representatives was expected to bring two teams.
It will give more children the opportunity to experience international ice hockey.
While players from the champion Southern Knights team would be spread out in the three New Zealand teams, Flight expected the home teams to be competitive.
”We’ve got quite a few returners, too, so they’re a year older and a year stronger.
”It’s really a development tournament. It’s not necessarily a bunch of rep teams getting together. It’s really to grow Australia and New Zealand ice hockey at that level.”
However, Flight said the Australian teams would not be travelling with weak players, so competition was expected to be ”quite stiff”.
A total of 28 games would be played during the week-long round-robin tournament at the Queenstown Ice Rink, along with a couple of warm-up matches.
The tournament would also bring economic returns to Queenstown. Flight said each team would spend about $35,000 to come to the resort.
Discussions were already under way about hosting a midget transtasman tournament – players under 16 years of age – in Queenstown.
The success of the Southern Stampede, which won the New Zealand Ice Hockey League championship in the resort at the weekend, was helping to raise the profile of the sport in Queenstown and attract more junior players, Flight said.
”Every [Stampede] game this year we’ve sold out – every home game.
”We only had 24 hours to sell that last final and it was sold within the first hour.
”It’s great for hockey at all levels and it’s great for the Queenstown Ice Hockey Club.”
Flight said he was still on the lookout for a naming sponsor for the Queenstown Rangers team to play in the October tournament, as well as an overall naming rights sponsor for the tournament.