Southern Stampede has named its 2012 ice hockey squad – and captain Simon Glass expects new foreign imports to raise the bar.
The Queenstown-based Stampede were reborn as a competitive team last season, winning their last six games to land a place in the national league final.
They fell short of the title after their valiant efforts, losing 5-3 to Botany Swarm at Auckland’s Paradice Arena.
But now, with a change in league rules allowing for seven foreign imports in the match-day squad, they expect to challenge once again.
Former Ice Blacks captain Glass, 30, says: “We’ll certainly be stronger.
“Last year we only had three imports, whereas this year we have a whole heap.
“We have a good core of guys who played for us last year who’ve come back. Then with adding the imports, it’s shaping up to be a good season.
“But the league itself will be stronger and the fans are in for some really good hockey.”
The Stampede now boasts six Canadians, four Americans and a Swede in the overall squad, along with 11 Kiwis.
Several of the foreigners are New Zealand-based and not classed as imports. Others are no strangers to the league.
Canadians Tommy Zizian and Michael Sommer, also assistant coach, are returning players and long-term Queenstowner Bert Haines is captain of the Ice Blacks. Haines led the national team through the Ice Hockey World Championship Division IIA in Iceland last month.
Haines’ national squad included Stampede youngster Connor Harrison and Glass says such players will benefit, not suffer, from more imports.
Glass says: “It increases the level of our domestic league so makes it better for them to all play in.
“No guys are really missing a post from it and it’s just great for them to be around that higher level of skill so they can train harder and better.
“And it also provides opportunities for them to make friends and travel to play hockey overseas in North America, which I know some of them are considering.” The Stampede will play 16 matches with the first home games at Queenstown Ice Arena a double-header against West Auckland Admirals on the first weekend of Winter Festival on June 23 and 24.
The season begins with two games away to Botany Swarm the weekend before.
“They won last year and have a lot of national team players. Canterbury should also be good. They have some good Russian guys,” Glass says.
This weekend the Stampede plays Dunedin Thunder in a warm-up game in Gore.