Queenstown’s Southern Stampede will draw on experienced and battle-hardened veterans when contesting Saturday’s New Zealand Ice Hockey League final.
The team boasts Ice Blacks captains and players past and present, the league’s longest-serving players and club stalwarts.
They include Ice Blacks captain Bert Haines, who became just the second player to reach 100 league caps last game.
Stampede captain Simon Glass is a former Ice Blacks captain too. Brett Speirs – who became the first player to reach 100 league caps the weekend before Haines – has represented his country on the ice, along with coach Steve Reid.
The three players have been on the Stampede roster since the team was formed back in 2005 and have won two championships with the club – in 2005 and 2006.
They’ve also twice tasted defeat – placing as runners-up in 2009 and 2011.
Haines, 31, says: “There’s a few of us old buggers on the team.
“We’ve been through some pretty adverse situations and it helps. When our team might find itself in a hole, an inexperienced team might tend to panic or get down whereas we just realise the work set out before us and go about it.”
Haines celebrated his 100th game in Christchurch against the Canterbury Red Devils, who Stampede face in Saturday’s final.
“It’s a milestone – Brett beat me by just a couple of games as it turns out. Maybe I should have behaved myself a little bit more when I was younger.
“It certainly goes to show the experience we’ve got. We’re all playing with 18-year-olds now – they’re a great bunch of young lads to hang out with and play hockey with.”
Two of the younger generation, goalkeeper Aston Brooks and forward Connor Harrison, were named in the Ice Blacks squad that played in the 2012 World Championships in Iceland under Bert Haines.
Haines expects an exciting final. Stampede beat Canterbury in both games last week to cap an eight-game winning run and seal a home final.
“Effectively they’ll have had two weeks to sit down and try to figure us out,” he says. “It will be quite a challenge but I still feel our experience, skill and what we’ve come through as a team this season will shine through for another 60 minutes.”