Hockey veteran puts career on ice

Hanging up skates: Gary Healey celebrates the end of his 37-season ice hockey career at the Queenstown Ice Arena last week

An Arrowtown ice hockey stalwart has pulled pin after 37 seasons on the ice.

Gary Healey, who relocated to Takamatua, near Akaroa, this week, started with the Alexandra Flames in 1980, but after shifting to the Wakatipu played the past 23 years in Queenstown.

He played his final Jurassic League game for the Predators last Wednesday – “it turns out the team are in [last night’s] final but ‘m not going to make it”.

The 52-year-old says he scored “bugger-all goals” as he played defence. But he had “more hits on my body, more stitches in my face, black eyes and broken bones than I care to remember”.

“I’m reminded of the broken back when I get up every morning.”

He calls ice hockey “just the best game in the world – fast, adrenalin-pumped and totally addictive”.

“I had some of the best of times playing hockey and made lifelong friends.”

Healey, whose son and partner have also played, has also coached for the past 10 to 12 years.

A highlight, he says, was taking the under-13 Otago-Southland Southern Knights to the New Zealand champs in Auckland.

He’s also proud of winning the national masters with the Black Jurassics this year – “it took us 18 years to win the gold off Auckland”.

Healey says he’ll come out of retirement to defend that title.