One to go: The Crimson Badgers ice hockey team's made it to the final


They could be Queenstown’s answer to The Mighty Ducks.

In the space of three years, the Crimson Badgers have risen from perennial losers to top dogs in the resort’s Sunday night ice hockey social league.

It’s a story of friendship and love for the game — and the beer afterwards — with more than a few echoes of the 1992 ice hockey movie starring Emilio Estevez.

This winter, after finishing ninth or dead-last in the 10-team comp’s winter and summer leagues for two years, they finished the regular season top of the table.

After dispatching their quarter-final opponents 3-1 last Sunday, they’re only two games from glory.

Ontario native and team captain Wesley McAllister says they’re just a bunch of 20- and 30-something friends — boys and girls with the typically Queenstown assortment of nationalities and occupations — who’ve stuck together since playing in their first summer league in 2018-’19.

He and mates Matt McKinley and Dave Philips decided to form the Crimson Badgers after watching some social games and then filling in for teams short of players.

The name comes from the ginger beer company McAllister started four years ago.

Its roster was filled with friends, acquaintances and ‘‘anyone who put up their hand’’, including some who’d never played the game.

‘‘I come from Canada but I’m probably one of the few Canadians who didn’t play hockey there,’’ he says.

‘‘We were all quite fresh on our feet.

‘‘We lost pretty much every single game …. it was only the last winter and summer  seasons we started to win a couple.’’

However, through practice and enthusiasm, they’ve all gradually increased their skill levels to the point where, now, history beckons.

‘‘You never know — we just want to make sure we come out strong and play the same game we’ve been playing all season.

‘‘The next game will be difficult, but if we do move on from there, fantastic.’’