Queenstowner Bert Haines has stepped down as captain of the New Zealand Ice Blacks after five years at the helm.
The Canadian-born ice hockey player is also hanging up his skates for the Stampede, at least at a competitive level.
The wider national squad was announced on Monday – and Haines’ name, for the first time in years, was missing.
Given he’s spent half a decade sporting the ‘C’ jersey, the 37-year-old admits that was weird, but says it’s time for new challenges.
“It is the next stage for me.
“I have got quite a lot of exciting stuff coming up personally and business-wise.
“I really enjoyed my role and time with the team, I absolutely cherish it, and I want to stay involved some way.”
He hopes to support the youth teams but hasn’t looked at options yet.
Haines says it’s hard to pick just one career highlight with the men in black, although one game stands out.
“There was a massive game in 2013 in Turkey.
“We came from behind in a game against China and beat them to win a silver medal and that was a huge, huge game for us and a great tournament for the team.”
But it’s not the wins on the scoreboard that will stick in his mind, but seeing team-mates grow and develop as players – particularly the younger members of the squad.
Haines says he’s pretty proud of their achievements.
Queenstowner Ross Burns is assistant manager of the national side and says Haines leaves a massive gap in the team.
“He has been a fantastic leader and role model. They are big shoes for any of the boys to fill, he is a leader on and off the ice.
“He led by example and never let a rough situation get in his way.
“He has given us something that will be hard to replace.”
While Burns is sorry to see Haines go, he wishes him – and his successor – well.
“What it does do is give other guys the opportunity to step up and come forward.
“We can’t be complacent about what was, but excited about what is going to happen moving forward.
“We have some very talented players and it’s a chance for younger players to step into where Bert was a couple of years ago.”
The Ice Blacks squad also includes fellow Queenstowners Adam Soffer, Aston Brookes, Callum Burns, Cameron Trew, Connor Harrison, Matt Schneider, Mitchell Frear and Stefan Amston.