A Queenstown ice hockey player’s signing off her best year by flying to Canada today to train and play with the sport’s biggest all-female club.
Wakatipu High school leaver Caitlin Hollyer, 17, will be the only Kiwi attached to Toronto’s Leaside club as part of a New Zealand Ice Hockey Federation exchange that’s run since 2012 — she’d have probably gone last year if it hadn’t been for Covid restrictions.
This year Caitlin enjoyed the thrill of playing for the Wakatipu Wild team when it won the national champs for the first time, having also suited up for their first two seasons.
She was also selected for the NZ Ice Fernz who’ll play in world champs in South Africa in February, but the defencewoman will pass on this as ‘‘it’s so hard to get there from Canada’’.
However, she’ll play for the under-18 NZ team at world champs in Bulgaria in January.
She first played for the U18s in Mexico City in 2020, aged just 15, shortly before Covid put a spanner in the works.
Covid also put paid to her playing for them last year and this year.
In Bulgaria she’ll be one of only three survivors from the 2020 side.
Caitlin, who was originally an ice skater before taking up hockey seven years ago, also attended a two-week training camp in Sweden back in July.
She feels she’s grown her passion for the sport this year.
‘‘I’ve loved it all the way through, but it’s kind of been more just for fun, and then this year I’ve put an effort in.’’
She enjoys ice hockey because of its aggression and speed — ‘‘it’s so fast and intense’’.
In Canada, she’ll play once or twice a week, train twice a week ‘‘and hopefully get to train with other teams as well’’.
When she returns, she might do some ski instructing — she has her level 1 qualifications — as she also did last year.
But she’d also like to play college ice hockey in the United States, ‘‘as a few Kiwi girls have already done’’, or for a university in Canada.