By PHILIP CHANDLER
The new captain of Queenstown’s SkyCity Stampede ice hockey side’s hardly a stranger to the team.
Mitchell Frear, 28, who fills the big boots of veteran Matt Schneider, who’s skated off to Vietnam for a year or so, first played for the team when he was 14, and aside from two seasons with Phoenix Thunder, hasn’t missed a game.
His promotion also increases his family’s stamp on the Stampede — his older brother Cam’s the coach, his dad Niel’s the manager and his younger brother Lachlan’s also a long-time team member.
As assistant captain to Schneider for the last few years, Frear admits he was next in line for the job, but he believes his calmness under pressure also helped his chances.
‘‘I do get stuck in, but I’m more of a calm, collected kind of guy.
‘‘Stampede have got a bit of a reputation for taking too many penalties some times.
‘‘We are a physical team, and that sometimes gets misportrayed by the referees, so if we kind of keep our calm and just rely on our systems and our skill, we should be pretty good.’’
A defenceman, Frear says he owes a lot to Schneider: ‘‘I was probably 20 when he first came here, I’ve learnt a lot from him, just on and off the ice.’’
Frear’s also the first Stampede player to have brought up 200 league appearances, and expects to ‘‘crack 200 for Stampede’’ after another season.
He’s not the only long-timer in the team — while veterans like Braden Lee are stepping back a bit, he says plenty of others can step up, including vice-captains Callum Burns and Connor Harrison.
But he’s also looking forward to the emergence of younger players like Jack Robbie and Axel Ruski-Jones.
Frear admits last year was frustrating as the playoffs were cancelled due to Covid after they’d won all their round robin games.
‘‘It was a bit of a tough way to end the year, and, yeah, we do feel we should have got the trophy, but this year we can prove that.’’
Stampede’s season starts with a double-header against Thunder at the Queenstown Ice Arena tonight and tomorrow — puck drop’s 6.45pm both nights.