An American import is loving his first season with Queenstown’s SkyCity Stampede ice hockey team, who play two must-win home games this weekend.
Brendan Walkom, whose father is director of officiating for North America’s prestigious National Hockey League (NHL), says the Stampede have ‘‘a really good locker room set-up’’.
‘‘I just think all the guys get along, not only on the ice but also off the ice.
‘‘It’s a good brotherhood here.’’
In reference to the Stampede being defending national league champs, the 25-year-old forward says ‘‘it’s always good to come into a winning culture’’.
‘‘They have a pretty strong leadership core, and these guys know what it takes to win.’’
A prominent goal-scorer this season, Walkom gives credit to line-mate Colin McIntosh — ‘‘he’s set me up for a lot of my goals’’.
‘‘It’s always nice to play with guys that have good hockey IQs and are really aware on the ice.’’
Ahead of tonight and tomorrow’s games against West Auckland Admirals, for which puck drop’s at 7pm both nights, Walkom says ‘‘it’s a known rivalry, from what I’ve heard, so we’re coming in full steam’’.
‘‘We need to bring our ‘A’ game, we can’t take these guys easy — if we want to get that home ice advantage [for the finals], we’ve got to win.’’
He adds he’s loving Queenstown, too — ‘‘I love the town, love the people here’’.
Besides keeping up his off-season training, he and fellow American import Jeff Solow are also doing some labouring and building work for Golden Homes.
‘‘It’s good to do something else besides hockey in the [off-season].’’
Meanwhile, Walkom says he’s very proud of his dad Stephen’s role with the NHL.
‘‘I’m very lucky to have him as a father and have him introduce me to the game of ice hockey.’’
Stephen officiated more than 600 regular-season NHL games, 84 Stanley Cup play-off games, two Stanley Cup finals and the 2002 Winter Olympics over almost 20 years.
He was initially director of officiating between 2005 and 2009 before resuming his role 10 years ago.
Brendan: ‘‘I think he’s done really well with the NHL in terms of just the standard of their officials.
‘‘As the game gets faster and the technology gets better, it gets harder and harder to officiate.’’
● Stampede coach Cam Frear’s been named an assistant coach of New Zealand’s Ice Blacks.
Wild hunting for second title
Queenstown’s Wakatipu Wild women’s ice hockey team are heading into the 2023 finals weekend in pole position.
The Wild hosted Dunedin at the Queenstown Ice Arena last weekend, winning 6-1 on Friday night before a nail-biter on Saturday saw them come off second-best, losing 5-4, their first loss this year.
They now have a couple of weeks to prepare for the big show, again being held in Dunedin, with the New Zealand Women’s Ice Hockey
League semi-finals on Saturday, August 19 — for which they’ll be without coach Colin McIntosh, who’ll be suiting up for the SkyCity Stampede against the Canterbury Red Devils in Queenstown — and finals the following afternoon.