Ahead of their new season starting in Dunedin tonight, champion ice hockey team SkyCity Stampede have been bolstered by two American imports and a transferring Ice Black.
Defenceman Jeff Solow, 26, from Florida, and forward Brendan Walkom, 25, from Pittsburgh, who arrived last Friday, are the Queenstown team’s first fly-in imports for three years.
Solow, who’s been playing for Glasgow Clan, Scotland, in Britain’s elite ice hockey league (EIHL), says some buddies had played in the New Zealand Ice Hockey League (NZIHL) a few years ago ‘‘and they were, like, ‘Queenstown is the spot you want to be’’’.
In turn, he’s brought along his mate, Walkom, who’s also been in the EIHL, playing for Bracknell Bees, out of London, since last year.
American firepower: New Stampede imports Jeff Solow, left, and Brendan Walkom
Stampede — who came from behind to win last year’s NZIHL title — have also welcomed forward Dylan Devlin, 27, who’s played 105
games for the Phoenix Thunder over the past 10 years, and was their leading goal-scorer last year.
Devlin also debuted for the Ice Blacks this year, but was injured in his first series, against Australia, and missed last month’s Division II
Group B world champs in Turkey.
A builder who’s relocated to Wānaka, he says he’s close friends with a number of Stampede players and has been inspired by now-Stampede coach Cam Frear.
He admits it’ll be a strange experience playing against his old team this weekend.
‘‘It’s going to be a bit of a change coming out of a different changing room and going on a different bench — I might get mixed up a bit.’’
While he’s not lost any regular players, Frear says there’ll be some comings and goings for weddings and the like.
He’s also expecting some of his younger players to step up this year.
This includes a trio who’ve recently been playing in North America – CJ Kemp, 19, Jack Robbie, 21, and Axel Ruski-Jones, 18.
The captain is again Frear’s brother Mitchell, assisted by Callum Burns and Connor Harrison.
Another Frear brother, Lachlan, and Stefan Amston will step into those roles when required.
Stampede also has new managers, Lee Summer and Nate Hedwig, who are replacing the Frear brothers’ dad, Niel, and equipment
manager Pete Bradshaw.
Hedwig, a besuited super-fan who dressed in Stampede yellow, says he’s keen to help out ‘‘rather than just standing there yelling all the time’’.
Stampede’s PT this season is Industrial Fitness’ Ethan Kaad, and their medic is Queenstown Health’s Cole Mackie.
Following this weekend’s games against Phoenix Thunder, Stampede’s first home games are against Auckland development team Mako next Friday and Saturday.