Awarded Kiwi citizenship only last week, a Queenstown couple are heading overseas to play ice hockey for their new country.
United States-born Danielle Strayer, 29, is off tomorrow for an Ice Fernz training camp in Austria before going to Romania for the Division 2B women’s world champs.
Meanwhile, her hubby Ryan Strayer, 33, leaves this coming Monday to get ice time in his US home state, Tennessee.
He then joins the Ice Blacks for a training camp in Vail, Colorado, before the men’s Division 2B world champs kick off in Mexico.
The couple, who met in Queenstown and married a year ago, needed New Zealand citizenship to play world champs hockey.
Ryan, however, was able to debut for the Ice Blacks in Queenstown last September, when they beat Australia for the first time in a three-game series.
Danielle says their ice hockey credentials meant they gained citizenship three years ahead of schedule.
Growing up in Minnesota, she first played at the age of three.
She played college-level hockey when that was the highest level of the women’s game in the US.
After graduating, she didn’t know what to do so came to Queenstown on a working holiday visa in 2012.
Ryan came over as a SkyCity Stampede import about a year-and-a-half later from Estonia, where he’d been playing in their top league.
As a youngster in the US, he’d played alongside Stampede coach Adam Blanchette for the Connect-icut Clippers. Ryan’s now played five years for the Stampede, including three succ-essive title-winning seasons. He says the highlight is “the bonds you make in the locker room”.
Plus the excitement he gets, especially in Queenstown, from the local fans.
“There’s nothing like going out, playing something you love, and having all these people cheering.”
Danielle, whose Dunedin-based Southern Storm team has just won the national women’s league title, often plays with men’s teams in Queenstown, and has even trained with the Stampede.
Usually a goalie, she’s playing defence for the Ice Fernz.
Both she and Ryan are determined their NZ teams bring home gold.
Danielle’s local teammates in the Ice Fernz are Hope Gregory and Rikki-Lee McLean.
Ryan’s Stampede teammates in the Ice Blacks are fellow forward Matt Schneider and defencemen Stefan Amston and Callum Burns.