The Ice Blacks are here
31 Mar 2017
By Sunny Liu
Our Kiwi neighbours have travelled across the ditch to Docklands to compete in ice hockey with Melbourne’s local teams.
New Zealand’s national ice hockey team, the Ice Blacks, arrived late last month to train and compete at the O’Brien Group Arena.
Undaunted by the thunderstorm that had been sweeping across Melbourne, the Ice Blacks have been practising tirelessly in the hope that they could beat the Melbourne Mustangs and Melbourne Ice at their home venue.
After two games each against the Mustangs and Melbourne Ice, the Ice Blacks will then fly back to Auckland to compete in the world championships this month.
Team captain Bert Haines said the team was looking forward to playing against our local teams.
“The Ice and the Mustangs are two very competitive clubs and we expect a set of high-intensity games,” he said. “We know they would love to record some wins, as their fans haven’t seen some hockey for a while. So they are going to skate hard and that’s great for us.”
“For us it’s not so much about whether we win or lose, although a win is always positive for us to go onto the world championships. As long as we execute what we need to do well, then we would have achieved what we want,” head coach Maru Rout said.
Apart from the weather, Docklands has left a good impression on the Ice Blacks, who said they had really enjoyed the cuisine and convenience of our waterfront suburb.
“From what we have seen so far, Docklands seems like a very cool place. We would love to explore around after our games. It’s been raining since we got here, so we are hoping to see some sun soon,” Mr Rout said.
Mr Rout said the team often had to travel across the world to places like the Czech Republic, Mexico and Canada for training camps and games. So the Ice Blacks were glad they did not travel far this time.
“It’s great from a food, time-zone and cultural perspective. The similarity between the Australian and New Zealand cultures has made the trip more seamless,” Mr Haines said. “So it’s easier for us to adapt and we can focus more on hockey as opposed to trying to figure out how to order our food.”
The crowds at the upcoming O’Brien Group Arena games are expected to be overwhelming, with two games nearly sold out weeks before at the 2000-capacity ice rink.
“The Melbourne sports fans are crazy about sports and I think they are keen to come out and support and enjoy some games,” Mr Haines said. “There’s also heaps of Kiwis here, so hopefully we will see some black jerseys at the stands supporting us.”
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