Guess who just got back today
Them wild-eyed boys that had been away
Haven’t changed that much to say
But man, I still think them cats are crazy
The boys are back in town. The boys are back in town!
The boys are back in tooowwwwnnnnnn. The boys are back in town!
That’s right, the boys are back in town as the NZIHL season begins this weekend with the Canterbury Red Devils visiting the Hive in Botany to face the Swarm. While the West Aucklanders travel south to take on the Dunedin Thunder.
Admirals v Thunder @ Dunedin Ice Stadium
Let’s start in the South Island where the opening round features two teams looking to take the proverbial “next step”.
Can the Dunedin Thunder put together a consistent effort for the full season after finishing on the outside looking in on the Birgel Cup Finals last year? They will once again be led by Ice Black star forward Paris ‘Gino’ Heyd and with the new playoff format, there’s a very real chance we could see the Thunder in post-season action.
The Westies will be looking forward to fulfilling the promise of the season last year with the majority of their core returning for the 2018 season. As a pretty good hockey player once said ‘you’ve got to lose to learn how to win’ so the Admirals will be hoping that this year redemption will be spelt “WAA”.
You might say you can’t have the sweet without the sour and you can’t appreciate the light without being in the shade… and before I quote something from Karate Kid, I’m sure you get the point. Skipper Justin Daigle has recovered from that horrific eye injury and the addition of Ice Black and former Thunder Shaun Harrison will be key. Is this finally the year where you can say “The West Is Best”?
Red Devils v Swarm @ Paradice Botany Downs
In Canterbury, 2017 was not a red-letter year for one of the most prominent and successful franchises in NZIHL history. It’s an old face in a familiar place as Coach Anatoly returns behind the bench, while a summer of ‘refresh and reboot’ has the scoring machine (and quite possibly actual part hockey robot) Chris Eden featuring a fresh and clean hard drive ready to go. Will the Alpine Ice Sports Centre and it’s Southern Alps vista wall see a return to the glory days?
Speaking of old faces in familiar places, one of the greatest players in Swarm history returns to the hive as Ian Wannamaker is now the full-time bench boss for the first time. Wannamaker has talked of Botany being in desperate need for a “culture change” if the franchise is to return to glory. If there’s one man who could help point the good ship SS Botany in the direction away from the jagged rocks it would definitely be him – Wannamaker has also surrounded himself with a quality group of coaches and support crew to make it happen.
A strong showing in the pre-season versus their cross-town rivals would have given the Swarm faithful a glimmer of hope that they can truly follow the mandate of “In Wanny We Trust”.
So what are you waiting for? Get your tickets now for the opening weekend in Botany or Dunedin and if you can’t make it out to the games, don’t forget they will be live streamed on the NZIHL YouTube channel.
NZIHL Round 1 Game Schedule:
Thunder v Admirals – Dunedin Ice Stadium
May 26th at 5:30pm / May 27th at 4:30pm
Swarm v Red Devils – Paradice Botany Downs
May 26th & 27th at 4:45pm