Liam Dallimore is the youngest of three brothers who, with their father, would best be described as a dedicated hockey family. The interesting thing is their dad never played hockey and neither did the boys until they emigrated from Berkshire, England to Christchurch in 2004.
“We never played hockey in England but we used to watch all the top professional games. We lived about an hour outside of Oxford and it was a further hour on to the Ice Rink. My dad always loved the sport, he has never played, but he got all of us to go to our first game and after that we continued following for years,” said Dallimore. That team the family followed was the Bracknell Bees, which at that time was a top Division 1 team in the British National League (BNL), which is now known as the British Elite League.
So it is no surprise that as soon as they arrived in Christchurch and found they were a stone’s throw from a rink, all three boys got heavily involved in all the development, high school and club hockey they could.
Being the youngest, Liam was able to take greater advantage of what Canterbury had to offer and at 22 he has already played five seasons with the Red Devils, along with representing New Zealand in the under-18 and 20 teams.
Like most up and coming players in New Zealand, Liam has taken his opportunities to gain overseas hockey experience. With a lot of help from Canterbury Ice Hockey Association’s head coach Dean Tonks he was able to go back home for a couple of seasons.
“When I was fifteen, I went back to the UK to play a season for my hometown team the Oxford City Stars, and I played for the under-16 and under-18 teams. A couple of years later I went back and played for the Guilford Flames and that was Division 1.” Liam remembers, “I was coached by Milos Melicherik at the Flames and he had a big impact on my game.” Melicherik had played in Slovakia, the Czech Republic and German leagues before becoming a star player and coach for the Flames.
A further opportunity to go overseas came in 2016 when he went to Germany. “We had a American guy here two years ago playing in the Red Devils called Matt Puntureri, he was in contact with the team over there and he was going to play in the senior team and he heard they wanted a player for the junior team and asked someone to go, and I put my hand up,” explains Dallimore.
On being in a European hockey environment Liam says, “Playing in Germany was way different. Not as much a physical style – more space, more skills, and just the awareness of the whole game.” He got to train with the senior team as well, “I was training 4 or 5 times a week with games on the weekend – the senior guys were amazing in terms of what they gave.”
Liam went back to Germany the following year and has some advice for young aspiring players here: “I would definitely recommend trying to go overseas – it’s a different style, a lot more time on the ice, and you get to improve because coaches there always focus on development.” At the same time Liam acknowledges he has had great coaches all along the way at home as well, “I had Janos Kaszala at under-15, Anatoly Khorozov at under-16 and for Red Devils, Jonathan Albright was my first under-16 national coach, Stacy Rout for the under-18 national coach, and of course Dean Tonks – if you want to go overseas to play hockey talk to Dean he will point you in the right direction. He set everything up for me.”
This is Liam’s sixth season with the Red Devils and like all young players he aspires to represent NZ at the highest level and play for the Ice Blacks.
A major concern for Liam is his size. “I’m a skinny guy and I have tried to do everything to put on weight and it doesn’t help that I had glandular fever a few years ago. I also had a season ending injury last year. If I want to make it I need to be bigger.” To this end he stated, “I go to Chris Eaden’s gym (The Eaden Project) and that’s how I’m putting on a bit of weight – he’s my personal trainer and I’d recommend him to everyone.”
In closing our chat, Liam mentioned again how important his father has been for his hockey career, “My dad is the main person for my hockey and he’s a good mate too. It’s a sport he loves and he always supports me.”
He also gave a very upbeat assessment of his current team and their prospects, “Everything is an improvement over last year – what we have this year is everyone’s positive, we are rebuilding. We’ve lost a lot of players and we have a lot of very talented young players. So our core group has to make sure everyone’s keeping a level head. We’ve got the right management and coaching to make it all work.”
Main photo: Mike Froger