A noisy café is not the best place to interview a modest, quietly spoken young hockey player. Hence, while Jaxson Lane and I were able to have a good twenty-minute chat, it was a challenge transcribing accurately the interesting recollections and lessons learnt from his already long history playing ice hockey in New Zealand and overseas.
Jaxson is a loyal Cantabrian but he didn’t start playing hockey in the region. He told me his earliest hockey was played further south, “My family moved to Queenstown when I was four and came back when I was 10-11, and so I know the Queenstown boys pretty well.”
Back in Canterbury at age 11, he came into the under-13 squad and, like many others who have represented Canterbury and New Zealand, he played for the St. Andrews College team for four years. Then he moved to Boys High School where he needed to get a release from the Canterbury Red Devils to play in a convincing win in the High School league final.
Jaxson is just 24 and this is his tenth season in the Red Devils group. “I was 15 when I joined and in my first year I was in the development squad and Keith (Payne) was the coach, and then Janos (Kaszala) took over, and Anatoly (Khorozov). Over the years I have progressively got more ice time, more responsibility as well, and for most of that time I played at centre,” he recalled.
A highlight for Jaxson has been the opportunity to play offshore. He is grateful for the opportunity he had to play ice hockey in Hungary. “I had two trips over to Hungary to play hockey in Budapest. Kaszala took me and Bradley Apps and we were there for three months and came back for exams at school. We played in the Hungarian under-18 league.”
Jaxson remembers, “I went back again the following year for the whole winter to a different team and did my New Zealand schooling through correspondence.”
“The under-18 and under-20 teams there were closely linked so we trained with guys who played up and down.” He added, “There was a lot more training on the ice, every day or second day, and game time. It was a great experience. I was going to go back, but I had a big knock and concussion problems stopped me.”
Comparing hockey here with that in Hungary he says, “Skill levels were higher and the physicality of the game is a lot lower, here it’s more North American style – like the rugby.”
Jaxson talked about the big changes for the Devils this year, describing Canterbury as “pretty much a new team.” He noted that he is one of the last local players of his age remaining in the Canterbury Red Devils squad. A quick bit of research reveals that, over the past year or two, seven players in their early-20s have gone offshore or to other parts of New Zealand, and there are now eight players who are under the age of 20, some of whom are still eligible for under-18 selection.
He has also had to contend with injury from last year. “I had hip surgery in October and got back on the ice in February. I was about 50/50 coming into the pre-season, but I have bounced back from that all right.” When pushed, Jaxson concurred that he would probably still be playing in a decade if his body holds up with the physical demands of the game.
The changes in personnel in the Devils have generated new responsibilities and challenges for Jaxson. “This year Anatoly moved me to defence. It’s the first time I have played defence, and it’s a different perspective. I get to see more of the game and I also get more ice time as well, and I get to chance to play with our new import players. I’m enjoying it so far.”
Team ‘big brother’ Chris Eaden, has a lot in common with Jaxson. They are both St. Andrews College old boys, they have both represented Canterbury for at least the past decade, and they share a house together – with that Jaxson lays claim to half-ownership of Eaden’s dog Beauden.
They are also at least as competitive as each other – when asked who might win a speed challenge on the ice, Jaxson says “I think I could give him a run for his money now, he’s getting a bit older!” However, he concedes, “I don’t think I’d catch him in the gym. Gym is a top priority and I have been training with Chris since he started his gym (Eaden Project) in a garage while he was at university – I’d never win there.”