With the 2018 campaign recently coming to an end, I would like to use this opportunity to reflect upon the season that was and look to the Swarm’s exciting future. Travelling to New Zealand has always been at the top of my holiday bucket list. Fortunately as it turns out, I had far more than a holiday. I received the gift of culture, cold ice rinks, trusted mates and colleagues, and the experience of a lifetime.
I took the Assistant Coach position with the Swarm because I love the game of ice hockey. I thought the position would be a great way to help grow the game by teaching a group of a players and coach everything I could fit in during the short 16 game campaign. I thought that once I joined the Swarm’s community I could also help regional programs as best I could in order to assist with the growth of the game at the grass roots level. Selfishly, I aspire to coach in the NHL, so I thought it would be a great opportunity for me to learn whether there would be any difference between coaching young men in the WHL and grown men in the NZIHL.
Many great things happened in the Swarm community this season including:
During our time in Auckland and New Zealand, my wife and Swarm Manager, Natalie Davis and I met so many incredible people. I would like to take a few moments to thank some of them.
Thank you Elizabeth, Grant, and Oliver Hay for being our adoptive New Zealand parents and brother. The way you opened up your home to us, made us feel comfortable and a part of your family was nothing short of incredible. We truly felt like we were at home, as evidenced by my habitual residence at your kitchen counter. We will always be indebted to you and you will hold a special place in our hearts.
Head Coach Ian Wannamaker. Thank you for being so receptive to my coaching style, being available to communicate around the clock, sharing laughs, and willing to learn. In an environment that demands robust discussions in order to find the best answers and solutions, you made it incredibly easy for me to express myself as a coach. My hope is that what we shared this past season will be memorable, but you will also take what we have learned together and use it towards creating many future great moments for the Swarm.
Captain Andrew Hay. This was my first time coaching a team of grown men and, coming into it, I never really knew what to expect. I wasn’t sure if I would have to alter my approach as I typically spend a great deal of a my time as a coach in Kelowna helping turn young men into men. What I learned was that grown men are capable of a rare form of leadership that all coaches wish they had on their teams. I wish for all sports teams to be blessed with a leader like you. Punctual, organised, and genuine. The Swarm, the Ice Blacks, and your family are incredibly lucky to have you.
Swarm players. Thank you for bringing a smile to my face during training sessions and games. I don’t think I have ever laughed or smiled so much on the bench during games – it’s a true testament to how much fun you guys made the game for me. You taught me how to be a more patient yet persistent coach. Whether you played a lot, a little, or played an amount that didn’t quite make sense to you, I appreciate you voicing your concerns on how to make this team better. It showed you that you not only cared about the Swarm, but it showed you trusted me. So thank you. Of course I wanted to help this team achieve success but my main goal when joining this team was to find trust in you. I now leave New Zealand with a large group of trusted mates.
Michael Attwell. I have never seen a player so committed to helping his team succeed on the ice when he physically could not be a part of those doing battle on the ice. While most players would stick to the sidelines and find themselves distant from the team you made yourself highly valuable to the staff and team. Thank you for shouldering a huge portion of the managerial role this season.
Sunny. You are the man! Thank you for making the commitment to our special group and being such an integral part of the smooth operation of the team. Your tireless work during games and the unnoticed extra sessions at your clinic during weekday afternoons to ensure our players were game ready is much appreciated.
Swarm Board of Directors. Upon assuming the General Manager’s role, I was fortunate enough to spend a little more time and learn about the great people you all are. Thank you Grant and Elizabeth Hay, Carole Giles, Ian and Sue Challis, Ian and Sue Fraser, Andy and Sue Guest, Andy Kaisser, and Klara Pulceska for being such active members in the Swarm community. Thank you for organising meetings so quickly and being so encouraging when you have so many other portions of life to juggle. The team is in great hands under your direction.
Swarm volunteers. While I never had much opportunity to spend time with you, the operation of Swarm home games would not be possible without your tireless work ethic. From what I can gather, ice hockey in New Zealand needs more folks like you because your work is invaluable.
Logan Swinkels. While not a member of the Botany Swarm I think it goes without saying that the NZIHL would not have the calibre or coverage it does without you. Swarm fans and community, if you ever see Logan around the rink be sure to thank him for what he does. Like all of us, Logan has a day job so the content he provides you with is purely done on his own time and fuelled by his love for the game.
My wife Natalie. Thank you for allowing me to live out my dream of not just travelling to, but living in New Zealand for nearly four months. More so, thank you for accepting the Manager’s position when the Swarm needed your help. The scheduling of travel and accommodation, purchasing large quantities of food at grocery stores, and putting together meals to ensure our players were prepped and fuelled for each game was a lot to take on and persevere through. On behalf of the players and staff, your work is sincerely appreciated.
If you are taking the time to read this newsletter today, it’s probably fair to assume that you are either a player, staff member, supporter, or volunteer of the Botany Swarm. One of the great privileges I had since officially joining the club, was the opportunity to meet many of you, to learn your names, hear your histories, and chat about the club. For those whom I never had the pleasure to meet, I want to take a moment and let you know how incredible of an experience this was for me, and how honoured I feel to have been a part of this club.
Fans, I am certain you are growing restless to see the Swarm return to the NZIHL playoffs. In order to repay you for your continued support, you deserve a club who is competitive every night and brings a relentless attitude to the ice. When coming to New Zealand I knew there would be work to do, but I was new and I never quite understood how much work this entailed. Now I do, and I can honestly say that the future of the Swarm looks bright and there are many things to be excited about. One of those is our team’s live feed. If you haven’t had an opportunity to watch, please go to our videos on the Swarm website and watch one or all of the Swarm’s game from this past season. The Swarm’s live stream is by far the best in the NZIHL and we have Josh Kretschmar and his team to thank. He is certainly helping the Swarm lead the way in technological advancements.
After much deliberate discussion, amongst our Board of Directors, we will be changing our approach to how we operate. We will strive to be the premier landing spot for upcoming youth hockey players in the Auckland region and the NZIHL for imports abroad. Firstly, we look forward to our players having more involvement in the Auckland Ice Hockey Association through attendance at Learn to Play sessions, Bantam, and Junior ice sessions. Secondly, we will be altering our import recruitment process to simultaneously achieve NZIHL success and raise the level of our local players for the NZ Ice Blacks. Although I may be leaving the Swarm and New Zealand to return to Canada, I am making a commitment to you to stay on as the head of import recruitment and in an advisory role to assist the team in any facet I can.
Natalie and I will always have a piece of the Swarm community deep in our hearts. If I am ever asked by anyone “What was it like to coach with the Swarm and experience New Zealand?” I’ll proudly tell them “IT WAS A DREAM COME TRUE”.