Report by Andrew Hay, Botany Swarm Captain
The 2018 season was most certainly a year of ups and downs for Botany Swarm. Planning for this season commenced back in Spring 2017, at which time a Board of Directors was formed – they meet regularly to oversee the general direction of the club, and to assist with key appointments to crucial roles. The Board consists of past and present players, coaches, managers and supporters who are passionate about Swarm and who have a shared vision to foster a club that is successful, consistent and sustainable both on and off the ice.
With the key roles of General Manager/CEO, Head Coach, Assistant Coach, Team Manager and Assistant Manager being filled over the summer months, the team’s annual pre-season training camp in April coincided with the arrival of our three overseas-based import players, and the 2018 NZIHL season commenced shortly after.
The season started well, with the club winning its first three games of the season, the first time that this has happened since way back in 2007. Unfortunately we then ran into the two in-form teams of the league and 2017/2018 Birgel Cup finalists, West Auckland Admirals and Sky City Stampede, resulting in a five game losing streak. After the halfway point of the season, our playoff chances were resurrected by two strong wins in Christchurch, and we then faced The Dunedin Thunder at home in what effectively turned out to be a quarter-final match up. Unfortunately we went down in both games which were hugely competitive and close contests. We still had a shot at the third playoff spot but unfortunately again for our side, we were unable to secure the results required in our remaining games against Admirals and Stampede, and we ended up finishing two wins short of securing a finals spot for the first time since 2011.
Playing the curtain raiser for the USA vs Canada Ice Hockey Classic against our cross-town rivals West Auckland Admirals at Spark Arena was certainly a highlight for the players and one we won’t never forget. This event was very well supported by the hockey community and one we hope will become a regular fixture in the future. The final game of the 2018 season also resulted in a significant milestone being reached for Botany Swarm – our 200th NZIHL game. A party was held after this game for our fans and volunteers and as a way for the players and management to show their appreciation. Also of note, fan attendance at our home games was up from previous years, online engagement with our fan base through the various social media channels and our regular newsletter was huge, and we have what we believe is the best live stream offering in the league.
The club certainly faced its fair share of adversity this season. Our General Manager/CEO, as well as our three overseas-based imports had to return overseas at various points during the season for personal reasons. Assistant Coach Travis Crickard was appointed Interim GM/CEO and did a fantastic job during this time. Fortunately for us, he has agreed to continue to help the club in the future. Our Board of Directors is already hard at work recruiting for vacant roles, and identifying and addressing where we can improve as a club both on and off the ice for the future.
Our club will be well represented at the upcoming Audi quattro Winter Games NZ Trans-Tasman Challenge in Queenstown, as the Ice Blacks take on Australia’s Mighty Roos in a three game series in early September. A special mention to Swarm defense man, Logan Fraser who will be making his debut for the Ice Blacks, and also to Swarm forward Josh Hay who will be back in the black jersey for the first time since 2015.
On behalf of the players, we would like to express our sincere thanks to all coaches, managers, team staff, fans and volunteers for all your hard work and support – we hope you enjoy your summer, and we look forward to seeing you all again in 2019!