The beast is back in town
New Zealand’s Ice Hockey season is well underway and local team SkyCity Stampede have had a strong start. The adored mascot, The Beast, is back for the first time since pre-Covid, and several new players are taking to the rink this year. They’re battling it out with four teams across Aotearoa to take home the Birgel Cup.
The team is made up of a mix of local and international players and this season they have welcomed previous Dunedin player and Ice Black, Dylan Devlin and two imports from America, Brendan Walkom and Jeff Solow. Each team in the league is entitled to have two import players, which are often American or Europeans due to the difference in seasons between hemispheres.
Dylan was with Dunedin’s Phoenix Thunder for 10 years and played in over 105 games. The desire for a lifestyle change prompted a move to Queenstown – the good thing about the sport is that most of the guys know each other, especially between Queenstown and Dunedin as a lot of younger players play for Dunedin because they go to university there. Dylan was Dunedin’s top goal scorer so it’s good to see him in a yellow and blue jersey.
Jeff and Brendan are both American imports. Jeff (defence) is from Naples, Florida and Brendan (forward) is from Pittsburgh. Both have fitted nicely into the team and culture. They most recently played in the English Elite League – Jeff was playing for the Glasgow Clan and Brendan for the Bees. He was a top scorer and a crowd favourite. The SkyCity Stampede are really pleased to be able to sign them as - both have made a big impact on the team and results so far.
The team management has changed this season with Nate Hedwig and Lee Summer coming on board. “Nate was one of the original superfans of Stampede,” says Lee Summer. “He was once the guy you’d see in his canary yellow suit, shouting from the crowd. I’m sure he would say himself it’s been a transition from being that guy on the side lines into a team manager role. He’s also very handy with the equipment side of things as he’s a hockey player himself.”
Lee states that “although I don’t have a hockey background, I got involved due to a friendship with one of the defensemen on the team who is also an Ice Black. Just in conversation one day, it came up that they were looking for a team manager and I mentioned that I’ll put my name forward. So, that’s how it came about – just knowing some people.”
Another exciting development this year is the return of The Beast, SkyCity Stampede’s mascot. The Beast is a young guy, new to Queenstown from Thailand who saw an ad on Facebook and fancied doing something different. It’s great to have The Beast back, he’s a good crowd favourite.
SkyCity have reintroduced ‘Shoot The Puck’ which is being played in between two of the periods. Two members from the crowd are selected to come out onto the ice to try and shoot a puck through a couple of small holes in the goal from about halfway - $100 cash is up for grabs each game!
We couldn’t put on the best sporting and entertainment event in Queenstown without the support of the many volunteers that generously give their time and of course The Queenstown Ice Arena. All of this is coordinated by the incredible Team Coordinator Nicky Thompson. Each game requires around 20 volunteers over several different positions. We are fortunate to get tremendous support from other teams throughout the club including Wakatipu Wild and younger aged group teams, but would welcome interest from anyone.