INNSBRUCK – Participants in the 2012 Youth Olympic Winter Games Hockey Skill Challenge event have come from far and wide to compete in Innsbruck. Likely none of them had as long a flight to Austria as Libby-Jean Hay of New Zealand, who will be competing in tonight’s final. IIHF.com’s Paul Romanuk caught up with Hay to discuss ice hockey in her native country.
New Zealand ice hockey, how does that happen?
(laughs) I actually don’t know myself, but we did make it here, myself and Callum (Burns-the New Zealand-born participant in the men’s event) also are in the top eight. New Zealand is a small country and ice hockey is not big, but it is getting a lot bigger, a lot of women players are coming in from inline hockey and they’ve made a big difference, they’re very skilled and it’s made New Zealand ice hockey stronger.
How did you get into it?
I got into it at about the age of ten, I did figure skating since I was three. I’m from a big family of seven and I have five brothers and they all play ice hockey, I watched them my whole life and so I decided to give it a go and here I am!
We’re pure New Zealanders. My oldest brother, who’s about 30 now, he started hockey when he was young and he loved it, and that’s how we got into it, one-by-one we started playing.
What do you love about the sport?
I love that it’s so fast, I like the aggressiveness and I love how it’s a team sport that’s exciting and fun.
Your favourite team?
I like the Detroit Red Wings, I saw them play and they won against the Canucks and I think they’re a really skilled team.
What’s the best thing about playing hockey in New Zealand?
It’s very different from all the other New Zealand sports, it’s not common and we get a lot of ice time (smiles).
And the worst thing?
That’s a hard question haha, I think maybe that there’s not enough rinks, and I’d like to be involved in more international competitions worldwide. There’s world championships but other competitions against other countries might be cool.
What’s your future? Are you just doing this for fun or do you want to get a scholarship and play in one of the leagues in North America.
That’s exactly what I want to do. I want to finish my schooling in New Zealand, I have one more year of school left, and I’m currently looking at some scholarships in the U.S. I would love to gain a scholarship and play in the U.S.
The full video interview will be available on IIHF’s Youtube channel on Friday.