INNSBRUCK Ė 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 tonightís final. IIHF.comís 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 donít know myself, but we did make it here, myself and Callum (Burns-the New Zealand-born participant in the menís 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 theyíve made a big difference, theyíre very skilled and itís 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. Iím 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!
Weíre pure New Zealanders. My oldest brother, whoís about 30 now, he started hockey when he was young and he loved it, and thatís how we got into it, one-by-one we started playing.
What do you love about the sport?
I love that itís so fast, I like the aggressiveness and I love how itís a team sport thatís 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 theyíre a really skilled team.
Whatís the best thing about playing hockey in New Zealand?
Itís very different from all the other New Zealand sports, itís not common and we get a lot of ice time (smiles).
And the worst thing?
Thatís a hard question haha, I think maybe that thereís not enough rinks, and Iíd like to be involved in more international competitions worldwide. Thereís world championships but other competitions against other countries might be cool.
Whatís 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.
Thatís exactly what I want to do. I want to finish my schooling in New Zealand, I have one more year of school left, and Iím 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 IIHFís Youtube channel on Friday.