SHEFFIELD – 2013 IIHF High Performance Camp strength coach Kiri Langford, who plays for a Canadian university and for the New Zealand women’s national team, gets to have two winters in one year. Not a bad deal for a hockey player.
The 21-year-old forward, born in Napier, New Zealand, studies kinesiology at York University and is currently in Sheffield working as a strength and conditioning coach.
“My responsibility is to make sure that the girls are ready and warmed up and prepared for their practice, and after practice I need to make sure they get a good recovery with a stretch and a cool down period.”
Beyond the camp however, Langford has a rather interesting hockey career of her own. When her season with the York Lions ends, she heads off to the southern hemisphere to join her national team, having competed in the last three World Championships. With Langford playing, New Zealand earned promotion at the Division IV championship in Iceland in 2011 and will battle to move up to Division I next year at the 2013 IIHF Women’s World Championship Division II Group A in Asiago, Italy.
While she was born a Kiwi, Langford didn’t stay long in New Zealand, moving to Canada with her family after a year. But a hockey tour in a nearby area where she grew up in Ontario led to an unlikely return to her homeland through hockey.
“In 2007 the New Zealand national ice hockey team came to Barrie, Ontario. I was 15 at the time and my dad and I went to watch them play a game, and we were kind of like 'how would I match up with these players?'”, said Langford. “After the game my dad went to the coach and said 'this is my daughter and I think she would be a really great asset to your team.'”
The coach invited Langford to a practice later that day. There she was able to hold her own and impressed the team so much that they wanted her to join immediately. Although she wasn’t able to become a national team player being still underage, that summer she went back to her native country and competed in the national championship, representing the Southern Island getting her first taste of New Zealand hockey.
“I was kind of surprised they even had a team, but not anymore," said Langford. "They have a lot of girls that come into ice hockey through InLine, that’s where they learn their basic hockey skills and it makes for a smoother transition to ice hockey. That’s where I think the push should come from for developing hockey countries, because it does develop a lot of really good players even if they can’t afford an arena or equipment.”
Aside from studying in school and playing hockey, Langford is also the strength and conditioning coach at York’s varsity gym. Her experience with training has allowed her to contribute to her national team’s training regimen as well.
“I help them this past year with their warmup, changing the order of how we did exercises making things more similar to how we train at York in order to ease their transition back onto the ice. One of the girls on our team hadn’t played on ice since the previous World Championship, only doing InLine which kept her in hockey shape but did not help her skating when she went back to the ice.”
“I got them into cold tubs as well,” she said with a smile. “I don’t think a lot of them were happy with me for that one.”
Although raised mostly in Canada, Langford has a special attachment to her native country, which she has now been able to reconnect with through hockey. It is her hope that the sport can continue to grow in New Zealand, and believes that the talent and enthusiasm is there for the sport and just needs to be harnessed, especially with girls.
“The (Division IIA) Worlds were in New Zealand last year and it was cool because there were about ten of my relatives there and many of them had never seen a hockey game before. There were a lot of people there for many the games, and when we played against Australia it was packed, I mean there were no more seats available so people were literally crammed along the boards.”
The Australia game, a 4-3 win for New Zealand, was memorable one for Langford.
“To be part of that team that beat Australia for the first time, that was really special. We were down by a goal early and they had a power play and the puck came out of their zone and the defender fumbled the puck at their blue line. So I had a breakaway and I took off for the net.”
“I made a move because I saw the goaltender was out and pulled the puck to my backhand and slid it past her. The crowd went crazy and it was a real momentum shifter, we got another couple of goals and ended up winning by one, that was my best hockey memory ever.”
Now helping out at the 2013 HPC, Langford is keen to pass on her love of the sport and to connect with some of the international staff and players in hopes of bringing some of their expertise and knowledge with her to New Zealand.
“I love it there, I’m so proud to be from New Zealand and I plan on moving there after school,” she said. “I keep on telling hockey players and coaches that if they are ever there to look me up, because it’s important to network with people in this sport and it’s a big help in getting support for your program. If I can do anything for the development in hockey in New Zealand, even if it’s just the guys, then I want to do it, though I’d like to help the girls out first (laughs).”
“I wish that we had more funds and resources, all the girls they sacrifice so much and they don’t get paid while it costs thousands of dollars to play our sport. Plus they have to take time off work to play and it’s tough. When we come here and see how much staff there is at this camp, and our women’s team has two coaches one manager, one therapist, and one doctor, who’s my mom, it’s the bare minimum.”
Being at the camp in Sheffield has opened her eyes to similar situations with other programs, and has encouraged her to continue to find ways to help out her country’s program, which she believes has the potential to one day even get to the Olympics.
“It’s been really cool to get to know everyone here,” she said. “I like watching the practices and the drills that the girls are doing…I’m also really surprised how many of them are here and how dedicated they are and the level of support that their organization gives them.”
“My advice to the campers here would be to try and remember what you learned and really go home and try to apply it. It’s great to be taught this stuff, but it would be a waste to go home and revert to your old habits, and you’re not taking a leap as far forward as you could."