Browse Tag: AIHL

Inside the Locker Room: Sydney Bears General Manager Wayne Hellyer

The 2014 AIHL season is fast approaching, and teams are beginning to once again prepare for the year ahead. Hockey in Australia generally only has a cult following, and the league and teams are run by dedicated hardworking volunteers who have a passion for the sport.

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Photo: Peter Podlaha – Injected Ideas Photography.

As I grew up in Canada, hockey has always been a part of my culture as with most Canadians. It is a source of national pride as well as being a common passion we share. Most communities have an ice rink in very close proximity, and once winter sets in there are literally thousands of back yard rinks across the country. As well as any frozen body of water that is not snow covered.

However things in Australia are somewhat different. This is a sun-kissed country which lends itself to fair weather sports. AFL, NRL, Super 14, and Cricket will always be the dominate sports down under. Even soccer is still trying to gain a foothold around the country. Given all of the other choices, why would people decide to play or become involved with hockey? Well, if you are reading this you probably already know the answer to that question.

Wayne Hellyer is the GM of the Sydney Bears and was kind enough to answer a few questions for me. From how he first became involved in hockey, to the duties of a GM in the AIHL, imports, and vision for the future of the Bears, Wayne has given some insight on what goes into running an AIHL club which I hope you will find interesting.

CS – How did you first get an interest in hockey? When did your involvement begin with the AIHL and Bears?

WH – I got an interest when my best friend and his brother from high school started to play.

I started in 1978 with the Lion’s Ice Hockey Club which was at Canterbury Ice Rink at the time. Between 1980-1982, the NSWIHA had decided to combine teams into one club per rink, as Macquarie and Blacktown Rinks were soon to open and preferred 1 club per rink. At that time, you had Prince Alfred Park (Central), Canterbury, Narrabeen, Newcastle and a small rink at Homebush. In 1982, I was leaving high school and applied for a job at Macquarie Ice Rink. I was involved from the start, when we had the first Macquarie Team.

CS – Can you explain to me what the duties of an AIHL General Manager are?

WH – I oversee everything, as not having a big committee, I need to make sure that things get done. We try and get the best possible Imports, liaising with Rink owners, ordering jerseys and equipment, making travel arrangements for the team. Meeting and maintaining sponsorship agreements and doing what ever is needed to make the experience for the players enjoyable.

CS –  It appears that this will be Vlad Rubes last season playing for the Bears. How will the Bears try and deal with the loss? Do you expect Rubes to continue to be part of the club in some capacity? Any plans for a Vlad Rubes night when he does hang em up?

WH – Vlady has been a great asset to the club, and it will be up to him to decide when to stop playing at AIHL level. Vlady has for many years been our player/coach, but has accepted to coach only this year. He still has the skill and experience to play, but to coach a team in the AIHL, it require’s a full time bench coach. Player/coach is not something we prefer, but in recent years, it was hard to find a coach at this level to be on the Bench. We have Steve Austin and Paul Shumak on the bench assisting, but overall it needs a head coach to put it all together, as when playing, your not getting a clear picture as you would do if on the bench full time. We also have a resourceful and experience Jeff Todd, which will help contribute with the coaching staff.

CS – Imports- What’s the Bears plan regarding imports for next season? Do you expect Tomas Landa and Slavomir Boris to be returning? I have a basic understanding of how the import rules work with the league. Could you elaborate a little as to how player contracts work? Are any players provided with incentives or form of payment? How are imports attracted to the league/clubs?

WH – I can confirm both Landa and Boris will be apart of the team for 2014.  Every year, Import’s are a unknown, as we go through many enquiries and emails to sort out who is able to play at this level, and who would fit the structure of the team. We do give preference for any returning Import to return for another season if the chance arises. We also use previous Import to scout for us and let us know if they have someone interested and can fill a position.

All teams are allowed 4 Imports to dress for any game, you can have 6 Imports on the roster, but at game time, only 4 can play. The reason to have up to 6, is for any injury or suspensions, which can happen. The Imports don’t get paid, as this is an non professional league, as no team would have the funds to cover all theirs costs. What we offer is assistance in finding accommodation and will cover the cost of player fees, registration, ITC Cards (International Transfer Cards) and will reimburse the cost of their plane ticket during the season. (half at start and half at completion of the season, so that they are here until the last game). The Contracts that all players sign, covers agreed terms and conditions of playing in the AIHL and for the club. This includes conduct on and off the ice.

CS – What is your vision for the club in the next few years, both on and off the ice?

WH – Our vision is to always be competitive and offer those who join the club something they can be proud of being apart of during playing or any association with the club.

Also to be in a better financial position, as the costs of running the team is not always covered by sponsorship and players still have to pay a team fee. I would like to eliminate this fee, but we need it in place as sponsorship, gate takings are not meeting our expenses. I am currently covering this shortfall, and hope that this is only a short term solution.

CS – Do you follow any hockey other than AIHL?

WH – Yes, I have a few favorite teams in the NHL, Calgary, Buffalo, NY Islanders and Detroit. My first training jersey was Buffalo, and Jacket Islanders. This was back in 1978, so only Calgary and Detroit became favorites later on.

CS- What’s your favorite hockey moment?

WH – I can say winning the Goodall Cup with the team and also back when Manager of the NSW team. Also had great moments when ANST Manager and being proud of the team when they played at every World Championships.

CS – Do you know who Don Cherry is? If yes, do you like him?

WH – I know Don, met him in Buffalo and seen him a few times while in Canada. I have several of his “Rock’Em Sock’Em” videos at home, and used to play them at Macquarie in the shopping centre to help promote our games. The league back then was called the NSW Superleague.

A big thank you to Wayne for being frank and open with his answers. Will see you all at the rink soon!

Inside the Locker Room: In the kennel with Ice Dogs trio

The 2013 AIHL Finals weekend is almost upon us and fans and players alike are buzzing with excitement. The Sydney Ice Dogs are certainly a force to be reckoned with. Finishing the regular season on a triumphant note by taking out the minor premiership, heading into the finals on top of the ladder.

Bianca Musico was able to catch up with star players, Robert Malloy, Matt Puntureri and Paddy Ward and talk season highlights and the upcoming games, in what is guaranteed to be a thrilling weekend of ice hockey.

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Photo: Peter Podlaha – Injected Ideas Photography.

What has been your highlight of the season?

Malloy: The past month has been the highlight – our last Melbourne trip in particular. We knew that we needed to win each game in order to secure first place. There were a few games in which we were missing some key guys but we still found a way to win.

Puntureri: My favorite on ice moment was Brian Funes scoring to tie a shootout with the Melbourne Ice at home with “the move” in a 4-3 shootout win! Overall, it would be the boys growing as players and more importantly as people! We’ve all come a long way!

Ward: Winning the league and getting to visit different cities in Australia with a great bunch of teammates.

Who has been your toughest opponent throughout the year?

Puntureri: We certainly haven’t had any easy ones but Perth and Adelaide played very well against us!

Ward: We split our series against Newcastle and Perth but Melbourne Ice games were always very close also.

How does it feel going into the AIHL finals at the top of the ladder?

Malloy: It’s nice to know that we were the best team in the regular season – but it doesn’t mean anything in playoffs. With this format anything can happen – one little bounce could ruin our season. Personally, I would almost rather be the underdog. 

Puntureri: It’s a great honour to win a regular season title especially since it’s an organisation first, but we would prefer two wins this weekend!!

Ward: It’s a great confidence boost going to the playoffs as league champions but the playoffs are one off games so anyone can win on the night.

As a team you have had a strong season; do you think that gives you a good chance at winning the Goodall Cup?

Malloy: We have a great chance at winning the cup. By far the best chance I have seen since I have been on the team. We have played pretty consistently over the second half of the season – hopefully it carries over.

Puntureri: In a one game series I think it’s fair to say any team has a chance!! We have the goaltending to get the job done!

Ward: I think we have been a very hard team to beat this year and found ways to win even when we haven’t been playing our best so that gives us a good chance going into the finals weekend.

The Melbourne Ice has won the last three championships, how do you feel going into the first semi finals match against them?

Malloy: In order to be the best – we have to beat the best. They obviously know how to win games and championships. It doesn’t matter that they came in 4th place because they very easily could have been in any other position.

Puntureri:  Well it isn’t the match up you’d expect as a one seed, playing the 3 time champs in their home rink but it is a tremendous opportunity and challenge for us to end their streak! It would help with confidence going into Sunday!  

Ward: Melbourne [Ice] have been champions last three years and they will be hungry to defend their title especially playing at home. But we are determined to win and excited to play against Melbourne and it should be a great crowd.  

Say (hopefully) the Ice Dogs make the grand final, who would you prefer to go up against, Thunder or the North Stars?

Malloy: No preference

Puntureri: Well either way it will be a tough game but I think we’d prefer Newcastle! To be the best you want to beat the best! No offense to Perth because they are a fantastic team, but Newcastle and Melbourne have been the two best teams over the last few years!

Ward: We don’t really want to think about the Sunday game as we have to get past Melbourne first and to win the championship you have to beat who ever is put in front of you so doesn’t matter who we play.

What are your predictions for the outcome of the Thunder and North Stars game?

Malloy: North stars 5-3

Puntureri: It will be a lot of fun to watch! I’m gonna go 4-2 Newcastle with an empty netter in a very close, hard fought game!

Ward: Newcastle have been a very consistent team all year but Perth come into the finals after being on a strong run and will be playing with confidence.

Have there been any changes in game preparation for the finals or has it stayed similar to the regular season?

Malloy: Our approach has worked for us this year – so we aren’t going to fix something that isn’t broken

Puntureri: Well we’ve toned down the partying a little! But we have a very easygoing fun loving team so things are pretty similar to what they’ve been all year!

Ward: No changes leading up to the finals, you just try to prepare for every game the same but every player on both teams will be fired up for this weekend. And be willing to do anything for your team to give them a chance to win the Goodall Cup on Sunday.

Are you starting to feel the pressure of the finals? Has the team dynamic changed?

Malloy: I think it’s more excitement than pressure. This is the week we have been waiting for since this time last year.

Puntureri: No pressure!! This is the funnest part of the season! I like to pretend I’m 7 years old again before all the politics and business part of hockey got involved!

Ward: No the boys aren’t feeling the pressure as we have hit form at the right time of the year and we know we have the best goalie in the league and good depth throughout and believe in one another so we just stick together and keep playing the same systems Ronnie has given us. 

The issue of live streaming the games was a cause for concern among supporters and the league itself. What was your opinion on the issue?

Malloy: I strongly support the live stream. It’s awesome that my parents and friends can watch the games back home in Connecticut. It gives good exposure to the league as well.  I want to thank those who have volunteered with the live streams across the league so far this year.

Puntureri: I think like anything else in hockey or life, it is all a learning process. We have some trouble with that in North America as well!! We have the right leadership in place to continue to improve in all areas of the league!

Ward: I understand the leagues view that they want the fans to come watch the finals live as adds to the atmosphere but not every fan can make the trip to Melbourne and I’m sure players have friends and family all around Australia and other parts of the world who would love to watch the live stream.

The Ice Dogs have fought a hard season, and the fact they have come out minor premiers is a testament to their hard work. They show a keen determination on the ice and the tight network of teammates makes for a potent combination going into the semis on Saturday, August 7.

Bianca would like to thank the guys for taking the time out for this interview and also wish them the best of luck as they fight to bring the Goodall Cup to Sydney.

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