Q&A with Andrew Hay

Nyrkkiä Leukaperiin!: First, let's start with yourself and your career. Tell us about yourself. Who you are and stuff?
Andrew Hay: My name is Andrew Hay, I am 26 years old and I was born and raised in New Zealand's largest city, Auckland which has a population of just over 1 milion. I work for one of the four largest banks in New Zealand, in commercial property finance. I am engaged to my fiancee and we will be getting married in January 2013 which is in th middle of New Zealand's summer. I come from a large family of 7 children and we are fourth-generation Kiwis. I began playing hockey when I was 11 after my older brother began playing a couple of years before - I played a lot of football, rugby and cricket but really enjoyed hockey so I stuck with it.
NL: Out of all sports, why hockey? Especially in New Zealand.
AH: When I was growing up I did a lot of roller blading on the street and on ramps so moving to the ice was a natural progression. Me and my younger brother played a lot of hockey on the street growing up and because he was better than me I spent a lot of time defending which is probably why I became a defenceman and he became a forward. Hockey grew quickly in NZ after the Mighty Ducks movies in the mid 1990's and once I became involved I grew to love the speed, skill and physicality of the game. I have made many friend and I still love training and playing.
NL: Have you ever considered playing abroad? For example in Europe.
AH: I did consider it when I was a bit younger but I have always been focussed on my schooling and career. I have been fortunate to travel to many countries around the world through hockey. My younger brother Josh spent 3 years playing in Linkoping in Sweden and there are many kiwis playing in leagues around the world now.
NL: Who were your favourite hockey players as a child.
AH: I used to love watching Scott Stevens of the New Jersey Devils growing up as he was a tough defenceman who could throw huge hits. Although hockey wasn't on television much when I was growing up so would watch a lot of hockey films and documentataries because of this.
NL: What do you wait for this season? What are your targets?
AH: I am the captain of the Botany Swarm, which is one of 5 teams in the NZIHL (New Zealand Ice Hockey League). the other teams are West Auckland Admirals, Canterbury Red Devils (Christchuch), Dunedin Thunder and Southern Stampede. The league began in 2005 - before that we used to have a national championship held over 4 days so a league was a great step for us. In the 7 years of the league, my team has made the finals 5 times with 4 championships 2007, 2008, 2010 and 2011. Our goal for this year is of course to win another championship. I am also asistmant captain of the New Zealand Mens National Team, known as the Ice Blacks. I have been in this team for 8 years and have beeen the assistant captain for 4 years. We were recently relegated from Division 2A in Iceland, where we played Estonia, Croatia, Iceland, Spain and Serbia. Next year we will complete in Division 2B in Turkey where we will play China, Mexico, Israel, Bulgaria and Turkey. We hope to win gold and be promoted to Division 2A for 2014.
NL: The most memorable moment(s) of your career?
AH: My first game for the ice Blacks was very special as it was on my 18th birthday. Also, cpataining the Botany Swarm to 4 championships in 5 years certainly has been a highlight. Winning the Best Defenceman at the 2007 Division 3 World Championships in Ireland was a personal highlight also.
NL: How do you train in off season? Any other sports maybe?
AH: The New Zealand season runs from May to September. During October and November, I like to stay away from the rink and play other sports such as rugby, football, cricket and tennis. We begin pre-season training in early December (a lot of gym and fitness work) and train right up until the World Championships which are held in April every year. We then take a couple of weeks off before we start preparing for the New Zealand season again.
NL: Do you follow the NHL or some other leagues outside New Zealand?
AH: Yes - we don't get a lot of hockey on TV here but i try to follow the NHL on the internet. I also follow the various European leagues closely, in particular the Eliteserien in Sweden. I also closely follow the AIHL which is the Australian Ice Hockey League which happens at the same time as our NZIHL.
NL: What kind of a player you are?
AH: I mostly play as a stay-at-home defenceman but in recent years I have tried to get more involved in rushes up the ice an in the offensive zone. I like to quarterback the power play and play a lot of minutes on the penalty kill.
NL: How do you prepare for a game? Any pregame rituals you do everytime?
AH: I like to sleep in before a game and I try to stay nice and relaxed by watching TV or reading newspapers. I find that I player better when I'm relaxed and joking around a bit with my team mates before we get on the ice.
NL: Favourite food/drink? Favourite music?
AH: My favourite food is roast chicken and steak, and i like to have a nice cold beer after a tough training. I like all types of music but I prefer to listen to something relaxing before a game.

NL: Now let's move on to hockey of New Zealand in general. How money players New Zealand has?
AH: There are around 1,200 registered players in New Zealand with 600 male players, 400 junior players and 200 female players. Player number s are fairly evenly spread between the 3 major hockey areas of Auckland, Christchurch and Otago / Southland.
NL: I know there is NZIHL and NZJEL. But are there any other leagues in New Zealand?
AH: There is talk of National Under 13 and Under 20 and women leasgues starting in the next couple of years. There are annual national championships at Under 13, Under 16, Under 19, Female and Senior-Non-Checking Levels, played between the 3 major areas (Auckland, Christchurch and Southern). There are national leagues at Under 16 (NZJEL - New Zealand Junior Elite League) and Senior (NZIHL) levels. Each region runs age group and senior / social leagues also.
NL: How many times you hit the ice on a weekly basis? Training sessions and games?
AH: During the season we train twice a week (Tuesday and Thursday nights) and we usually have an off-ice session in the gym before each on ice session. We play two games a weekend over 8 weekends in the National League, for a total of 16 games (we play each team 4 times), plus a final between the top 2 teams. At the end of the season there is the annual "Skate of Origin" which is a similar concept to Australia's "State of Origin" which is an anual fixture between the states of Queensland And New South Wales in the sport of rugby league. Our Skate of Origin involves a team composed from the best players from the North Island of NZ and a team composed from the best players from the South Island, called North and South. I am in North and we have won the game for the last 8 years.
NL: Who is New Zealands no.1 player?
AH: It is difficult to say as we have so many talented younger players coming through who all have different skills - I have listed a few below;
Charlie Huber - played with me at Botany Swarm for 7 years - huge centreman with great hands and awareness - currently playing in AIHL with Adelaide Adrenaline
Josh Hay - my younger brother who has a tonns of speed - currently plays with Botany Swarm
Paris Heyd - has just finished a season in France and is playing for DunedinThunder this years
Chris Eaden - a sniper who score plenty of points - playing for Canterbury Red Devils this year
Lyle and Richard Idoine - brothers who play with me on Swarm - big men with great hands
Dan Nicholls - Another solid huge defenceman who has played for Canterbury Red Devils for the last 5 years
Zak Nothling - plays with me in Botany Swarm - has won MVG for the league 4 times and has 4 championships in the last 5 years
Rick Parry - plays for Duendin Thunder - has had 3 consecutive shut of for the Ice Blacks which is a record
NL: Are there any fighting in New Zealand? And what kind of penalties you get for fighting? And have you been involved in fights? Any favourite hockey fighters?
AH: As with all hockey there are incidents but not very often a full-scale fight - penalties for fighting in NZ are very severe with any fight receiving a suspension for a few games. I was involved in a few when I was younger but I am much more relaxed at my old age! My favourite fighter of all time was of course Bob Probert - may he rest in peace.
NL: How many import players are there in NZIHL? I know a team can dress 5 imports in a game. What kind of players the imports are?
AH: Each NZIHL team is able to dress a maximum of 7 import players per game (this rule only applies for this season - it is usually a maximum of 5). These players come from a variety of background but most of them come from North America, Scandinavia or Russia.

NL: Has there been any Finnish players in New Zealand?
AH: Yes - the West Auckland Admirals had 3 Finnish players in 2010 and there have been a few others thay have played for other teams in the league over the years.
NL: Any future prospects in New Zealand's hockey.
AH: The NZIHL continues to get stronger every year. Player numbers are slowing but steadily increasing, and the playing and coaching level is always imrpoving. However in order to continue to grow we need to make sure that we open new rinks in the future - there are currently only 8 in the whiole country!! The Ice Blacks keep improving in the world rankings - we have moved from 40th to 37th in 3 years - and we are able to complete with some of the more established hockey nations on a more regular basis some of our highlights over the last 3 years - 6-4 loss to Serbia in 2011, 2-0 loss to Australia in 2011, 5-0 against Belgium, 2-1 win vs China in 2010 etc. Our Womens National Team, known as the Ice Fernz, are also on the way up with the target of competing at the 2018 Winter Olympics!

NL:Finland has Sweden as our biggest local rival. What is New Zealands? Australia maybe?
AH: Yes - we are closing the gap every year with our friends from Australia - we beat them for the first time in 2009 and we lost to them 2-0 in last years World Championships. We have also formed rivalries with other nations around the world in recent years, in particular with mexico and Iceland.
NL: I've heard that your National Team visited Finland some years ago. What can you tell about that? I've also heard that there was some figthing after hard hit from a Finnish team.
AH: Yes -we stayed at Vierumaki for one week while we were preparing for the 2010 Division 2 World Championships in Estonia. In one of our exhibition games we played a Finnish Army team - one of the players go so angry when one of his own players high-sticked him and cut his face that he threw his helmet into the crowd and broke several windows on the way to the dressing room!
NL: And for the last, a few questions about miscellaneous stuff. Do hockey players there play Austrial rules football?
AH: None that I know of - Aussie Rules is a very small sport in NZ, similar to hockey.
NL: Is it hard to find hockey equiment in New Zealand?
AH: No - there are hockey shops all around the country, and many people also order equipment on the internet.
NL: Do you get paid for playing hockey?
AH: No - it is an amateur sport in NZ.
NL: What about media? Do they cover hockey there?
AH: Yes - many of the local newspapers around the coutry have regular stories about the sport, and we also get occaisional television coverage, including our games against China and Australia in Dunedin last year being televised nationally!
NL: And as a last question I must ask you what did you think when I contacted you and told you I have bought your sweaty jersey? Did you think I must be crazy or something like that?
AH: Not al all! I know that there are a lot of passionate hockey fans around the world and you are one of them, like me!