Category Archives: Interviews

Where Are They Now?? Blair Tassone

In 2010, the Newcastle North Stars recruited three young players from the University of Alaska, in Anchorage. At the end of the season one of the trio would leave with 22 goals and 40 assists and finish third on the point scoring list. Blair Tassone had a chat with Craig Tonks about what he’s been up to since leaving Newcastle.

Craig Tonks:: What did you do after leaving Australia?

Blair Tassone:: Well I am currently residing in Chemainus, British Columbia Canada. After Australia I hung up the skates to get one of those real jobbie things that most people seem to have. I am now an Environmental Consultant and Health & Safety Coordinator for a local Environmental company called Coast Environmental.

CT:: You had such a great season in Australia. If you came back for another season of hockey would you like to play for the North Stars again?

BT:: Hell yes, if I ever moved back to Australia I would play for the North Stars again. As the saying goes ” once a North Star, always a North Star!”

CT:: Would you recommend the AIHL for young players in North America?

BT:: I have and always will recommend the AIHL to other young players! Always Newcastle first though! My time in Australia, the AIHL and especially Newcastle was one of the highlights of my life thus far!

CT: Any great memories from your time in Australia away from hockey?

BT:: Swimming with the great whites was awesome and Diving the Great Barrier Reef. Obviously all the great friends that I met that made my stay in Australia memorable.

CT:: Finally anything for the people of Newcastle?

BT:: Hello to everyone in and around the Newcastle organization! You all made my stay there a memory that I will never forget!!!

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Where are they now?? Steve Kaye

Where are they now – Steve Kaye

 

In 2009 a young hockey player from Ontario, Canada made the pilgrimage to play hockey in Australia. By the years end, Steve Kaye had amassed 18 goals and 28 assists. In such a great season his only bad memory was the overtime loss to the Sydney Bears.

 

His season in Australia saw him enjoy our lifestyle and leave with life long memories. One does get the feeling that Steve would love to have another season in Australia to settle some unfinished business. We caught up with Steven to see what he’s up to now and his memories of his time in Newcastle and the AIHL.

Craig Tonks:: What are your memories of your time in Newcastle?

Steve Kaye:: I have nothing but great memories of my experience in Newcastle; other than losing in the finals in overtime. I would move to Australia if it wasn’t so far from family and friends.

CT:: Is there anything you miss about Australia?

SK:: First off, I remember the great people I met while I was down there and that made the whole experience of living and playing hockey in Newcastle even better. I must say a big thank you to Gary and Leanne Dore for their hospitality, as that made a big difference being a long way from home. I have great memories and fondly remember all the away game trips, the trip to Newcastle Zoo with the koalas, and my first encounter with a kangaroo. I miss torrential rain falls, Harry’s meat pies, late night at the bars and staying at Will Creedons place above his bar. The list goes on and on. I miss everything from the people, the beautiful weather, the landscapes, even the accents, of course the hockey and the fans in Newcastle were terrific!

CT:: Did you achieve your goals here in Australia?

SK:: I personally had a decent year and enjoyed my hockey but the ultimate goal was to win an AIHL Championship. Outside of hockey all my goals were met, I got to travel and see Australia.

CT:: What have you been up to since leaving Newcastle?

SK:: Since leaving Australia, I played for a couple more years in Europe which was fun. I am on the brink of becoming a volunteer fire fighter and run a seasonal camp ground with my wife. I recently started Hockey Evolution Canada, a skills development program. Now after being out of hockey for two years, I just signed to go back and play in France next season.

CT:: Is coaching something that you want to get into to?

SK:: I have helped with coaching before and I can see myself getting into coaching more specially with my Hockey Evolution.

CT:: Do you still get the chance to follow the AIHL?

SK:: I follow it a little but not too much.

CT:: Would you recommend a season in Australia for other young players?

SK:: I would recommend more than one season in Australia. I would love to come back and play another season in Newcastle for the North Stars.

CT:: Is there any message for the fans back in Newcastle?

SK:: Lastly a big hello front me to everyone back in Newy. I hope to see everyone again someday sooner rather than later!!

Craig Tonks

Leaving A Legacy – Kim Couper & Jeff Martens

What drives a young couple to drop everything in Canada, put their lives on hold and travel to the other side of the world together for the love of sport, an adventure and the experience of a lifetime?

jeff kim

Photo:: Debra Jean Photography

Kim Couper and Jeff Martens have done just that to spend 6 months in Australia. Martens, the North Stars forward who is currently the leading AIHL Goal Scorer, and Couper are a dynamic couple who not only sought the chance to spend time together after a busy Northern Hemisphere season but took the opportunity to enhance the experience by working together off the ice as well.

 In Canada the hockey season goes from September to April however during Spring & Summer things aren’t quiet as intense, they encourage a lighter load on the athletes during this time, so the chance for Kim and Jeff to come to Australia worked out perfectly.

 Couper explains, “The whole idea of coming to Australia truly became a reality when Jeff called me from Europe, where he played last season and said if we were given an opportunity to go live in Australia for 6 months would you come with me? I immediately said yes, absolutely. Knowing that I could arrange my work back in Canada to suit this new adventure in our lives, was one experience neither one of us wanted to pass up”.

 Kim Couper clearly isn’t your average WAG and it is evident by the knowledge she possesses about ice skating, power skating and ice hockey in general. She has become an important part of David Ferrari’s North Stars Academy, coaching players of all levels and abilities, “I am fortunate enough that I own my own Hockey Training Company, Athletic Edge Training Co. which I have had for over 9 years back home in Canada, so it allows me flexibility in what Jeff and I do and where. I came from the figure skating world, where I skated competitively from the age of 7 for 14 years. When I turned 11 I started volunteering as a skating coach and by the time I was 16 I did schooling to complete my level 2 theory & became a certified professional figure skating coach, as well as a certified power skating instructor, of which there aren’t many”.

 The importance of what they do off the ice is not lost on Couper, “Being an import player as Jeff is in Australia creates an opportunity to leave a legacy, to pass on skills and a chance to hopefully one day see some of the eager young faces we coached, playing in North America”.

 During Jeff’s off season he is also kept busy giving back to the community as a skills instructor teaching, he has been coaching skills for 13 years for companies under Athletic Edge and it obvious to anyone who has attended their sessions, that the couple make a pretty great team.

 Within a week of arriving in Newcastle, Garry Dore had Kim and Jeff all set up to run a skating camp at the Hunter Ice Skating Stadium with the North Stars Academy, a local hockey development company, out of Newcastle by David Ferrari which coincidently had it’s origins in Canada. The couple had also been approached by the Norwest Emporers Ice Hockey Club in Sydney to teach multiple sessions weekly down there, showing the knowledge base possessed by Kim and Jeff was in demand.

 To many of our Canadian friends, the images of Australia conjure up things like beaches and BBQ’s but hockey isn’t always one that comes to mind. “It definitely is a different world of hockey here, but in the end it’s about giving all the athletes, regardless of ability, the opportunity to full fill their dreams of playing Hockey, whatever that maybe. We feel so fortunate to be able to travel the world and teach internationally in places like Canada, Europe, & now Australia, to all ages and abilities, to see what hockey means to each new athlete. It’s amazing to see how much heart they have and that is another reason why I love my “work” so much.

 Couper adds, “The appreciation on their faces, both young and old while not only here but across the world, has been the best reward and the best feeling any coach could ever experience. We have enjoyed working with lots of Australia’s raw talent and like home, all the athletes seem very hungry to learn”.

 Kim and Jeff always talked about places they’d like to visit together, as they really enjoy travelling, especially together during the Canadian off season. “Jeff had met many Aussies in Chile, while living there for 4 years during his teenage years and that started to trigger his interest in coming “down-under”. He also had a few mates who had come over to play here in AIHL and highly recommended it as a must do. For us the idea of being able to have the opportunity to explore something new to both of us and spend more time together was a huge factor as well. Getting away from home and our families and living amongst our new Newcastle Family, has been a blast”.

 The time in Australia isn’t just about hockey and nor should it be. Even as we head into our mild Australian winter, Kim and Jeff have had the opportunity to take in some of the beauty the region of the Hunter possesses. “We have had the opportunity to do some amazing things so far from sand dunning and feeding camels, kangaroos and koalas the whole works, to taking surfing lessons with Learn to Surf Newcastle and house boating. We’ve been a part of many a family birthday and milestone too, none of which we will ever forget! We have some other great trips & adventures planned as well, as we don’t want to miss out on this amazing opportunity”.

 An important message that one takes from talking to Kim and Jeff is not only their passion for the sport but the ideas that dreams can take you anywhere in the hockey world and the effort you put in can bring rewards. “This amazing journey and life experience would never have been possible had the two of us not gone after our dreams and pushed ourselves. Sure, there are bumps along the way, but those bumps only motivated us both to push through. We are forever grateful to be surrounded by so many supportive people in our lives, from all over the world”.

 Early mentors are important to everyone and can make a big impact in the pursuit of dreams. Jeff recalls one comment that comes to mind for Kim almost 10 years ago now. A obviously very wise person said, ”Kim you have something different, something special in your coaching. Since then she never looked back, and things have only got better and bigger for her!

 Kim adds, “I always knew one day I would own my own business but until 2012 I never knew it would be internationally exposed. We thank all the amazing people in our lives, especially our families. They not only put us in our first pair skates but have given us all the skills to be successful and who taught us that anything is possible. And to our biggest fans – each other. We cannot begin to name all the amazing people that have contributed to this journey for us, but please know we are forever grateful that you have come into our lives, from the bottom of our hearts we thank you & you will never be forgotten!”

 The Ice Hockey season in Australia comes and goes and so does the batch of players that make the journey here to play. The Australian Ice Hockey League has now become a total experience which both Kim and Jeff prove that out get out of it what you put into it.

 Couper, lamenting on the journey so far, “It’s hard to believe we have been here almost 3 months, and even harder to believe that in another 3 we will be saying bye to all the amazing families & friends we have grown so close with. From the first day we arrived here in Australia everyone has welcomed us into their families & homes with open arms”.

 Where will your dreams take you?

 Stars v Bears 9 June 13 121

Photo:: Debra Jean Photography

Athletic Edge Training Co. is running on-going sessions in conjunction with the North Stars Academy (N.S.A) twice a week, offering a Junior Development on Sundays & an 18+ Adult Power skating session on Monday’s at Hunter Ice Skating Stadium.

Josh Broekman

Broekman confident in progress

We see them but do we really see them? They wait patiently at the team benches. Waiting for that moment when the manager says, “You’re on”! This week Craig Tonks had a chat with North Stars goal tender Josh Broekman.

 

pic: Debra Tonks

 

In his role as the second goal tender of the side behind Olivier Martin he waits to be injected into the game. In such a fast paced game we sometimes overlook the importance of  the back up keeper till he hits the ice.

Speaking with the man who got the win over the Sydney Bears for the Newcastle North Stars in last weekend’s AIHL action, Broekmann opened up.

 

Craig Tonks: Firstly congratulations on your game against the Bears. How did it feel to get some game time under your belt?

Josh Broekmann: It was a really good feeling to be out there. Of course I was quite nervous about having my first start for the North Stars but I just wanted to use it as a chance to prove myself to everyone and I think, to myself too.

 

CT: When did you start playing hockey?

JB: I started playing when I was about 9.

 

CT: How did you become a goal tender?

JB: Starting that young we would take turns each week at goalie and I just enjoyed it. Gicu [Opera], who also plays with us was coaching me at that time, saw that and asked if I would like to continue being a goalie, that and I didn’t do too well as a player, which still seems funny..

 

CT: What inspired or drew you to a role between the red pipes?

JB: It just sort of happened. I had no real reason to want to do it but once I started, I couldn’t think of doing anything else.

 

CT: What was your journey through the junior ranks?

JB: I started with the North Stars Peewee team and some local league hockey. I continually tried out for state but didn’t make it into the NSW team at that age so I played for the ACT in their Ginsberg team. I finally made the NSW team in Kurt DeFris (under 15′s) in 2008, my second year of trying and progressed from there. I continually played for Newcastle and NSW in Tange (under 18’s) until in 2010 when I made the Australian Youth Team and in 2011/2012 the Australian Junior team. It’s been continual work but it’s great being at a supportive club like Newcastle and having my parents around has helped me out a lot.

 

CT: How long have you been the back up keeper for the AIHL North Stars team?

JB: Well my first run with AIHL was in 2008 when Matt Ezzy was injured and I have been a part of the team since then.

 

CT: How do you prepare mentally for a game?

JB: There are plenty of different things for me personally I think. I like listening to my music and warming up outside before we even hit the ice. I think it just comes down to getting yourself in the zone. I just try to focus on nothing but hockey and try to visualize all the things that could happen on the ice.

 

CT: How does this change when you’re the starting goalie?

JB: It really doesn’t change. You still prepare the same but when you know you’re starting the game there’s a little more anxiety there.

 

CT: Often as a back up you can be thrust into the game at any moment. How do you switch on to such a situation?

JB: Being thrust into the game does sort of switch you on, for me anyway. My adrenaline starts pumping straight away but you aren’t fully zoned in until you face that first shot and hopefully make that first save.

 

CT: The North Stars have a strong junior program. How important is it for you to be involved with development of the junior Goal Tenders?

JB: I think being involved in junior development will make a stronger future for the club. You see some of the kids coming up and the opportunities they get. It just gives you a good feeling when you are able to help them out and become better.

 

CT: What’s your goal for this season?

JB: Just to continue improving my game. I was excited when I found out Olivier was coming to play for Newcastle. He is someone I respect immensely and I also know that he is someone who can help me become a better goalie as he has so much knowledge.

 

CT: Is there anyone who has been influential to your career?

JB: I think the person who has helped me the most is Al Shank. He’s a goalie coach who was living in Australia a few years ago. He was able to teach me, not just new skills but also to have more confidence in myself as a goalie. This is the one thing that continually working on but he was able to give me the start I needed.

 

CT: What advice can you give to young aspiring goal tenders out there?

JB: Probably keep training and never let anyone put you down. You never know where you will end up and no one really does. My dad told me last year how worried he was when I first started as a goalie because well I was no good at it but you can’t let that stop you. I’m sure he never expected me to play for Australia or play in the AIHL but I know he has never been prouder, than when I accomplished those things.

 

CT: What lies ahead for Josh Broekmann?

JB: Again I just want to keep working on my game with Olivier and improving myself. Hopefully if I keep working hard and when Oli is ready I’ll be able to do what he is doing now. My ultimate goal is to become the starting goalie for the North Stars and pass on what I learn to help someone else .

HSN would like to thank Josh for giving up time and we look forward to watching the exciting young net minder progress in the future.

By Craig Tonks

Tracy Hocutt

Hocutt Excited By Potential

With a win under their belts, the Brisbane Goannas are turning more than a few heads in Australian Women’s Ice Hockey League circles and Tracy Hocutt is a large part of the reason why.  Craig Tonks goes 1 on 1 with the Goannas’ forward.

 

Photo :: Debra Jean Photography

Photo :: Debra Jean Photography

 

Craig Tonks::  When did you start playing ice hockey?

Tracy Hocutt:: I started playing a few years after I finished university. I was living in California and I went with my friend to watch her boyfriend’s team play. After the game we were walking out and I said to her “That looks like so much fun. I’d love to do that.” The hockey director was walking behind us and he heard me and he signed me up right then and there. I had no gear so I went out and bought all the stuff I needed for $300 all up. I got everything used except my skates – $60 Nike Ignite 6′s (Terrible but hey they were only $60). I rocked up to my first game and started playing ice hockey within the week. I was so bad, but I was right… it was a LOT of fun.

CT:: What do you love about the sport

TH:: The thing I love most is the people. Most of the people I’ve met in the sport are just super fun, kind of quirky, smart, interesting and generally awesome people. I love my team mates and all the shenanigans they get themselves into.

Another beautiful thing about the sport is the infinite learning curve and the jumps you make as a developing player – It’s a tough sport and it feels really good when you get to another stage and realise you’ve improved in a noticeable way. When players that once intimidated you don’t look so great anymore, you are improving.

CT::  What was your journey through the junior ranks

TH:: I didn’t even play my first hockey game until my mid-twenties.

CT:: Is there anyone who has been a major influence on your career

TH: I’d have to say Tamra Jones has been a big part of my hockey development in Australia. She’s the only hockey coach I’ve ever played for and has helped me improve tremendously with trainings and camps and making suggestions about how I approach the games. Playing for the Goannas this year has been a giant step in development for me as the games are so fast compared to general recreational hockey. Now I have to work on my hands a bit as she says I am not blessed with soft hands, so I have to prove her wrong.

CT:: What has been your own career highlight

TH:: I scored my first AWIHL goal this year. It was a hack-a-thon goal against Melbourne and it took me three whacks to get the puck in the net, but it finally went in. I would have celebrated it a bit more but I was tired by then.

CT:: Is it important to put back into the sport.

TH:: I think in Australia especially it is important to put back into the sport. I know I am not shocking anybody by saying there isn’t a massive Ice Hockey following in Australia. It’s going, but I wouldn’t say it is thriving, especially not in Brisbane. It is going to be up to the people who are involved with ice hockey in Australia today to shape what the sport landscape looks like in 10 years. Will there be more rinks and players? Will there be improvement in the quality of Australian Ice Hockey Internationally? Ultimately it is up to us to plan what we want it to be like and work to make it happen.

CT:: Who is your favourite hockey player or team to watch play (here or overseas)

TH:: My favourite team is the Chicago Blackhawks. And have you seen them this year? They are tearing it up! Patrick Kane is currently my favourite player on a team full of my favourite players.

CT:: What are your goals for this season

TH:: Well the big goal for this season was Win a Game. There has been a pretty big W drought for the Goannas and so it was important for the team to get a good old-fashioned win. That has been achieved this weekend. Personally, I also wanted to score a goal. I played in the AWIHL a couple of seasons a few years ago and didn’t score so I wanted to at least get a goal. That’s been done too. The goal now is to go to finals and win the competition. I’m sure everyone has that goal, but that’s the bottom line for me.

CT:: Any advice for young girls out there striving to make it to the AWIHL

TH:: Play as much hockey as you can and have fun! If it’s not fun for you, you won’t want to keep doing it – so make sure you take time to enjoy yourself and have fun with your team mates.

by Craig Tonks

Amelia Matheson

Who’s that girl :: Amelia Matheson

In the first of a series of interviews with some of the stars of the AWIHL, Craig Tonks put some questions to a young lady that is one of the most respected players in the league, the North Star Sirens’ Amelia Matheson.

pic :: Debra Jean Photography

When you need a player on your team in the AWIHL who has great skating skills, the right amount of controlled aggression and a player that can lift the whole team, only one name already comes to mind.  A bonus is a player who recognises that putting back into the sport is equally important to what they take out of the game, it’s exactly what you get when you have Amelia Matheson on your team.

Craig Tonks :: When did you start playing ice hockey?

Amelia Matheson :: I started playing in 2003 when I was 17.

CT :: What do you love about the sport?

AM :: The speed and intensity, the competition and the team spirit but more importantly being apart of a team that feels and treats each other like a family, is the best thing.

CT :: What was your journey through the junior ranks?

AM :: I played midgets for 1 year then straight into the women’s league. I have represented NSW and then began playing in the AWIHL when it started. I then played in the 2011 and 2012 Australian team.

CT :: Is there anyone who has been a major influence on your career?

AM :: Coaching wise I would have to say Dawn Watt, she got me involved in coaching and giving back to the hockey community. Player wise people like Kaylee White, who has been our Captain for our North Star Sirens team the since the beginning. Kaylee is an inspiration on and off the ice and one of the big reasons I still play hockey.

CT :: What has been your own career highlight so far?

AM :: Playing for the Australian team in my home town of Newcastle was a massive highlight for me.

CT :: Do you think it is important to put back into the sport (coaching, mentoring ect)

AM :: Yes 100%. I’ve been coaching for 5 years now and I enjoy it a lot. To know you have people look up to you as well is a massive personal accomplishment.

CT :: Who is your favourite hockey player to watch?

AM :: I watch a lot of New South Wales rep games and each team has my favourite player to watch and as for overseas hockey I don’t really have favourites, I just enjoy watching it.

CT :: What are your goals for this season?

AM :: To be fit and ready for finals. Like Kaylee said, “You learn a lot from winning but you learn a lot more from losing”. So I feel this season will have its ups and down on the ice but it will be a massive learning curve that will prepare us for AWIHL finals in March 2013.

CT :: Any advice for young girls out there striving to make it to the AWIHL?

AM :: Train hard and don’t give up on your goals. Start small and work your way up to the AWIHL. Anyone can do it if they work hard enough! :)

by Craig Tonks

Kaylee White

Fundamentals Important For Kaylee White

North Star Sirens Captain Kaylee White is one of the most determined players in the Australian Women’s Ice Hockey League.  Craig Tonks found out a bit more about the Sirens on ice leader.

Pic :: Jack Geraghty

Pic :: Jack Geraghty

Craig Tonks :: When did you start playing ice hockey?

Kaylee White :: I started playing when I was 15. I was playing In-line Hockey and all the girls on my team played Ice Hockey and they kept asking me to come and play Ice. I have never looked back. I can probably thank Miri Hamilton-Yates for me playing Ice Hockey

CT :: What do you love about the sport?
KW :: The speed of the game, the skill that it requires to be a good hockey player, the challenge. I also love the social side of it. Now that I have 2 son’s (Jordan and Cooper) I don’t have much time for a social life so playing sport gives me that social outlet that is important for any mum. I love spending time with the girls on my teams.
CT :: What was your journey through the junior ranks?
KW :: Well I started when I was 15 so I never really played junior hockey. I have always played in the women’s teams.

CT :: Is there anyone who has been a major influence on your career
KW :: There are many people but firstly my parents Anna and Peter Reitsma, who always drove me to games and trainings, cheered me on and paid for my Hockey trips when I was younger. They always supported me and I would not have been able to play the sport without them. So it’s a huge thanks to them.

Secondly, my husband Peter White, who has also been a coach of mine and always supported me playing hockey. It’s actually harder than people would think for a mum to play hockey. You really need the support of you family and friends. I have often received comments that made me feel like a I am a bad mother because I play sport and rely on my family to help care for the boys when I am away on hockey trips. I thank my husband and family for helping to take care of the boys and always supporting me and the sport.

Thirdly, the coaches that I really think shaped the player that I am today for example Kathy Burg and Mark Stephenson.

Finally, all the other people who have supported me either by sponsoring me or just coming to a game to cheer on the team or myself personally. I really appreciate all the support I have been given over the years. I don’t think I would have played for as long as I have without all these people….You all know who you are.

CT :: Is there anyone that you have enjoyed playing hockey with over the years?

KW :: Players that I love or loved playing with such as: Miri Hamilton-Yates, Becc Jalleh, Amelia Matherson, Ash Brown, Rachael White, Sharna Godfrey, Amanda Fenton, Steph Boxall, Mel Rulli, Traci Cummings, Mellissa Bibby and so many more. I really feel blessed with all the wonderful girls I have been able to meet and play Ice Hockey with.

CT :: What has been your own career highlight?
KW :: Winning gold at the 2003 World Championships Div3 and being awarded best Defence of the tournament. A definite highlight is being the Captain of the Australian Team in 2008, 2011

CT :: Is it important to put back into the sport?
KW :: Yes, this is very important to me. Just last year I was chosen by our association to go over to the IIHF 2012 Development Camp held in Finland as a coach. I learnt so much and had such an amazing time. Once I finish playing hockey I intend to coach women’s hockey in Australia. I was assistant coach of the Penrith women’s team this year and I really enjoy giving back to the sport and helping the younger players work on their game. I also assisted in running the IIHF 2012 come and try day for girls at Liverpool. It was so wonderful to see so many girls come out and give it a go. I had the best day with all those girls. I hope I get to see some of them on the ice this year.

CT :: Who is your favourite hockey player to watch?
KW :: I actually enjoy playing hockey much more than watching it. If I had to pick one I would have to say Miri Hamilton-Yates. She was my idol as a kid and I always wanted to be as good as her some day.

CT :: What are your goals for this season?
KW :: I want to keep working on my fitness and improve my game on the ice. My goals for the Sirens is to be in the Grand Final..

CT :: Lastly do you have any advice for young girls out there striving to make it to the AWIHL?
KW :: Work hard and don’t ever give up.

by Craig Tonks