The Wellington Seals in training. PHOTO/MATT KENT
Watching ‘The Mighty Ducks’ movie may be the closest interaction most Wairarapa residents have had with ice hockey, but not Martinborough’s Doug Vrame.
Vrame is part of the Wellington Seals side that will compete in the Hockey Classic Tournament in Auckland, running from Friday through until Sunday.
He is one of several Wairarapa players who have been involved with the Lower Hutt-based club, but is the only one available for the tournament.
The tournament is a competitive, yet fun, recreational ice hockey competition held on the Avondale and Botany ice rinks.
Entering the tournament is quite an achievement as the sport is less than two years old in Wellington.
Vrame moved to Wairarapa from San Francisco about two years ago, and has been playing ice hockey since he was five.
“I’ve been skating and playing hockey my whole life, and I just found out about the rink they built down there about six months ago.
“It was a big part of my life as a kid.”
The club gets together on Wednesday and Sunday nights, resulting in a fair amount of travelling for Vrame and other out-of-towners.
He usually goes every week, but said family commitments meant he was sometimes absent.
The team heading to the tournament has an international flavour, and is made up of players from New Zealand (6), Canada (3), USA (2), South Africa (2), Austria (1), Germany (1) France (1) and the UK (1).
“It’s a solid mix — it’s a very worldly team in terms of the representation,” Vrame said.
“They’re all real hockey fanatics — I can tell on Facebook they’re all really into it.”
There was a lot of uncertainty surrounding what the team would be up against when they arrive in Auckland, and they were preparing for every possibility.
Vrame said the team had some top-quality players, but some who were at the beginner level as well.
“A lot of the guys on this team in Wellington have not really played on a real rink or grown up with the sport.
“There’s a lot of interest in how it will all go down — everyone’s really excited about it.
“The goals are mainly to have fun — nobody knows what the other teams will be like and there’s some uncertainty as to how we will stack up against other teams.”
Team manager, Luke Turner, said many people had dreamed about an ice hockey team from Wellington.
“The whole team is really excited to represent our region and can’t wait to get on the ice in Auckland.
“For some players it will be the first time they will play in a real ice hockey game, fulfilling a childhood dream.”