Hockey: Southern teams not playing in NHL

Andrew Booth.
Andrew Booth.
There will be no men's or women's Southern sides in this year's National Hockey League.

But Southern Hockey is declining to say why it is pulling the teams out of the national league which will climax with a week's tournament in Whangarei.

It is believed high cost and player unavailability are the main reasons behind the withdrawal.

Southern Hockey, which represents associations from Timaru south, put out a statement during the weekend, but would not comment on the reasons behind the decision.

"It is with much disappointment and regret that the Southern Hockey Board wish to announce that, following discussions with Hockey New Zealand this week, we will not be entering an NHL men's or women's team in 2016,'' the announcement said.

The Southern Dogs men's team made the final of the national competition last season and came within a whisker of claiming the title after it lost to the Capital Cobras in a penalty shootout.

However, it will be denied the chance to go one better this year.

The Southern Storm women's team ended last year's national competition last and without a win.

When contacted, Southern Hockey Board co-chairman Andrew Booth said he did not want to discuss the reasons for the move.

"We're not wanting to comment on anything at the moment until it's all sorted,'' he said.

He said a full explanation would be given in a couple of weeks but he was not willing to explain the reasons behind the withdrawal yesterday.

The Otago Daily Times understands the decision was influenced by financial concerns, as the organisation is not in a position to field teams in this year's league.

It is believed the sending of the two teams to the tournament in Whangarei ran well into the thousands of dollars.

The sport is strictly amateur in the South and finances are tight.

Three key players - Blair Tarrant, Kane Russell and Hugo Inglis - are playing for the Black Sticks at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro and will not be available for the Southern team.

The Olympics finish just a week before the national league commences in late August.

Southern player James Nation said he was disappointed there would be no team from the southern region in the national league, especially given the men's team's success in recent years, but he understood there was a huge cost involved.

He had not been told of the reasons for the teams' withdrawals, he said.

"My views are some guys are not getting an opportunity to represent Southern in the national tournament, which is disappointing, but I can also see the practicality of getting of getting a lot of money together to send those teams away, both to Southern Hockey and to the players themselves.''

Players usually paid about $1000 each to play in the national league, Nation said.

That was on top of club or school fees and turf fees, he said.

The national league begins with regional matches in the first round, which this year takes place in the last weekend of August.

For Southern, that would have meant a match against the Canterbury Cavaliers in Dunedin or Christchurch.

The next round of matches is scheduled to take place on September 4, before a week of matches, including semifinals and finals, in Whangarei on September 10-17.

Last year's finals week was also held in Whangarei.

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