School competitions to resume in mid-June

Otago Hockey Association pathways manager Hymie Gill is excited the sport will resume in the city...
Otago Hockey Association pathways manager Hymie Gill is excited the sport will resume in the city next month. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
Hockey is gearing up for a return next month.

Covid-19 meant the sport had to be put on hold but Otago Hockey Association general manager Andy McLean confirmed school competitions would resume the week beginning June 15 and lower grade hockey would start on June 21.

Premier and division 2 will get under way on July 4.

"[The July 4 start date for premier club hockey] will give us a good pre-season period and also we need to let the students drift back into town before the premier sides are at full strength," McLean said.

"One of the main reasons for the representative tournaments being cancelled [this year] was to allow for a full club season, so we’ve just pushed the club hockey back."

The premier men’s and women’s tournaments will wrap up with finals on October 10. Club hockey would normally conclude in late August.

Southland is not joining the premier men’s grade this season, so the remaining five teams will play four full round-robins before the playoffs.

There are six premier women's teams and they will play three full rounds as well as the playoffs.

The McMillan Hockey Centre opened for business, albeit with restrictions, on Monday and the City Highlanders Club practised at the facility on Wednesday night.

The playing turf is limited to 10 players on each half but Otago Hockey pathways manager Hymie Gill said it was a welcome sight to see the sport making a graduated return.

This year was shaping as busy for Gill. With Hockey New Zealand folding its regional tournament structure into an association-driven model, Gill had much planning work ahead.

But the pandemic has made some of the planning work redundant for now.

"It is actually not a bad thing. We were in transition between being Southern and moving back to be the Otago association.

"It would have been nice to have Otago teams out this year but it also gives us an opportunity.

"It gives us 12 months to make sure our players are in good shape and training at a good intensity and level that we can go into those national tournaments and be pretty competitive."

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