Veteran aims to help NZ ice hockey
The local ice hockey season is well underway, with five teams battling it out in the NZ IHL.
This year the West Auckland Admirals have enlisted one of the most experienced players to ever play in the league - a Canadian doing his bit for the sport abroad.
Chris Belanger has spent his career playing ice hockey in North America and Europe, and has even played for Team Canada. Now he's in New Zealand with an eye on helping our country's best.
"If you want your ice blacks to be a better team, it starts with the kids. At eight, nine, 10 they need to lean the proper things so when they're 14 and 15 and really developing as an ice hockey player going into the Ice Blacks, they learned a lot of that when they're young, and that's why I'm in NZ," he says.
As well as teaching, Belanger's also lacing up the skates with the Admirals in the national league, and he's been impressed by what he's seen from the local game.
"They were really keen to learn, they're very passionate about the game of ice hockey, a lot of people don't even know about the game of ice hockey, but I'm here to change that," he says.
The Admirals are more than happy with their new recruit.
"Someone with that experience, having such a long history in the game, also playing pro hockey all over the world, playing at the highest level, playing for his country, it's unbelievable," says Admirals coach Karl Peni.
New Zealand might seem a long way from hockey's Mecca in Canada and the top leagues of Europe, but it's a journey the veteran has enjoyed - even if he never cracked the big time after being selected in the NHL draft in 1991.
"I'm so thankful for every team I've been on and every country I've played in. I was in an NHL camp with the Edmonton Oilers, I got to experience that. I improved as a player after about two or three seasons, by then I was already in Europe, I didn't see any reason to come back, I was happy there, I was getting an opportunity to play the game I love," he says.
Belanger hopes he can help turn hockey into a game New Zealand also comes to love.