New Zealand ice hockey dumps popular online streaming service

Ryan Strayer (centre) of the Southern Stampede drives the puck down the rink while double teamed by Callum Burns (L) and ...

Ryan Strayer (centre) of the Southern Stampede drives the puck down the rink while double teamed by Callum Burns (L) and Andrew Hay of the New Zealand Ice Blacks.

The only live broadcast of New Zealand ice hockey games has been axed.

The New Zealand Ice Hockey Federation (NZIHF) and the New Zealand Ice Hockey League (NZIHL) have both dumped a free local livestream service that has been running since 2012.

Slapshot Productions are the sole provider of live coverage for all International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) tournaments in New Zealand as well as more than 200 NZIHL games over the past four years.

It has been told that both the NZIHF and the NZIHL will not renew their current contract.

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The news comes just two months before the 2017 Division II Group B IIHF World Championships to be held in Auckland, which will be the first time since 2009 the Ice Blacks - New Zealand's national team - will compete on home ice in an IIHF tournament.

General secretary of the NZIHF Jonathan Albright said the its decision was made due to the costs of the service.

"The cost for streaming would put the budget in the red," Albright said.

"If we were to do the live streaming, the funds would come out of junior development, which we simply cannot afford to do."

He said the organisation had tried to source sponsorship since May last year, was unsuccessful.

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However, the decision has created division among the ice hockey community, with many volunteers and organisers left scratching their heads.

Jez Brown, director of Slapshot Productions, said both decisions came one after the other and were completely out of the blue.

"The position it leaves us in makes the business basically untenable," Brown said.

"We're probably going to have to wrap-up the business, and that's very sad."

Slapshot's exodus will also see the loss of more than 50 of its volunteers who have dedicated hours of work in filming, editing, commentating, photographing, and producing content for social media.

"Those people aren't happy," Brown said.

"I really don't think they realise what they're losing. It's not just about the video coverage, it's so much bigger than that."

One volunteer, Red Hendery expressed his disappointment in a Facebook post saying the news was both a huge surprise and painful.

"We were part of the community," Hendery said.

"We got to not only see, but also deliver a great hockey stream to a lot of people. Our work was a tangible thing. 

"Now I don't get to do that and that sucks."

Another volunteer, Casey Lucas, said she feared for the negative impact the decision would have on the hockey community.

"My main concerns are what this will do to the visibility of the NZIHL as a whole and hockey as a sport in New Zealand," Lucas said.

"I've seen firsthand the effect that the livestreams have had on growing our fanbase both at home and abroad.

"This feels like a blow to hockey itself in New Zealand."

Since Slapshot began livestreaming the five-team NZIHL in 2012, viewership numbers had soared.

In 2015, it had more than 38,000 total views, and in 2016 that number reached 81,000.

Brown had always hoped that the livestream would help sell the NZIHL to a larger audience - including a potential deal with Sky TV. 

The NZIHL have been contacted for comment.


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