New Zealand ice hockey star has ice in veins

NICOLA ABERCROMBIE
Last updated 08:16 08/04/2013
Libby-Jean Hay
PETER MEECHAM/Fairfax NZ
ICE IN VEINS: Libby-Jean Hay fires a puck into the goal at a training session held at the Paradice Ice Rink in Botany.

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Libby-Jean Hay has ice in her veins, and in more ways than one.

She is one of the brightest stars on the New Zealand ice hockey scene and will today take to the rink as part of the Ice Fernz side contesting the Division II Women’s World Championships in Auckland.

The 18-year-old has been skating as long as she’s been walking, since taking up figure skating at just three-years-old.

It’s in the blood for the young Aucklander. She is the second youngest of seven children. All five of her brothers played ice hockey and two – Andrew and Josh – are current Ice Blacks. Her younger brother Oliver is a Junior Ice Black and her father, Grant, the president of New Zealand Ice Hockey.

All things considered, it is unsurprising the Auckland teen traded in her leotards for pads and a helmet five years ago.

“It’s not a typical girly sport. I’d always liked the speed of the game and the fact it was a team sport, figure skating is quite artistic and competitive, it can get very bitchy, and I just wanted to try a new sport.”

But Hay’s spot in the Ice Fernz is not solely a reflection of her family connections; the teen has talent.

Last year she was selected to represent New Zealand in the ice hockey skills competition at the Winter Youth Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria.

Representing a country that last year had little more the 200 registered female ice hockey players, Hay made the finals and finished 7th out of 15 competitors.

In August this year, she will take the next step in her journey, beginning a four year academic scholarship at St Scholastica University in Minnesota.

The college is in division three, which means no athletic scholarships, but she trialled with the team and they liked what they saw.

The US is second only to Canada when it comes to ice hockey, and a division three side is still extremely competitive.

“In my team in Minnesota, there are two sisters from Switzerland and they’re in the Swiss national hockey team which came third at the big world champs last year so that kind of puts in perspective what the level is over there.”

This week, Hay will be a major part of whether the Ice Fernz are successful – a win in this tournament would mean promotion to Division I and a chance at Olympic qualification.

“Hungary has a very young team and we beat Slovenia last year,” Hay said of the Ice Fernz’ opposition. “We know Australia well, we lost 7-3 to them last year but we’re much stronger this year. Italy has moved down so they’re the top ranked team and Poland has moved up but we can’t underestimate them.”

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While Hay seems set for international success, for now she has her sights fixed firmly on a prize much closer to home.

“We’ve got an advantage being at home with the home crowd and we know the rink. We’ve been working so hard because we know winning this tournament is achievable.”

- © Fairfax NZ News

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