New Zealand Ice Hockey League
|No. of teams||5|
|West Auckland Admirals (1st title)|
|Most titles||Southern Stampede(5 titles)|
|Official website||NZ Ice Hockey League|
The NZIHL is New Zealand’s national ice hockey league. It is an amateur league that was formed in 2005 to develop the sport in New Zealand and to give the top players regular competition against each other to improve the skill level of the game domestically and make New Zealand more competitive on the international scene.
Because the NZIHL is held during the Northern Hemisphere's ice hockey offseason, many quality players travel to New Zealand and enjoy an off-season abroad while keeping in ice hockey shape.
The New Zealand Ice Hockey Federation is made up of 3 affiliated regions, all of whom are represented in the New Zealand Ice Hockey League with 2 teams from Auckland, 2 teams from Southern and 1 team from Canterbury.
|Team||City||Arena||Founded||Joined||Minor Premierships||Runner Up||Championships|
|Botany Swarm||Botany Downs, Auckland||Paradice Botany Downs||2005||3||1||4|
|Canterbury Red Devils||Christchurch||Alpine Ice Centre||2005||4||4||4|
|Dunedin Thunder||Dunedin, Otago||Dunedin Ice Stadium||2008||1||2||-|
|Southern Stampede||Queenstown, Otago||Queenstown Ice Arena||2005||6||3||5|
|West Auckland Admirals||Avondale, Auckland||Paradice Avondale||2005||-||3||1|
- Foundation clubs
The NZIHL had four foundation clubs, Canterbury Red Devils, West Auckland Admirals, Southern Stampede and South Auckland Swarm. The South Auckland Swarm changed their name to the Botany Swarm in 2007 to reflect the site of their home rink.
The Dunedin Thunder joined the competition in 2008 which saw the Southern Stampede move all its home games to Queenstown.
- Future expansion
Expansion within New Zealand is limited by the number of indoor ice rinks currently available. A notable omission from the national competition is the city of Wellington, which is New Zealand's third largest city, but does not have an ice facility. Recent proposals to build a permanent ice rink in Wellington have not yet come to fruition, despite the popularity of temporary ice rinks in the city.
There is always discussion of ice facilities being built in a variety of centres around the country and if any of these come to fruition further expansion of the NZIHL is likely.
With the increase in quality of the New Zealand league and its player base, much talk centres around a combined Oceania competition with a merger between the New Zealand and Australian leagues in one form or another. An early precursor to such a move was the establishment of the Trans-Tasman Champions League. Expansion of this competition or a combined finals across the two nations would likely consist of the top 4 finishers from Australia and the top 2 finishers from New Zealand. Currently the national federations of both countries favour the re-instigation of a bi-lateral international series between the nations at the New Zealand Winter Games as opposed to investing further in inter-club competition through the Trans-Tasman Champions League.
NZIHL team rosters must be made up of a minimum 18 players and 2 goalies.
Each team is allowed an unlimited number of overseas imports on their roster, however there are limits to how many of these players can take the ice.
Each team can have 4 imports plus 2 assimilated players (15 months playing in NZ with unlimited ITC). Assimilated players are expected to stay in New Zealand long term and either work towards becoming an Ice Black or participate in coaching junior teams. Australian players are classed as local players and import limits do not apply.
Current season structure
The NZIHL season has developed and lengthened over time and currently consists of a home and away structure where all teams play each other 4 times, twice at home and twice away.
Teams receive 3 points for an outright win, 2 points for an overtime win, 1 point for an overtime loss and no points for an outright loss.
The three top seeded teams after the regular season then contest the finals. The second and third place finishers play a single match for the right to face the top seed in a 3-match Grand Final Series with the first match held at the semi-final winner's home rink and the remaining two matches held at the minor premier's home rink the following week.
Old season structure
- 2005 & 2006 seasons.
During the first two seasons of the NZIHL there was no preliminary round. Each team played 6 games, 2 games against each team. Each team hosted one round, with one team having a bye.
The top two teams would then play a 2-game finals series. If both teams won a game each, the winner would be decided on which team had the superior goal difference in those 2 games, followed by which team scored the most goals, followed by regular season results between the 2 teams.
- 2007 season.
The 2007 season started with preliminary rounds 1 & 2 consisting of each team playing against their local rivals twice per round on a Saturday and Sunday. The Swarm playing against the Admirals while the Red Devils squaring off against the Stampede. Each win in this round was worth 2 points, while a draw was worth 1.
The next 4 rounds saw each team’s home rink hosting a round. Each round consisting of 3 teams playing 2 games each over a Friday, Saturday and Sunday with the 4th team having a bye. Each win in these rounds was worth 4 points and the draw was worth 2 points.
In the end each team played their local rivals 6 times and the other two teams twice.
After the regular season had been completed the top two teams in the standings compete in the final, with the winner of the regular season having home ice advantage.
- 2008-2013 seasons.
With the Dunedin Thunder joining the NZIHL as its fifth team, the format of playing each side 4 times was established, but only a single Grand Final match was held at the minor premiers home rink between the top two seeds after the regular season.
- 2014-2017 seasons.
The Birgel Cup final became a best of 3-match series contested by the two top seeded teams after the regular season with the first match held at the second-place finishers home rink and the remaining two matches held at the minor premiers home rink the following week.
- 2018-present seasons.
The 2018 season introduced a semi-final match between the second-place and third-place season teams. The winner going on to play the first-place team in the finals. The finals structure stayed the same as previous seasons.
For the 2005-2009 seasons the teams contested the NZIHL Trophy, from the 2010 season onwards they then contested a new trophy, The Birgel Cup.
Toa Kauhanga Riri Tio
The Toa Kauhanga Riri Tio challenge trophy was introduced in the 2012 season. The name translates to "champions of the ice battlefield" and the trophy is contested during the NZIHL regular season in the second home game of each series hosted by the current holder. The trophy was designed and built by Wellington craftsman Mark Newnham.
- denotes end of season holder
Skate Of Origin
Skate Of Origin was introduced in the 2009 season. The format sees the best players eligible to represent New Zealand at an international level play for the respective island on which they played their junior hockey. Players represent one of the two major islands of the New Zealand archipelago, namely the North Island or the South Island. The match is held alternately on either the North or South Island.
The teams contest the Glass Family Shield, named after the Glass Family of the South Island with three generations of contributors and builders of the sport within New Zealand. Ben Glass is a founding member of the NZIHF and Patron of the SIHL. Graeme Glass is the Past President of the NZIHF and recently inducted Life Member. While Simon Glass, Ben Lewis & Hamish Lewis have previously played for the New Zealand national side, the Ice Blacks, which Simon captained. Annabelle Lewis also played for the New Zealand women's side, the Ice Fernz.
|2009||N/A||N/A||North Island||6-5 (SO)||Botany Downs, North Island|
|2010||North Island||South Island||North Island||3-2||Queenstown, South Island|
|2011||North Island||South Island||North Island||8-6||Botany Downs, North Island|
|2012||North Island||South Island||South Island||5-3||Christchurch, South Island|
|2013||South Island||North Island||South Island||6-5||Botany Downs, North Island|
|2014||South Island||North Island||South Island||6-4||Dunedin, South Island|
|2015||South Island||North Island||North Island||9-7||Queenstown, South Island|
|2016||North Island||South Island||North Island||2-1 (SO)||Avondale, North Island|
Trans-Tasman Champions League
The Trans-Tasman Champions League was established in 2012 to expand relations, cooperation and competition between the New Zealand Ice Hockey League and the Australian Ice Hockey League.
The format sees the grand finalists from both competitions come together to contest the Trans-Tasman Trophy over a weekend of international match-ups. The competition was set out to be held alternately by either New Zealand or Australia on an annual basis, but costs prevented Australia from sending teams in 2013. There were discussions to renew the competition with the champions of each nation facing off in a 3-match series in New Zealand, but an international series between the New Zealand and Australian national teams was favoured with a view to the Trans-Tasman Champions League returning in the future.
|Year||Winner||Runner Up||Other Competitors||Host|
|2012||Melbourne Ice||Newcastle North Stars||Botany Swarm, Southern Stampede||Melbourne, Australia|
- Lane Nichols (2011-09-27). "Work starts on Wellington ice rink". The Dominion Post.
- "Wellingtonian editorial: City on ice-skating map". The Wellingtonian. 2011-10-20.
- Jo Moir (2013-03-21). "Ice rink returns to Queen's Wharf". The Dominion Post.