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Important Changes ahead for Hockey New Zealand Competitions

  On Saturday, September 14 the 2019 Ford National Hockey League (NHL) will kick off for the 21st time. This year the Tauranga Hockey Association and Tauranga City Council will play host to the event between the 14th and 22nd of September at Blake Park.

The Ford NHL has provided quality competition and played a role in helping develop talented hockey players from around the country. The talent that has emerged from the Ford NHL has enabled the Vantage Black Sticks Men and Women to be firmly cemented among the top-10 hockey teams in the world in recent years.

As part of Hockey New Zealand’s strive for continuous improvement the Ford NHL will undergo a change in 2020 and return to an Association based tournament. This shift is part of a wider group of changes underway designed to enhance the delivery of quality experiences while producing world class Vantage Black Sticks teams capable of winning on the world stage. Alongside the change to Ford NHL 2020 will see a shift from the current Regional model of U18’s and U21’s an Association based U18 tournament and new High Performance Series.

This is an exciting time for hockey in New Zealand and the shift in these tournaments is going to allow for players to represent their home Associations and further establish the importance and value of local development and pride.

The competition changes are going to be delivered in conjunction with the development of a Performance Network with more information around the network announced later in 2019. The Performance Network will better prepare identified athletes to be world-class hockey players so that the Vantage Black Sticks will be able to compete consistently on the world stage and challenge for Olympic and World Cup medals.

The current model that has been in place has got hockey in New Zealand to a great place on the world stage and built depth in our sport, however these changes will build increased local pride and rivalries while putting our national teams in a stronger position to succeed in the future.

In the first year of the NHL in 1999, the men’s side from Wellington and the Auckland women took home the Championship titles. Since that year, both of those teams have been the most successful with Wellington/Capital men capturing seven championships in the 21year history, while the Auckland women have been victorious in a record six championships.

Hockey New Zealand CEO Ian Francis stated of the changes “We are excited about the changes and the opportunities that these will provide to our sport going forward. We want to use the final year of the Ford NHL as a celebration of the competition and what it has provided to hockey in New Zealand. These changes are important in the evolution of hockey and will help further enhance and develop our participants experiences at all levels.

What will happen to tournaments in 2020? National Hockey League
In 2020, the Ford NHL will become the National Hockey Championship which will be open to be contested between the 32 associations throughout the country. The Championship will continue to be played late each year in the September window. The purpose of the National Hockey Championship will be to find the best performed Association for that year and provide an opportunity for players to put their hands up for selection in the HighPerformance Series.

Under 18’s National Tournament The Under 18 tournament will also shift to an association-based tournament. The Under 18 tournament was traditionally an association-based tournament but was changed to being regionally-based in 2013. The shift back to association-based will allow athletes to represent their associations building pride and putting the emphasis on local development for players, coaches, umpires and officials.

Under 21 National Tournament The Under 21 tournament will cease to exist in its present format. Athletes who fit into this age group will aim to make their associations’ National Hockey Championship team. A High Performance U21 event will be established providing a competition opportunity for identified athletes. Details of this competition are still being developed alongside the Performance Network. The High-Performance U21’s event will be held in July each year. Why change? These changes have come out of the Strategy Delivery Review (SDR) that Hockey New Zealand began in early 2017. This project was undertaken to ensure hockey as a sport was fit-for-purpose to deliver on its current and future strategic priorities. The key elements that came out of the SDR was the need to ensure that hockey is fun, affordable, sustainable and inclusive. These competition changes are going to allow for athletes to be locally based and competing for their association at the highest domestic level.
FAQs Will I still be able to play for my region? Regions will no longer exist from 2020 onwards and participants will be playing for their association at U18’s and the National Hockey Championship.

What is going to replace the NHL? The National Hockey League which is contested between the 8 regions will be replaced with the National Hockey Championship which will be contested between the 32 Associations. A new High-Performance Series will commence providing competition opportunities for the top 80 athletes per gender

Why are these changes happening? We are making these changes to allow participants to play for their local association and stay at home longer. Participants travel and costs will be reduced due to this shift. The new High-Performance series will further bridge the gap between club hockey and international hockey

What changes are happening to the U18 Tournaments? The Under 18 Tournament will shift from being regionally-based towards association-based.

What changes are happening to the U21 Tournament? The Under 21 Tournament in its present format will not be contested going forward. Participants will instead play for their National Hockey Championship side and selected athletes will participate in a High-Performance U21’s event in July

What is the Performance Network? Hockey New Zealand will be making further announcements about the Performance Network in late 2019.  

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