Hockey Mad

Hockey Mad in Queenstown New Zealand

Last week, I read about a New Zealand rink getting ready for their season to begin, recapping all changes they’ve made – which includes a NZ$200K (US$135K) expense for new dasher boards and glass. It made me wonder about hockey in New Zealand and the logistics of running a rink in a country well known for rugby — not for hockey! Turns out, even in Queenstown, New Zealand – with their slogan of “The adventure capital of the world” – the people are hockey mad there too!

Queenstown Ice Arena

Queenstown Ice Arena – New Zealand

I tracked down Dan Graham, the co-owner of the Queenstown Ice Arena and I asked him about his rink, the work they’ve done and his views on his rink and the environment. The Queenstown Ice Arena is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year although it’s been just six years since he bought it. He also tells me about the hockey cam they have, put on by two Canadian brothers who own Leslie Global Sports – and how they will be bringing 15 kids with them from the US and Canada for this year’s camp. How much fun is that? Without further adieu, here’s my QA session with Dan Graham. Enjoy – and I encourage you to watch the videos to get an insight into Queenstown, New Zealand – and hockey in the land of the kiwi.

THM: Are there local suppliers for your boards and glass or do you need to order them from abroad? And if you have to order them from abroad, how difficult is that?

Queenstown Ice Arena

New boards and glass

Dan Graham: The dasher boards were supplied by a Canadian company, Cascadia Sports Systems based in Vancouver. It was certainly a long drawn out and costly process to get them manufactured, shipped and then installed here in New Zealand but Cascadia have worked all around the world so we had confidence in our supplier and we are happy with the result. There are no manufacturers here in New Zealand. In fact, there are only 9 ice rinks in total in the entire country with three of those being outdoor rinks.

THM: How conscious are you about energy costs and the environment? Do you use, for example, an electric ice resurfacer?

Dan Graham: We are certainly conscious of our environmental impact and although we do not currently have an electric Zamboni we plan to purchase one when our current Zamboni needs replacing. The benefits to air quality and lifetime running costs heavily favour an electric resurfacer. We have also considered adding solar panels to the roof and further insulating the building and modernizing plant and equipment to improve efficiencies. As something like 98% of the South Island’s electricity is produced by hydro, there is less of an environmental concern over using electricity here and there are no government subsidies for solar or wind. However, with some of the highest KW prices in the world there is ample economic incentive to reduce and conserve energy where possible.

THM: How you determine the kinds of improvements you’re going to make?

Dan Graham: As a private operator we are constrained by our budget and can only pick and choose one or two projects to complete every off-season. We have made significant improvements to the building every year which was in dire shape when we purchased it six years ago. In terms of energy efficiency, we have built and insulated the walls (the rink was initially conceived as an outdoor rink with a roof), installed a commercial dehumidifier (again sourced from a rink specialist in Canada) and had a refrigeration specialist (another Canadian rink company) evaluate our plant and equipment and suggest improvements.

Any profit generated from the business has been ploughed back into it and we expect that to continue for another few years. For example, after our winter season is finished, we will close in October to construct a further three changing rooms and install permanent seating. Once we have completed the necessary changes to the buildings structure so that we may operate as a fully functioning sports facility we will begin the process of more thoroughly analyzing the potential of solar energy, and replacing plant and refrigeration equipment, etc.

THM: So lots of Canadian connections.

Dan Graham: There sure are. There’s also Leslie Global Sports (two Canadian brothers and skill development professionals) who have run a hockey camp here in Queenstown every year for the past 5 years – take a look at the video, which will give you a glimpse into the rink and Queenstown (and why they’re billed as the Adventure Capital of the World – THM)!

This video was from Leslie Global Sports’ second camp and they brought two boys from Vancouver for two weeks to join the local players. This April they will be bringing 15 players with them from the US and Canada – it will be quite the camp.


This is a special town and it’s hockey mad which is unique in a country that is generally obsessed with rugby. I’ve also included a link to a video of highlights from game 3 of NZIHL finals in which our team (The Southern Stampede) won the national championship. It’s small rink but we have loud and passionate fans.

THM: How big is your rink then?

Dan Graham: The rink measures 56m X 26m so it is NHL width but 4/5 metres shorter. It is at the lower bound of IIHF standard rink sizes.