16 Year Old Heading for Chance of a Lifetime
NZ 16Yr Old Ice Hockey Player Heading for Chance of a Lifetime In Canada
Gore teenager and super athlete Dane Dunlop has scored what every Canadian teenager dreams of, a shot at Canada’s Ice Hockey League. Dane is the first New Zealander to be given a place in sought after trials in Canada’s national sport. His forthcoming participation is already generating considerable media interest in Canada.
On the 10th April Dane will be one of 70 plus young hopefuls trying out for 22 places in the Dauphin Kings of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League. This is a forerunner to the Western Hockey League where players can play until the age of 20 and can move into Semi Pro or Pro hockey ranks. Minimum salary for a National Hockey League player is 545,000 US Dollars and the highest contract this season is the Ottawa Senators Danny Heatley with 10 million.
Dane’s selection was won through his outstanding achievement as the only 15 year old playing a regular shift in the New Zealand Ice Hockey League last season for the Dunedin Thunder combined with his impressive results of athletic testing that tested his skills both on and off the rink. He scored within 3% of the top ice hockey athletes in the world. Phil Handcock from Otago University’s School of Physical Education, where the tests were carried out, says “We are amazed at the strength in explosive power in such a young athlete who literally has done no training in those areas other than playing sport. Physically he has the size and attributes of top international ice hockey players - with training and more skills coaching who knows how far he can go.”
His New Zealand coach Jenel Bode an expat Canadian based in Dunedin says the opportunity is enormous. “ Ice Hockey is to Canadians what Rugby is to Kiwis. Dane is a natural athlete and his full potential has not been challenged. This is a great opportunity for him to experience success in his sport.”
Dane’s mentor, Al O’Connor, another ex pat Canadian in Dunedin, was instrumental in putting Dane’s athletic credentials in front of the right people in Canada. “ Both Jenel and I recognised Dane’s outstanding talent. Kids like Dane can get lost in the NZ Ice Hockey Federation, so independently, we took on the challenge to put Dane on the radar in Canada.”
In Canada, Darryl Wolski and Gerry Johannson of the Sports Corporation a National Hockey League Players Association recognized Dane’s potential and gave him his shot at what every Canadian kid dreams of: making the NHL.
It’s all happened at such a speed that sponsorship has not been found to assist Dane’s trip. While Dane is poised for a potentially lucrative career, he will fly out to Canada on April 3 travelling alone as his family are unable to afford to pay for someone else to go with him.
The prospect of making the big time in Canada is still a little daunting for Dane, he says, “ I just want to get there and do my best, I’m a little nervous about all the fuss and media attention but I have so many people back home who have belief in me that I’m determined to give it my best shot.”