Jono Wenman is one of the Coffs Coast’s most enthusiastic ice hockey players. Even after 12 years of playing, his passion for the sport hasn’t waned. He talks to FOCUS about his experiences and the local competition.
How long have you been playing ice hockey, and what got you into the sport?
I’ve been playing hockey off and on for the past 12 years. I first got involved with the sport after the rink opened and some of my friends had heard about it, so I signed up. I was one of the kids who grew up on the Mighty Ducks movies, and I was always on my driveway with my rollerblades and a golf club pretending I was one! So when the opportunity arose to learn the game properly, I was all over it.
What position do you play, and what does that entail?
I play centre. The centre’s job is to take the face off, which is when the puck is dropped either at centre ice to start the game or after a goal is scored, or if there is a stoppage that requires a face off at one of the face off dots. I’m also the one who is in front of the opposition goalie trying to screen him, so that one of my team mates can take a shot, try and clean up the trash if the shot is deflected off the pads, and try and generate scoring opportunities through breakaway.
It’s also a defensive position, in your own zone. You have to be get back to support your defensemen and protect your goalie as well from the opposing centre.
Who are some of your sporting idols?
Growing up, the hockey player I was always in awe of was Pavel Bure; the speed and skill he had with the puck was phenomenal. Wayne Gretzky is the same; he’s the guy that everyone knows or has heard of – his skill was amazing.
It takes a special type of person to step on to the ice knowing someone is going to try and take your head off and still be so cool, calm and collected. He was a true gentleman of the game; his sportsmanship is something I really admire.
Jem Scotford is someone I look up to as well. We started playing together at the same time and she’s excelled at the sport, having represented Australia as part of the women’s team. To see someone come from a small rink like Coffs and make it to the world stage is incredible.
Tell us about the comp that’s run here in Coffs and how it is structured.
The comp here is run as part of IHQ (Ice Hockey Queensland), and we play out of the ice rink at the Big Banana on Thursday nights, with training and development on Mondays from 6pm.
We have four teams: the Dragons, the Stallions, the Ice Breakers and the Hawks. We have usually 6 rostered players per team and because of the smaller ice surface we have in Coffs and the limited number of players, we play a 3 on 3 game. Each team plays each other 4 times though the 15 week season and then the finals series.
Which team do you play for? Tell us about the team and their record in the comp.
I am the Captain of the Dragons. We are number one in fun, but unfortunately we don’t always reflect that on the score board. What’s great about my team is that each game we go from strength to strength we’re always learning something new about each other, and it’s starting to come together for us.
We have a few developing players in the team, and the rate of improvement has just been monumental. By the start of finals, I think we’ll be the team to beat.
What are some of the biggest challenges for an ice hockey player, and why?
Money, injuries and the smell. It can be quite an expensive sport. Once you buy the gear and then have to pay for ice time, the cost racks up; as you can imagine, it’s pretty expensive to keep a slab of ice frozen in Coffs. We have been helped out quite a bit by businesses like Harvey Norman, Ventoux Cycles, La Fleur D’alyse Cosmetic Laser and Medi Spa and Jr Superstar sports, who have helped us to raise funds.
Injuries are the bane of anyone who plays a sport. We’re lucky in that we’re well padded up, but you certainly know you’re alive when you take a big hit! We’re only a social league, so thankfully that doesn’t happen too often.
But above all that, if you ask any hockey player what the biggest challenge is, most would agree it’s dealing with the smell. There’s a certain odour unique to hockey equipment after it’s been worn for a while that’s hard to describe, and it’s not the most pleasant. I’ve had to leave the locker room on more than one occasion due to the smell.
What keeps you motivated?
For me, the ice rink has always been my sanctuary. It doesn’t matter what’s going on in my world, what problems I have, as soon as I step on the ice, that all goes away. I don’t know what it is, but it sends a shiver down my spine (and not just because I’m cold). It’s what keeps me going back. The people I play with are great; they make the sport fun, always challenging me to play better and dig a little deeper to compete. It’s great fun and at the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about.
If people want to get involved with ice hockey locally, how can they find out more?
Come along to a game and check us out; games are played on Thursday nights. Puck drops at 6.45pm for the first game and 8.15pm for the second. We have training on Monday nights, with a drop in game after that. The first time is free, and then it’s $20 each time after that. You can also email us at email@example.com and get any and all details you want.
Good skating skills are essential for any ice hockey player. Brian and Linda Bolitho run a skate school on Saturday mornings 8.45 – 10.15am for anyone wishing to learn. That’s the best place to start; contact the rink on 6650 0990 for more details.