Qual­ity vs quan­tity key to chang­ing comp

Weekend Herald - - RUGBY - Hockey David Leg­gat

Qual­ity vs quan­tity; that will be one of the ma­jor talk­ing points to come out of the na­tional hockey league and its new for­mat when it starts in Welling­ton today.

The sys­tem where all eight teams play each other in a round- robin for­mat has been trimmed to mir­ror ma­jor in­ter­na­tional tour­na­ments.

There will be t wo pools of four teams, based on fi­nal plac­ings a year ago. From there the teams drop into quar­ter- finals, then semi­fi­nals and finals next Satur­day.

It means fewer matches, but might pro­duce an im­proved stan­dard of play. Then again, if you’re a player for whom the NHL is the sum­mit of their hockey as­pi­ra­tions, might they feel slightly short- changed, whereas in­ter­na­tional play­ers would likely ap­pre­ci­ate a less phys­i­cally tir­ing week.

“I sup­pose it is hard to get the bal­ance,” classy Black Sticks de­fender Sam Charlton said this week.

“For those peo­ple for whom the NHL is the big­gest tour­na­ment of the year it would per­haps be a lit­tle dis­ap­point­ing not to have as many games. But if you look at it from the in­ter­na­tional play­ers’ per­spec­tive it re­flects the type of tour­na­ment we play in. So it’s a good op­por­tu­nity to prac­tice that.”

Charlton, one of the coun­try’s lead­ing play­ers with 199 caps, re­mem­bers the tir­ing na­ture of the week’s hockey un­der the old for­mat.

“I hadn’t re­ally thought about that,” she said of the qual­ity ver­sus quan­tity ar­gu­ment. “But it def­i­nitely sounds like some­thing to­tally vi­able. I know from my per­spec­tive I of­ten end up play­ing big min­utes through­out the tour­na­ment.

“You get to­tally tired by the end. [ By the time of the fi­nal] it can be a mat­ter who has got the legs, but now will come down to who has the bet­ter hockey skills. That’s a good thing, you want the qual­ity to be re­ally high.”

Charlton’s Mid­lands will be boosted by the re­turn of in­ter­na­tional at­tacker Gemma McCaw, nee Flynn, who is one of sev­eral lead­ing play­ers to have taken time out from the sport this year.

“That’s re­ally cool,” said Charlton. “She re­ally en­joys the na­tional league en­vi­ron­ment and it’s def­i­nitely an as­set for us to have a striker of that ex­pe­ri­ence.”

The women’s K Cup this sea­son offers play­ers a strong in­cen­tive to show their best form, with Auck­land to host the World League fi­nal from Novem­ber 18- 26. The Ocea­nia Cup in Syd­ney from Oc­to­ber 11- 15 is the only other women’s event be­tween the NHL and the World League fi­nal for play­ers to state their case for se­lec­tion.

“A lot of peo­ple are look­ing to play their best in this tour­na­ment. You never know; any­one could have a good tour­na­ment and put their hand up. We want to make it harder for coaches to se­lect, which would be cool,” Charlton said.

The open­ing men’s games today have Mid­lands play­ing South­ern and North Har­bour fac­ing Cap­i­tal in pool A; Can­ter­bury play­ing North­land and Auck­land meet­ing Cen­tral in pool B. The pool A women’s matches are Auck­land against Cap­i­tal, South­ern against Can­ter­bury, while North Har­bour meet Cen­tral, and North­land face Mid­lands.

I sup­pose it is hard to get the bal­ance. Black Stick Sam Charlton

Pic­ture / Photosport

Black Stick Sam Charlton favours the changes.

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