By LAWRENCE MACHADO
Hills local and ice hockey star Jeremy Vasquez is back in Sydney after studying and playing in Canada and the US for several years.
Vasquez has been playing ice hockey since he was eight years old, after accompanying one of his Kings Langley primary schoolmates to a training session.
“I could not even skate, but someone was willing to teach me and that sparked my interest,” he recalled. “I love challenges and I loved ice hockey from the first day.”
Vasquez, who plays centre or left-wing, turns out for Sydney Ice Dogs in the Australian Ice Hockey League, a semi-professional ice hockey league where his international experience and skills are invaluable. He has represented Australia at the junior level and the Under 20 men and was spotted by a Canadian scout during one of his junior international matches.
“My current hockey goal is to make the national men’s ice hockey team which will compete in the IIHF World Championships in Croatia next April,” the Stanhope Gardens local said.
“The Australian ice hockey circuit includes two Sydney teams, a Newcastle team, two Melbourne teams and teams from Canberra, Perth and Adelaide. Unfortunately, this year’s national championship was disrupted by COVID-19 and hopefully, we can restart next April.”
When I first interviewed him, Vasquez was a teenager studying at Terra Sancta College (now St John Paul II) and he dreamt of turning professional and playing in the highly lucrative and world standard North American leagues.
He left Sydney aged 13 to study and play at the Canadian International Hockey Academy in Ottawa where temperatures could dip to below 40°C.
“You get used to the cold though the first year was tough for me,” Vasquez said. “The academy is all about ice hockey and not like other schools where there are other sports. I kinda loved the school and the focus on ice hockey because I loved the sport.
I then moved to Boston and played for the Wizards and Sea-Hawks in the American Eastern Hockey League which is a stepping stone to the professional leagues. However, my plans changed when COVID-19 struck, and I literally managed to leave America on the last plane from Dallas to Sydney in March 2020. Yes, I am happy to be back as it’s nice not having snow around!”
For now, Vasquez has put his professional ice hockey dream on hold while he completes his double degree in applied finance and professional accounting at Macquarie University. “If the opportunity to play professionally comes up after I finish uni, I will definitely consider it,” Vasquez said. “I am focusing on uni at the moment.”
COVER: Australian representative Jeremy Vasquez turns out for Sydney Ice Dogs.
PLAYERS CAN’T WAIT FOR THE SEASON’S START
Community sports in the Hills and Hawkesbury, which have been in hibernation due to the extended COVID-19 lockdowns, could be up and running within days.
When the restrictions are lifted, gatherings of up to 20 people will be allowed for sport and exercise at outdoor venues, according to the Public Health Order (PHO). This includes players, coaches, support staff and spectators. It will enable community sport training activities that are compliant with PHO to take place. The government naturally expects a Covid-19 safety plan in place at these outdoor activities.
At the time of going to press, associations or local clubs were unable to confirm when training and competitions can start because they are waiting for the government green light. One of the main hurdles could be regarding the vaccination of players in representative and local competitions, though the under 16s are likely to be exempt from this rule.
Hawkesbury Cricket Club said while no dates have been confirmed regarding the delayed start of the 2021/22 season, they are looking forward to fielding five-grade teams in addition to their regular junior squads.
The club’s ground at Benson Lane was severely impacted by the floods in March 2021, with waters reaching the second floor of the clubhouse but club secretary Kevin Kwok said they hope to have it ready in time for the new season.
Penrith CC’s championship-winning coach Michael Wholohan takes over the reins at Hawkesbury CC from this season, bringing with him a wealth of experience. The club was without a permanent coach last season. “We will have five grades but to date, we have had no training due to the lockdown,” Kwok said. “We hope we can start training soon.”
Cricket NSW CEO Lee Germon confirmed cricket will resume when the 80 per cent fully vaccinated milestone is reached. He said cricket registrations are now open. Competitions could start by November.
Football NSW is also hoping their summer football and futsal competitions can commence when the vaccination targets are reached in the state. Football NSW’s Valentine Sports Park at Glenwood, Bella Vista Public School, Glenhaven’s Holland Reserve and Caddies Creek Reserve at Kellyville will host their popular summer football competitions, according to a Football NSW spokesman.
The association’s main championships, including the National Premier League, are usually held during the winter months.