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Past inspires the present at New Zealand's PHL

December 2, 2020

Hockey athletes and supporters in New Zealand have welcomed the return to top level hockey in the form of the inaugural Premier Hockey League, which burst into action in November.

Held over four extended weekends, the Premier Hockey League (PHL) sees the nation's top players participating in an eight-team (four men and four women) round robin format competition. 

The teams represent the entire country, with Northern Tridents representing Northland to Auckland, the Hauraki Mavericks from Auckland to Taupo, central Falcons representing Taupo to Wellington and the Southern Alpiners from the South Island.

In a move that has really engaged with the hockey community, the New Zealand Hockey Association asked hockey fans to choose the names for the two Most Valuable Player trophies. The fans turned to their hockey heritage as inspiration with a resounding vote for three athletes who are Black Sticks legends.

For the men’s trophy, father and son duo Jeff and Ryan are the source of inspiration for the Archibald trophy. Jeff Archibald was a member of the 1976 gold medal-winning team which beat Australia 1-0 in the finals of the Montreal Olympics. In a career that spanned 16 years (1970-1986) and four Olympic Games Jeff Archibald won 101 caps for his country. He captained the team for the last two years of his international career.

Ryan Archibald followed in Jeff’s footsteps, playing for New Zealand 327 times in total. He made his international debut in 1997 and retired just after the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. He would have emulated his father and played at four Olympics but injury forced him to miss the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.

The women’s trophy is named for the midfielder and former Black Sticks captain Suzie Muirhead. Voted New Zealand Hockey Player of the Year in 2002 and 2006, Moorhead represented the Blacksticks on 238 occasions, winning bronze at the 1998 Commonwealth Games and gold at the 2005 Champions Challenge. Although better known as someone who set the forwards up to score, Muirhead also scored 41 goals for New Zealand. Her career spanned 1993 to 2006 and, like Archibald, she was captain for the last two years of her international career. 

On learning that the MVP was to be named in her honour, Muirhead said: “I am honoured to think that a country kid with humble beginnings like me might inspire the next generation. The Premier Hockey League is an exciting new competition that will become pivotal in developing depth in New Zealand.”

You can watch all matches of the New Zealand's Premier Hockey League on-demand on the Watch.Hockey app, which can be downloaded for free on Apple and Android devices. 

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