The Australian Ice Hockey League has had a flurry of movements so far this off-season, and the Newcastle Northstars may have just secured the cream of the crop.
The competition’s top defenceman, Robert Haselhurst, has penned a deal with the east coast team, making the coastal switch after five years with Perth Thunder.
The west coast local, who debuted for Thunder when he was just 19 years old, revealed his choice to sign with the Northstars was due, in part, to the fact “Newcastle just stood out”.
“I was talking to a few guys on Perth Thunder before I left and we were talking about how we really respect this organisation and everyone involved in it,” Haselhurst said in his club announcement interview.
“The Newcastle organisation really respects all of their players, especially their local players. I’ve heard nothing but good things about Garry [Doré] and the organisation there.
“I also knew there would be really good players that I could play alongside of like Bert Malloy who I played in the world championships with. He is just an unbelievable guy and really good player.”
The star defenceman also revealed his desire to lead the Northstars to their seventh title win in the 2018 season.
“I’ve already been treated extremely well, so I’m hoping to fit right in with the culture. I really want to win a Cup with this team,” Haselhurst said.
“There’s heaps of play movement going around the league every year, and overall it’s becoming a lot more professional, so it’ll be interesting to see which teams end up making the finals.
“Hopefully Newcastle end up making the finals and win the Cup.”
Northstars general manager Garry Doré, who looks set to return to helm the club after stepping down post-2014, said signing Haselhurst was “huge” for the team as they chase their seventh Goodall Cup.
“Rob is regarded as one of the top defencemen in the league,” he said.
The 25-year-old star isn’t just a wall at the back of the team, and proved his versatility with eight goals and nine assists in 28 appearances across the year.
“He was always a threat when we played Perth,” Doré said.
“When I heard he was travelling east there was no question about it. I think he will be a valuable player not just for the team, but for the organisation as a whole.”
Although the AIHL season begins at the Macquarie Ice Rink on April 21 for the Northstars, Haselhurst will be competing at the World Championships in the opening two rounds of the season.
Due to that representative absence, Haselhurst’s Newcastle debut is currently slated to be the 3rd round clash with Canberra Brave on May 5.