DUNEDIN, New Zealand – Old mates will become foes on the ice when host New Zealand plays China in the semi-finals of the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey U20 World Championship Division III on Saturday.
Haolin “Tiger” Nie, a defenceman, is a member of the Chinese under-20 team for the first time and Logan Fraser, 18, will be having his second year in the New Zealand team.
“I tried hard to make this team and come to New Zealand because I wanted to see my good New Zealand friends and play against them,” 19-year-old Nie said.
“When I was aged 14 I thought about getting New Zealand citizenship to play for the Kiwis but I thought I should play for my own country.
“Half of the New Zealand team we will play in the semi-final tomorrow were my close friends when I lived at Auckland.”
Fraser and Nie keep in contact through social media but to play against each other at a World Championship is something special.
“It’s cool to see Tiger out here playing for China. They are a good team. Hopefully we will be able to beat them tomorrow,” Fraser said.
“I remember Tiger being an outstanding player when we were young. We have been friends since he came to New Zealand.
“It’s good fun seeing him again. I’m glad he came back to New Zealand with the Chinese team. We are very good friends and used to go around together all the time.”
In 2014 Nie represented China and Logan New Zealand at the IIHF Hockey Development Camp in Finland.
Nie came to New Zealand with his parents, Jack and Haixia Nie, at the age of nine and lived in Auckland from 2007 to 2011.
Nie and Fraser are both defencemen and played together at the Botany Swarm club.
Nie, who received his nickname “Tiger” because he was born in the Chinese Year of the Tiger, started playing hockey in Beijing at the age of six.
“I was shopping with my dad at a mall in Beijing and there was an ice rink downstairs. I thought it was fun so my dad took me skating.”
His father brought back a set of hockey gear during a business trip to Canada six months later and the young Nie started playing ice hockey.
“Hockey is a social game for me,” Nie said. “I made a lot of friends. Most of my best friends, from China and New Zealand, play hockey.”
When he returned to China, Nie played for a club team in Beijing and in an international hockey league in the Chinese capital for two years.
He is now a bio-medical engineering student at the North Western University in Chicago.
“It is a very different game and much more physical in Canada and the United States,” he said.
Jack Nie and his wife Haixia are proud of their son and follow him to major hockey tournaments. He is in Dunedin this year and watched the U18 tournament in Spain last year.
The family became hooked on hockey after his parents watched their son play in an international tournament in Japan in 2009 and in Minnesota in 2011.
The Winter Olympics will be staged at Beijing in 2022 and Nie is keen to help China lift its ice hockey standard and play at the Olympics.
“The game is growing,” Tiger said. “In Beijing right now there are over 90 youth teams. The game is growing fast. I want to play in the Olympics or be a referee there. That’s my goal.”
Logan Fraser has been a member of the Botany Swarm national league team for the last three years and the New Zealand under-20 team for the last two.
In the summer time he travels to Canada to play for the Bradford Bulls.
His brother Blake, 20, played for the New Zealand under-20 team for three years.
They are backed by their parents Sue and Ian, who are volunteers at the tournament in Dunedin.
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