Leeds Knights: Archie Hazeldine edges closer to realising his Great Britain dream

TWO YEARS ago, Archie Hazeldine was over the moon when he earned his first-ever call-up for Great Britain, picked to represent his country at Under-16 level and primed to take on the likes of such powerhouse nations as Sweden, Finland and Russia.

By Phil Harrison
Saturday, 8th January 2022, 7:45 am
Updated Saturday, 8th January 2022, 9:53 am
Leeds Knights' 17-year-old defenceman Archie Hazeldine is set to play for GB Under-18s at the World Championships Division II tournament in Estonia this coming April Picture: James Hardisty
Leeds Knights' 17-year-old defenceman Archie Hazeldine is set to play for GB Under-18s at the World Championships Division II tournament in Estonia this coming April Picture: James Hardisty

But the joy lasted barely a month before the global coronavirus pandemic forced the tournament in Latvia, scheduled for April 2020, to be cancelled.

A year on, the continuing worldwide health crisis ensured that the majority of international tournaments didn’t even get to the planning stage, worldwide competition confined only to the highest levels.

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Archie Hazeldine, right, with older brother Joe having played alongside each other for Manchester Storm earlier this season. Picture: Mark Ferriss/EIHL.

That meant that Archibald and his fellow team-mates had been denied for two years running, with 2021 being their first chance to play for the Under-18s.

But, now, Leeds Knights defenceman Hazeldine can begin to dream again, having been picked for the Under-18 team to take part in the IIHF World Championship Division II Group A tournament in Tallinn, Estonia.

As well as the hosts, GB will face-off against Korea, Lithuania, Romania and Serbia, between April 3-9.

And, should everything go according to plan and the tournament goes ahead as hoped, Hazeldine will get to fulfil a lifelong ambition of representing his country.

Leeds Knights coach, Dave Whistle Picture: James Hardisty.

His selection – along with part-time Knights’ forwards Mack Stewart and Carter Hamill – comes on the back of an impressive first season at Elland Road, the 17-year-old defenceman often showing maturity beyond his years in a run of impressive performances, uninhibited by his new, loftier surroundings, or by having to play numerous nights as part of a four-strong defensive unit for Leeds when they were fighting chronic injury problems.

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His development under head coach Dave Whistle, helped in part by playing alongside the likes of fellow defencemen such as Sam Zajac, Bobby Streetly and Ben Solder, has been significant and something he believes has been a major factor in his latest call-up.

Great Britain Under-18s head coach, Sean Easton.

“This is something I’ve had to wait for a lot longer than I initially thought I’d have to,” said Nottingham-born Hazeldine, who also stepped up to play for Manchester Storm in the Elite League for one game earlier this season.

“I’m really looking forward to it, all the team are, having spoken to different people after it was announced.

“We’re just desperate to get there and get out on the ice playing. It’s something that we have been denied for the last two years, we haven’t been able to represent GB yet, so everyone’s excited and itching to get going in that shirt.”

Hazeldine follows in the footsteps of older brother Joe, who represented GB at Under-18 and Under-20 level and who now plays for Manchester.

“It’s a proud moment and all my family are proud of me,” added Hazeldine. “My brother did it and he just wanted so much for me to do the same thing.

“Coming to Leeds has just enabled me to become a better player, I know I’m progressing coming to Leeds probably put me in the spotlight to be seen for GB.

“Just from Dave’s coaching to the players trying to help me, everyone is always trying to help. Whether it’s constructive criticism or tapping me on the shoulder when you’ve done something good.”

Whistle was pleased to see Hazeldine get recognition for his development on the ice while playing his first season for the Knights at the highest level he has yet played.

“Archie has a lot of natural offensive ability and also has a very good hockey IQ,” said Whistle. “I’m happy that he has made the GB Under-18s and he’ll do a really good job for them.

“For a younger guy, he reads the game very well, he sees the ice very well. I think a lot of that is natural for him and it’s excellent to have that attribute as part of your game.”

GB 18s head coach Sean Easton - also coach of Knights NIHL National rivals Raiders IHC - said the restrictions brought on by the pandemic had proved a frustrating time for everybody in the programme.

“We can’t wait to get going, I’ve been Head Coach for two years now and we haven’t played a game in that time,” he said.

“It’s a great group of guys we’ve got this year. The team looks strong and we’ve had to cut good players to get to our final selection. This group will be very hard-working.

“We’ve got a great mixture of skill, hunger and speed. There will be a lot of determination. I think we have a rounded team and all four lines are very well-balanced. All my teams, we skate hard and I like them to be relentless.”