The SA Ice Hockey Super League kicked off last month, with the Cape Town Kings taking a back seat while their up-country rivals tussled for some early points in the standings.
This weekend, the Kings got their first taste of the 2016 league when they faced off against defending champions, the Gauteng Wildcats.
For Western Province and SA up-and-comer, 17-year-old Aslam Khan, a call-up to the Kings side was a dream come true. It was a dream, however, that was not without its nightmarish content, as he quickly discovered, having to up his game to the frenetic pace of the seniors, but the under-18 and under-20 national player soon felt at home between the goals, earning himself the moniker of most valuable player.
“My journey in this sport started when I attended public skate sessions at GrandWest. I made friends that played ice hockey and they invited me to come try out. I was nine years old. I absolutely loved it and after a year of playing I asked my coach if I could try playing goalie.
“He was more than happy because we were short of goalkeepers but the real reason I wanted to do it was because I liked the goalie’s kit and thought it made me look like Robo Cop. From there I fell in love with the position and went on to achieve my WP and SA colours as a junior player,” he said.
The former Curro Durbanville pupil knows that out on the ice, he is the last line of defence and he takes his selection in Cape Town’s premier senior side with a cascade of responsibility.
“I love getting out on the ice, standing in my goal post and just owning that space. I want to make my team proud at all costs and I just hate letting goals in.
“Playing in the senior side can only help me improve my game. I look up to the senior players and seeing how much faster the game is and how much more intense the impacts are is really just mind blowing.
“From the first period the Wildcats were all over us and I think our boys lost focus and became tired, giving away too many penalties. I just kept telling myself I can’t mess it up and had to keep the game going. As a goalie you have a big influence on the shape of the game. You have to protect that goal post like it is gold.
“It can be a bit frustrating sometimes because players get in your way and when you can’t see the puck, silly mistakes happen but for me, the worst thing that can happen to a goalie is when neither team can break a deadlock and you have to go to sudden death.
“I don’t feel like this is a true reflection of the game and a bit unfair to the goalie but I guess it’s part of the game.
“Ultimately, when you are faced with those situations they make you a stronger person,” said the College of Cape Town mechanical engineering student.
“Gearing up for the league has been tough. We are on the ice at 5.30am for training sessions and you have to mentally prepare yourself for that strain but once you are out there, doing team drills and fitness sessions, everything falls in place.
“I am grateful for the opportunities my coach, Marc Giot, has given me and it is an honour to play in the same league as my mentor, Lucian Lorenzo. I could not have done any of this without their help.
“My parents are also my biggest supporters and with their backing and blessings from God, this has all been made possible,” he said.