‘Continue working hard.’ That is Jacob Ratcliffe’s advice for other Kiwi athletes looking to follow his path to professional hockey. Jacob has just signed on for his first season of pro hockey, playing for the Quad Cities Storm based in Moline, Illinois.
As a recent Westfield State University graduate, Jacob played in the NCAA D3 league before his offer of pro hockey came knocking. However, it’s been quite the journey for this Kiwi athlete. He started playing hockey at the age of 7 in Christchurch. At 13, he went to the prestigious Canadian Ice Hockey Academy (CIHA) for prep school, along with fellow Kiwi athletes Ollie Hay and Regan Wilson also attended CIHA at various times. He then played junior hockey for the South Shore Kings in Massachusetts for three years.
Somehow, in between all of this – Jacob managed to play six seasons in the NZIHL. He played for both the Canterbury Red Devils and West Auckland Admirals. He represented New Zealand at 3 World Championships and played for the Sydney Bears (AIHL) for two seasons, which is where he currently is. Even though it is hard to pinpoint precisely where Jake is in the world, he quickly adds, “but I call Auckland home!”
He is a smooth skating winger with a dynamite release, and we had to ask what effect so many teams, coaching styles and leagues have had on his technique. “I’ve certainly had a few different coaches in my career so far, with many being from different parts of the world and with different coaching styles,” he says. “I’ve enjoyed it all and tried to take a few things I’ve learned from them and add those to my game.”
“With a sport like hockey, it can be quite a shock when you go overseas to a place like Canada or the U.S. and realize just how many other good players there are who all have the same goals as you and are competing for a limited number of spots. It can be overwhelming, but it helps to focus on what you can control, such as the effort you put in on the ice at practice and in the weight room.”
At 24, the hockey world is opening up for this keen Kiwi. ” It’s exciting to be heading into my first year of pro hockey, but at the same time, it’s going to be a big jump in the level of play from college. It’s a new challenge that I’m looking forward to, and training hard. Being my first season out of college, I’m not exactly sure what to expect, although I know the schedule is a bit longer with about twice as many games as I would play in college.” he says. “There are some long bus rides, but I’m looking forward to it all.
“Jacob’s determination to becoming a highly-skilled player has been noticed by New Zealand Ice Hockey and now the pro leagues. Congratulations to Jacob, and we will proudly follow his hockey career.” Andreas Kaisser, general manager of the NZIHL.
Jacob’s first home game is on 21 October Vs. Peoria Rivermen. Make sure you like and follow the Quad City Storm on social media to follow Jacob’s season.