was 14 or 15 I was
selected to take part in an
elite training camp for hockey
players. It was called an ‘academy’ which
is a fancy term for Bootcamp.
I was pretty excited – and honoured – because
Ramesh Patel was going to be there. And he had
been in the New Zealand team that won gold at the
Olympic Games in 1976. (Which was the year I was
born – so as a young hockey player that always felt like
it meant a whole lot to me rather than being just an arbitrary
thing; random fucking coincidence…)
Anyway, shortly after I got word of being selected I
also got word (and I’m making it sound like a series of telegrams
or carrier-pigeon notes, but this was just a pre-internet world) that
the band Dire Straits would be playing in Auckland – at roughly the
same time as the hockey-thing.
My folks said if I attended the one-week training squad they’d drive
up on the final day and as a celebration we’d all go listen to the Knopflersaurus
rock out Money For Nothing and Telegraph Road and all that other fantastic shit.
So this was pretty cool to me.
If I loved one thing more than hockey when I was 14/15 it was Dire Straits.
Actually Stevie Ray Vaughan too. (But this was not a good time for him to be coming
back to New Zealand). I also loved Django Reinhardt, George Benson and Jeff Beck.
I was big into guitar players. Across all walks of life. But Mark Knopfler was right up there
(even though I always hated the song ‘Walk of Life’).
We flew up to the training camp – me and two other lads from the region.
We met and mingled with the other elite-kids. They all seemed to be taking
it a bit more seriously than me. I was into it. But not so into it that I wanted to
At the end of the first day – which felt like a week in and of itself with a 6am run
and some other stretching/training shit and then finally the games and the exercises and
then we sat and watched video tapes of our performances and were told where we
should be holding the stick and how to correctly place our feet – we were given some
free time to go for a walk up the road from the hostel or borstal or whatever it was where
we were staying.
And that’s when I found it. Or it found me.
It was called “Weld” (it’s still called “Weld”).
And it’s a double-live tape by Neil Young with his band Crazy Horse.
If anything was threatening my love of
hockey-and-Dire-Straits-and-SRV-Django-Beck-Benson and whatever-else
it was most definitely
(and Crazy Horse).
I was blown away by seeing Neil Young play a live track from his “Freedom” album on TV
and from there I went straight for the “Ragged Glory” album of the time and the “Decade”
compilation that blew my mind with things like Cortez and Cowgirl and Down By The River
and reminded me I already knew songs like Heart of Gold and Old Man.
But I sure did love the Crazy Horse stuff – Ragged Glory was my favourite album
of 1990 and 91.
And then Weld.
This was the live album from the Ragged Glory tour. So all the best songs like
Farmer John and Fuckin’ Up and Love To Burn
but also the big back-cat anthems like Like A Hurricane.
I spent my weekly allowance on the tape. Took it back to the bed in the
room where one hockey-guy was crying with day-one cramp, another from
a farm somewhere in the middle of the north-island was writing a postcard
to his parents and the other guy was reading a comic or some shit.
My feet hung over the end of the tiny bed as I wrote in my diary and played
both tapes of Weld over and again on my red Sony Walkman.
I didn’t go back into town on the other days because I’d spent all my money.
That didn’t matter. I had made An Investment.
The rest of the week went by in a blur – hockey this and that, all
just piling up to be forgotten as Neil Young and the Weld tape was my
Oh, don’t get me wrong. I tried as hard as I could. I reckon. Got better,
took some tricks with me to many more years of hockey, got a pat on the
back from Ramesh Patel and he shook my hand too – told me I was strong
(But I didn’t stick at it long enough to get into the targeted 2000 Olympic
It was a tough fucking week man. When you’re a kid a week can feel like
forever. But the thought of Dire Straits got me through. And though that was
a good gig – and sometimes wonderful, amazing, for it was only the second
big-name show I’d seen and the Knopflersaurus was incredible and the Dire
Straits-victory-lap he was pushing had all the big hits –
I’ve got to say that the thing I remember most about that week, about that
time, was Neil Young and Crazy Horse. And the double-live cassette-tape
The other thing I do remember was the goalkeepers all sitting at
one table together. For lunch. And dinner. And they’d do dumb
challenges. Like seeing who could drink a whole bottle of salad