If you know whence you came, there are absolutely no limitations to where you can go. — James Baldwin
Next Level Hockey Australia (NLHA) was founded in 2009 by Joey Hughes, a native of Melbourne, Australia. He first played local hockey with the Saints Monarch hockey club then left at the age of 13 with his brother Vincent to begin hockey careers at Delphi Academy, a private sport college in British Columbia. One year later Joey found himself in tryouts with the Cowichan Valley Capitals of the Junior A Hockey League. He impressed the coaches there and went on to play five seasons with the Capitals, graduating with a NCAA scholarship to the College of St Scholastica in Duluth, Minnesota.
Joey played his first professional hockey season with the Pensacola Ice Flyers in the Southern Professional Hockey League (SPHL) after completing his degree. He also played the last half of the season in recent years for Melbourne Ice (AIHL), the team that won back the coveted Goodall Cup for Victoria in 2010, after almost three decades. Joey’s passion has grown from his experiences overseas and at home — not only for playing — but also for the future development of the sport in Australia.
NLHA was founded in July 2009 with about 20 players registering for the first official Next Level camp. Joey continued his hockey career that year with a professional contract with the SPHL Ice Flyers, but he was quick to offer NLHA services whenever he returned home. He continued to extend NLHA's mission with energy, and the vision caught the attention of Anthony Theobald, Joey's former minor hockey coach. Anthony had coached both Joey and his brother Vincent in the early years in Melbourne, along with many other successful Victorian players.
Anthony’s passion for the development of the sport comes from a long bloodline in local hockey history and it was his father, Eric, who was his strongest influence. Anthony started the game at a very young age and he has now been involved in hockey for 35 years, 20 of them as coach. NLHA offered its second Winter Camp in August 2010 and twenty-three players participated. At the same time the company launched Victoria’s first ever privately-operated professional ice hockey training — Summer Skill Skate Programs for both Adults and Juniors. Today the NLHA team continues stronger than ever on its mission in Australia and the Asia Pacific.
Doesn't every player need to know the origins of the Australian game? We think so, and not only to reach the Next Level, but also to contribute to a brighter future for Australian hockey. The sport here has a rich history and every player and coach will learn from exploring their past on the way to the greater game, the future game. Find more on the history of Australian ice hockey at the links opposite.