Nolan Yonkman and Zenon Konopka have been named as the captains of Team Canada and Team USA respectively.
They will lead their teams as part of the three-game tour taking place this June in Auckland’s Spark Arena, Wellington’s Westpac Stadium for the first large-scale outdoor game in the Southern Hemisphere, plus Queenstown’s Ice Arena.
Team Canada captain, Nolan Yonkman, is a renowned Canadian defenceman who currently plays for JYP of Liiga in the Finnish Elite League. Yonkman played a major role in leading JYP to their first championship of the European Champions League tournament which features the elite teams from the top-tier leagues across Europe.
A renowned leader on and off the ice in the AHL, Yonkman served as team captain for the Adirondack Flames, San Antonio Rampage, and the Milwaukee Admirals on the way to playing over 730 AHL games. Yonkman also played 76 games in the NHL for the Washington Capitals, Phoenix Coyotes, Florida Panthers, and Anaheim Ducks. Yonkman was picked in the second round of the 1999 NHL Entry Draft by the Capitals.
Yonkman has thoroughly enjoyed his previous tours with the Ice Hockey Classic and is looking forward to visiting New Zealand in 2018.
“I’m thrilled to once again be a part of the Ice Hockey Classic. As always, I’ll be bringing my A-game and am determined to lead Team Canada to victory,” Yonkman said. “It is exciting to reignite the Canada and USA rivalry, we’re all friends off the ice but once the puck drops it’s a very different story.”
Zenon Konopka hails from St. Catharines, Ontario but with dual residency, the former NHLer has been chosen to lead Team USA.
During his professional career in the NHL that spanned over 300 games, Konopka played for the Anaheim Ducks, Columbus Blue Jackets, Tampa Bay Lightning, New York Islanders, Ottawa Senators, Minnesota Wild and Buffalo Sabres. Konopka was known as one of the toughest players in the league, accumulating over 1,000 penalty minutes.
Konopka can also be seen in the documentary ‘Ice Guardians’ that looks at the role of enforcers in hockey and the impact that position has on the players.
Passionate about bringing the intensity of world-class ice hockey to New Zealand, Konopka is confident in the yet-to-be-announced Team USA line up. “Team Canada is always a formidable opponent but we’re certainly going to put up a fight and make sure our Kiwi fans feel the rivalry on the rink!” Zonopka said.
As well as showcasing high quality hockey full of speed and skill, the Ice Hockey Classic aims to increase education around concussions and the neurotrauma associated with the sport, along with fundraising for the non-profit StopConcussions Foundation that supports the tour.