This Saturday New Zealand’s national men’s ice hockey team, the Ice Blacks, will become part of an exciting new chapter in the nation’s sporting history when they step out onto Westpac Stadium to play outdoors as part of the 2018 Ice Hockey Classic.
As most fans will likely be aware by now, this will be the first time an outdoor hockey game has been played on such a big scale in the Southern Hemisphere. While these events have become a dime-a-dozen in North America, it will be a truly significant achievement for those players that are named.
In the curtain raiser game to the Canada v USA main event, they will face a NZIHL All-Stars selection team that is composed of current Ice Blacks, former wearers of the black jersey, Corey Downs and Dan Nicholls, plus a few imports from this season.
Behind the bench for the All-Stars will be West Auckland Admirals head coach Csaba Kercso-Magos Snr, while Canterbury Red Devils head coach Anatoly Khorozov and Skycity Stampede head coach Adam Blanchette return as the Ice Blacks coaching staff.
Puck Yeah Podcast recently interviewed Corey Down to talk about what it means to make his long-awaited return to the ice and how special it will be to play in front of a hometown crowd for the first time in his career.
UPDATE: Botany Swarm import goalie Joel Rindelaub has also been added to the NZIHL All-Stars roster.
As for the Ice Blacks roster, the return of Jake Ratcliffe will be a welcome one after tearing it up in the US Premier Hockey League for the South Shore Kings – scoring 20 goals and 41 assists in 44 games this season.
The selection of Justin Daigle could be a surprise to some considering he’s never played for New Zealand before, nor does he have NZ citizenship. However being an exhibition game and not a IIHF-sanctioned tournament, perhaps this will be a preview of the future? Daigle in the black jersey is something I want to see.
With Nick Craig out for the rest of the season due to a broken ankle, long-serving defenceman Andrew Hay gets the nod to captain the Ice Blacks for the historic event.
The puck drops for the New Zealand Ice Blacks v NZIHL All-Stars at 1pm with tickets still available via Ticketek.