PUCK YEAH 41: The Team Canada Special

The 2018 Ice Hockey Classic is just over a month away! Recently Puck Yeah co-host Logan racked up an expensive phone bill calling Finland and Toronto to speak with Team Canada captain Nolan Yonkman and coach Paul Rosen ahead of their arrival in New Zealand.

It’s not all #IceHockeyClassic talk however. Yonkman delves into his playing career including being the only Canadian on a Finnish side that won the 2018 Champions Hockey League, while Rosen has one of the most inspirational sports stories you’ll ever hear. Plus we talk about the recent tragedy surrounding the Humboldt Broncos and what they plan to do to help the survivors.

The phone bill wasn’t that bad really. Skype credit is a saviour for a podcast like us!

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Quick Guide: 2018 Ice Hockey Classic Rosters

The 2018 Ice Hockey Classic sees Team USA and Team Canada do battle at Auckland’s Spark Arena on June 22nd, outdoors at Wellington’s Westpac Stadium on June 23rd, and Queenstown’s Ice Arena on June 28th.

Get your tickets now from Ticketmaster (Auckland) and Ticketek (Wellington) – Queenstown is already sold out!

Check back often as we continue to update this article with more information as players get officially announced by the organisers. And no, we can’t spill the whole lineup to you!

TEAM CANADA / Coach: Paul Rosen

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Nolan Yonkman (captain)
A veteran of over 700 AHL games, plus 76 career NHL games, Nolan Yonkman now enjoys playing in Finland with JYP of the Finnish elite league where this season they took out the Champions Hockey League. Drafted in the second round of the 1999 NHL Entry Draft by the Washington Capitals, Yonkman has played in the big league for the Caps, Arizona Coyotes, Florida Panthers, and the Anaheim Ducks.

He proved his leadership qualities wearing the ‘C’ for three seasons with the AHL’s Milwaukee Admirals from 2007-08 to 2009-10, before captaining the San Antonio Rampage for two seasons, followed by the Adirondack Flames. Now Yonkman is ready to come back down to New Zealand and lead Canada with the determination to beat USA in the 2018 Ice Hockey Classic.

Peter Holland
Originally drafted by the Anaheim Ducks as the 15th overall pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, Peter Holland currently plays for the New York Rangers and their AHL affiliate the Hartford Wolf Pack. Prior to that, he enjoyed a three-year stint with the Toronto Maple Leafs, playing 166 games for the historic franchise before being traded to the Arizona Coyotes in 2016. Holland is considered to be a centre that can provide any lineup with scoring depth, making him a great addition to the Ice Hockey Classic.

Chris Driedger
While Ben Scrivens will be holding the fort for Canada during the Australian portion of the tour, Driedger will be in the crease across the New Zealand dates.

Currently scheduled to become a RFA on July 1st, Chris Driedger has been working hard to develop his game as a goalie prospect within the Ottawa Senators organisation. Last seen playing for the Brampton Beast in the ECHL, in 17 games this season his numbers have been improving with a .922 save percentage and 2.55 goals against average.

Byron Froese
Drafted in the fourth round of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft by the Chicago Blackhawks, Byron Froese has bounced from their system, to the Toronto Maple Leafs organisation where he played on a very talented 2016-17 Toronto Marlies team that included young stars Travis Dermott and Kasperi Kapanen, along with 58 games for the big club before being traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning. He now currently plays for the Montreal Canadiens’ AHL affiliate the Laval Rocket.

Seen by many as a reliable third-liner who can provide depth scoring, Froese (that’s pronounced fray-ze, like freeze but fray it up a little ok?) has a wicked release on his wrist shot. To date his most offensively productive season was in 2013-14, tallying 42 points in 46 games for the Marlies. As for the big leagues, Froese’s best came this season scoring 3 goals and 8 assists for the Montreal Canadiens.

TEAM USA / Coach: Dennis Maruk

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Zenon Konopka (captain)
During an NHL career that spanned over 300 games, Zenon Konopka played for the Anaheim Ducks, Columbus Blue Jackets, Tampa Bay Lightning, New York Islanders, Ottawa Senators, Minnesota Wild, and the Buffalo Sabres.

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. Hailing from St. Catharines, Ontario but with dual residency, the former NHLer has been chosen to lead Team USA.

T.J. Brennan
Considered to be one of the elite offensive defencemen in the AHL today, T.J. Brennan has a wicked shot, so watch out when he winds up from the point. Brennan is another success story from the Toronto Marlies system in the AHL, during the 2015-16 season he was scoring close to a point per game pace with 25 goals and 43 assists in 69 games – finishing third equal in league scoring.

Now playing for the Philadelphia Flyers’ AHL affiliate the LeHigh Valley Phantoms, Brennan signed a contract extension on March 6 that sees him with the club for two more years.

Richard Bachman
In goal for Team USA will be Richard Bachman who most recently played for the Utica Comets – the AHL affiliate of the Vancouver Canucks. Prior to joining the Canucks in the 2015-16 season he also played for two years with the Edmonton Oilers/OKC Barons and four with the Dallas Stars/Texas Stars, whom selected Bachman in the fourth round of the 2006 NHL Entry Draft.

In 31 games for Utica, Bachman ended the 2018-18 AHL season with a 13-13-5 record while registering a .902 save percentage and 2.98 goals against average. The 5-foot-10 net minder is slated to head into free agency on July 1st as a UFA.

Aaron Johnson
In the 2001 NHL Entry Draft, Aaron Johnson was selected in the third round by the Columbus Blue Jackets where he played the majority of his 291 career NHL games – he also played for the New York Islanders, Chicago Blackhawks, Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, and the Boston Bruins. Johnson spent most of his professional hockey career in the AHL, playing 455 games and scoring 215 points, including twelve in the Calder Cup playoffs for the Syracuse Crunch and Milwaukee Admirals.

Now with Adler Mannheim in the German elite league, expect Johnson to be paired up with T.J. Brennan to create a formidable top defensive pairing for the 2018 Ice Hockey Classic.

HIGHLIGHTS

Check out these highlights from some of the players that you will see in New Zealand at the 2018 Ice Hockey Classic.

PUCK YEAH 38: Bringing the Ice Hockey Classic to NZ

Kerry Goulet, the man bringing the Ice Hockey Classic to New Zealand, was recently in the country to promote the tour and meet with passionate hockey communities in Auckland, Wellington, and Queenstown.

This week he joins Puck Yeah in studio to talk about all the exciting things happening within the events this June, including how it’s going to help the development of local ice hockey.

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June 23rd will see Wellington’s Westpac Stadium transformed into an outdoor hockey rink. Photo: Logan Swinkels.

Puck Yeah is a weekly hockey podcast produced in Auckland, New Zealand. Subscribe on iTunes, SoundCloud, or with your favourite podcast app to get every episode free.

PUCK YEAH 37: Ice Blacks legend Corey Down returns to the ice

This week we’re in Wellington where Logan catches up with Ice Blacks legend Corey Down to talk about his time both as a national player and coach, his next career move, plus a few curly questions from the audience (aka the Puck Yeah Facebook).

The former New Zealand captain will be making his long-awaited return to the game when he laces up for the June 23rd curtain raiser game outdoors at Westpac Stadium between the current Ice Blacks and the NZIHL All-Stars as part of the 2018 Ice Hockey Classic.

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Back in the day with the 2009 Ice Blacks. Photo: NZIHF

Puck Yeah is a weekly hockey podcast produced in Auckland, New Zealand. Subscribe on iTunes, SoundCloud, or with your favourite podcast app to get every episode free.

Main photo: Peter Idoine

BHL providing volunteer forces for the 2018 Ice Hockey Classic

Auckland’s premier recreational league, the Backyard Hockey League, are putting their hands up to provide troops on the ground for the 2018 Ice Hockey Classic when the tour rolls into Auckland and Wellington this June.

With Auckland’s Spark Arena hosting the West Auckland Admirals and Botany Swarm on June 22nd as the curtain raiser to the main event, Team Canada v Team USA, there will be many volunteers required to assist organiser Kerry Goulet and his team. Those volunteers will be instrumental in transforming what is usually the home of the New Zealand Breakers, into an ice hockey arena that can deliver a big game atmosphere to Kiwis, many of whom will likely experience seeing hockey live for the first time.

Along with bringing some great hockey players to New Zealand, Goulet’s non-profit foundation StopConcussions hopes to raise money as they continue to create awareness of the concussion symptoms that can be associated with the sport and help players get the treatment they need.

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BHL President Cam Green is excited about bringing Auckland’s hockey community together to help realise Goulet’s vision for the Ice Hockey Classic. “This is a partnership of passion between the BHL and like-minded people who share the dream of spreading the game as far as it can reach, and doing so with the love for the sport as the driving force,” Green said before continuing, “The volunteer experience will be unforgettable and a true ice hockey enthusiasts dream come true.”

Each volunteer will be asked to do three shifts of approximately six hours, although Green maintains this is purely an estimate and wouldn’t be more than that. And while it’s a huge time commitment, the rewards will be worth it for those that choose to get involved.

The BHL’s motto is Buddies, Hockey, Life. Nobody embodies this more than their president Cam Green, and along with long-time friend Aaron Somerville, he will working his magic as the in-game announcer just as he does for Admirals home games during the NZIHL season – his attitude towards the game is infectious and he’s hopeful that many will come out to support the tour and the cause it represents.

Not only is Green calling out for volunteers in Auckland, but also in Wellington for the outdoor game at Westpac Stadium on June 23rd.

The stadium affectionately known as ‘The Caketin’ will host a great moment in New Zealand’s sporting history, not only because it’s the largest outdoor hockey game to be played in a major Southern Hemisphere stadium, but fans will also see the Ice Blacks take on a selection of NZIHL All-Stars in the warmup game prior to Canada v USA.

Captains announced for the 2018 Ice Hockey Classic

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.

Tickets for the 2018 Ice Hockey Classic in Auckland are available for purchase now from Ticketmaster, with Wellington and Queenstown tickets available from Ticketek.

T.J. Brennan first player tipped for the 2018 Ice Hockey Classic

As heard on this week’s edition of Puck Yeah Podcast, the first player set to be announced as part of the 2018 Ice Hockey Classic is defenceman T.J. Brennan.

The New Jersey native currently plays for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms in the American Hockey League and will provide a strong scoring presence for the USA team that will play against Canada this June in Auckland, Wellington, and Queenstown.

As a player who has previously come down to Australia for this tour, organiser Kerry Goulet was excited to have T.J. involved again, calling him “an unbelievable hockey player.” Brennan’s stats and accomplishments can definitely back that up. In 2014 and 2016 he won the Eddie Shore Award as the best defenceman in the league. For that 2015-16 season with the Toronto Marlies, he was scoring close to a point per game pace with 25 goals and 43 assists in 69 games – that led the team in scoring while also being tied for third in league scoring, a rare feat for a player of his position.

Brennan is considered to be an elite offensive defenceman at the AHL level and was recently announced in the 2018 AHL All-Star Classic rosters for the fifth consecutive year.

As the AHL affiliate to the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms are currently second in the Atlantic Division with a 23-12-5 record. Brennan is in the final year of his current two-year deal with the Flyers. At age 28, with his offensive skills from the blueline he could still provide a much-needed scoring boost to many NHL/AHL teams looking to bolster their lineup either at the Feburary 26 trade deadline or for the 2018-19 season.

tj-brennan-wolf-pack-at-phantoms-11-26-16-albumIn an interview with RadioSport Breakfast yesterday Kerry Goulet revealed that David Hanson (from Slapshot fame) will be the coach for the American team. The remainder of the USA and Canada team rosters for the 2018 Ice Hockey Classic are scheduled to be announced within the next couple of weeks.

Puck Yeah is a weekly hockey podcast produced in New Zealand. Subscribe on iTunes, SoundCloud, or with your favourite podcatcher to get every episode free.

(Photos sourced from Phantomshockey.com)

NZIHL and Ice Blacks team up for the 2018 Ice Hockey Classic

Earlier today it was announced that TEG Live were bringing the Ice Hockey Classic to New Zealand with three exhibition games featuring USA v Canada to be held in Auckland, Queenstown, and Wellington – the latter being the first outdoor hockey game to be played at a major stadium in the Southern Hemisphere. Now PUCK YEAH can confirm that the New Zealand Ice Hockey League, plus the Ice Blacks, will be part of the festivities come June 2018.

Auckland’s Spark Arena plays host to the first leg of the tour, with the USA and Canada teams touted to feature current NHL players, veterans, and promising young talent. As a curtain raiser to the main event, the Botany Swarm and West Auckland Admirals will play each other in an official NZIHL game that counts towards the league’s standings.

Spark Arena is home to the NZ Breakers of the Australian National Basketball League with a capacity of around 8,500 for their home games. The arena also plays host to international recording artists when they come to Auckland – most recently Canadian RnB superstar The Weeknd performed his hits to a sold-out crowd.

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Playing at such a venue is a brand new prospect for the cross-town hockey clubs as they get the chance to showcase their fiercely competitive rivalry to a wider audience than what would normally fit within their home rinks at Paradice Avondale and Paradice Botany Downs.

Admirals captain Justin Daigle told PUCK YEAH that he is excited and honoured to be part of the 2018 Classic, “This is a huge deal for the entirety of the sport in New Zealand…For us it’s an opportunity to showcase the game we all love to play and really raise the profile and public awareness of hockey.”

He expects that these games will likely attract a new audience to the NZIHL. “As I often say, I’m yet to introduce the sport to a Kiwi who hasn’t fallen in love with it so hopefully this will serve as a catalyst towards new fans and players,” said Daigle.

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West Auckland Admirals captain Justin Daigle. Photo: Mike Froger.

Newly appointed Botany Swarm head coach Ian Wannamaker shares the passion of his West Auckland counterpart, “You don’t want to miss out on an amazing opportunity to see the fastest game on the planet in your backyard, seeing some of the best athletes in the world compete, and also see how competitive and exciting the local league is. You simply just have to be there.”

With 19 players from the Admirals and Swarm currently in the national team’s wider training squad, that round of the NZIHL season will be split over two weekends to allow their players who also represent the Ice Blacks to travel to Wellington and compete against a NZIHL All-Star team for the outdoor game at Westpac Stadium on June 23rd.

That All-Star team will be made up of import players from the five NZIHL teams, along with a few Kiwi players added to the lineup if needed. Considering the calibre of talent the league is now attracting in what is typically the off-season for ice hockey in North America, expect the Ice Blacks v NZIHL All-Stars game to be one full of action (and perhaps plenty of goalscoring) prior to the main event.

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Artist rendition of what the outdoor game at Westpac Stadium might look like.

Ice Blacks head coach Anatoly Khorozov is elated that his team will be part of the historic game in Wellington, saying he sees it as a great experience for the players, “I think a lot of players, if not all, will naturally be nervous but will also be very excited. I’d hope nerves will disappear after a few shifts and they will show the crowd that New Zealand has some ice hockey talent too.”

Khorozov hopes the Ice Hockey Classic will be a way of introducing more fans to the national men’s team that compete in annual IIHF World Championship events, the latest held in Auckland earlier this year. “I also hope this event will help Wellington with their ice arena project as more people will be excited to have the game in their city.”

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Ollie Hay is one of a few Swarm or Admirals players that could also play for the Ice Blacks in the outdoor game at Westpac Stadium. Photo: Mike Froger.

While the rosters for the American and Canadian teams are yet to be announced, Justin Daigle believes no matter who is coming, the outdoor game at Westpac Stadium will be a special event for New Zealand sports fans, “At the end of the day, the players on the ice are secondary to the atmosphere and environment that hockey provides let alone a venue as amazing as an outdoor rink. There’s something about the outdoor games that makes it feel a little closer to the roots and origins of the sport.”

Tickets for the 2018 Ice Hockey Classic with USA v Canada are currently on sale via Ticketmaster for Auckland and Ticketek for Wellington and Queenstown.

(All NZIHL and Ice Blacks photos by Mike Froger – All other photos supplied by TEG Live.)

The Ice Hockey Classic is coming back to New Zealand

While New Zealand has frequently hosted various divisions of international ice hockey tournaments in recent years, this tour hasn’t hit our shores since 2011 and this time the Ice Hockey Classic will include an outdoor game to be hosted in Wellington at Westpac Stadium – making it the first outdoor hockey game in the Southern Hemisphere to be held in a major stadium. There will also be games at Auckland’s Spark Arena and Queenstown’s Ice Arena.

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TEG Live state that the USA and Canada exhibition teams will feature a collection of current stars, illustrious veterans, plus promising young talent that will showcase the speed and skill of international ice hockey. Previous tours have featured the likes of Brent Burns, Scott Darling, Kyle Quincey, and Mike Commodore.

Commodore captained the Canadian side for the 2017 Ice Hockey Classic and mentions that he thoroughly enjoyed the series. “It was great to see so many passionate ice hockey fans come out and support us in Australia,” Commodore said. “Touring Australia with the Ice Hockey Classic has been a highlight in my career and it will be fantastic to reignite the rivalry with USA (in) New Zealand for yet another year.”

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This is what the Ice Hockey Classic could look like at Wellington’s Westpac Stadium.

Hosting an outdoor hockey game takes a lot of work as seen on the ‘Road to the Winter Classic’ documentary series that follows the progress of the NHL teams and ice crew as they prepare for the annual event, but it’s a challenge that Westpac Stadium’s chief executive Shane Harmon is aware of and excited for.

“The team have a 72-hour turnaround period to build, freeze, unfreeze and dismantle the rink. But we believe it is worth the effort to create such an exciting and innovative event experience for fans,” Harmon told Stuff.

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Artist renditions of the stadium paint a different picture but Ticketek currently shows Westpac Stadium hosting the outdoor game in a half-arena format.

Tickets go on sale from midday today via Ticketmaster for Auckland and Ticketek for Wellington and Queenstown.

Auckland: June 22, tickets range from $79 to $199.
Wellington: June 23, tickets range from $31 to $171.50.
Queenstown: June 28, standing for $81.50, $101.50 for unreserved seating.

(Photos supplied by TEG Live)