Since the announcement of the USA vs Canada International Ice Hockey series was made in June last year, there have been mixed emotions from all angles as anxious ticket holders speculated about who might be on the rosters of the invitational teams. The general vibe had been a mix of excitement and skepticism from many fans who had been promised the ‘best teams to ever reach our shores’ struggled to comprehend 22 pro level players from North America making the journey to play in a country ranked 46th on international ice hockey standards and which to date had attracted no more than 2,000 spectators to a game.
Promoters at Douglas Webber Events have played their cards close to their chests, releasing only a few names of who can be expected on the rink for the July/August events in Auckland, Christchurch and Dunedin. Aaron Miller and Derek Armstrong were named first as captains of USA and Canada respectively, and later the goal tenders John Grahame and Andrew Engelage. The promoters were to announce the remainder of the teams when the players arrived in Auckland on 21st July, but after mounting pressure from fans and skeptics alike, they have succumb to the mounting pressure put on them in a public release of the full team lists today.
Among the highlights include a Stanley Cup winner, Olympic Games silver medalist and a number of North American pro stars of the past and present from American Hockey Leagues (AHL) and National Hockey Leagues (NHL) which are the two highest ranking levels of pro hockey in North America. Other outstanding talent with NHL credited to their names are Bates Battaglia, Mark Hartigan, Kevin Doell, Aaron MacKenzie , Cam Paddock and Brad Smyth.
While both teams are strong and appear to live up to the hype which has swelled in light of significant media attention and marketing campaigns, each has its own unique drafting approach. Canada makes its debut on NZ shores with an older team averaging 31 years, but with age comes experience as can be seen from the player resumes, many of which boast successful NHL careers, making Canada the pick to win. USA has drafted a younger team averaging just 28 years with less NHL experience, but with the energy of youth on their side and 39 year old NHL veteran Aaron Miller in charge, not to mention the ‘Great Wall’ John Grahame in goal, this game could go either way.
The teams will face off for the first time in Auckland’s Vector Arena on 23rd July where the 10,000 capacity concert venue will be transformed into a temporary house of hockey with the installation of a temporary NHL spec ice rink from Holland. Game two will be held at CBS Canterbury Arena on 30th July, with the same rink from Auckland being melted down and transported by road to the new venue. The winner will be determined by the highest total points scored, so anyone could take the cup in the final game at Dunedin’s Ice Stadium on 3rd August.
Regardless of whom wins, some facts will remain true; this ice hockey series will go down in history as the biggest action sports event we’ve had, putting ice hockey on the kiwi sporting map and showcasing the hard hitting action as it was intended to be. Tickets are selling fast, so if you don’t want to miss out on the landmark event go to www.internationalicehockey.co.nz and get yours today!