THE COUNTDOWN IS ON - ONLY 50 DAYS TO GO UNTIL THE NEW ZEALAND 2018 ICE HOCKEY CLASSIC KICKS OFF!

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It is drawing closer to game time with only 50 days to go until the 2018 Ice Hockey Classic lands in New Zealand, giving sports fans the opportunity to witness world-class ice hockey in their own backyard.

Preparations are well underway to bring this spectacular sporting event to New Zealand for a three-game exhibition series. Team USA and Team Canada will battle it out at Auckland’s Spark Arena, outdoors at Wellington’s Westpac Stadium and Queenstown’s Ice Arena (sold out) this June.

In the lead up to the opening match, the 2018 Ice Hockey Classic is thrilled to make an array of exciting announcements from champion players to entertainment and speciality food offerings that are sure to enrich the fan experience.

The latest player announcement sees NHL star Peter Holland join team Canada for the tour. Holland spent the past season in the NHL with the New York Rangers, the Hartford Wolf Pack and the Laval Rocket of the AHL.

Throughout his professional career, Holland has played in over 250 career NHL games with the Anaheim Ducks, Toronto Maple Leafs, Arizona Coyotes and the New York Rangers and in over 150 career AHL games.

The 2018 Ice Hockey Classic will also see some of New Zealand’s own homegrown ice hockey talent playing in curtain raiser games for the Auckland and Wellington events.

On June 22 at Spark Arena, a matinee matchup between the NZIHL’s West Auckland Admirals and Botany Swarm will see their cross-town rivalry play out on the largest stage in the league’s 14-year history.

The Admirals were championship runners-up in 2017 and look to go one step further to lift the Birgel Cup this season, while the Swarm has been victorious on four occasions, most recently in 2011.

On June 23 prior to Team USA and Team Canada taking to the largest outdoor ice rink in the Southern Hemisphere at Westpac Stadium, there will be a curtain raiser match between the New Zealand national men’s team, The Ice Blacks, and an NZIHL All-Stars team, including former Ice Blacks captain, Corey Down.

“The Ice Hockey Classic is a fantastic opportunity for New Zealand sports fans to see what ice hockey is all about. I am incredibly excited to be showcasing the sport I love and hopefully we can entice some new fans at the same time,” Corey Down said.

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Fresh from a silver medal in Spain at the IIHF World Championships, current Ice Blacks captain, Nick Craig, is thrilled to be playing an outdoor game for the first time.

“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for us, especially to do so wearing our national colours. We are honoured to be involved with the Ice Hockey Classic and we hope all New Zealand fans purchase their tickets and come along to support us,” Nick Craig said.

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To enhance the fan experience, Wellington’s Westpac Stadium and their food service provider Delaware North have created a custom menu with a range of speciality items to be served throughout the public outlets including gourmet hot dogs, poutine, fish tacos, chorizo quesadillas, pork spare ribs, smoked brisket rolls and chilli loaded fries.

Fans will be able to show their team allegiance with American and Canadian themed food choices available:

· The American Hot Dog: classic chilli dog – grilled 150gm frank on a bun, smothered in ground beef chilli sauce, topped with cheese, sour cream and onion

· The Canadian Burger: maple bacon burger – 150gm beef burger, melted cheese, caramelised onions topped with Maple candied bacon and house smoked BBQ sauce

Budweiser Beer and Canadian Club whisky will be on offer to accompany the bespoke food offerings at Westpac Stadium.

Westpac Stadium CEO Shane Harmon believes the event provides an opportunity to create a unique experience.

“For many Kiwi sports fans this will be their first taste of international ice hockey and we hope to make the experience as authentic, entertaining and memorable as possible,” Shane Harmon said.

In keeping with the North American theming of the 2018 Ice Hockey Classic, retired NYPD Police Officer and operatic tenor Daniel Rodriguez will perform both the American and Canadian National Anthems at both the Auckland and Wellington games.

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Daniel often performs at NHL matches at Madison Square Garden and in an interesting connection to New Zealand is married to famous Kiwi Soprano Marla Kavanaugh, who originally hails from Dunedin.

Tickets for Spark Arena are on sale via Ticketmaster. With the use of promo code ‘IHCAdmirals’ or ‘IHCSwarm’ fans have the opportunity to help their local club with a portion of the ticket sales go directly back to the teams to help with development.

Tickets for Westpac Stadium are available via Ticketek.

The dates for the 2018 Ice Hockey Classic are as follows:

Auckland – Spark Arena: Friday 22 June

Wellington – Westpac Stadium: Saturday 23 June

Queenstown – Ice Arena: Thursday 28 June (SOLD OUT)

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