New Zealand will host some of the world's best ice hockey talent in June when the Ice Hockey Classic comes to town.
The Herald can confirm some of the National Hockey League's top talent have expressed interest in taking in the event, which will see the USA take on Canada in a three-match series.
Among those to have thrown their names into the ring include New York Rangers centre Peter Holland and Columbus Blue Jackets defenceman Ian Cole, however their participation was dependant on compliance with their respective teams.
"They come to play for free to support what we're doing and to help grow the game," organiser Kerry Goulet explained. "But there will be NHL players coming down."
Cole's Blue Jackets were on the verge of securing a spot in the playoffs. With the Stanley Cup finals series set to be held in June, should the Blue Jackets make it, the two-time Stanley Cup champion will likely be unable to travel down under.
The tour starts in Auckland on June 22, before heading to Wellington to play the first ever outdoor ice hockey match in the South Pacific, and finally travelling down to Queenstown.
Goulet, a former European league player, said the match-up between the USA and Canada could be likened to the All Blacks taking on the Wallabies – but on ice.
"It's that same intensity. Anytime America and Canada face each other in anything, it's got that intensity," Goulet said.
"Last time we broke one hand, lost seven teeth."
The Ice Hockey Classic will be in New Zealand in June for three matches, raising awareness of the sport and support for Goulet's StopConcussions Foundation.
Goulet suffered three documented concussions in his playing career, and set up the foundation to raise awareness of the affects of concussions.
He's developed it together with former NHL player Keith Primeau. Primeau had three 30-goal seasons in the NHL, but was forced to retire after 15 seasons in the league due to concussion.
Goulet said they were trying to remind people "we're not gladiators, we're humans."
Ice Hockey Classic New Zealand dates:
June 22 – Spark Arena, Auckland
June 23 – Westpac stadium, Wellington
June 28 – Queenstown Ice Arena, Queenstown (Sold out)