Ice hockey: Top-class game a coup for Dunedin

The Dunedin Ice Stadium will host the potential decider in the three-match ice hockey series between the United States and Canada being played in New Zealand in July and August.

Teams from two of the powerhouses of the game will play a three-game exhibition series in Auckland, Christchurch and Dunedin.

The Dunedin game will be played on August 3.

The fierce sporting rivalry in ice hockey between Canada and the United States is similar to the rugby rivalry between the All Blacks and the Wallabies.

It is a major coup that will give New Zealand fans a close look at two of the sport's elite teams.

The teams will include National Hockey League players including Kyle Quincy (Colorado Avalanche) and Rob Schremp (New York Islanders) who will be fresh from the 2010-11 season, with the Stanley Cup playoffs having finished only a month earlier.

A 26m x 56m mobile rink will be used at Auckland and Christchurch with the Dunedin groomer being used to groom the ice in Christchurch.

It is a feather in the cap of stadium managing director Neil Gamble, who has worked hard to bring the Dunedin facilities up to world class.

"It means a lot to us," Gamble said.

"It proves that if you have the facility the product will come to you.

It will continue to be ongoing for us."

Gamble said temporary seating would be put on the curling rink in Dunedin to bring spectator capacity up to 3000.

Dunedin Thunder coach James van Leeuwen said the North American teams would bring a standard of ice hockey that had never been seen in New Zealand.

"It is a big promotion for ice hockey in New Zealand and the game will get huge spin offs from the visit."

North American and Olympic ice hockey has been seen on television in New Zealand.

"That is exciting to watch," van Leeuwen said.

"But it is even more gripping to enjoy a fast and entertaining sport live."

Van Leeuwen said the standard of ice hockey in New Zealand had improved dramatically over the last decade but a tour like this had the potential to lift the standard to a new level.

The ice hockey will be the start of a busy month of sport at the Dunedin Ice Stadium.

It will be followed by the New Zealand speed skating championships, the Winter Games speed skating, figure skating and ice hockey.