Resort to host its first internationals

Our turn: Trans-Tasman ice hockey at the world champs in Melbourne in 2011 PICTURE: PETER IDOINE

Queenstown will this year host its first ever international ice hockey fixtures in a huge coup for both the resort and Winter Games NZ.

New Zealand will battle Australia in a three-Test series at the Queenstown Ice Arena, five days after a trans-Tasman Bledisloe Cup rugby Test in Dunedin.

The series – scheduled for Thursday August 31, Saturday September 2 and Sunday September 3 – also comes a week after the national league finals.

“It’s something we had in our initial planning, but it has taken until now to make it come to fruition,” Audi Quattro Winter Games NZ boss Arthur Klap says.

“This is all due to the efforts of both the Australian and NZ Ice Hockey Federations.”

Klap hopes the trans-Tasman series will become an integral part of the Games in years to come.

NZ Ice Hockey president Gunther Birgel is hopeful the country’s best talent will be available.

“Being an official part of the Winter Games will give us a large exposure and hopefully a lot more people will realise that ice hockey is being played in NZ.”

He says the NZ and Australian federations have been aiming to work a lot more closely together.

“Being so far away from everywhere else, it makes sense.

“We both look forward to the Queenstown series and being part of the winter culture of the area.

“Our further goal is to have a series on an annual basis alternating between NZ and Australia.”

This year’s fifth biennial Winter Games NZ run from August 25 till September 10.