The NZIHL 2024 season is now underway, import players once again take centre stage, igniting anticipation and excitement among fans. Their reintroduction signifies a pivotal moment for each team, intensifying competition on the ice. With a tradition of blending New Zealand-born players and imports, the NZIHL’s dynamic landscape is enriched by the presence of  players from around the world, who infuse teams with high-caliber skill and elevate the level of play. As integral members of their respective rosters, import players not only bolster team performance but also inspire local talent, encouraging them to strive for excellence. Their arrival injects a renewed sense of energy and anticipation into the league, promising thrilling matchups, and unforgettable moments for fans. With the return of import players, the NZIHL embarks on an exhilarating season of hockey.

With the West Auckland Admirals welcoming Guy Kunst and Pim van der Meulen, they are poised to strengthen their lineup and compete for NZIHL’s Birgel Cup.

Guy Kunst, born on November 25, 1999, in Groningen, Netherlands, standing at 187 cm (6’2″) and weighing 84 kg (185 lbs), brings experience and skill to the team.

Kunst began his hockey career with GIJS Bears Groningen before progressing through Dutch hockey tiers, showcasing his versatility and work ethic. Representing the Netherlands at the U18 World Junior Championships, he proved his ability on the international stage.

In recent years, Kunst excelled with GIJS Groningen, notably amassing 32 points in 24 games in the 2022-23 season. Joining the Admirals in 2023-24, he made an immediate impact with 3 goals and 1 assist in 2 games.

As a full-time addition to the Admirals, Kunst is expected to bring strong two-way play and offensive capabilities to the team, bolstering their quest for success in the NZIHL.

Pim van der Meulen also from Holland, born on January 26, 2002, in Groningen, Netherlands, standing at 183 cm (6’0″) and weighing 73 kg (161 lbs), brings agility and offensive prowess to the team.

Van der Meulen’s hockey journey began with Heerenveen Flyers II before making waves internationally with the Netherlands U18 and U20 teams. His time with various European teams, including Capitals Leeuwarden, showcased his scoring ability and playmaking skills.

Joining the Admirals in the 2023-24 season, van der Meulen made significant contributions to their playoff run. Now a full-time addition, his dynamic play and scoring touch are expected to strengthen the Admirals’ forward lineup and enhance their competitiveness.

Fans can anticipate van der Meulen’s exciting style of play as he helps the Admirals vie for the Birgel Cup this season.

Similarly, the Canterbury Red Devils have added Ethan Esposito and Chris Hunt, bringing dynamic play and scoring prowess to their roster.

Esposito born on March 14, 2003, in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada, standing at 181 cm (5’11”) and weighing 86 kg (190 lbs), brings his robust playing style and scoring touch to the team.

Esposito began his hockey journey with the Sault Major MHA, showcasing his potential at a young age. Notable stints with the Soo Greyhounds U14 AAA and Mississauga Senators U16 AAA highlighted his development.

His career includes contributions in various leagues, including the OJHL and ACHA II, where he showcased his scoring prowess with impressive point totals.

Joining the Red Devils in the 2023-24 season, Esposito made an immediate impact, scoring in his first two games. With his dynamic play and commitment, he is expected to bolster the Red Devils’ roster and contribute to their success.

Born on April 23, 1997, in Albany, New York, USA, Hunt, standing at 183 cm (6’0″) and weighing 88 kg (194 lbs), brings versatility and experience to the team.

Hunt’s hockey journey began at La Salle Institute before showcasing his scoring ability with various teams, including the CP Dynamo 18U AAA and the Adirondack Jr. Wings. Notable stints with the Coldwater Falcons, Idaho Jr. Steelheads, and Essa Stallions highlighted his offensive prowess.

His career includes performances in Sweden and the FPHL, adding valuable experience. In the 2023-24 season, Hunt impressed with the Muskegon Voyagers before joining the Red Devils, scoring 2 goals in his first two games.

As Hunt integrates with the Red Devils, his dynamic play style and ability to contribute offensively and defensively will be crucial for the team’s success. Fans can anticipate impactful performances from Hunt as the Red Devils aim for the Birgel Cup in the 2024 season.

Meanwhile, the Phoenix Thunder are boosted by the arrivals of Cole Beckstead and the return of Ryan Wonfor, enhancing their offensive and defensive capabilities.

Beckstead, Born on June 20, 1998, in Morrisburg, Ontario, Canada, standing at 173 cm (5’8″) and weighing 73 kg (161 lbs), brings dynamic playmaking abilities to the team as a left winger.

Beckstead’s hockey journey began with the RSL Kings, showcasing his talent across various age levels. Notable stints with the Kingston Voyageurs in the OJHL and the Carleton Place Canadians in the CCHL highlighted his consistency and leadership, serving as captain.

Transitioning to NCAA Division III hockey at Skidmore College and later the University of Wisconsin-Stout, Beckstead continued to excel, contributing offensively.

In the 2023-24 season, Beckstead played in France2, recording impressive stats with Caen. Now joining the Phoenix Thunder, he has already made a strong start in the NZIHL, demonstrating his offensive prowess with 2 goals and 3 assists in 4 games.

Fans can anticipate Beckstead’s dynamic play and leadership as he aims to contribute significantly to the Thunder’s success throughout the 2024 season.

Born on July 12, 1996, in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, Wonfor, standing at 180 cm (5’11”) and weighing 88 kg (194 lbs), brings a wealth of experience to the team and a defensive Anchor for Phoenix Thunder.

Wonfor’s journey began with the Port Credit Minor Hockey Association before making his junior debut with the Caledon Golden Hawks in the GMOHL. His solid defensive play and offensive contributions made him a key player for the Golden Hawks.

Transitioning to the Northern Cyclones in the EHL and later the Connecticut Nighthawks, Wonfor continued to excel. His college career at Kent State University and Davenport University showcased his leadership and consistent performance.

Moving to Sweden, Wonfor proved his adaptability with Lenhovda IF and Hällefors IK before joining the Phoenix Thunder in the NZIHL. With 16 points in 18 games in the 2022-23 season, he demonstrated his impact on the ice.

Returning to the Thunder for the 2024 season, Wonfor has already made his presence felt with 2 assists in 4 games. Fans can anticipate his steady defensive play and leadership as the Thunder aim for success this season.

Additionally, the Skycity Stampede have secured the talents of Nolan Ross and Jett McCullum, providing leadership and stability on both ends of the ice.

Born on May 16, 1995, in Fort Frances, Ontario, Canada, Ross, standing at 173 cm (5’8″) and weighing 72 kg (159 lbs), is known for his playmaking skills and leadership.

Ross’s career began with Fort Frances High before moving to the Kenora Thistles U18 AAA in the MMHL. He later played for various teams, including the Portage Terriers, where he was coached by the father of Ice Blacks Coach AJ Spiller. Ross then continued his journey with the Fort Frances Lakers, Virden Oil Capitals, and collegiate hockey at the College of St. Scholastica and Marian University.

His professional journey led him to Sweden and France before joining the Skycity Stampede. Ross has already made an impact with 6 points in the 2023-24 NZIHL season, showcasing his experience and talent.

With Ross’s arrival, the Stampede aims for another successful season, relying on his leadership and proven track record of success.

Skycity Stampede fans have reason to cheer with the addition of Jett McCullum to their defensive lineup. Born on October 3, 2004, in Moncton, Canada, McCullum has swiftly risen through the ranks, showcasing his defensive prowess.

Starting with the Dieppe Flyers Bantam AAA, McCullum has since proven himself in various leagues, notably with the Fort McMurray Oil Barons in the AJHL. In the 2023-24 season, he impressed in the MJAHL, tallying an impressive 46 points with the Summerside Western Capitals and Campbellton Tigers.

Standing at 175 cm (5’9″) and weighing 73 kg (161 lbs), McCullum’s agility and hockey IQ compensate for his size. As a left-handed shooter, he adds versatility to the Stampede’s defensive lineup.

With McCullum’s arrival, the Skycity Stampede can anticipate enhanced defensive stability and an offensive threat from the blue line. Fans eagerly await his impact in the NZIHL as he joins the Stampede for the upcoming season.

Lastly, the Botany Swarm have made significant moves with Artyom Anosov and David Ruzicka joining their ranks, bolstering their offensive and defensive depth.

Botany Swarm fans have reason to celebrate with the arrival of Artyom Anosov for the 2024 season. Born on October 16, 2001, in Minsk, Belarus, Anosov has shown his talent across various leagues in Europe. He began his career with the Toronto Jr. Canadiens U18 AAA, recording 35 points in 27 games, and has since played in the NAHL, KHL, and other European leagues.

Anosov’s versatility as a forward is evident from his impressive stints with Yunost Minsk, Dinamo Minsk, and Liepāja, where he consistently contributed offensively. Most recently, he tallied 24 points in 16 games with the Golden Sharks Mechelen in the BeNeLiga and had a solid season with Ústecký Slovan in Czechia.

His international experience with Belarus U20 in the WJC-20 Division 1A adds to his robust profile. For the Botany Swarm, Anosov’s arrival is poised to significantly boost their offensive capabilities and help them contend for the Birgel Cup. Fans should be excited to see what this talented forward brings to the ice this season.

The Swarm have made a significant move for the 2024 season by adding veteran defenseman David Ruzicka to their roster. Born on March 8, 1988, in Czechia, Ruzicka brings a wealth of experience and a solid defensive presence to the team. Standing at 192 cm (6’4″) and weighing 83 kg (183 lbs), he shoots left-handed and is known for his reliability on the blue line.

Ruzicka began his career with HC Kladno’s youth teams, making his mark early on in the Czech U18 and U20 leagues. He earned a bronze medal with Czechia at the U18 World Junior Championships, showcasing his talent on the international stage. Over the years, Ruzicka has played in top leagues across Europe, including stints in the Czech Extraliga, Slovakia, and Belarus.

Notably, Ruzicka has had productive seasons with HC Kladno, Shakhter Soligorsk, and HC Košice, among others. His international experience, combined with his steady play and leadership, makes him a valuable addition to the Swarm. With his extensive background and skills, Ruzicka is expected to be a cornerstone in the Swarm’s defense and help them challenge for the Birgel Cup this season. Fans can look forward to seeing Ruzicka’s impactful play on the ice, bolstering the Swarm’s chances in the NZIHL.

As import players once again take centre stage in the NZIHL, fans can expect an exhilarating season filled with fast-paced action and intense competition. These players not only enhance the quality of play but also inspire local talent to excel. With their diverse skill sets and international experience, import players are set to play a crucial role in shaping the outcome of the NZIHL 2024 season.