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From the Little League® Diamond to the Pro Hockey Ice

From all points on the globe, local leagues create a special place for Little Leaguers® and those players carry memories wherever their lives lead them.

For Harry Zolniercyzk, 27, that Little League experience started in the Toronto suburb of High Park. His road to becoming a professional athlete came in the 2000 Little League Baseball® World Series when he learned just what it takes to play at a very elite level.

Fourteen years ago, playing for the Canada Region Champion from High Park Little League, Zolniercyzk was a middle infielder and outfielder on the best Little League team in Canada. Today, he is a professional hockey player.

“I loved having the opportunity to play in the World Series and I’m glued to it each summer, no matter who is playing,” said Zolniercyzk. “I’ve played at a lot of levels, including the Calder Cup playoffs in the American Hockey League (AHL) and the National Hockey League (NHL), but getting to Williamsport is one of the things that I am most proud of.”

For the past five years, Zolniercyzk has been driven by his dream of playing in the NHL. Getting the call up to the NHL in 2011, he played 44 games with the Philadelphia Flyers over two seasons before being traded to the Anaheim Ducks. The past season he was a member of the AHL’s Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins in Northeastern Pennsylvania.

Harry Zolniercyzk (12 years old) holds the Little League Canada National Championship Trophy.

On July 1, 2014, Zolnierczyk left the Penguins as a free agent and agreed to a one-year contract with the New York Islanders. Earlier this month, the Isles sent the left-winger to its AHL affiliate, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.

At 12 years old, Zolniercyzk remembered feeling like he and his teammates were pros. “I was very excited about being on the team,” said Zolniercyzk. “As we won and moved on it was an amazing journey and became quite surreal. We were not the most skilled team, but we had a great group of guys, super coaches and understood we were the best team in Canada.”

Despite his team going 0-3 in the International Pool, Zolniercyzk believes the 2000 World Series was the best tournament he’s ever been a part of.

“It was one of the craziest summers of my life,” said Zolniercyzk. “My mom had wanted me to give hockey a break and play an outdoor sport in the summer. After playing soccer for a while, I eventually gravitated to baseball and joined the High Park Little League. Before I knew it I was on the team, and we were on a whirlwind tour of Ontario. From there, it was on to Lamade Stadium.”

He said that thanks to his mom he still has the pins he traded and gathered during World Series week. This past Christmas, his mom wrapped the pins he collected during the World Series and gave them to him as a gift.

“Little League was so big in my life,” said Zolniercyzk. “Being part of that team gave me a lifetime experience. I kept my jersey and hat. In fact, my jersey was hanging on my bedroom door until I was 24.”

Little League provided Zolniercyzk with drive and determination to excel. The memories and lessons learned on the baseball field taught him about the virtues of hard work and camaraderie that comes with being part of a team. As he strives for a return to the NHL, he does so driven by the zeal to compete that he first learned and experienced on the road to Williamsport.

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