Minnesota Wild enforcer Zenon Konopka runs a wine business, has a pet bunny (pic)
In a fascinating and in-depth profile of Minnesota Wild center Zenon Konopka, Star Tribune hockey writer Michael Russo reveals how the bruised-and-battered enforcer has flipped the script when it comes to not only so-called goons, but hockey players in general.
Konopka, 32, isn’t a beer-swilling miscreant that many would expect him to be, given that he has been in 105 career fights (89 since 2010) and has amassed 1,026 penalty minutes over 300 games during his nine-year NHL career.
A look at the gash on his nose he suffered during last year’s strike-shortened season that required 30 stitches (above, just a dent in the 600 stitches he has accumulated during his career) to close up is a compelling example of how he plays the game.
He defies convention in such a manner that he is a savvy businessman and wine connoisseur who has paired the two components of his off-the-ice life into a bustling and successful side business.
And he owns a pet bunny named “Hoppy,” too.
Konopka realizes that the way he is away from the rink doesn’t quite jibe with his no-holds-barred mentality on the ice.
“Everything’s backwards,” Konopka said, laughing, according to Russo’s interesting piece. “I’ve got ‘Hoppy.’ I drink wine. I have a wine label. I own a bunch of businesses. It’s the complete opposite of my on-ice persona.”
“You open a lot of doors through playing hockey and then you have to walk through them. I love walking into a business meeting, sitting back and being underestimated because of my job. People get shocked during these meetings for the intellect or my knowledge of wine. It’s kind of a game I play with people.”
Konopka grew up on a fruit farm in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, near the U.S.-Canada border, where his parents grew wine grapes, among other fruits, so his evolution into a wine lover isn’t that much of a surprise.
Along with his upbringing, he was clearly instilled with business acumen and that has translated well to his off-the-ice endeavors.
Konopka owns a grape seed drizzling oil business (purepressoil.com). He owns a piece of a wine aerator (vin-aire.com). And his biggest passion is his wine label, ZK28, which can be purchased at zkwines.com, at several Twin Cities-area liquor stores and more and more metro restaurants, such as Kincaids and Sakura in St. Paul.
For three years, Konopka has bottled blends, white wines and ice wine in Canada with hockey pun labels such as, “Power Play,’’ ‘‘4-on-4’’ and “The Wild.” His first vintage inside the United States is called, “The Wild One.” It’s a 2011 cabernet sauvignon that comes out of the Twenty Rows Winery in Napa, Calif.
“The name just popped in my head, not just because of the team I signed with, but it’s my type of playing and the way I live my life can be a little wild at times,” Konopka said.
Konopka’s first ice wine, which according to Russo’s piece, is “a sweet dessert wine that comes when grapes are left on the vine until the middle of winter,” is slated for a Dec. 1 U.S. release, “and it’s fantastic,” said Konopka.
And if anyone disagrees, will Konopka challenge them to a fight? Doubtful. That’s just not how he’s wired when away from the game. And definitely not in front of “Hoppy.”