Zenon Konopka was born in St. Catharines, Ontario and grew up on a fruit farm in Niagara-on-the-Lake. He attended St. Michael Elementary School and Denis Morris High School in St. Catharines, as well as Cantebury High and Hillcrest, while residing in Ottawa, Ontario.
During his elementary and high school years, Zenon participated in numerous sports such as football and rugby to name a few, and was involved in theatre productions and student council as well. Growing up, he played various competitive sports, including soccer, baseball, and both roller and ice hockey.
Early Hockey Career
As a native of Niagara, Zenon played minor hockey in Niagara-on-the-Lake, St. Catharines and Niagara Falls, winning the Ontario championship at age 12 and 15, with the Niagara Falls Thunder, under the coaching of the late Mr. Al Boone. At that young age, he recognized the importance of winning face-offs and team dedication, as well as leadership. From there, Zenon moved on to play Jr. B hockey with the Thorold Blackhawks, and then was drafted by the Ottawa 67’s late in the 5th round of the Ontario Hockey League. As a long shot to make the club, he defied odds successfully by winning the Memorial Cup in his 1st year with the 67’s, and later was an integral part of the OHL championship underdogs in 2001. Zenon enjoyed being coached for 4 years under Hall of Fame coach Brian Kilrea, who awarded him with the role of captain in his final year with the 67’s, as well as the OHL All Star team. As the team leader Zenon embraced the role of captain, through transformational leadership, leading the league in assists and displaying high percentages in the face-off circle.
With all the success that Zenon’s junior career brought, it did not include being drafted, or receiving an NHL contract. In the fall of 2002, he found himself in Wheeling, West Virginia, with the legendary coach John Brophy, who taught him the value of impacting the game by using whatever skills could be noticed on the ice. The following year, he signed a contract between the AHL Utah Grizzlies and the affiliate Boise Idaho Steelheads, bringing a Kelly Cup Championship to Idaho.
For the next four years, Zenon held the position of captain for the Syracuse Crunch, Portland and Norfolk Admirals, showing great leadership, high face-off percentages, toughness and grit.
Into The Big Leagues
In 2005, he signed his first NHL contract with the Anaheim Mighty Ducks, playing 23 games, and then returning to the Portland Pirates to lead all the playoff scorers in power play goals and assists. The following season, Zenon was traded to the Blue Jackets Affiliation, being called up to Columbus throughout the year. In 2008, Zenon signed a two-year contract with Tampa Bay Lightning, playing with the Lighting for the entire year in his second year with the association. In July of 2010, he signed as an unrestricted free agent with the New York Islanders, leading the league in penalities for the 2nd year in a row. The following summer, he signed a one-year deal with the Ottawa Senators, excelling in the play-off run, with the highest percentage of face-off wins across the league. Zenon played with the Minnesota Wild for a season and has most recently signed with the Buffalo Sabres.
Outside of Hockey
Aside from his hockey career, Zenon is an entrepreneur and owner of Prime Wine Products, Pure Press Oil Inc. and ZK 28 Wines. As well, he is the founder of the Konopka Hockey Academy, and has directed an annual summer camp since 2007. Zenon places a strong emphasis on giving back to the community, and has been involved in a countless number of charitable organizations, such as Sick Kids Hospitals, Heart Niagara and most recently, StopConcussions.com.