Konopka Is Tampa Bay’s Fighting Warrior

By Damian Cristodero
Staff Writer
St. Petersburg Times

There are days, 2003 ECHL All-Star Zenon Konopka admitted — like the one in Detroit when his neck and wrist were packed in ice and he could not speak clearly because of the stitches in his mouth — that he wonders what his body will feel like at age 50.

It is bad enough, he said, at 28.

“It’s a concern,” said Konopka, who played for Wheeling in 2002-03 and was named to the ECHL All-Rookie Team and the ECHL All-Star Game and helped Idaho win the Kelly Cup in 2004. “But life’s too short. Everything in your life is in the now.”

And for now, his body is his most reliable tool and one of the Lightning’s most important weapons.

Tampa Bay does not have a heavyweight enforcer. Instead, it relies on Konopka, a middleweight, really, but who is willing to take on anyone.

It is a role Konopka embraces. How else, the center asked, could he have gotten to the NHL?

“The best way to describe it is, seven or eight years ago, I was making 360 bucks a week, and I was doing the same thing in the ECHL,” said Konopka, whose 15 fights led the league entering Saturday and whose 135 penalty minutes lead Tampa Bay.

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