Tourist in Australia: Hockey
I know what you’re thinking. Hockey? Australia? It sounds strange and we wanted to visit for a long time but never made any plans until hockey invited us.
Let me step back for a moment and explain. Our son has been an avid hockey player for the last five seasons and roughly two seasons ago we discovered The International Pee Wee Friendship Tournament in Newcastle. The tournament takes place every second year and is hosted in different parts of the world by the various teams taking part.
Once our son decided he wanted to take part and the team started getting organized the boys spent the next year and a half fundraising. They did all manner of things from barbecues, bottle drives, grocery bagging and events at the local WHL games. The boys worked really hard and gave up a lot of weekend fun to make sure this trip of a lifetime became a reality.
Okay, lets get back to the tournament held at Hunter Ice Arena in Newcastle. This is a very nice facility with a large ice surface, full pro shop and snack bar. Everything you would expect to find. One interesting difference was the closeness of the benches. There was only about ten feet between them with no barriers of any kind, just wide open benches, players and coaches.
There were ten teams of boys and girls that came from Canada (Cranbrook Colts, Aldergrove Bruins), America (St. Paul Sioux, Hudson Raiders), Japan (Hachinohe White Bear), New Zealand (Canterbury Kiwis, Southern Knights) and Australia (New South Wales Ice Crocs, South Australia Kangaroos, Victoria Gliders). Skill levels of the teams varied quite a bit as would be expected but I think all the players had a great time.
There is one interesting twist to this tournament that is centered on the idea of friendship and fun. If a team is behind by five goals after the second period they can forfeit the game then both teams will swap a bunch of players for the third period. Other than pond hockey this is probably the only time we will see something like this. It was definitely a highlight for our son. Our team was rather weak and took advantage of the forfeit in almost every game. So not only did our son play with a lot of different kids on his team but he also wound up playing for Hachinohe, St. Paul, Aldergrove, New South Wales and Victoria in addition to his own team and he was absolutely thrilled! As an added bonus he managed to score a goal for every team he played on. He’s pretty stoked about that.
Both benches were always uplifted and excited every time we swapped players. Some kids would get on the ice and just start giving the gears to their buddies. A few were fairly quiet and just went about the game. The Japanese were excited but only one could speak any English and getting that all sorted out on the bench was interesting to say the least.
One particular exchange I’ll never forget was between a young Ice Croc player and his coach after a bit of a fall into the boards. Coach: How are doing? Are you okay? Player: Are you kidding? This is great! Today I get to be a Canadian hockey player!
Now that’s good stuff!
Another great moment was when the Canterbury Kiwis performed the Haka Dance before our game. This is a traditional warrior chant originally performed prior to battle and in recent times is performed to welcome guests or recognize achievements. It was quite a sight.
The morning of our game against the Southern Knights a bunch of our boys were running late getting to the rink. As a result three of our boys went out front and joined the Knights warmup with some stretching and laps of the parking lot. They were brought in with a welcome and seemed to get a kick out of it.
The kids stayed in billet families with players from other countries while the parents stayed in hotels. Our son stayed with one teammate and four kids from New South Wales. It sounds like they all had a blast and I think it really opened up their eyes to how much kids from the other side of the world are just like themselves.
Overall I will say that all the kids had a great time playing hockey, meeting new friends and just being in a different part of the world for a few weeks. I’m going to wrap this up with a bunch of random hockey photos. Enjoy.