Ottawa Citizen

Teams ar­rive for Cap­i­tal Cup

Young play­ers wel­come in­ter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tion, chance to make friends

- DAR­REN DE­SAULNIERS

The Ot­tawa hockey com­mu­nity has been grow­ing over the past cou­ple of days, both in num­ber and cul­tural di­ver­sity, in ad­vance of the 14th an­nual Bell Cap­i­tal Cup, which opens Fri­day, lit­er­ally at an arena near you.

Among those teams play­ing ex­hi­bi­tion games Thurs­day at the Bell Sen­splex were four teams from Fin­land, two from Ger­many and one from that hockey hot­bed of Hong Kong.

The Hong Kong Ice Scrap­ers will be play­ing in the ma­jor atom A di­vi­sion and for some of the kids it will be the first ac­tual games they’ve played this sea­son.

The team has played eight games since ar­riv­ing in Toronto on Satur­day, but they are the first games they’ve played as a group this sea­son. Be­cause of a lack of play­ers at that age level, some of the 10-year-olds have been play­ing in a four-team league back in Hong Kong with play­ers as old as 14.

“We’ve got a good group of kids that have been to­gether for a few years now, but the dif­fi­culty is we don’t get to play games,” said Ice Scrap­ers coach Stu­art Winch­ester, a na­tive of the Co­mox Val­ley on the east­ern coast of Van­cou­ver Is­land who has been in Hong Kong for 20 years and Asia for 29.

“We haven’t got enough depth, so if we want to play as a team, we have to go out­side Hong Kong and there just aren’t that many op­por­tu­ni­ties. This is our first tour­na­ment and the first time the team has ac­tu­ally played to­gether.”

Winch­ester said men’s hockey ex­isted when he first ar­rived in Hong Kong, although not to any great de­gree. Kids’ hockey pro­grams started pop­ping up about 10 years ago, but it’s only been in the past five that se­lect high level pro­grams have started.

One of those pro­grams is the Hong Kong Academy of Ice Hockey, whose gen­eral man­ager is former New York Rangers cap­tain Barry Beck.

With the as­sis­tance of the HKAIH and the HK Ty­phoons hockey pro­gram, Winch­ester felt it was time to gauge the coun­try’s skill level with the Cana­dian game.

“This is the first time that we’ve ac­tu­ally ven­tured out­side of Asia and I thought it was the right time to do it.

“Both the Ty­phoons, which is one or­ga­ni­za­tion that runs the se­lect pro­gram, ap­proved of it and HKAIH also got be­hind it and pro­vided some of the train­ing.

“It’s all about try­ing to see where Hong Kong hockey is and try and take it to the next level,” Winch­ester said. “We’ll give her a go.”

Two other teams that played at the Sen­splex on Thurs­day were the ma­jor pee­wee AAA and mi­nor pee­wee A Ger­man Ea­gles.

The younger team is new to in­ter­na­tional play and Canada, while the older boys have played in the event be­fore. Their coach, Di­eter Bruegge­mann, is no stranger to the re­gion ei­ther as he spent time watch­ing his son Lars play for the then-Hull Olympiques in the 1993-94 sea­son.

Lars is now a ref­eree in the Ger­man Elite league af­ter spend­ing 15 sea­sons there as a player.

“This tour­na­ment is good hockey and it’s good for our boys to play against the Cana­di­ans and other teams so they can learn that they must do this and must do that,” coach Bruegge­mann said. “That is the best part of the tour­na­ment.”

The team is made up of play­ers from dif­fer­ent club teams in North Rhein-West­phalia, the most pop­u­lous state of Ger­many, which in­cludes the cities of Dus­sel­dorf, Cologne and Iser­lohn.

“We put them to­gether to see how we can play against the high­est level in Canada,” said team man­ager Dirk Fleis­cher. “We’ve been watch­ing th­ese play­ers through­out the year and se­lect the ones that would be in­ter­ested in play­ing for the Ger­man Ea­gles.”

The team will play in a tour­na­ment in the Czech Repub­lic in March and in a Su­per AAA Tour­na­ment in Italy that also features elite teams from around the world, in­clud­ing Canada.

The mi­nor pee­wee A Ea­gles are not as much of a se­lect team as in the tra­di­tional sense. They are taken from club teams — the Iser­lohn Young Roost­ers, Kas­sel Huskies, Frankfurt Lions, Preussen Berlin, Mannheim Adles and Koln Sharks — but not based on skill.

“We say a se­lect team, but we’re not that se­lec­tive in that we say we’re go­ing to take him, him or him. We have them ap­ply and we take them on a first-come, first­served ba­sis,” said team man­ager Arthur Pa­ton. “It’s learn­ing and devel­op­ment for the kids them­selves. It’s mainly so they can de­velop them­selves so in fu­ture years they can come back and play at the higher lev­els.”

Un­like the team they’ve trav­elled with, the younger Ea­gles have never ven­tured be­yond their bor­ders for the most part.

“It’s about new ex­pe­ri­ences. It’s about go­ing abroad and see­ing a new cul­ture be­cause most of th­ese chil­dren have never been out of Ger­many, so it’s a new ex­pe­ri­ence for them,” Pa­ton said. “They love it. We’ve only been in since (Wed­nes­day), but we went shop­ping to Pro Hockey Life and it was funny to see the fa­thers coming out say­ing, ‘ Oh my God, how much money have I just spent.’ They’re en­joy­ing it and they’re look­ing for­ward to go­ing with the host fam­i­lies.”

There are also four teams from Fin­land at the tour­na­ment — two from Jokerit and two from Karhu-Kis­sat. The seven to­tal teams from out­side North Amer­ica are eight fewer than the record-high 15 that were at last year’s event.

Scott Lawryk, who is in his sec­ond year as the BCC gen­eral man­ager, doesn’t feel the pop­u­lar­ity of the event is wan­ing de­spite the lower num­ber of teams both in­ter­na­tion­ally and over­all.

“I’m al­ready talk­ing to teams for next year that weren’t able to come this year and are al­ready fundrais­ing,” Lawryk said. “I think it will al­ways be of in­ter­est for teams over there be­cause they want to com­pete in North Amer­i­can hockey. It’s just whether they can af­ford to come over be­cause it’s a big com­mit­ment.”

Flights, ho­tels, meals and the like do cost a lot of money, but all of the in­ter­na­tional teams get bil­leted with a host team to help cut down on costs while at the Bell Cap­i­tal Cup. It also helps cre­ate bonds that are price­less.

“For a team from Kanata, where else can you go and play a team from Hong Kong or Fin­land. It’s a once-in-a-life­time op­por­tu­nity,” Lawryk said.

“I talked to one gen­tle­man who bil­leted a fam­ily about six or seven years ago and they still talk to the par­ents of the kids they bil­leted, they’ve since been over to Fin­land and stayed with them, and the kids have come back and stayed with them over the sum­mer.

“They’ve devel­oped a life­long re­la­tion­ship that they oth­er­wise wouldn’t have had the op­por­tu­nity.”

Let the games be­gin.

 ?? JEAN LEVAC/OT­TAWA CIT­I­ZEN ?? Justin Schütz, left, of the Ger­man Ea­gles, chases the puck against Joshua Thag­gard of the Ot­tawa Sen­a­tors dur­ing a ma­jor pee­wee AAA friendly at the Bell Sen­splex Thurs­day. Also play­ing in ad­vance of the Bell Cap­i­tal Cup were four teams from Fin­land,...
JEAN LEVAC/OT­TAWA CIT­I­ZEN Justin Schütz, left, of the Ger­man Ea­gles, chases the puck against Joshua Thag­gard of the Ot­tawa Sen­a­tors dur­ing a ma­jor pee­wee AAA friendly at the Bell Sen­splex Thurs­day. Also play­ing in ad­vance of the Bell Cap­i­tal Cup were four teams from Fin­land,...
 ?? JEAN LEVAC/OT­TAWA CIT­I­ZEN ?? Yi Yamm of the Hong Kong Ice Scrap­ers looks for the puck dur­ing a ma­jor atom A di­vi­sion game at the Bell Sen­splex Thurs­day. In the back­ground, Trent Colling of the Peter­bor­ough Petes takes a tum­ble dur­ing the match.
JEAN LEVAC/OT­TAWA CIT­I­ZEN Yi Yamm of the Hong Kong Ice Scrap­ers looks for the puck dur­ing a ma­jor atom A di­vi­sion game at the Bell Sen­splex Thurs­day. In the back­ground, Trent Colling of the Peter­bor­ough Petes takes a tum­ble dur­ing the match.

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