Teams arrive for Capital Cup
Young players welcome international competition, chance to make friends
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.