So, for those who play hockey, there are primarily three separate elements to your season once you have made a travel team. There are practices, games, and tournaments. These activities are all part of a strategic effort to build unity and cohesion among a group of 17 players working towards a common goal. This concept isn’t rocket science for the seasoned participant and parent. But what does that have to do with international hospitality?
Anyone who’s played hockey and participated in the Wayne Gretzky International Hockey Tournament knows this is the Holy Grail of hockey tournaments in Ontario. Hosted by the Brantford Minor Hockey Association, this tournament is known around the world and has been going strong for 46 years. Of course, being named after “The Great One” doesn’t hurt either.
If you’re a travel hockey parent, there is nothing worse than driving a few hours away from your home center to participate in a weekend long minimum three to four game tournament only to face the same teams within your home loop. Well, this single A team’s experience was one to never to be replicated.
With our Kitchener Minor Hockey Major Bantam A Team taking up one team spot of eight, our potential competitors were: Brantford, St. Thomas, Burlington, Norway, Sweden, and two teams from Finland. What child doesn’t dream of playing international hockey? This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a number of players at this level and only within a 45 minute drive away. When our tournament draw was released, chance saw that it had us facing three of the four international teams over the Christmas Break.
Life is full of lessons and teachable moments and our hockey moms didn’t miss a beat. Letters requesting support to place a Canadian twist of hospitality were quickly drafted and sent out. In short time our team produced a personalized commemorative puck packaged in a Canadian Tire Bag stuffed with international foods from Dare Food Limited — complete with their famous Canadian Maple Cookies. Prior to each game face-off our players and coaches greeted our international hockey guests at center ice and showed them our international hospitality. When the puck dropped, they showed us international hockey.
Hockey is, quite simply, a great game. An even greater outcome of hockey can be the lessons, the memories, and the friendships that we can take away each year. The lesson for our KJR Team was to pay it forward. A special thanks goes to Dare Food Limited for your support. Thank you boys for making your hockey organization proud in a small way on a big stage!