Bantam and atom players from the Juan de Fuca Grizzlies are just a couple of weeks away from the trip of a lifetime.
Thirty-one players, many of whom hail from the West Shore, will embark on a 10-day tour of Iceland, Sweden and Finland where they’ll play a series of games against international competitors while, in effect, representing Canada.
Victoria Grizzlies head coach and general manager Craig Didmon and VP of hockey operations Lee Richardson will coach the teams, who fly to Iceland Aug. 7 to kick-off the trip.
Didmon coached a midget squad on a similar trip in 2014 and believes the experience was invaluable for his players, both on and off the ice.
“Playing in a foreign country from a hockey perspective starts with being a little bit intimidating. It’s a big difference,” he said. “What I notice most when they’re playing is how they adapt and change and how they take pride in the fact that they’re [representing Canada].”
Getting to see how kids play the sport on the other side of the world and the opportunity to enjoy cultural sights and experiences are other benefits to the trip, Didmon added.
In 2014, Didmon felt that the Finns played a physical style of hockey that’s similar to the Canadian game, while the Swedes were more about smooth skating and finesse. While all matches were friendly affairs, it didn’t take much for the games to pick up in intensity.
“There’s a lot of pride on the line,” Didmon noted.
The players that will take part in the trip worked hard for the opportunity, raising anywhere from $80 to $3,500 over the past several months through car washes and bottle drives, with 20 per cent of players raising enough to cover the entire cost of the trip.
“I think that’s all part of it. The kids are willing to go out and earn it,” Didmon said. “It’s a life-building experience for them. They’ve worked hard to get there and they’re going to enjoy it.”
Funds were also raised through 50/50 draws during the Victoria Grizzlies’ B.C. Hockey League playoff run and with an online raffle through Legacy Global Sports.