Europe was so much fun, but the two weeks went by too quickly! We started off with team photos at the Calgary airport, transferred at Amsterdam onto Milan then bussed to Innsbruck, Austria where we arrived at our hotel 18 hours later. We were tired because they are nine hours ahead of us and we were too excited to sleep on the plane. Every day we had a busy schedule: up by 6:30 a.m. with full days and a curfew at 11:00 p.m.
Our schedule: Innsbruck, Austria for three days, but the second day we bussed to Vipiteno, Italy for rafting and shopping, then off to Italy for the rest of the trip: Val Gardena bus tour of the Dolomites one day, Bolzano and Egna for the six day hockey tournament and shopping, Verona and Venice for one day each for shopping and tours, Milan for two days, then back to Canada. There was so much to do in Austria and Italy: touring, walking and shopping, playing hockey, fun activities and meeting new people.
Our team and parents filled five rafts when we went rafting and most people, including myself, got thrown out of the raft at least once, even one instructor got tossed from his raft. The river was so cold, even with the wetsuits most of us had a hard time catching our breath when we went into the river. Rafting was the best team event; we all wanted to go again.
We went to the zoo in Austria (Alpenzoo), toured many castles, practiced at the Innsbruck Olympic Centre, did shopping and lots of walking. In Austria, a few of us went on three different cable cars to reach the highest point of the mountain called Hafelekar, 2256m high. It was windy and cold at the top, which was nice because it was over +35 degrees celsius at the bottom.
The team took a bus tour through the Dolomiti Mountains. The view was incredible if you could handle looking down the edge of a cliff. With all the hair pin turns, most places only one vehicle could go at a time, so vehicles had to back up until there was a place big enough to squeeze past. Our bus rubbed against another bus and also ended up hitting a cement guard rail.
Riding in the gondola in Venice was very exciting. It was very busy; an experience I won’t forget. Even the taxi boat to get to the shopping was fun. There were lots of souvenirs and places to explore.
By the time we were in Bolzona I was so ready for hockey. I wasn’t even jet lagged. I wasn’t nervous, just excited and the practices just made me want to play even more. Some of the girls talked about not feeling well, some had jet lag and some said they had problems getting their legs going. I was lucky; I felt great. I felt even better when the coach gave us our jerseys and I was assistant captain. I was surprised, for I was one of the only girls the coach didn’t know until our practices in Edmonton. When he gave me my jersey he said, “You deserve it, play hard and enjoy this experience.” That is exactly what I did. Standing at centre ice listening to our anthem and then scoring my first goal were two of the most memorable points.
Hockey was great in Bolzano. There were seven teams: U.S.A., two other teams which were mostly from the U.S.A. with a few Canadians, Scandinavia (Finland and Sweden), Italy and my team Canada West NAHA Panthers. My favorite hockey team to play against was my friend Janika’s team called, “Scandinavia Elite,” which was a team that was made up of Finnish and Swedish players. At the end of the tournament we ended up with four wins and two losses. We did not make the semi-finals, despite beating the second and third place teams who only had three wins, while we had four wins. They ended up in semis and we didn’t because of tournament rules, which no one understood.
The ice rinks were huge and the ice was soft. Some teams had a lot of skilled individual players, but we played better as a team so we were able to beat them. They were very rough. Here they would have had interference and roughing penalties, but nothing was called there. The refs made hardly any calls during the games; even when punches were thrown between players or even for offsides. During our last game with Italy their bench cleared and they began to fight the five of us on the ice, but after the game we traded clothes and they said they love Canada the best! What happens on the ice stays on the ice. Being able to watch and play against the other countries was a good experience. The games were hard, fast and good hockey. I wish we could have played more hockey and more countries. I had a lot of fun.
Besides playing hockey in Italy, my two favorite parts of the trip were white river rafting and meeting my new friends from Finland and Sweden.
I enjoyed every second being in Europe even the + 32 or higher weather all day every day. I was sad when I had to leave. I hope to go to Europe again because it was an amazing experience. Maybe I will be able to compete again at the World’s Selects.
I want to thank all of my sponsors and family members to help make this happen, without you I would have never been able to do this. This, I hope, is just the start to a long and happy hockey future.