For Prince George hockey players Nicolas Braaten and Jacob Ross, it’s been a busy month.
The two, who played together on the Pee Wee Tier 2 Cougars this past season, were together again, but this time in Europe.
“We were in a tournament in Calgary,” Jacob says, “at the Alberta Challenge Cup. We didn’t even know about the team.”
After the tournament, Canadian Explorers organizer Peter Lumir sent the families of the two boys a letter, asking if they would be interested in being part of the International Hockey Exchange, and travelling to Europe to play hockey as part of a team from western Canada.
“It took me just a few seconds to say ‘I want to go,’” Jacob said.
Nicolas says there was one other hurdle to overcome.
“Our parents took a bit longer to make the decision. They wanted to check it out and make sure it was OK.”
The decision made, they left march 25 for Calgary, where they met the rest of the team, and then boarded a flight to Frankfurt, Germany.
“We had one practice in Europe as a team,” Jacob says.
“And then we had a game right after that,” Nicolas adds.
It didn’t take long for the team to adjust to each other, they said, but it took longer to adjust to one important difference in the rules in Europe.
“They allow hitting at our age,” Jacob said. “We’d never had hitting here.”
Nicolas said it was tough at first.
“It took us at least two or three games to adjust.”
The teams they were playing got tougher as the ‘tour’ went along, but the Canadian team acquitted itself well, winning bronze at the Fuessen Cup in Germany before winning silver at the Worlds Tournament in Austria. They played 15 games on the 16-day trip, winning nine and spending 43 hours on buses.
“We made a few excursions to castles and stuff,” Jacob said, “but we didn’t usually have too much time.”
“Peter gave us the history of the areas we were going through on the bus,” Nicolas said. “The tour was really well-organized. A lot of the meals were pre-planned because we were playing a lot of hockey.”
“I ate a lot of spaghetti,” Jacob adds.
Jacob played his usual position of right wing on the tour, while Nicolas moved from centre to left wing.
“It was tough because sometimes I would find myself out of position,” he says, “but the guy we were playing with could really only play centre.”
When it came to the final game of the Worlds, against Finland, the two knew their European adventure was coming to an end.
“We knew we had to leave it all on the ice that game,” Jacob says, “because there wasn’t another one.”