Four Vancouver Island communities – Parksville, Port Alberni, Duncan and Campbell River – will host a Russian oldtimers’ hockey team for a four-game Goodwill Hockey Tour, April 5-9.
Port Alberni hockey enthusiast Jim Lawson has maintained a relationship with Russian interpreter Oleg Norchenko ever since Lawson and his son Shawn played host to Team Russia during the World Under-17 Hockey Championships in Port Alberni in 2009.
Lawson said he sent an invitation to Norchenko on behalf of his own oldtimers’ hockey team to come back to Port Alberni to play “and darned if they didn’t accept.”
The Tropic Ice Hockey team from Tula, Russia, about 200 kilometres south of Moscow, boasts players from the ages of 23 (a goaltender and a defenceman) to 51.
The same four communities hosted teams during the World Under-17 Hockey Championships in 2009, forging a cooperative relationship that has carried over to this Goodwill Hockey Tour, Port Alberni organizer Ron Paulson said.
Strathcona Gardens facilities services manager Yves Bienvenu and fellow Campbell Riverite Les Ready both volunteered during the U17 tourney in 2009. Bienvenu said the communities forged such a great relationship back then that when the opportunity came up to host the team from Tula in 2013, “how could we say no?”
The communities are only now beginning to organize for the upcoming tour, which includes deciding how they will field their own oldtimers’ teams.
In Parksville, the Grumpy Old Men are hosting a tournament at the same time so the host team will play the Russians. In Port Alberni, an invitational team will be assembled.
“This is a goodwill tour. They’re coming here to play hockey,” Paulson said. “We want to win, but we don’t want to win at all costs.”
Campbell River organizers Bienvenu and Ready held a meeting Feb. 20 to start organizing their city’s participation in the Goodwill Hockey Tour.
Bienvenu said they would be making a call-out to ex-volunteers from the World Under-17 Hockey Championship and other resources, including First Nations.
The Tropic Ice Hockey team will only be in Campbell River for about six hours before game time, so Bienvenu is looking for ways to showcase the community during a quick turn-around time.
No information was provided on how Campbell River would select their oldtimers’ hockey team.
- Friday, April 5 – Oceanside Place, Parksville, 7 p.m.
- Saturday, April 6 – Alberni Valley Multiplex, Port Alberni, 6 p.m.
- Sunday, April 7 – Island Savings Centre, Duncan, 7 p.m.
- Tuesday, April 9 – Strathcona Gardens, Campbell River, 6:30 p.m.