Bulldogs upgrade skills with ice time in Sweden and Finland

Section: 
Sports

The Kincardine Bulldogs faced off against teams in Sweden and Finland during the last week of December and the first week of January. (photo courtesy of Heather Ribey)

By Barb McKay

 

The Kincardine Bulldogs may be playing with a few new tricks up their sleeves after a recent hockey trip to Scandinavia.

 

The Junior C boys left Canada on Dec. 27 for Sweden for the experience of a lifetime. The team was billeted with families in Stockholm and immersed themselves in the culture.

 

“It was a very good experience for us,” said coach Shawn Burrows, who accompanied 18 players with coach Derrick Burrows and general manager Doug Kennedy. “The players really enjoyed it. They got to have home cooked meals – food that they wouldn’t have here.”

 

Of course, the focus of the trip was hockey and the Bulldogs arranged to play two games against third level Swedish teams before travelling to Finland on New Year’s Day to face two teams there. Kennedy had arranged the trip.

 

“I took the high school team two and a half years ago,” he told The Independent on Friday, a day after returning to Kincardine. “I have wanted to take the Bulldogs on a similar trip.”

 

The hockey was challenging and, although the games were close, the Bulldogs were unable to pull off a win. Kennedy said it was a bit frustrating for the boys but the ice time was beneficial. A fan who attended Sunday’s game in Walkerton commented that the team seemed to be skating faster and puck-handling better.

 

“The hockey was a different style of play that what we are used to,” Burrows said. “The physicality was the main difference. We play a more physical game. There it is more of a skating and skills game.”

 

Some of the rules are different, as well. The Swedish and Finland teams don’t dump the puck. Another significant challenge the Kincardine team faced was playing on a larger ice surface.

 

“We had to adapt,” Kennedy said.

 

While in Finland, the Bulldogs joined teams from New Zealand, Australia, China and Kazakhstan for a sports camp – a highlight of the trip. Kennedy said that at the end of the camp the players tried out a Finnish tradition – a visit to a sauna followed by a quick dip in a sub-zero temperature lake.

 

“They weren’t in long, but they all did it,” he said.

 

While overseas the players had the opportunity to tour around. They visited the Vasa Museum in Stockholm and spent New Year’s Eve on a cruise ship from Stockholm to Helsinki.

 

A highlight of the trip for Kennedy was sharing the experience with Kevin Sutter and Bruce Angel, who played on the Hanover Barons 27 years ago when Kennedy coached the team to the All-Ontario title.

 

Kennedy and the coaches are staying in touch with the teams in Sweden and Finland and hope they can bring one over to play in Kincardine.