The Whitby Wildcats are packing their bags — their hockey bags — for a European adventure this winter.
The Bantam MD hockey team will experience the trip of a lifetime over this year’s Christmas break when they travel to Austria, Poland and the Czech Republic for a series of exhibition games.
“We wanted to do something special this season,” head coach Craig De Blois said. “To be able to give the boys a chance to see different cultures and interact with kids from other countries was an opportunity we felt worth pursuing. It is going to be incredible”
The Wildcats and their families depart on December 27 and return January 5th. The squad will play against Czech teams HC Roudnice, BK Zubri Bystrice N.P. and HC Bruntal before taking on JKH GKS Jastrzebie in Poland.
As part of a WMHA pilot project for the 2019/2020 season, the team will be playing non-contact games in Europe and at home this season. This non-contact MD team replaces one of the Whitby Bantam AE teams and will play in the York/Simcoe League.
Off the ice but still at the rink, the Wildcats will have the opportunity to cheer on Team Canada at the World Junior Hockey Championships being held in Ostrava, Czech Republic.
The team will attend four games of the tournament including the game between Canada and host Czech Republic.
“I am not sure what is going to be more fun, playing against European kids on the big ice or going to the world junior games,” Wildcats goaltender Isaac Ashton said. “It is going to be an awesome trip. Being able to hang out with the boys and seeing a different part of the world.”
The players and their families will spend some time in Prague and OloMouc in the Czech Republic as well as Katowice and Krakow in Poland.
Also included in the itinerary will be an exciting day trip to Austria for guided tour of historic city of Vienna.
Another highlight of the trip will see the players participate in floor ball drills and games.
Floorball is the same game played in school gyms across Canada but it is a developing sport in Europe. Floorball was included in the World Games for the first time in 2017 and there is a biennial World Championship.
Many families on the team are excited about experiencing New Year’s Eve in a different country and they will be celebrating in Olomouc Town Square.
These Wildcats will join a small group of other Whitby teams that have made the trip across the Atlantic Ocean over the years to play against teams from Europe while experiencing different cultures.
The first team to travel abroad was the Whitby Canucks, who visited Finland in 1985 and included future NHL players Keith Primeau and Adam Foote.
The 2019 trip is being organized by Moore Sports Tours, a company that specializes in creating customized tour packages for sports teams to travel internationally to enjoy their sport.
Over the past 20+ years, Moore Sports has taken many OMHA teams, including the Whitby Wildcats 2002 AE team earlier this year, on exciting trips to many fantastic destinations throughout Europe.
"This trip will be a terrific experience for everyone in the group, but it will be especially memorable for the players," said John Brioux of Moore Sports. "This trip will truly create memories that will last a lifetime.”
The team is currently working on fundraising for the trip.
The biggest project is a magazine-style program with details about the team and their trip that will be distributed around Whitby and given to the players on the opposing European teams.