This coming Christmas will mark the 8th anniversary of the Minor Bantam AA Markham Islanders trip to Europe – a team I was fortunate enough to be a part of. On Boxing Day 2009, while everyone was soaking in the holidays, our team was on a plane to Frankfurt, Germany to begin our two-week trip, with stops in Switzerland and Italy. With the help of the GTHL, we were able to take the trip as a team and play in five games total. I decided to reach out to a few former teammates, some who I remain close friends with, to get their perspective on what the trip meant to them.
“In Toronto, you quickly get comfortable with the same arenas, competing against the same kids, playing with the same teammates. With the opportunity to play in Europe, the feeling changes. I remember showing up to outdoor arenas, be it in the middle of the mountains, or the centre of cities, with a strong feeling of excitement. Excitement to be in a new place and face a new challenge of not knowing who is lining up on the ice across from you. Watching international hockey provides perspective on the thousands of people around the world playing the same game; competing against those kids was an amazing experience.“ – Josh Florence
“My favourite memory from our trip was the New Year’s Eve Party in Switzerland. I vividly remember goofing around outside with the other players while the snow was coming down and how joyful we all were. You could feel all the players and families getting closer, and that night was in some respects the pinnacle of the trip. Celebrating the New Year with the team in an entirely foreign country was special.” – Sam Tenenbaum
“During one of our days off in Switzerland we had the chance to go to the Alps and either ski or play hockey on the outdoor rink. Only a hand full of us played hockey and it was one of the best experiences of my life. The scenery was incredible and the weather was perfect. I think I could’ve stayed on the ice all day. Every time I look at the Team Canada jersey hanging in my room I think of all the great memories, and this has to be at the top of my list.” – Will Tennyson
“Pack, plane, bus, hotel then rink – I felt like a pro. I’m not an overtly patriotic guy but the first time hearing the Canadian anthem played while lining up on the blue line was special and a moment I’ll never forget. The trip gave me the experience of a lifetime to play the game I love halfway across the world. I’m so thankful that I got to experience it with my family, amazing coaches and teammates.” – Andrew Ezer
“One of the highlights of the trip was spending New Year’s Eve in a town called Interlaken in the middle of the Swiss Alps. We rented out a restaurant and ate dinner as a team. After dinner, all the kids on the team went outside to have a snowball fight. The restaurant was right across the street from a bar, and before we knew it, we were in a giant 30 person snowball fight against a bunch of locals. The Swiss weren’t very aggressive people, but the winter warfare in the streets of Interlaken that night provided a unique opportunity for us to bond as a team, and is an experience I will never forget.” – Dylan Johnston
The trip is still by far my favourite experience from playing in the GTHL. My favourite memory was the same one that Dylan and Sam shared: New Year’s and the snowball fight that we ended up having with the Swiss locals. It’s not necessarily the hockey that we miss about playing, but the comradery between teammates that happens outside the rink. That’s what makes trips like these so unforgettable.