After winning silver medals at the BC 55-plus Games, a combined contingent of 55 and 60-plus Kootenay Glacier Kings hockey teams will be taking its talent overseas for a two-week tour of Europe.
A group of 18 players and their wives from across the Kootenays and beyond fly out today for Lucerne, Switz. where they begin a five-game tour of Switzerland, Italy, Austria and Germany.
“It’s really exciting,” said Rossland organizer Mike Ramsay. “It’s sort of a blended team … It’s one of these perfect things where it’s a vacation but you get to play hockey too. Tough to beat.”
The idea first emerged over a year ago when former Rossland resident and Trail Smoke Eater Jim Stewart approached members of the team to determine interest. After some research, the lead organizers came up with an Old Timers Tour group that caters to teams interested in travel and playing hockey against European teams.
“You can sort of pick where you want to go,” said Ramsay. “They put the package together, which includes the bus, the tour guides, the hotels. He has these local contacts with the hockey teams over there and every year there’s a Canadian team that comes and visits and plays them.”
While the trip is more about socializing and enjoying the sights, there is always a little intrigue when Canadians, especially former Smoke Eaters, play hockey across the pond.
The team is composed of many former WIHLers that played for the Trail Senior Smoke Eaters, Nelson Sr. Leafs, and a Cranbrook Royals team that won the Alan Cup, including NHL draft picks Derek Spring and Rod Guimont. While from disparate cities and climes, players from the team converged on Cranbrook last month to skate together and work out a game-time strategy.
“It gave us the opportunity to all get to know each other. Many of us already did, but some of the outlying guys that were added to the team, we didn’t know them so we were meeting for the first time. So we all got together there and most of us played at the BC Games.”
Greater Trail players making the trip include Doug Jones, Rob Waylkiw, Larry Field, and Ramsay, with 14 others from Nelson, Smithers, Vancouver, and Cranbrook.
The trip follows on the success of the Glacier Kings at the BC 55-plus Games, Sept 20 to 24 in Coquitlam. The 55-plus team fought through a tough seven-team division, playing a four-game round robin to secure a seed in the gold medal game. The Kings lost to reigning champion North Vancouver by a close 2-1 score to bring home a silver medal.
The 60-plus team went undefeated in the round robin portion of the tournament but suffered a 2-1 overtime loss to the Vancouver team to also bring home silver.