Ketola ’17 Reports on International Hockey Competition

IIHF

Romanian forward Alina Oprea (right) battles at a face off against South Africa’s Tarryn Keuler (left). Photo: Kostadin Andonov (IIHF)

In what seems to be countries too warm and exotic for Northwood’s favourite sport, the IIHF Division II Group B women’s ice hockey qualifications took place. First, team South Africa traveled to Istanbul to play the national team of Turkey for pre-championship warm up, then they traveled to Sofia to compete in the actual contest.

The ice hockey experience in Turkey was far from anything I had imagined it to be like. My team stayed in a small hotel in the middle of a large shopping district, 15 minutes away from the rink. The girls were very excited to do some overseas shopping, but to their disappointment, it turned out that the stores don’t sell single items – if you wanted a t-shirt you had to get ten of them. We ate lots of ‘traditional’ meals during our stay, namely Turkish delights and kebabs and lots of soup that was unidentifiable.

The ice rink was located next to the Wall of Constantine, a wall that surrounded the city of Istanbul and had been unattainable for 2000 years before the Turks finally overcame it. Inside, the ice rink was decorated with flags of their country, president and achievements. When it was game time huge crowds showed up with whistles, loud speakers, and drums along with a TV crew from some Turkish sports channel. The event felt like the Olympics with national anthems being sung, huge announcements and adverts all around town.

RSA_home

South Africa’s team jersey. (Photo: IIHF)

After our fun stay in Istanbul, we flew next door to Sofia in Bulgaria. The hotel we stayed at was a luxurious place picked out by the IIHF where we met up with team Hong Kong and Romania, while the Bulgarians remained missing until the opening ceremony held the next day. The ice rink was located directly under a night club, and the entrance was so hidden that at first we thought we were going to play inside the club, although eventually we found the way in.

The rinks name was the Winter Palace. This name was very misleading – it appeared as though it had been built before the second world war. We were scared the place was going to fall apart if we even talked too loud. Despite the old facilities, the games were just as intense as they would be elsewhere. The hospitality was very different to what South Africans are used to (they told us we have to buy our own toilet paper, water and snacks if we want any), but by the end of the tournament we became well acquainted with many of the team Bulgaria players who helped us adapt to the culture.

It was a fun event. By the final day it was sad to leave behind all the friends we had made in the national teams. Though the tournament might have initially inspired a competitive atmosphere, it quickly evolved into close-knit relationships that went beyond ice hockey.

 

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