A truly Canadian experience

Michael Potestio, Contributor Ω

Exchange student Oriol Salvador bumps into an opposing player while fans take in the action with smiles. - PHOTO BY MICHAEL POTESTIO

Exchange student Oriol Salvador bumps into an opposing player while fans take in the action with smiles. – PHOTO BY MICHAEL POTESTIO

Last month international students shared their cultures with campus for International Days 2013 and on Feb. 27 a group of TRU students from around the globe got a dose of Canadian culture.

During the intermission of the Kamloops Blazers game against the Vancouver Giants, 22 international students got on the ice to play hockey for the first time, after just three practice sessions.

Craig Engleson, activities, events and housing manager for TRU World and hockey coach for the students, said that for about 70 per cent of the participants, the first practice session was their first time skating.

“The main thing I tried to go over was the line changes,” Engleson said. “But at the start we just had them skate circles and just go right back to the basics.”

He also said this year’s group of participants seemed to take to skating much faster than last year’s group.

“It is amazing when they had basically four hours of ice before tonight’s game and that’s all many of them have ever had,” Engleson said. He also noted stopping seems to be the one move most of the students still can’t do.

The students were divided into two teams – blue versus grey – and as they walked out onto the ice, the crowd of 4,172 people cheered for them as if they were the Blazers themselves. Though they couldn’t skate like the Blazers, the students definitely put their hearts into it, one player even made a diving stick check to stop a breakaway.

Some fell and others couldn’t stop, but every goal and opportunity to score was met with a jubilant roar from the crowd. At the end of the game the students made their way back to the dressing room and passed by fans reaching out for fist bumps.

Business student Abhinav Shetty said hockey is a very tiring game, one which isn’t as easy as it looks. Shetty, who is from India, said he didn’t expect to see such an enthusiastic crowd during their game.

“Because I thought people are going to go for a break at this point of time but there were a lot of people here cheering for us,” Shetty said.

Nadine Luetticke, a student from Germany, said she was able to score several times in practice, even though she’s never played hockey. Her sport of choice is softball, preferring the bat and ball to the stick and puck. She played in the hockey game because she wanted to try something “really Canadian.”

“I love sports and I wanted to try it. I’m always open for these kinds of events,” Luetticke said.

Before the game Gontran Nzobonimpa, from Burundi, Africa, said he was excited to play and looked forward to trying something new. Though he’d never played hockey, Nzobonimpa did get some experience skating last year when he first came to Canada.

“Coming to Canada wasn’t only about coming to study but also do[ing] different things,” Nzobonimpa said. “So for me I’m always looking into trying things that I haven’t done before.”

Afterwards, Nzobonimpa said he was nervous when the game started because he was on the first line. He was met with a positive reaction from the crowd though and he said it encouraged him to continue learning the game.

For Kunal Mehta – a student from India – his participation in the game stems from the saying, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.”

“So when we’re in Canada do like the Canadians do, so play their national sport and have fun,” Mehta said.