SARATOGA SPRINGS/ RUSSIA — For the second year in a row the EuroChem Cup, one of the world’s leading ice hockey tournaments for 10 to 12-year-old players have invited coaches from the capital region to compile a team to represent the United States. Three players on the team – The Albany Capitols – are Saratoga Springs locals.
“The experience was spectacular. I don’t think any kid can attend a tournament like that - it doesn’t happen,” said coach and parent Styles Bridges. “The show they put on, the experience that they have; even though we travel all around North America for hockey tournaments, you can’t pay to go to a tournament like this. They go above and beyond to make them feel like it’s the little kid Olympics for hockey.”
When first asked to participate in 2018, the coaches thought it was a spam e-mail; they couldn’t believe such an opportunity would land at their feet. After some research on the validity of the tournament, they placed a team together. This year, when the invitation presented again, they were ready to put a team together.
“We were looking for kids that are gonna go hard, are great kids. When you’re there, these kids all come from hockey academies where they live away from home and they are used to being on the road, staying by themselves,” said Bridges. “Whereas Americans we typically do not do that - parents are highly involved with all their traveling activities. It is a big change for them, so it has to be the right kid.”
This experience was more than just a hockey tournament, it was an opportunity for kids to experience how other kids their ages live in other countries.
“Our job is to get them ready to represent the country; we want to play at a high level, that’s why we’re here practicing harder, but really it’s about this kind of citizen to citizen type of relationships,” said Brad Chartrand, parent, coach and former player for the L.A. Kings. “We play hard on the ice, but off the ice, we’re there to develop hopefully lifelong friendships. Now with technology, some of the things kids are using - Google translate - there’s much more communication available to the kids over there.”
This was the first time the team goalie Adam Sherman was participating in the EuroChem Cup, and before departure was prepared to say the least.
“I’m feeling confident with my time because we’ve been working really hard over the past month. I’m excited,” said Sherman.
For veteran EuroChem Players Hunter Bridges and Liam Chartrand, the pre-travel excitement didn’t diminish.
“My favorite part is obviously playing with my teammates and especially ones that I play with my regular team. I can’t wait to represent our country again,” said Hunter.
Cultural exchange is certainly a factor that not only parents were eager to see, but the kids were looking forward to experiencing as well.
“I’m most excited about playing the new teams that are supposed to be coming like Italy and China. Getting to be able to represent my country - it’s just a great experience overall,” said Liam. “They teach us some words, we teach them. It’s just great to be able to meet people from other countries cause you get to know how they live and they get to know how we live.”
The EuroChem tournament is another example of how sports unite, educates and presents influential opportunities beyond imagination.