Homer Alaska - Sports

Story last updated at 4:01 PM on Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Glacier Kings grow as team in Canada

By Angelina Skowronski
For the Homer News

What do you do with 15 pre-teen kids in Edmonton, Canada on New Year's Eve?

"We took them to the Fan Zone at the NHL Rexall Arena and let them loose," said Glacier Kings' Coach Travis Larson.

Larson and fellow coach Rick Pitta along with a few parent chaperones herded their flock of boys and girls through the Edmonton area for the past week to participate in the Confederation Hockey Christmas Tournament in Canada.

"This has been incredible for the team in terms of team unity," said Larson. "We have a team meeting every morning at breakfast and every evening at dinner and the kids are around each other 24/7."

The Glacier Kings have a 2-3 record out of the five games played as of Monday, Jan 2. The Kings have returned to the ice three more times since Monday and are due back to Homer today. The kids showed good sportsmanship toward the tough competition, said Larson.

"The games have been really competitive and we have been beat up pretty good, but the kids are doing the best they can with what they've got," said Larson.

The Glacier Kings won 5-4 against the Millwoods Bruins in a close match last week. After being beat to the punch in the first part, the Kings came back in the last period to tie up the scoreboard. With only 0.2 seconds on the clock, Homer made the final shot to win the game.

"The level of competition here is incredible as compared to what we play on a daily basis," said Larson. "You can tell Canada teams eat, sleep and breathe hockey."

Larson said the structure of hockey in Canada far surpasses that of Alaska. For instance, games are at least two times longer. Canadian periods have 20 minutes of game time each, while Alaskan periods, at the peewee level, have 12 minutes of game time each.

"When we go in for a game, it's like we're playing two games in a row," said Larson.

The Glacier Kings played in the Tier 3 to Tier 6 bracket out of 11 tiers total in Canada. In the local league, the Kings categorized as a Class C Tier 3 team out of only four tiers.

Aside from playing some hardy competition, the Kings where able to catch a game of the World Junior Championships for under-20 hockey.

Last Thursday, the kids watched team USA practice on the ice, with Larson and Pitta doing some of their own coaching on the side lines. Friday, the peewees dodged the partisan anti-US crowd and sat in the USA cheering section at the USA v. Czech Republic game.

"It's amazing how Canada is so anti-US when it comes to hockey. They'll support for any team that is playing against USA," said Larson.

Czech Republic beat USA 5-2 in an unfortunate match, but it didn't stop the Kings from getting autographs from their beloved American players.

"These kids are quickly approaching the decision time in their lives and it is important for them to see the different commitment levels there are as they saw with team USA," said Larson.

Like many of their Canadian counterparts, the Glacier Kings ate, slept, and breathed hockey this past week. For some of them, this may be the only way of life after this experience.

But just as long as they are well-behaved while doing it.

Larson said, "the hotel manager of where we are staying came up to us the other day and said that this was the best-behaved group of kids he had ever seen in his hotel."