When Jim Lawson and his son Shawn agreed to be hosts for Team Russia during the World Under-17 Hockey Championship in Port Alberni in 2009, they had no idea what they were in for. What began as a rocky relationship has now translated into an international goodwill hockey tour.
Lawson said team members were wary of their hosts at first, thinking they were in place to make sure the team didn’t misbehave while in Canada. What they didn’t know was “Shawn and I were prepared to cause as much trouble as they wanted in order to make them feel welcome,” Lawson related.
With the help of team interpreter Oleg Norchenko, the Lawsons—both dubbed “Shawn-Jim” by the young Russian players—quickly won them over. Jim has stayed in touch with Norchenko since then. When some of Lawson’s fellow oldtimer hockey players talked about inviting the Russians back for some fun matches, Norchenko accepted.
And this April, he will bring a “veteran” team of players ranging in age from 23 to 51 to play four games on Vancouver Island.
The Tropic Ice Hockey team from Tula, Russia, will play in Parksville, Duncan and Campbell River in addition to Port Alberni from April 5–9. The team will play an all-star team of oldtimers from Port Alberni on Saturday, April 6 at 6 p.m. at the AV Multiplex. Tickets will be $5 and proceeds will go towards KidSport.
Players for Port Alberni’s team will be invited to try out for the squad. Committee member Ron Paulson said they are looking for “character” players: “A combination of skill and goodwill,” he said.
“This is a goodwill tour. They’re coming here to play hockey. We want to win, but we don’t want to win at all costs.”
Paulson said one of the highlights of the U17 tourney for him was the relationships forged with other Island communities. Each community will have time to take visiting players around to showcase their respective regions.
The Alberni Valley committee is looking for volunteers as well as sponsors. Please call Paulson at 250-720-2803 or Ron Doetzel 250-720-2519 for more information.
◆ FRIDAY, APRIL 5 – Oceanside Place, Parksville, 7 p.m.
◆ SATURDAY, APRIL 6 – Alberni Valley Multiplex, Port Alberni, 6 p.m.
◆ SUNDAY, APRIL 7 – Island Savings Centre, Duncan, 7 p.m.
◆ TUESDAY, APRIL 9 – Strathcona Gardens, Campbell River, 6:30 p.m.
Tickets will be available locally soon.