The Manitoba Women’s Junior Hockey League organized an exciting trip for two teams duringthe winter holidays, from Dec. 26 to Jan. 5. Three young women from the Interlake joined them.
“(They) demonstrated overseas the supportive and driven communities they came from,” said Sherri McSherry Lindell, of Eriksdale. “The teams and families had an excellent time and would like the Interlake to know that there are more opportunities for competitive sports after leaving the minor hockey league.”
The players were Lindell’s daughter, Paige (22); and two sisters from Argyle, Brooke (20) and Mckenna Riley (17).
“This trip was focused on traveling to the Czech republic and playing four exhibition games in a 10 day period in various Czech towns,” said Neil Vandepoele, the coach of The Canadian Geese team made up of mostly members of his junior women’s team, The Silver Tips.
“Ten of the girls on the Canadian Geese play for me in the league… It was a great opportunity to get to know them a lot better in a social, fun environment. It brought us closer as a team.”
Kirk Kuppers, president of the Women’s junior hockey league, travelled with and was an assistant coach for the Canadian Geese. “He is a proud supporter of junior women’s hockey,” Vandepoele, said. “He plays a large part in making these trips and experiences a reality.”
Many parent volunteers helped organize the trip. Paula Raposa, a mother of one of the girls on the team, was touted as being a main support with all of her efforts.
She worked with Moore Sports Tours, to help organize the games, hotels and amenities, as well as provided tour-guides throughout the trip.
“Without her this trip would not have been possible,” Vandepoele, explained. “It took the better part of a year to plan.”
“We did a number of fundraisers for our trip such as selling plants through St. Mary’s Nursery, selling Manitoba Moose tickets, paint nite’s and we held a social last April,” said Brooke Riley, who plays defence for the Silvertips and was able to bring her younger sister, McKenna.
“I was excited to have McKenna come along on the trip,” said Brooke. “It was a good opportunity for her to play some good hockey and get to know some girls before she tries out for the league next year.”
The MWJHL is for women aged 18 to 22.
“I was an assistant player for the team as I am underage,” McKenna said, “but I got accepted to go on the trip and play.”
The Manitoban players flew from Winnipeg Dec. 26, into Frankfurt, Germany Dec. 27th. They took a four-hour bus ride to Karlovy Vary, a spa town in the Czech Republic. They also stayed in Brno and Prague while traveling to different cities and towns for their games in the Czech Republic.
“Highlights of this trip were how the girls from different backgrounds and teams came together to be the Canadian Geese,” said their coach, Vandepoele. “I witnessed friendships being made.”
McKenna said that experiencing New Years Eve in downtown Brno, Czech Republic was the highlight event for her. “We spent the evening in Town Square where they had local people setting off fireworks,” she said. “It was a big party and lots of fun.”
“I would say the highlights of my trip would be visiting the Punkva Caves,” said Brooke, “and the architecture, the shopping and getting to know the girls from other teams in our league.”
“We learned a lot about the Czech republic, about its culture and rich history,” Vandepoele said. “We visited places like Karlstein Castle which was rich in history and had a very medieval feel to it. “
They took a bus to Munich, Germany where they played their last game and finished the trip.
“We also realized we have some hockey talent,” Vandepoele, said. “We played a hockey team in Bratislava that had eight Olympians on and faired pretty well.”
They also went to a professional Czech game in Olomouc after their own game in Bad Tolz, Germany. “We got to experience another pro-game. The fans are so loud and have so much energy that made the game that much more fun and exciting,” McKenna said.
Vandepoele said that every couple of years the MWJHL organizes a trip where they coordinate a hockey experience for girls that play in the league.
For further information on the MWJHL, visit themwjhl.ca.