Aside from creating lasting hockey memories, the Bell Capital Cup also brings players together who wouldn’t otherwise have a chance to meet.
The Publow family billeted Jaako Manninen and Paavo Sundell, two Jokerit White players from Finland during the five-day tournament. It was the first time the Kanata Blazers minor peewee AA team hosted out-of-town guests.
“People I work with have told me it’s a really great experience,” said Blazers coach Geoff Publow.
“We had a wonderful experience. The boys quickly became part of the family.”
Blazers defenceman Thomas Publow, 11, said he was looking forward to seeing how good the Finnish team was before the young hockey players had a chance to meet on Dec. 27.
The main goal was “having fun,” said Thomas, the eldest of three siblings. “It’s kind of a holiday tradition.”
Geoff said the Blazers were looking forward to learning more about the Finnish team’s culture, what their hockey practices are like and how good the boys were on the ice.
“They usually are quite competitive in that division … Nobody’s quite sure how good they’re going to be so everyone’s wondering,” said Geoff before the teams met.
The Blazers and Jokerit White never faced off on the ice during the tournament but they did play each other during a friendly game. The teams were split, with half of the Blazers playing for Jokerit and vice versa, said Geoff.
“As a coach I also gained an appreciation for how the Finnish team played the game. They were very skilled with the puck and were all strong skaters. Their puck skills were fantastic,” he said. “I’m happy to report the ‘Blazers’ won this friendly (game) 3-2, with some strong efforts from our adopted players.”
More than 6,500 players hit the ice on hockey rinks in Ottawa for the 14th edition of the Bell Capital Cup, which ran from Dec. 28 to Jan. 1. The city played host to 380 teams from 19 divisions from Canada, China, Finland, Germany and the United States.
The Jokerit Blue team won the minor peewee AA championship, defeating the New Jersey Colonials 1-0 in the final.
The Blazers final record during the Bell Capital Cup was 1-1-1.
“In terms of the Blazers, we had a successful week on the ice,” said Geoff. “After losing 5-1 to Jokerit Blue – the eventual champions – in a friendly game, we redeemed ourselves against them with a 3-3 tie in the tournament. We also had a very close game vs. New Jersey, the finalist, and a 4-2 win vs. Caledon. So, our final record was 1-1-1 in a tough draw.”
All in all, the experience was rewarding.
“We learned about the Finnish culture and picked up a bit of the language. We also learned that some things are international – the boys liked much of the same music and TV shows,” said Geoff. “The best thing to be gained from the billeting experience was watching our kids make new friends and really welcome Jaako and Paavo into our home and our family.”
The family had a number of gifts for the billets, including Ottawa Senators toques, Blazers T-shirts and 2012 All Star official programs for the Jokerit players.
“We will certainly consider billeting another team in the future,” he added. “It makes for a very busy, but very rewarding and unique holiday experience.”