A handful of young Semiahmoo Ravens hockey players are set for some northern exposure.
Like, way north.
Semiahmoo Minor Hockey’s atom A2 squad leaves today (Thursday) for a four-day whirlwind trip to Whitehorse, where they’re set to face a team from the host city as well as Yellowknife in what Semiahmoo coach Jay Nagamatsu called “kind of a mini-tournament.”
In addition, one of the games will be played on an outdoor rink – something that, Nagamatsu points out, is foreign to most West Coast hockey players.
“It’s getting back to the real roots of hockey, playing outside in the cold,” he said. “You don’t get those opportunities every day, so we’re all really excited about it.”
In addition to the outdoor game, the Semiahmoo team will also bundle up and, on Day 2 of their trip, go dogsledding.
“It might be a bit of a shock to them,” Nagamatsu laughed, referring to the planned cold-weather adventures.
While minor hockey teams routinely play December tournaments – especially around Christmastime – travelling as far as the Ravens will is rare. And while it’s a long way to go for just a few days, parents and coaches from the team felt it was too good an opportunity to pass up.
“Nine- and 10-year-olds, they don’t usually get to travel that far. It’s a unique experience, and Whitehorse is really a neat city,” said Nagamatsu.
The idea to head north was the brainchild of Nagamatsu, a Peninsula orthodontist who travels to Whitehorse about every six weeks for work.
It was through conversations with some of his Yukon patients – many of them hockey parents – that the idea was hatched.
“I just started talking to people up there, and they said ‘You guys should come up here and play,’” he explained. “And I thought it was a great idea.”
A great idea, but also a costly one. So, early in the hockey season, the team began fundraising to help offset the costs – hosting fundraising social nights, in addition to holding raffle draws, silent auctions and the like.
“It’s really pricey to play hockey as is, and our parents really stepped up to (organize fundraisers) and raise the money,” Nagamatsu said. “It’s going to be a great trip.”