Women’s hockey competes in central Europe

January 17, 2013 | 11 a.m.

The team skated out of its comfort zone to play hockey in Italy and Switzerland

Sports | Linnea White for The Clarion

Women’s hockey competes in central Europe

The team pauses for a photo while touring Lucerne, Switzerland. Photo for The Clarion courtesy of Casie Ecklund.

On Dec. 26, the women’s hockey team left Minnesota and headed for Italy. They spent the next week in Italy and Switzerland, where they competed against European teams and spent time sightseeing and strengthening team camaraderie.

Every four years, the team travels overseas to experience hockey in a different cultural setting. Head coach Brian Carlson said the goal is to give all players a chance to travel.

“Because the season’s so long, it’s tough to study abroad,” he said.

This year, the team stayed in Moltrasio, Italy, which is near Lake Como. From there, they traveled to play games and visit famous cities such as Venice, Italy as well as Zurich and Lucerne, Switzerland. In addition to sightseeing, the team did a lot of shopping, according to junior Casie Ecklund.

While in Europe, the team played three games – one in Brixen, Italy, one in Neuchâtel, Switzerland and one in Zurich. Both Carlson and Ecklund talked about the differences between hockey in Minnesota and hockey in Europe.

“They don’t have the broad-based appeal or support like we do in Minnesota,” Carlson said. “The numbers aren’t very high, and it’s not very well organized.”

Junior Lindsay Burman said the lower level of competition brought out her true love for hockey. “The love for the game consumes you,” she said. “We get so caught up in being the best that we lose sight of what is really important to us and why we're still playing today.”

The teams Bethel played were national teams, but each had women of several nationalities.

“There were girls that spoke German, girls that spoke French, girls that spoke Italian. There was a girl that spoke Czech and a girl that spoke Dutch,” Ecklund said. “So, even on the same team, they don’t all speak the same language.”

Because the Royals were playing shortly after Christmas, the European teams were missing players who were home for the holidays. This gave Bethel’s women a unique opportunity: each game, some of them played for the opposing team.

Ecklund said it was a fun but challenging experience, especially because she played forward instead of her usual defense.

Besides differences in hockey leagues, the team also noticed cultural differences.

“Their pace is, I think, about half of what the pace is here,” Carlson said. “They’re not in a big hurry to do things over there.”

Ecklund also mentioned the difficulty of communication. “I didn’t expect the language to be so much of a barrier. I think I almost expected more people to speak English,” she said.

Despite the language barrier, the team was able to connect with its competitors. Sometimes the Royals ate a meal with the opposing team, giving the players a chance to meet and talk to each other. Many of the European players spoke some English.

Ecklund also shared an unexpected moment of cross-cultural connection. While the teams were waiting for the ice to dry after the Zamboni had run over it, the song “Gangnam Style” was playing.

“Some girls on the other team started doing the dance on the ice, and then some of our girls did … It was just kind of funny to have that connection,” Ecklund said.

On Jan. 3, the team returned to the United States. Though short, the trip provided the Royals with many valuable memories and insight into hockey in a different part of the world.

“We think we see the full picture of what God has truly done for us and this world," Burman said. "But You don’t truly see it until you go out of your comfort zone.”

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