by Rich Rosentreter
A local hockey player, 11-year-old Karter Kenniston, recently took part in the EuroChem Cup, which is one of the largest children’s hockey tournaments in Europe.
Kenniston and his family recently returned to Tupper Lake after the trip to Russia and Karter’s father Korey spoke to the Free Press about the hockey tournament, which took place last month in Novomoskovsk, Russia and included teams from eight different nations: Belgium, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Lithuania, Russia, Switzerland and the United States.
Kenniston said that the U.S. team was composed of players from across northern New York, including Albany, Syracuse and Utica.
“It was great. We were over there for six days. It’s like nothing you’re ever going to do again. It was pretty awesome,” Korey said. “The tournament was set up like a mini-Olympics for kids. We got to see the culture over there and how people live. When you think of people in Russia you think of Moscow. It’s really a lot different when you get outside of the city. It’s a different culture over there. We learned a lot about them.”
“What you hear about in politics, it’s a lot different than what you would think. Before the trip I heard comments like ‘Oh, you’re crazy to go over there,’” Kenniston said. “But it was really safe.”
Kenniston said that Russia was better than he expected and there was a high level of competition at the tournament.
“The level of hockey that the other countries brought was extremely high. For our kids, it was their first experience. The kids stayed in a separate resort area and the parents stayed about a half an hour away,” he said. “We didn’t really see the kids too much. But they got a chance to interact with kids from other countries at the resort, not just playing hockey. They played soccer, ate together and communicated the best they could I guess. Just that experience for the kids was pretty amazing.”
Despite the difference in hockey training and a language barrier, all the kids in the tournament had one main thing in common: their love of the game of hockey—and it wasn’t all about winning.
“It was basically about the experience. The teams that we played against, our coaches got a chance to talk to them about the game of hockey. Their teams were real national teams and had players from across the whole country. When they’re kids that age at that level they go to a hockey academy which is like a prep school. These kids are away from their families, they play hockey seven days a week.”
Although the European teams had more experience, the locals were not intimidated, Kenniston said. “They had a lot of fun. We didn’t get crushed. We won one game, and other games were like 6-2 and 5-1. The kids competed well. It was really competitive. We weren’t out of place by any means,” he said.
At least one game, against Germany, was played with a greater intensity.
“The game got extremely physical and there were a couple of fights. It was pretty intense,” Kenniston said, adding that the best thing was that any animosity did not follow the kids off the ice. “But the next day, the kids were playing soccer with the German kids and were having a blast. They forgot about the game, and even though they could not talk to teach other (due to the different language), they were playing a sport and forgot about hockey. It was great.”
Kenniston said there were other lessons for the American players and parents during the trip as they experienced another culture. One thing was the food, which he termed as “bad,” mainly because it wasn’t what they were not used to.
“Some stuff was OK. We went to restaurants, but we didn’t really know what to get,” he said. “Sometimes we didn’t even know what we were ordering, some things we never even heard of.”
“We saw how people lived. We go to a lot of hotels (in U.S.) for tournaments, but over there you get a room with a bed and the bathroom is just big enough for you to step inside and that’s the norm over there. It’s a lot simpler lifestyle,” Kenniston said, adding that even players on the other teams provided a learning experience. “Their discipline level was off the roof. It’s not like some of the kids here. They’re really on the straight and arrow, sort of like robots. I don’t know if that’s good or bad. But our kids saw that.”
“Our kids got a chance to tour Moscow and saw some of the big churches and Red Square,” Kenniston said. “We took a tour and our guide provided a history of the country. (Russia) is an old country compared to us. I think the kids didn’t realize that. So they learned and that was pretty cool.”
“Kids here take a lot of things for granted. They don’t understand that other people don’t have the amenities that we have and they take for granted every day,” he added. “They got to actually experience that, not just somebody telling them that.”
Karter had an added bonus at the conclusion of tournament play when he was selected to play in the All-star Game. Kenniston said there were several former National Hockey League players on each squad along with three kids from each country. Segei Federov (Detroit Red Wings), Slava Fetisov (New Jersey Devils and Red Wings) and Pavel Bure (Vancouver Canucks) were some of the former NHL stars to take the ice with the kids.
“That was pretty special. It was pretty special having those guys on the ice,” he said, adding that although Karter scored no goals being a defenseman (he did have two assists), he would love to go to another European tourney in the future.
“He enjoyed it. The way they did the tournament over there was nice. It’s one of the biggest tournaments in Europe. I asked him if he’d want to go back and he said he would in a heartbeat.”
by Rich Rosentreter