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Quebec: Another Great Year

by Paul Strand / Carolina Hurricanes
For the eighth consecutive year, the Carolina Hurricanes are sending a team to the Quebec International Pee Wee Hockey TournamentThe Pee Wee team is comprised of 18 youth hockey players (ages 11 and 12) from the Carolinas, who will be led and coached by Canes Youth and Amateur coordinator Paul Strand. 


Throughout the tournament, Strand will be blogging to offer insight on the team’s play, countless experiences from the historic city, the tales and triumphs of individual players and more.   Over the eight years of play in the tournament, the Carolina Hurricanes squad has become very competitive and will once again be viewed as a contender.

Thanks for reading and come back often!

Helpful links: Tournament Schedule | Bracket



Paul Strand
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For the eighth consecutive year, the Carolina Hurricanes are sending a team to the Quebec International Pee Wee Hockey Tournament.  The Pee Wee team is comprised of 18 youth hockey players (ages 11 and 12) from the Carolinas, who will be led and coached by Canes Youth and Amateur coordinator Paul Strand. 

Throughout the tournament, Strand will be blogging to offer insight on the team’s play, countless experiences from the historic city, the tales and triumphs of individual players and more.   Over the eight years of play in the tournament, the Carolina Hurricanes squad has become very competitive and will once again be viewed as a contender.

Thanks for reading and come back often!

Another great year has come and gone for the Carolina Hurricanes Quebec Pee-wee team and again the tournament proves to be much more than hockey games. This is not simply a hockey tournament folks, this is a cultural experience and there just happens to be a little hockey played

It starts out the same as all tournaments. There is a tryout and the team is picked. We warn the parents that this not a normal tournament, but you really won’t understand until you get there. Some scoff a bit and like all teams of 11 and 12 year olds that head off to this tournament they go with dreams of winning the whole shebang. The talk is always of defeating the Hershey Bears to avenge the losses of the past or getting to play a strong team like Detroit Compuware or LA Selects. Or even Perhaps an exhibition game against the Germans or the Swiss. This is the build up as they get on the plane to Montreal and then the bus from Montreal to Quebec City. Even as they head off to their billets that first Wednesday in Quebec City they are still focused on the win’s and losses.
 
However from the first glimpse of Le Colisee on Thursday morning and the sounds of the unforgettable Pee-wee theme song “Vive le pee-wee de carnival!” The kids begin to understand that this is not just a hockey tournament. It is much more than that. In the stands on a Thursday morning there are 3 or 4 thousand people watching already. At what other tournament does that happen? This is something they have never seen before. As well there is a huge pin trading station set up and kids are already beginning to collect all they can. Slowly the kids disappear to trade pins or search Le Colisee for other souvenirs.
 
The billets as well make this trip so much more than just playing hockey. The kids are not just staying with strangers; they are staying with strangers who speak another language entirely. Truth is that in Quebec City the people are a whole distinct culture. I grew up in western Canada and my understanding of Quebec is that they have a different language and that was the extent of the differences of my western Canadian neighbors. After all they lived in the same country.
 
However, it took me coming to this pee-wee tournament five years ago to understand what a different culture it is. Quebec City is as foreign to the rest of Canada as Paris, France. The language is different for sure, but it is everything from the way of life, the humor, and the distinct physical features to their political beliefs. I always grew up not really wanting to be forced to learn the French language, as I did believe I was being forced, but now I understand that with the French Canadian language also come an incredible French cultural experience that these kids get to experience for 12 days, first hand. More than 400 families open their homes to kids from all over the world, from 47 teams and give them a little understanding of a French language and culture.
 
The kids start to play the exhibition games and look forward to the tournament games, but each night they are on the outdoor rink learning the ropes from the French Canadian kids and adults, who teach them that on the outdoor rink you either go get the puck or you never touch it. There are also those kids who have never seen snow. Hayden Winch from South Carolina grew up in Florida and his first sight of snow was from the airplane window as we flew high above the Quebec landscape. His mother asked him to get a picture of the snow and he could be seen doing snow angels and throwing snowballs all week long.
 
As the week goes on and the families have time to get to the carnival, they begin to see the great things that go along with that. Matthew Forslund, tagging along with the Charlotte trio of Mackenzie Lancaster, Bradley Ingersoll and Kyle Moore can be seen on the mini-luge track. Forslund took a spill and could not be found for a few minutes, but he turned up alright.
 
The Hockey Wear House comes on Sunday and the kids attack this huge hockey equipment store each and every year. I always think the sport is growing in North Carolina and one hockey store is the same as another, so each year I think the novelty will wear off, but I am always mistaken. The team always comes out of there with new sticks and equipment. Aiden Worrall took his parents for not one, but two graphite mini-sticks (one for his older bother).
 
As it gets closer to the tournament games the kids remember that they have a little hockey to play, but the exhibition games it is sometimes hard to get the kids super motivated before. After all there is so much more to do then they first thought. How can you concentrate when there is a roller coaster over head, like they have to do at the Mall? Half dozen kids actually rode the roller coaster an hour before one of the exhibition games.
 
The tournament games are different. The Colisee now has 6 or 7 thousand in the building. The games get very interesting and there are folks around Quebec City or form Donnacona and Montreal, who have been coming to the Pee-wee tournament for decades. I met one man who said he has come to the Pee-wee tournament for 25 years. His wife goes away with friends at that time every year and he comes to the tournament to watch the games.
 
The kids head down to the locker rooms where the likes of Guy Lafleur, Ron Francis, Wayne Gretzky and Chad Larose have all dressed and begin the preparation. The locker room area is not like a small tournament arena. The passageway is full of tournament officials and a TV monitor with the brackets of winners and losers. The team bench and Jumbo Tron is just outside the dressing room doors. The coaches get together for a puck flip to determine the sides and music is blasting all around from the game being played before. Now the dreams of victory set in. The kids want to win. They are motivated. What would it be like to play on Saturday in front of 15,000? What would it be like to play Hershey on Saturday night or in the finals on Sunday afternoon?
 
A first round win against Anaheim. Easy enough they all think, a shutout, 2 to 0, some great last minute saves by Forslund and two nifty goals by Josh Wilkins and Eric Hirschhaut. Minutes after the game though all the thoughts turn to the extra-curricular activities, the Pin Trading is at full tilt right now, the Eric Stall pin is rare and a huge hit, the kids cannot wait to get upstairs to make some trades.
 
 As well the win today means the ValcartierSnowPark tomorrow. They have been hearing about the SnowPark. What will they try first? Everest? The Himalaya’s? The Tornado or maybe the Hurricane? Oh yeah when is our next game?
 
The next game comes and we face a local rival the Atlanta Fire. The kids have some experience against them and they revert into hockey mode. The mood is the same as the first tournament game. This is what they came here for right? The pee-wee song is blaring as we enter the ice and the kids are focused. Same jersey’s, same bench, victory! A 5 to 2 win and some great play by the kids. Scoring again from Wilkins and Hirschhaut (2), this time they were joined by Garrett Coley and Captain Ward Betts in the goal column. Second year player Tyler Romel added two assists as well. There may be no better feeling then moving on to the third round. No one wants to lose in two.
 
Next game is the next day and now we tighten the reigns a bit. Now it is focus time. Pond hockey is hold for the night, the kids need to get to bed early and make sure they have a good meal. So the next day comes and the kids are now feeling the pressure. The coaches are feeling it to. The Colisee is buzzing and if we win this game then we get to Saturday morning. The game comes and before you know it the score is 3 to 0 for Quebec. This is quite a hole, but the kids fight back and make it a game. They pull within a goal late in the third, but cannot gain the edge.
 
A 6 to 3 loss and the tears start to come. This was a dream they had built up for many month and for some a few years. This was not just another tournament, this was the 51st year of the Quebec Pee-wee Tournament, they were a part of it and they wanted more. The kids are slow to get undressed and they linger in the dressing room. As everyone finishes and we head as a team to take our equipment to storage the last of the tears have fallen. We head upstairs to the parents and cheers for a job well done.
 
Then the predictable happens, inevitably one of the players turns to me and asks how much time they will have in the stands before heading home with the billets. A few hours I tell them and then ask why? The player responds “I want to trade some pins”. Soon they are all mingling in with the crowd and mass of humanity which is the “pin trader’s row”, the loss is not completely forgotten, but it is getting there.
 
We do have two exhibition games the next day against some very tough teams. The first is against the Colorado Thunderbirds. This is a AAA team who come with expectations of winning the top bracket. They lost out to eventual champion, Detroit Compuware, 1 to 0 the day before and they are not very happy. After our Colisee loss the day before the team comes out very tentative and gives up 5 first period goals and it did not look like Colorado would be backing off any time soon. Did I mention they were not very happy?
 
After a stern talking to about pride and embarrassment and the fact that we did not think Colorado would let up the team started to play like it could. We outscored the Thunderbirds the rest of the way and wound up with a respectable 6 to 2 loss. Not bad considering we slept through the first period.
 
Our next games was against a British Columbia team, Semiahmoo, who also played in the top bracket and were a very good team. We played a little better, but the team proved to be very good and we lost 4 to 1. We added another game on Saturday against the Austrian team to finish the experience against a team most of these kids would remember forever. This game was played again at the Mall. Motivation was tough after this long week of fun and excitement. The kids did their best though and made the game exciting. The Austrians just had a little more juice and held on for a 2 to 1 victory.
 
The Tournament games went on and our kids went home to their billets for some out door pond action of their own or perhaps just one last night with the billets and learning a little bit more about the culture. At Le Colisee, Detroit Compuware took the AA title to add another feather in Hurricanes Owner Peter Karmanos Jr’s hat. The BB bracket was won by Hershey again and Arby’s Avalanche took home the C crown.
 
All in all the tournament was a huge success. 16 young men and two young women spent what was probably the longest time ever away from their parents and in the homes of strangers who, by the tournaments end would be shedding tears as they said goodbye because they bonded so quickly with their young players. Players who barely knew each other a few months before are joking around and sharing phone numbers. They were even trading pins on the bus back to Montreal.
 
This is what the trip was all about. The games were important, but secondary to what the kids will remember as adults.  The Pins, the SnowPark, the Mall, the pond hockey, the Poutine and the Billets, oh yeah and we played some hockey as well
 
Au Revoir Quebec City, Until Next season.

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