With thousands of miles and different languages as barriers, the Chinese, American, Finnish and Japanese kids are starting to realize that their differences are not too difficult to overcome. With hockey and youth as a common bond, the Lighthouse International Tournament is creating new friendships.
While Harbin was battling Suffolk at Cantiague arena on Friday afternoon, members of the Nassau County squad who had already played their final preliminary game at Islanders Iceworks came to support the two teams. What was most surprising was that whenever Harbin scored, the Nassau kids cheered. When asked why they were rooting for Harbin, forward Michael Walker replied: "Because they're cool. They're nice."
The two teams had bonded on Thursday after their game at Islanders Iceworks. While communicating was clearly a problem, the two teams used sign language and translators to make that issue merely a minor detail.
"We are opponents on the ice with the other teams, but off the ice we are friends," said Teng Jin Long. "We want to learn English better so we can talk to the other kids better.
Also cheering on the Harbin team was Qiqihar, despite the teams being bitter rivals on the ice back in China. Throughout the game, the Qiqihar kids would shout "Get a goal Harbin" in their native language.
Perhaps the greatest venue for cross-cultural bonding has been at the Marriott, where all of the international kids are staying. In between games and at night, members of different teams have been seen strolling around the halls together and hanging out in each other's room. The Finnish and Japanese members have become particularly close and have cultivated new friendships. The teams have a few more days to continue to bond.
Today, the Medal Round will take place at the Nassau Coliseum, beginning at 1 pm. The fifth-place game will pit Harbin versus Japan. At 2 pm, Ilves and New York City meet in the third-place game and at 3 pm, Qiqihar and Nassau face in the first-place game.
As an added sign of sportsmanship, all teams will be in the Coliseum stands cheering on their counterparts. Whether teams finish in first or eighth, they will all participate in the awards ceremony at 4 pm, following the championship game. CHINA, JAPAN AND FINLAND TAKE IN NETS GAME
As an added bonus to their trip to America, the teams from China, Japan and Finland traveled to East Rutherford, New Jersey, to watch the New Jersey Nets take on the Washington Wizards on Friday night.
The buses took the children from Uniondale and made a special detour through Times Square on the way to the game. This was the first time many of the kids had the opportunity to see the bright lights of New York City.
The basketball game was also the first for nearly every one of the international guests. The Chinese kids were particularly excited to watch the game because fellow countryman Yi Jianlian is a member of the Nets.
Following the game, Yi met with the Chinese contingent. One Chinese youngster asked Yi if he had played any hockey. Yi responded by saying he hadn't. Yi signed autographs and took pictures with the Chinese kids, coaches and delegates who were very excited to meet the NBA star. Click here
to read the Lighthouse International Tournament Blog.READ ALSO: