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Hockey in China Blog: Farewell

by Deb Francisco / New York Islanders

Charles Wang and the New York Islanders have invested many resources in helping hockey grow in China through the Project Hope Foundation. NHL.com’s Deborah Francisco will be blogging about the hockey scene in China and about Project Hope as she coaches a week-long hockey camp in Harbin, China.

To read previous posts in this blog, CLICK HERE.

I cried on the last day of camp as the kids lined up one last time to say, “Thank you, teacher.” My fellow coach, Jen Dersken, and I broke a cultural norm as we wrapped each kid in our arms for a good-bye hug. At first the kids were unsure, but they all came back for a second hug, and many high-fives and fist-bumps as well.

The last day of camp was a grueling 14-hour day for us that started with an ice session at 8 am and the final ice-session wrapped up at 10 pm. The kids played a full scrimmage, played in the street-hockey championship, sat through one final coach’s talk and then hit the ice one last time for some flow drills and a shootout. At the end of the shootout our head coach insisted that we finish off the camp with a coach’s shootout. The kids screamed with glee at the prospect of seeing their coaches dazzle and get denied in turn.

I missed my first shot but sunk a back-hander on the second attempt. I’m not sure if the kids cheered louder for a missed attempt by 20-year-oled Shaun Cormier or for the bar-down beauty that Jen sunk. Either way, the kids were visibly sad to get off the ice after the last ice-time and I was equally as sad.

One of our coaches, Art Kung from Calgary, brought his 12-year-old son Evan along this week to participate in the camp. Evan and Art are of Chinese descent but don’t speak fluent Chinese. The way Evan interacted with the kids you never would have known that he doesn't speak fluent Chinese. By the end of the week Evan had morphed into one of the most popular kids at camp. It was so sweet to see the friendship he formed with a 12-year-old Chinese boy named An Dongxu.

On the last day of camp Evan and An Dongxu exchanged jerseys and e-mail addresses. An dongxu proudly donned Evan's Hockey Camp's International jersey, and Evan proudly sported Au-Dong-Su's yellow-and-red China sweater. Before parting ways An Dongxu explained that he is going to Canada this year to play hockey and he hopes to connect with Evan while he is there.

On our last night in Harbin we were invited to skate with a local men's team that rosters several former national players from Team China. It was such an honor to wear black, red and yellow and to skate with men who had become our friends throughout the course of the week.

Saying goodbye is never easy and this week was no exception. I had grown fond of each of the children that I coached this week and all I could do is wish them the best and hope that they apply the things we taught them and continue to pursue their passion for hockey.

As for me, I will return to New York City with new eyes. I’ll appreciate day-to-day comforts more, I won't take my access to hockey for granted and I’ll think of my new friends in China often.

HOCKEY IN CHINA BLOG

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