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North Rockland's Experience of a Lifetime

by Matthew Calamia / New York Rangers

Despite none being out of high school or old enough to vote, the experience of a lifetime of traveling across the world to play the game they love was not wasted on North Rockland Youth Hockey.

The North Rockland team spent last week traveling across Sweden to its two biggest cities to first help run a youth hockey clinic and then take part in a friendly match with Frolunda's Under-14 squad in Gothenburg. The players know this opportunity probably will never present itself again.

"It was great," said 13-year-old Feroze Schenk on the trip's final night in Stockholm. "It's been such a great opportunity. I've really enjoyed it. It's a one-in-a-lifetime experience and it's one of the best experiences of my life."

The team arrived in Stockholm Monday before taking a cross-country train ride Tuesday to Gothenburg. Later that day, they met Rangers goaltender and Swedish icon Henrik Lundqvist . On Wednesday, the team helped to run a Rangers Assist Youth Hockey clinic at Frolundaborg before taking on the U14 team.

"It's so cool to be here and to play hockey with my team," said Connor Frawley, 15. "Just to think about it - this may be the one time I can come to Sweden. I've just tried to make the best of it and have fun."

While the experience the players won't soon forget, it was also a learning experience their parents know will benefit them moving forward.

Just the way the team got to Sweden by donating the most used hockey equipment in a contest run by the Rangers taught these youngsters about community and giving back, according to Connor's mom, Jen.

"Especially in our world today, the sense of community, even in another country," Jen said when asked what she thought the players would remember the most. "Community service isn't just in your own backyard. It's globally."

The impact of that service was evident on the faces of the children who took part in Tuesday's clinic, who after sought out the autographs of the North Rockland players, treating them like mini celebrities.

"It was nice to help them," said Morgan Frawley, 17. "None of them spoke English, so it was a big barrier." Morgan said she and her teammates relied on hand gestures and would "ask the [Swedish] coaches how to say 'good job' or 'skate' and 'puck.'"

"It seemed like such a big deal" to the Swedish children, Morgan said. "It wasn't a big deal for us but it was for them. It made us feel good."

While exhibition against Frolunda did not go North Rockland's way, the experience, according to Morgan, trumped any score.

"We're not going to be thinking about who won or lost because that isn't relevant," she said. "It's just awesome that we got to come here and play hockey and interact" with their players.

That interaction was on display when the two teams and their families sat down for dinner. Any language barriers were taken down quickly as the cafeteria filled with laughs and conversation.

"I love meeting new people so it was great," Schenk said. "It really showed us what life is like as compared to the US, and it's not really that different. A lot of them spoke English well as if it was their native language and it made communicating with them easier."

In the end, the trip to Sweden is five days no one involved will ever forget.

"I'll never forget this," said coach Steven D'Alisdra. "It was a beautiful country. We had a lot of fun here."

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