by James Stitt
Though normally separated by thousands of miles and a language barrier, two groups of young athletes are being brought together by their love of hockey.
A group of Waconia 15-year-old hockey players are hosting their counterparts from Russia for a pair of games in the coming weeks. The Waconia team faces off against SKA-Cazprombank at the Waconia Ice Arena on Aug. 24 and Sept. 4. Scott Youngstrand, parent of one of the Waconia players and organizer of the games, said that the players are looking forward to the game.
“They are all very excited,” said Youngstrand. “They’re talking about it non-stop.”
Youngstrand said that the game continues in the great tradition of the U.S. versus Russia rivalry in hockey, which boasts great matchups and great play, including the Miracle on Ice. Youngstrand, who has a passion to grow the sport, said he hopes hockey fans and those new to the game come out to watch.
“Hopefully they’ll see what’s a great game of hockey,” he said.
Youngstrand said the kids should get a lot out of the game, playing a team from a different part of the world. He said that different countries can have a unique style of play, which will be great for the Waconia team to see.
“It’s a great opportunity for them to see the game in a different form,” said Youngstrand.
Though the two teams are meeting to compete against each other on the ice, they will be learning from each other off of it as well. The two teams are set to get together for a barbeque before the first game, and Youngstrand said the kids will enjoy and benefit from meeting other teens from with a different culture.
“It’s a great chance to meet some people from a different country,” he said.
The games are set for Aug. 24 at 6:30 p.m. and Sept. 4 at 7:30 p.m. at the Waconia Ice Arena. The games are open to the public and admission is free. Youngstrand said a big crowd would be great.
“The more people, the better,” he said.
Contact James Stitt at [email protected]