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Polar Bears Ringette Tour 2004

Day 1


All the athletes and Coach Lonnie in front of the fountain at the Wurzburg residence

After a short delay at the Calgary International Airport, we made it to Europe! Our first stop was Wurzburg, Germany. In Wurzburg we went to the Wurzburg residence which was the home of the Prince Bishop. It was equipped with 350 rooms but we only saw a few of them including the Cathedral. The whole palace was built in only 24 years. This was quick considering there was no special machinery or vehicles to construct it. We thought that it was interesting that the two wings of this building where fire bombed in WWII, but miraculously the center of the building was not harmed. Another highlight were the spectacular ceiling paintings. It houses the largest ceiling painting in the world.

Then we departed Wurzburg to go to Munich. When we got to Munich we stopped at the Olympic Park, where the 1972 Olympics were held. Football(soccer) and various track events were played in this stadium. One of the first terrorist attacks happened at that very Olympics.

After that we went to the famous Munich Hoffbrauhaus and enjoyed a splendid meal and German beer. Prost!

Stacy & Kim

Day 2


Team White with Coach Lonnie in front of this same fountain

Team Red with Coaches Bob & Don in front of the Residence Fountain in Salzburg

Yesterday, we woke up early (what else is new) and took a tour of Salzburg, Austria. We saw many, many churches and learned that most of the churches are Catholic. We learned about the Bishop Princes, some of their ideals and some of the reasons why the buildings and castles were built, which we found was to mostly show off or protect themselves in war. We spent most of the morning with Hans (our tour guide) as he took us around the beautiful city. He showed us the markets and the theatre. What was really interesting was being able to see some of the places where the movie "The Sound of Music" was filmed. We saw the fountain where the kids danced, the fountain that she splashed in, the stairs where the kids learned how to sing "Do, Re, Mi" and the theater where the Vontrapp family said goodbye to Austria before the Captain had to go to war for the Germans. Don't worry, we all got more than our fair share of pictures to share with our family and friends back home. When Hans concluded the tour and said his Goodbyes, we were given two choices. We could either go to the Dachau concentration camp, because we could not go the day before, or we could stay in Salzburg. Most people went back to Germany to see the concentration camp. The people who stayed shopped, walked through the markets and the stores to look for fresh fruit & souvenirs and enjoyed the beautiful sights.

The people who went to the concentration camp also had a very impacting day. We arrived after another long bus ride to a bare, depressing camp, surrounded with barbed wire and filled with haunting secrets. Our group split up and walked through the museum, which was very harsh and full of information that opened many of our eyes. Little did we know that beyond the museum we were able to see the real thing, which scared many of us, and we couldn't believe that this could happen to anyone. We saw where the prisoners slept, which was in hard wooden bunk beds that were pushed together and had to be completely clean or else they would be punished. The sleeping area was only supposed to hold 200 people, instead, they stuffed in 2000 people in these confined areas. We saw the area where the soldiers did roll call and tortured the weak, old, and sick prisoners. If one person would fall, the people were not allowed to help them, even if they were dying. The soldiers had to hide the torture and crime, they did this by killing mass numbers of people. They would line them up and shoot them or another way would be to put many people in the "showers" and instead lock them in and kill them with poisonous gas, and then put the bodies in the cremation machines. Walking through this building was breathtaking as it all seemed so unreal and unbelievably disturbing. We also saw the solitary cells were the prisoners were punished. Some were even put in small standing cells that were so small that their knees touched both sides of the wall and they stayed there for around 72 hours.

This was truly an experience that we wouldn't want to miss, and we believe everyone should get the chance to see one of the many concentrations camps and maybe get a little understanding of the pain and torture that these innocent people had to endure. It was truly an experience that many of us will never forget.

After this depressing and important experience, we took another long bus ride back to our hotel in Austria and had a great dinner, and a good nights sleep in the mountain air.

Jamie & Rebecca

Day 3

Some of us in our
"Michelin man" outfits

Today we took a tour of the Salt Mine near Hallein, Austria. We all had to put on nice white outfits to keep us clean and warm (since the temperature in the mine drops to 10 degrees Celsius). We then hopped onto a mini train that took us into the mine. We walked down the tunnels where they used to chip the salt out. They pumped water into the mine so they could create a brine from which the salt is mined. Then they took the water with the salt in it and evaporated the water so then all they had left was salt. We took a couple of slides (one 24m long and the other 42m long) down further into the mine to get us to the deepest part of the Salzwelten (mine) which was 210m. The mine crosses from Austria to Germany and then back into Austria. It was our 3rd time to Germany in only 4 days!!!! At the end of the tour, we took the mini train back out of the mine. After the tour of the Salt Mine we went to the Celtic Village. It was neat to see where the miners lived 2500 years ago.

We then got back onto the bus and drove to Prague. It was about a 3 hour bus ride to the Austria/Czech Republic border and then about 2 hours to Prague. We checked into the Hotel Duo and rushed to get to the social gathering. All the teams got together for dinner with free beer, a dance and fireworks. It was a awesome day but a long drive.

Melissa & Sandra

Day 4


Fireworks at the players' party the first night in Prague

Today we started out our day with a buffet breakfast at our hotel in Prague, the Hotel Duo. We then jumped on the bus and headed out to the Nizbor Crystal Factory, which is located approximately 35 kms outside of the city. The factory was a small, very old fashioned series of buildings. We were greeted by tour guides who briefly discussed crystals and then led us through the step by step process of crystal making. It was a real eye opener into the amount of work put into making crystal products. We were astonished by the lack of technology throughout the plant. The workers used dirty, dusty, rusted out equipment that looked like it was never cleaned and was probably from the early 1900's. We also noticed that it seemed that safety was not an important aspect to the workers, only 2 of the workers that were carving the lines of designs into the crystalworks wore safety glasses and only 1 worker wore a safety mask. It seemed as though safety was not a high priority, yet it looked like there were many risks involved. We then were set loose in the giftshop! There were many different souvenirs, ranging from small figurines to elaborate vases, with everything from crystal flowers, elephants, glasses, and ashtrays in between. The prices ranged from about $2.50CA to $100.00CA; everything was handcrafted and very beautiful. Pretty much everyone in our group came out with some purchases. Mrs. Ballard definitely won the shopping award for this stop! She came out with numerous large bags filled to the brim! The factory also gave us all a small gift, everyone either received a small decorative heart or little bird figurine.

We were then off to the lunch at McDonalds, and let us tell you, it's NOT the same as in Canada. With our nutritious lunch in our bellies, we headed to the arena for the games.

Game 1 Red Vs Tikkakoski
The Polar Bears Team Red were off to a slow start, and were down 3-1 by the end of the first period and they managed to come back with a goal, but in the end were not able to pull it off. The 3rd period was suddenly cut short due to an ice scheduling problem and the game ended with a 4-2 victory for the Finnish team.

Game 2 White Vs Finnish Selects
Polar Bears Team White started off with a quick goal by Alex Reginato within the 1st minute of play. They quickly tallied up 2 more goals and ended the first period with a 3-1 lead. In the second period, the Finns managed to squeeze 2 goals past goaltender Kelsey DeForest. With the game tied @ 3-3, the teams battled back and forth to a 6-6 tie. Stacey Johnson had a goal, Solana Green tallied 2, and Dayna Ballard added to the score. Kristina van Eden and Tracey Lefebre were very strong on defence, leading the team to a deadlocked tie. It was a tough fought battle, with goals being added till the last 7 seconds of the game.

We then went to a restaurant in downtown Prague for a lovely dinner of soup, pork, potatoes, and strudel.

Solana & Erin

Day 5


Team Red vs. Team White

Today, Michelle Lennox and Kristina van Eden had the opportunity to aid the Finnish Select team while they played against their opposing Finnish team, Tikkakoski, due to a shortage of players. The Finnish Select team won 6-4. The rest of the team had a bit of sleep, as we got to wake up at 8:30. After a quick breakfast we were off to the rink for a exciting day ahead of us. Once we got to the rink, we were all anticipating playing the one thing that we came here for...ringette! The first game the two Canada teams battled it out, in the end the white team ended up with the victory, but it was a hard fought battle for both of the teams!

Each of the Canada teams still had another game ahead of them.Team White played the Tikkakoski ringette team and the Red team played the Finland Select team. Despite team Red's efforts, they were a few goals short of a win, however they did an excellent job representing our country with their skill and poise. Directly after team Red's game, team White played the Finland Tikkakoski team. They came out strong and ready for a fight. With great effort team White came out victorious, especially with theoutstanding performance of team captain Melissa Kury who scored 7 goals in this game!

After the game, everybody went to Jagr's bar for dinner. Jagr's bar was right in the middle of downtown so everyone got to see the beautiful lights of Prague.

Alex & Brittany

Day 6

Team White with their gold medals

Coach preparation before the final game

After an early breakfast, Team Red & Team White headed back to the rink to face off in the semi-finals. The teams decided to mix the players around and have a fun game before playing in the bronze medal (Team Red) and gold medal (Team White) games. Team Red placed fourth in the tournament and Team White won the gold medal 13 seconds into overtime against the Finland Select Team. Afterwards, the two teams headed off to the awards ceremony where Team White received their medals. They finished off this successful day by exploring downtown Prague by night.

Michelle & Kristina S.

Day 7

A view of the castle in Prague on our last day there

At the Prague airport, the Lefebre family with our Czech guide, Radek (in the orange t-shirt)

August 15, 2004

We had an early start today to make sure we had enough time to shop on our last day in Prague. We went to downtown Prague and everyone split into smaller groups to do their own thing. Some spend all their free time shopping but most went to the Charles Bridge, which is 750 years old. A number of people also walked up a long, winding road to the Prague Castle -- making it there just in time to see the changing of the guards for the President of the Czech Republic. About 10 of the group went to climb the clock tower in the Old Town Square and get a great look around the city. The ones who went to the castle enjoyed a great view of the city from up there. Everybody was able to get in some more shopping before it was time to get back on the bus.

Then it was a short bus ride to the Konopiste Castle, home of Franz Ferdinand, the Archduke whose assassination in Sarajevo precipitated the start of WW1. He was a keen hunter and we saw about 2,000 of the trophies he had mounted on the walls -- he is supposed to have something like 300,000 trophies altogether. We had a bit of time for more shopping near the castle before we started for the airport.

We stopped at McDonald's for lunch on the way to the Prague airport for our flight to Helsinki. It was a 2 hour flight followed by a 2 hour bus ride to our hotel in Turku where we checked in at 1:30am. I think we all fell asleep pretty fast after our long day.

Kelsey & Serena

Day 8

Team White with their
opponent Naantali

Team Red with their opponent
Turku in the bomb shelter arena

August 16, 2004

We are now at Hotel Centro in Turku, Finland. Our day started off with a tour of the Naantali Finnish ringette club's training facilities. Ringette is the most popular sport in Naantali with approximately 250 players out of a population of around 20 000. The league consists of 9 teams which draws an average crowd of around 400 to 500 people each game. The Naantali players are considered to be professional athletes with living expenses covered and a trip at the end of each season. We then had a short walking tour of the 'old town' of Naantali. Team White played the Naantali team and lost by one goal in an intense game. We ate supper at the Player's Pub and then continued on to Turku for the second game which was held in a bomb shelter, circa WWII. The facility was converted into a dual arena in 1985. Team Red played the Turku B team and were defeated 4-2 (no Canadian refs were present). We were all exhausted and headed back to the hotel. Only 6 more days in Europe.

Tracy & Cassandra

Day 9


On tour at the castle in Turku


August 17, 2004

Today was another busy day which started with a bus tour of the city of Turku. The tour lasted around two hours and was a nice way to see the city due to the rainy weather that we have been enduring for the past couple of days. During the tour we learned a lot about Turku, including the fact that Turku is celebrating it's 775th birthday which makes it the oldest city in Finland. Finland became an independent country in 1917 following the fall of the Russian government, a result of WW1, which was in control of Finland. Our tour took us through the three aspects that were considered to be crucial to the development and success of a city, the Cathedral, Castle and river. We were fortunate to have the opportunity to get off the bus and visit the castle which proved to be a highlight of the tour.

We had a few rare hours of free time to relax or shop before we drove back to Naantali where the Red team took on the Junior ringette team of Naantali. The White team then travelled back to Turku to play an exhibition game versus the Turku A team, leaving the Red team in Naantali to spend a few hours of free time until the bus returned to escort both teams to supper at a harbour restaurant called Kala-Trappi. Unfortunately, both teams failed to defeat the tough Finnish competition today but we all look forward to our next games and challenges.

Jen & Sharleen

Day 10

The group at the Sibelius Monument that we visited after leaving the Rock Church

Zamboni outside the arena in Espoo -- guess where the snow is dumped?

Today was a relaxing day compared to the rest of our trip. We took a nice bus ride from Turku to Helsinki and checked into our new Hotel. (Hotel Arthur) We ate lunch at the hotel and then took a 2 hour bus tour of Helsinki. During the bus tour we stopped at a church called "The Rock Church". It was originally built as a bomb shelter for World War 2 but in the late 60's was turned into a church. (Made of rocks!) After our tour Team White took the night off, as they did not have a game, and experienced downtown Helsinki. However, Team Red got prepared to be transported to Espoo where they played the local team. It was a tough fought battle but unfortunately they came up a few goals short. Brittany Loh and Sandra Martin were the goal scorers for the team, however, everyone should be commended on their excellent play and sportsmanship. Also, Sandra Martin was voted Player of the Game and received a new Exel Stick from the host team. The night was capped off with a nice relaxing stroll around downtown Helsinki.

Kristina v.E & Allison

Day 11

The group on a cannon at the Suomenlinna Islands fortress

Today in Helsinki we arose to clear skies, so the teams decided that it would be a good time for a visit of the Suomenlinna Islands, approximately a 15 minute boat ride from the Helsinki harbour. These islands were home to Swedish, Russian, and Finnish soldiers many years ago, and we learned that the entire fortress actually stretched onto 6 islands! Our tour guide was very entertaining, his vivid descriptions and the fluctuating pitch to his voice definitely made the historical aspects of our tour much easier to listen to. After about an hour and half of our guided tour around the main island, we were left to wander around and look in the many gift shops for souvenirs of this beautiful place.

We returned to our hotel for a group buffet lunch, where Team White was left with a few hours before their game and Team Red was able to prepare for their night off. Some of Team Red started out with an hour and a half boat tour of the canals, while the others took the opportunity to shop for some more gifts. Our hotel is conveniently placed within downtown Helsinki, so its hard for us girls to resist some good shopping!

While Team Red was enjoying the sights, Team White was playing the first of a 3 game medal round. The game started off slow, but Team White quickly pulled ahead in the first 20 minute period. The second period had some questionable calls, but the girls pulled through and showed that what mattered the most was to come off with a win - which they did. The final score was 7-6, and after 3 periods it was a welcome win.

Later in the night, both of the teams enjoyed the Helsinki night life in various ways. Before the fireworks Team Red decided to take a late supper before heading off for the show. They enjoyed Italian food at a very nice Restaurant that actually had english menus! The food was excellent, especially their pastas and pizza. When the team had first gone into dinner it was beginning to rain very heavily, but luckily it had stopped as they left for the show. The fireworks were themselves amazing, as the girls had snagged a perfect spot right on the wharf. The first show was pretty much your ordinary fireworks with streamers and pinwheels, the next shows were much more sophisticated with hearts, happy faces, and spinning wheels of colour. There were some very interesting ones that would shoot up and then explode twice into different colours and drift for about a minute before going out. All in all despite the damp weather the Fireworks were excellent and well worth the wait. Unfortunately Team White was not able to catch the show, however they did enjoy a familiar meal at the Sports Academy, a downtown sports club where the food was very close to North American favourites, like bacon cheese burgers and pasta. After everyone was stuffed full with food and "beverages", the night was left to explore for both teams, and we are sure that the girls (and parents) took advantage of the opportunity.

Breanne & Chelsea

Day 12


Information Tuusula had posted around town, "The Canadians are coming, are you ready?"


Team Red at attention for the national anthem before their game


August 20, 2004

Today, during the day, everybody was given free time to shop and sightsee around downtown Helsinki, and everybody scrambled to spend the last of their cash. Some of the girls checked out the markets located right on the harbour where lots of crafty and original items are available. Others scavenged through the many downtown stores that are only found in Finland to bring home a piece of original Finnish fashion. In the afternoon, both teams took off to Tuusula Arena. The first game was played by the Red team against the Tuusula B team. It was a very close, and exciting game, but ended in a disappointing 5-3 loss after two periods. However, Holly Favell continued to stun us all with her amazing saves. The White team had a hard fought battle against the Tuusula A Team. Our goalies, Jen Laxton and Kelsey Deforest, both had absolutely amazing games, coming up with save after unbelievable save. Unfortunately though, we came up a few goals short and were defeated. Interestingly enough, we played three twenty minute periods, with floods in between (which is absolutely unheard of back in Canada) and it turned into almost a two and a half hour game! Our day concluded with a long drive back to the hotel and then, for a VERY late dinner, with most of the girls scrambling around the streets of downtown Helsinki, successfully finding a McDonald's open at midnight.

Lisa & Erica

Team Red with their opponents Tuusula

Team Red & Team White in between
games in Tuus

Day 13

Team Red with their opponent, Jarvenpaa

Team Red & Team White with their silver platters

Team White coach Lonnie Krahn with his "Mr. Congeniality" award

Team red coaches shows Bob Barnes and Don Van Tetering dressed up in their Canadian ties for their final game

August 21, 2004

This morning gave us another chance to sleep in. Majority of the girls went shopping, but a few groups stayed behind at the hotel to catch some extra z's. Today was our last day of playing ringette. We had a busy and tough day with three games. Team Red played 2 games while team White only played one. After finally getting into the equipment room we boarded the bus and traveled to the Helsinki Old Ice Hall and dropped off Team Red, where they played their first game. After a long fought battle the score was not in favour of Team Red. They fell a few goals short of winning. From there Team Red was forced to board the bus with equipment still on to go to Jarvenpaa to play their second game of the day.

The next game was played by Team White against Jarvenpaa. After 9 games of challenging ringette, Team White's hearts were still in the game but their bodies were unfortunately not. We ran out of steam and were defeated by a score of 9-5.

After arriving in Jarvenpaa Team Red almost immediately hit the ice for their second game. It was an extremely exciting and challenging game. Team Red still had a burst of energy left for the last game. They defeated the Jarvenpaa team with a score of 5-4. This was the most exciting game because it was Team Red's first win of the trip.

After each game in Jarvenpaa one player from each team was presented with an MVP award. For Team White the award went to Stacy Johnson and for Team Red, it was Holly Favell. Both Stacy and Holly had amazing performances. Stacy scored one goal and had three assists and Holly played an amazing game having faced 43 shots in their game. After the games both Canadian teams and the Finnish team sat down for a dinner together. Awards were given from the coaches of each Canadian team to selected players for their performances throughout the tour. A special "Mr. Congeniality" award was given to Lonnie (a.k.a. Big Bear) for his incredible coaching skills and awesome personality.

Dayna & Holly

The Finnish Experience
Czech Ringette Challenge Cup 2004

An international ringette tournament, Czech Ringette Challenge Cup, was arranged in Prague in the middle of August 2004. Four teams, two from Finland and two from Canada, participated in this tournament, and we are sure that every girl enjoyed this international ringette atmosphere both on and off the ice.

Last spring, girls studying in two different sport high schools decided to unite their forces and set up a team for a tournament in Prague. And when it was time to leave for the tournament we were nine enthusiastic ringette players ready to face the “challenge”.

We had really been looking forward to our trip and not very many of us had been to the Czech Republic before. Some of us even travelled abroad for the first time in their life. That made our trip even more exciting, and our stay in Prague was truly filled with new experience.

The ringette tournament itself was great. For us it was little bit different to play with international rules but it was still a lot of fun and good experience. And taking into consideration the fact that it was only August and the beginning of the ringette season we managed to play fairly well. There was definitely some good ringette out there at times. The competition for the gold medals was very even, and the other Canadian team reached their gold after beating our team (Finland select) in overtime…but in this tournament silver medals were lots of fun as well.

The weather was quite nice and warm during our stay, and unfortunately it was “pretty warm” inside the arena as well. So the circumstances at the arena were quite a shock for us at first…we had never played at the arena where the temperature was +20 degrees (Celsius)…but now we have.

In addition to the tournament we also had some time to have a look at the City of Prague. And during the traditional Czechs dinner and the tours to the Castle of Prague, a crystal factory and a beer factory we learned some new things of local history and culture, and the Czechs' way of living.

As the ringette tournament was arranged at the same time as the Hockey Challenge Cup there were many young athletes in town. The day we arrived in Prague we attended players' party where all the participants had gathered for dinner and social evening.

During the tournament we made friends with the players from other teams and after the final we decided with the Canadians to spend our last night in Prague together. Prague by night was a lot of fun!

Our trip to the Prague tournament was awesome and we all had a good time! Memorable experience! Now we are just looking forward to next year's tournament. It would be great to participate again. In our opinion this tournament is a good opportunity for young players to get international experience and get to know players from other countries. We also believe that this tournament is one of the ways we can get more countries involved and improve our wonderful sport of ringette!

Anu Pitkänen / Tiina Packalen

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