A group of young hockey players from Down Under are getting a crash course on Canadian weather.
The Kaurna Boomerangs arrived in Edmonton on Friday afternoon from Australia, where temperatures are scorching and firefighters have been battling wildfires. Edmonton, on the other hand, is currently experiencing a deep freeze.
The temperature difference between Adelaide, where the team is based, and Edmonton is approximately 50 degrees.
The Boomerangs are an Indigenous hockey team made up of players between 13 and 20 years old. The program started 15 years ago as a way to support and mentor disadvantaged youth.
The trip is a cultural exchange with Indigenous communities around Edmonton. Players will visit with the Calling Lake Minor Hockey Association and Bigstone Cree Nation; they will also play a hockey game with a local team in Maskwacis.
There will also be opportunities for players to see the sights in Edmonton – they will have a practice inside Rogers Place, attend an Oilers game and visit West Edmonton Mall.
Many of the players have never been overseas before and most have never experienced a true Canadian winter.
“I reckon the coldest weather I’ve been in is maybe 10C. I stepped off the plane and the wind punched me in the jaw. I said, ‘I don’t want to be here,’” said Captain Michael Burgoyne, while laughing.
Burgoyne said he is excited for the various activities during the nine days the team will be in Edmonton, adding this is his first international trip.
“It’s an honour to be here,” he said.
Head coach Justine Shaw has lived in Canada before and said the players are really curious about what winter is like.
“A few of these guys are going to go outside and have a few moments of shock before setting into the events of the day,” Shaw said.
Shaw said she understands how hockey brings people together in Canada and is hoping to impart that message on her team.
“For me to be able to bring the boys from Australia here, to show them that culture, to show them how it’s so important for every community to have something like hockey, something that brings people together, something that keeps them doing the right things and being a part of a team environment,” she said.
Shaw also said the players are aware of the support Canada has been sending to Australia to help firefighters battle wildfires there and that they are appreciate of it.
Organizer Kerry Goulet, who is with Ice Hockey Classic, said the trip will be a learning experience – in terms of weather and exchanging Indigenous culture.
“Obviously with the fires, it’s been a really difficult time for everybody.
“I think they’re going to absolutely love it. Obviously coming from hot to cold but more importantly, just the experience – to be in Canada and Edmonton, which is a hockey-crazed town,” he said.
The team leaves Edmonton on Jan. 19.