ALMATY, Kazakhstan (U SPORTS) – One day before the start of competition at the 28th Winter Universiade, Team Canada had a chance to share its love of hockey with the population of Almaty thanks to a community event organized by the Sport Concept foundation in cooperation with the Embassy of Canada to Kazakhstan.
Cheered on by teammates, coaches and other members of the red and white delegation, 10 Canadian hockey players joined His Excellency Shawn Steil for a skills clinic and a shinny game with dozens of local kids. Hundreds of proud parents and Almaty residents attended the event at an outdoors community rink built by Sport Concept, a non-profit organization whose goal is to build hockey rinks and other sports facilities in each district of the city to help make the life of Kazakhstani children better.
“It was amazing to be here today to witness Canadian hockey players from U SPORTS sharing some skills and their love for the game of hockey with kids from Almaty,” said H.E. Steil, Canada’s ambassador to Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic and Tajikistan. “Like many young Canadians, I grew up playing hockey and I can honestly say that I might not be where I am today without hockey and the many lessons we learn from playing the game.”
Representing Canada’s women’s team on the ice were Kelty Apperson from St. Thomas University, Jessica Cormier from Montreal, Katelyn Gosling from Western, Valerie Lamenta from Guelph and Kaitlin Willoughby from Saskatchewan.
The men’s squad was represented by Olivier Hinse from Concordia, Martin Lefebvre from UQTR, Michael McNamee from Carleton, as well as McGill teammates Nathan Chiarlitti and Mathieu Pompei.
“The event was awesome. It was pretty amazing to see the kids and be out here with them,” said Apperson, a prolific forward who was named an alternate captain for the FISU tournament. “As much as language can be a bit of a barrier, hockey brought us all together and it was a fun event to be a part of. It made us proud to be Canadians and proud to be in Kazakhstan.”
“It was an incredible experience. We are really blessed to have been able to take part in this,” added Hinse, a skilled forward who will captain the men’s side. “Thank you to the people of Almaty for allowing us to live such an experience in their city. The people are so friendly, they made us feel like superstars. It was truly a magnificent event.”
Team Canada officially jumps into the action on Saturday at the world university games when the women’s hockey team faces China at 4:30 p.m. local (5:30 a.m. Eastern Time), live online at FISU TV. A few hours after the game, the Canadian flag bearer for Sunday’s opening ceremonies will be announced at a reception hosted by H.E. Steil.
A Canadian delegation of 122 is attending the Universiade, including 88 student-athletes in alpine skiing, biathlon, cross country skiing, curling (women & men), hockey (women & men) and snowboarding.
In total, over 1,600 athletes from 57 countries will take part in the biennial multisport event in the Central Asian city of 1.7 million.