As we gear up for our third annual trip to compete in the Strasbourg tournament, France, it is only right we look back on the success of the past two years.
In May 2013 the Clovers took their first trip abroad to compete in a small Recreational Hockey Tournament in Strasbourg, France. Not knowing what to expect the 19 fresh faced Celtic Clovers members pulled together their gear and headed for Dublin Airport. Coming from a hard 2 months on Inline skates in a hall that was a third the size of an ice hockey rink we were all excited to be back on the ice and doing some damage!
The tournament consisted of 8 teams, 7 teams made up of French towns and city’s and a rowdy bunch in green and white representing Dublin. Entering the rink for the first time we found the local U12’s team finishing up their training session. We quickly recognised the level of hockey being played in Strasbourg as the miniature men and women floated by with a cold, confident stare, which could have only said “you’re in my house now buddy”.
That night we took to the ice for the first match, taking on the local Strasbourg Gryphons B team for a full stop clock game. Our experience of the U12’s really started to hit home as we discovered this team would not be a push over. None the less we preceded to hold our own for the first period of the game only to have the large open ice start to take its toll in us. At the final whistle we had played well but conceded the game and the Strasbourg Gryphons teams, hosting the tournament, took us out to their local bar to bond which is probably why I don’t remember the score…
The next morning it all kicked off. At the rink at 9am we found ourselves pitted against famous towns and cities including Geneve, Dammarie in Paris, Orleans & Mont Blanc, some of who were made up of ex pro players and young flash prospects. Taking to the ice with Geneve we were told by Stephane of the Gryphons if we scored on their keeper to keep the puck, something Peter McGovern took to heart & after putting one past him was presented with the puck after the game.
It wasn’t all about the hockey though and after a hard day of 3 games we headed out on the town for some R&R. Close to our hotel we congregated around a small French bar of which we became quite fond. From here it gets a little blurry but when the smoke cleared stories from the nights spilled out included self tanning/makeup videos and Houdini magic tricks.
Back at the rink the Clovers were finding themselves out matched in every game, and while Strasbourg B had commented that they could see us improving as we played it wasn’t enough to earn us a victory against teams constantly training on ice. This tournament however had another competition, one in which we had all had ample training. During the games there was beer on sale, and each beer bought was marked down for your designated team. While we were in the ice our numbers stayed relatively low in an effort to give us every advantage of winning but as the tournament came to a close we had well and truly caught up!
With the tournament over and our final night on the beer we reflected on what we had accomplished over the 3 short days. We had played 8 games, drank 225 (registered) beers, won the Beer Cup, made countless new hockey friends, swapped a multitude of Jerseys and had been invited back for the following year before we had left! We had arrived as the only outside team and left feeling we had been welcomed by each and every member. It is a testament to both the host teams (Strasbourg Gryphons) and supporting teams for french hockey and from that day forward this trip has been the highlight of our hockey calendar. A big thank you goes out to Stephane Mougenot, Morgan Madec & the Gryphons who organised the event and have made each year a special one. Our Jerseys were popular too!!!