Written by Stuart Miller-Davis
Travelling across an ocean gives a team a really good opportunity to get to know one another.
The Carleton Ravens men’s hockey team got to do just that when they travelled to France, Germany, Belgium, and Switzerland to play four exhibition games in a week.
“It accomplished what we wanted to accomplish,” head coach Shaun Van Allen said. “It was a great bonding trip for our team. Guys got to know each other very quick away from the rink.”
While the focus of the trip might be on getting the chance to play top competition from pro leagues in Europe off of the ice Europe offered a special chance for the players to visit historical sites such as Vimy Ridge and Dachau concentration camp memorial site.
“It really puts things into perspective of how lucky we are to play hockey every day and live where we do,” third-year forward Dakota Odgers said.
The team also had the chance to visit Mount Pilatus which Odgers called “one of the most beautiful places in the world.”
“I thought it really brought our team together,” Odgers said. “We really had some time to get to know each other and the new guys, it helped them fall into the team.”
Fifth-year forward Alex Boivin had the chance to go to Europe with the Ravens back in his first year and it offered him a different perspective to come back.
“Being a new guy coming in, obviously, you’re not super comfortable but being out in Europe and getting to know the guys is a really good way to step forward into a team and feel comfortable going into a season. To be able to understand that as a fifth-year now it was great to incorporate these new guys into our team.”
Odgers and Boivin pointed to different ways in which the trip brought the team together.
“Each city we went to we had a group of guys that did a tour of that city,” Odgers said. “They were random groups, new guys, old guys, that we had to research a topic together and then you had to present it to the team. All those cities you had to get together in your groups and maybe get out of your comfort zone a bit and talk publicly with the team. I think it gave each guy a voice and it was a special experience for us.”
Boivin recalled the team’s game against German DEL 2 team EHC Freiburg.
“That was the biggest point where I saw people coming together and sacrificing themselves and wanting to win,” he said. “When you see that early in the season, obviously, you’re optimistic.”
And even though the rinks may have been unfamiliar for the players the atmospheres were special.
“During the games, everyone was standing and cheering,” Odgers said. “The drums were going. People showed up to a 7:30 game at 5:30. Something like that is something you never get to see in North America.”
“They kind of have the soccer mentality, lots of chants, lots of drums,” Boivin said. “We were the away team, but I drew a lot of energy from them. It was cool to be the bad guys and going after that.”
The trip also offered a look into a possible future for some of the Ravens nearing the end of their university careers.
“It gets them to see a different part of the world,” Van Allen said. “When some guys are done school, I think it gives them an opportunity to go play in Europe and gave them a chance to try it on a small scale to see if they would enjoy playing or enjoy living over there.”
The team played their first game against the French team Aimeens captained by former Carleton captain Joey West.
The trip ended with another familiar face in former NHL player Mark Fraser. Fraser had skated with the Ravens in the past.
“He had skated with us for two years there and all our guys that know him were happy to know that he’s found a spot,” Van Allen said. “He had helped our guys when he practiced with us and it was a good night. It was a fitting way to end our fourth exhibition game over there.”
Going into the season on the back of an experience they will never forget is something special.
“I think just having an appreciation for Carleton and for they’ve done for us, it’s cool to have that opportunity,” Boivin said.