As most of us plan vacations, whether a weekend getaway or a long vacation far away, we turn to travel agents, websites, social media and travelers reviews for guidance. In most cases this works and we plan our trips and they tend to work out in the end. But when you are preparing to move 66 teenagers and 20 staff members through two European countries for two weeks, pictures are nice to look at but it doesn’t prepare you and your staff for day to day items that you need to be aware of when moving this many people.
These past two weeks of travel in Czech Republic and Slovakia was the fourth time I have been apart of a pre-tourney planning trip. As much as you can go on to FlightNetwork.com for flights or Bookings.com for hotels it doesn’t give you the big picture of the little things that need to be focused on.
Is there enough restaurants in the area for 66 players and what are the prices? Is there bottled water available locally, is it carbonated or still? Does the trolley service run the hours you need and what is the prices depending on time of day? Is the area safe to walk to rinks from hotel? All these questions can’t be answered by “Google” and as it may sound like small issues, times it by 66 teenagers and it can make for a slow down in the team travel and day to day comfort. Majority of the staff have traveled to these areas, but for all our General Managers, team staff and support staff to have these details ahead of time, makes the trip smoother for the entire JTC family.
As I have been to Plzen five times prior to this trip, there is still things that get noticed each time that may have been missed or noted to follow up with for the next trip. As usual Mr. Josef Kadane who is with the Plzen Ball Hockey Association always welcomes the Canadian teams with open arms for training camp. It was a great meeting with Josef as well as the area restaurants and hotels. As I was looking for alternatives to hotel locations, I was not pleased with some of the conditions, and in the end the Angelo Hotel will host the JTC group. This hotel is classed as a 4star hotel and all three managers I have met with look forward to our group again. The training camp facility is perfect as they have the same tile floor we will be playing on in the worlds. I thank Josef Kadane once again for hosting the JTC training camp for a third time in the past 5 years.
After Plzen, we took a train to Bratislava, Slovakia and met with the Slovak Organizers of the World tournament. Right from day one, Chief executive of WJCH 2014 organizing committee Mr. Robert Kozel and Host Organizer Committee member Mr. Vincent Kutka were amazing hosts as they took us to view the host hotels in the arena area as well as the arena facilities. Discussed ground transportation for the players and staff as well as the set up of the dressing rooms for all three Team Canada squads. With Canada in the past having on average 60-80 family and friends fly over to support our players, Robert and Vincent showed the sights to see in Bratislava in the afternoon. That same evening we traveled to Nitra, Slovakia to meet ex-NHLer Mr. Jozef Stumpel who has been a huge supporter and builder of Slovakia Ball Hockey and is part of the organizing committee for the June event. Along with his colleagues we were taken to a 2,000 seat building they are converting in to a year round indoor ball hockey arena. From answering questions, showing the sights, and welcoming Canada to the upcoming world event, I was very impressed with their hospitality and their same love and passion for this sport that Canadians have.
Both Plzen, Czech Republic and Bratislava, Slovakia are beautiful cities and we feel very confident of the safety for our players and staff as well as being greeted with open arms from both ball hockey associations.
Once again to our ball hockey friends on the other side of the Atlantic, thank you for your kindness and support of our Junior Team Canada program. As much as we may be rivals on the floor, the hospitality, the European experience and event atmosphere that this event will bring, will be a highlight of many of these young Canadian players for the rest of their lives.
CBHA High Performance Minor Director
U16, U18 & U20 Junior Team Canada Program