Medalling in Anaheim
“This definitely put Wetaskiwin on the inline (hockey) map as we were entered (in the international tournament in Anaheim, California) as Wetaskiwin Jr. Ice, not as Team Alberta so we represented Wetaskiwin and hopefully we made our city proud.” These were the proud words used by Craig Podritske when he described the major achievements of local inline hockey players who competed in Tournament AAu Junior Olympics and FIRS World Championships July 11-22.
The players that played for Team Alberta in the 10U (under 10 years) competition and receiving two copper medals each were Tanner Moser and Kylen Hetzner. Dawson Podritske competed in the 12U division and brought home a Bronze Medal and a Copper Medal. Assistant Coach of Team ALBERTA, Craig Podritske received a Bronze and a Copper Medal. “When we went to Anaheim we went with realistic expectations” explained Podritske. “We felt if we won a few games and had the experience of playing in an international tournament, we would have achieved our goal”.
Moser, Hetzner and Podritske can be extremely proud of what they have achieved. Not only did they have to try out for a position on Team Alberta in Edmonton, they made it and earned medals playing against international teams. As the boys pointed out, “Now we are home I think our classmates and friends are excited for us. Perhaps we can be role models for others”.
Representing the Wetaskiwin Junior Ice team and receiving one Gold and one Bronze medal were: Taylor McCallum, Lane Lightning, Cory Nicholson, Ethan Morrow, Mitchell Bushnell, Mathhew Berube, Brandon Robertson, Cody Ludwig, Patrick Larivee, Ryley Packett and Damien Rasmussen. Also receiving a gold and bronze medal were Head Coach, Craig Podritske; Assistant Coach, Garry Bushnell; and Manager, Denise Bushnell.
Inline hockey is a game similar to ice hockey except that it is played on a smooth dry surface rather than on ice and during play, only four skaters and one goaltender are on the floor. In total, a team consists of three lines of two forwards, three pairs of defensemen, and two goalies. The puck is made of a plastic material that is much lighter than the rubber ice hockey puck.
Although other rules of play are quite similar, inline hockey is a less physical sport which results in a game more focused on skill and speed and less on using size and strength to out play the opponent. With only four skaters, players have more floor surface to maneuver and make plays so the games are typically fast-paced and high scoring.
Following a couple years of coaching the Alberta’s Summer games inline team, Craig Podritske was approached by minor hockey parents inquiring if inline hockey could be brought to Wetaskiwin. “Wetaskiwin has always been a great hockey community and we figured there is a lot of talented ice hockey players here so why not inline? We started the 14U team last year and with the help of Garry and Denise Bushnell we made it grow this year to five local teams which included 55 players in our first year. The majority of our players are from Wetaskiwin or West of Wetaskiwin plus three from Beaumont. Our talent level varies from the beginner to the advanced players such as the ones that played for Team Alberta.” Fees to play in the Wetaskiwin league from May to the end of June are approximately $250.00.
The Anaheim tournament
“This tournament is played in Anaheim and for the Wetaskiwin players to play against countries from all across the world was an unbelieveable experience. Coming from small town Wetaskiwin and to be on the International stage and to win a gold and bronze was amazing. This opens the door for hopefully other local players to try out for team Alberta next year and to attend a tournament no player will ever forget.” Some of the teams competing in International and Club tournaments were Great Britain, Hong Kong, Australia, Korea, New Zealand, China, Venezuela, Mexico, USA, Colombia, Argentina, Italy, Brazil and many many more.
“As a coach and I can speak for my players, it was a grueling 14 games played in plus 30 heat.” The team was slow to adjust to the hot temperatures and overwhelming excitement. “We had a slow start going 0 and 3 but after addressing a few problems changed our plan and actually went 9 wins 1 loss after that. The city of Wetaskiwin should be very proud of all the boys as the represented Wetaskiwin with nothing but class and the team made friends with many different countries.”
Podritske concluded by acclaiming, “I see the sport growing in Wetaskiwin as there is some very good young talent here that can set their goals to either play in the Alberta Summer Games next July in Airdrie or maybe going a little higher and play in the Worlds back in Anaheim.”
The parents, coaching staff and players extend a, “special thank you to all our sponsors and supporters, especially Pioneer Chrysler who looked after the Team Canada home and away jersey’s and pants for all the players and Manluk Industries for providing Team Canada shirts and shorts for our Wetaskiwin Jr Ice to wear to games. Your contributions are greatly appreciated.”
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