NAX Elite 15s Host Berlin Polar Bears
But that’s what happened on February 6 when Germany’s U16 Berlin Polar Bears made their way to the town of less than 7,000 to play against the Northern Alberta Xtreme (NAX) Elite 15s.
After capturing bronze at a tournament in Calgary, the Polar Bears were headed north to Edmonton to watch German star Leon Draisaitl and the Edmonton Oilers play the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Catching word of their travels, NAX coach Steve March reached out to the Polar Bears and after a quick conversation with the Berlin coach, the two thought it was a great opportunity to bring together both teams for an exhibition game at Devon’s Dale Fisher Arena.
Although just an exhibition game for both teams, the event seemed to garner the interest of the Devon community as a standing room only crowd watched the Xtreme battle an unfamiliar foe.
Despite the lopsided score, both teams were able to show off their different skill sets and styles of play, emphasizing the difference in the game between North American and European countries.
“You could see the different types of skill sets different countries work on,” said March. “There’s always a speed and skill component to the game, the fundamentals, but you could certainly see that they have a different focus in terms of their playmaking and looks. It’s interesting to watch.”
Along with the excitement on the ice, there was a buzz off it too. Former Oiler Ryan Smyth was in attendance signing autographs and taking pictures with fans, while the Senior AA Devon Barons hosted a silent auction which included Oilers and other hockey related memorabilia.
“It was more of an exhibition and celebration of the game. Bringing together two countries who love hockey and just letting them have fun with it,” said March. “The support from the town and minor hockey in Devon has been unbelievable. They really went out of their way to make this a special event.”
While the game consisted of two fierce competitors going head to head, the scene off the ice was much different as both teams were involved in pre and post-game bonding activities, offering each other a glimpse into one another’s culture and lifestyle.
Before the game NAX welcomed the Berlin staff and players to the Devon area with a visit to Shift Happens to try some snowshoeing. With hockey being a fringe sport in Germany, Berlin then visited a dedicated hockey store offering them a glimpse of the hockey atmosphere in Canada.
“We got to meet a couple of the boys from the other team, it was incredible. Just getting to meet guys from around the world. It was nice to get to know guys we play against. It was a cool environment throughout the day,” added NAX forward Nathan Morgan.
The Elite 15s look to continue their perfect season as they return to Canadian Sport School Hockey League (CSSHL) action February 10 against Yale Academy.