A group of Calgary men are about to graduate from beer league hockey to the international stage — with a bit of encouragement from the prime minister.
The Calgary Citizens is a recreational hockey team of "guys who played hockey all their lives but never really made it probably beyond high school hockey," player Ken Trudeau told the Calgary Eyeopener on Monday.
They may not be in the same league as Canadian greats at international tournaments, like Ken Dryden and Paul Henderson in the 1972 Summit Series, Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux in the 1987 Canada Cup or Sidney Crosby and Jonathan Toews in the 2010 Olympics.
But the crew of ages ranging from early 30s to 50s — including two CBC Calgary journalists — loves the sport, and now they've been invited to a small tournament in Costa Rica.
"We're an older group of proud, hockey-playing Canadians," Trudeau said.
They've had a few neat experiences so far. The team applied for and received a letter of support from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau — no relation to the player with the same surname.
"There was something in the letter about a high level of skill and athleticism. We'll touch on that maybe off-air," Kemp joked with Calgary Eyeopener host David Gray.
On the way out from their radio interview, they met former Montreal Canadiens player Ken Dryden, who was in studio Monday to discuss his new book, Game Change: The Life and Death of Steve Montador and the Future of Hockey.
The First International Castillo Ice Hockey Tournament runs this weekend in Central America's only ice skating rink.
It's organized by a Calgary ex-pat, Bruce Callow, who brought his love of the sport to the country when he moved there about 30 years ago.
Since then, he's started a rink and an annual hockey tournament of local teams — which garnered a visit from former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper a few years ago.
'A little worried'
Now the tournament has expanded to include teams from Calgary, Los Angeles and Falkland Islands.
"We've come to learn that the Falkland Islands have a [rugby] goaltender that played in the British Super League, so that could get interesting," player Kyle Kemp said.
"We haven't seen the official roster list at present, however we're a little worried."
Some on the team have been trying to shape up, Trudeau said, and the team even won its Sunday night game 4-1.
"I've been in training. I think it varies on the team," he said. "I think some guys have eaten a few less chips and some guys have done lots of stairs. So we'll see how we are on the ice."
The team doesn't expect to take home the tournament trophy, but the question remains: Will they earn the title of the worst team Canada's ever fielded?
"We're hoping not but there are those chances," Kemp said.
- Hear the players discuss their team's chances this weekend:
With files from the Calgary Eyeopener
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