In 1980 the Cornwall Royals won the Memorial Cup, Canada’s National Junior Championship. As a result of this victory, the team got to represent Canada at the World Junior Hockey Championship in Fussen, Germany, the following Christmas.
We had many meetings about what to expect with Hockey Canada officials. We all got our passports and went to the local bank to see if we could find any Deutsch marks, the currency of the day in West Germany.
I still remember how excited the entire team was as we prepared to leave out of Mirabel airport in a snowstorm about a week before the start of the tournament. Arriving in Munich, we were all amazed by the fact that security personnel at the airport carried sub machine guns and you really did get the feeling that something was definitely different about life on the other side of the ocean. After a two-hour bus trip we finally reached our destination of Landsberg Germany, which would be our headquarters for the next two weeks.
Everything was different. We had rooms all along the second and third floors of the hotel with three players to each room. All the rooms faced out onto the main street of the city. We all ate together in the dining hall on the main floor of the building and the food was different to say the least. Now, I love every kind of food but many in our group were much less adventurous, so when they brought out the soup with an egg floating on top of it, for the first meal, suddenly most of our players lost their appetites. Finding suitable food proved to be a challenge for the group during the entire trip. There were no fast food restaurants and at that time the closest thing to food that teenagers liked was a fried mushroom that were sold by vendors on the street, much like at chip stands in Quebec.
Next was the exhibition games we played against a German 1st division team and for most of us this was the first time we played against full grown men and the atmosphere at the games was intense to say the least. It was noisy, fans stood for the entire game and it seemed as though they sang and yelled for the entire 60 minutes.
As we settled in to our surroundings we did have a lot of fun, first of all we became experts at trying the different types of German beer and we also took to collecting the colourful glasses that they were served in. I still have about 5 of those glasses to this day.
Hockey Canada did a great job of arranging tours for us while we were there as well. We visited monasteries, and castles and the most impactful trip was when we went to Daccau concentration camp memorial site. Many players had parents or uncles who served in the war and it truly brought home the horrors of what happened.
While our team did not fare very well at the tournament, as we finished in 7th place. The memories of spending Christmas away from home for the first time still resonate with me to this day. My favorite memory was on Christmas Eve the day before the start of the tournament, the snow was falling and our coach Bob Kilger decided we needed a special team outing. There we were, a group of twenty-two hockey players walking through the wintery evening to attend midnight mass. We didn’t understand the priest but the message was clear, here we were, half-way around the world and we were celebrating the exact same ways as our German hosts were. The world all of a sudden felt much smaller and it truly was a beautiful night.