Well what can i say about 2014 .... i mean i woke up in Feldkirch,Austria with a bad hangover ,woke all my friends up and went to play some shinny in Malbun,Liechtenstein . Really how many people can say they have started a year , any year off that way ? It was only gonna get better too ! This very happy Travelling Goalie went to play ice hockey in 12 different countries on 3 different continents within the past 12 months ... The second country i went to play hockey in was in Germany , yes i love Germany and have to always pass by there pretty much at least once a year :) First pro game i went to see this year was in Augsburg with super friend Timo Korner who i was also with for New Years Eve/Day ... that trip in total was awesome ! The group of people we were with made the trip what it was Kathleen ,Rainer ,Timo , Karl , Daz , Sarah , Mark & Lisa . We all stuck together through that whole trip (for the most part) LOL !
That first trip to start 2014 didn't end in Europe and as most of you know it wasn't the last time my hockey equipment went missing . That was really the main theme of that whole trip wasn't it HAHAHA ! Before i headed home i went to Africa ...yes to play ice hockey , but more particularly i went to Rabat,Morocco as a guest of their ice hockey federation to go help their youth program for a few sessions :) I've done a few sessions with children before but this was the first time i was given the reigns and asked to run a full session on my own and it was a magnificent experience being on the ice as a guest of Association National Marocaine de Hockey sur Glace (ANMHG) .
When i left Morocco it was just the beginning of January still and as soon as i hit the ground in Toronto i started planning my next adventure and yeah i had the itch to go back to Africa . Of course i had to work a lot to save up , some of you must think i am made of money but i'm not ! Self made poor man , self made in the sense that i spend all my money on these trips LOL :) Of course i was playing hockey here in Toronto for my Ghetto Blasters and we had quite the successful year too winning our weekend league and losing in the final with our Tuesday night squad ... making both finals is amazing and i am super proud we did that as it was gonna be the only championship i was gonna win in 2014 :( yeah kinda sad isn't it ... i went to 4 tournaments overseas this year and the best i got was a 2nd place finish but that's not gonna tarnish 2014 for me ... NO NO NO ! Gotta keep working , put the stress of killing myself to make money aside and keep thinking about the next trip .
Unfortunately sometimes you just have to take off and around mid February i needed to get away ... so i went to Montreal as a guest once again with my friends from the Moroccan Federation . I stayed with the President of the Federation ... Mr. Khalid Mrini , who travels between Montreal and Rabat quite regularly and has residence in both cities . I was also there to meet his right hand man ... Adil El Farj who was the guy that convinced me to go to Morocco and in fact we had been chatting online for a few years about this so it was great to finally meet him and to see a good friend i had made on my travels ... nobody treated me as well as Khalid did in 2014 ... not to say nobody took care of me but nobody went to the lengths he went to on both occasions to make me feel at home !
As i said 2014 was a massively amazing year and a big part of it was due to what happened on my next trip .... as i said i had the itch to go back to Africa and my friend Adil whom i just mentioned put me in touch with someone he knew from South Africa and we started to plan out my next trip ... yup i went to South Africa :) And yup i went to play ice hockey , this trip was a bit messy as it was not really organized so well and when i arrived i was not sure of my ice times and i was not sure if i was even gonna get on the ice but big Gary Bock sorted me out :) Gary is a former South African National team goalie , his brother Ashley is the current goalie so i was in good hands with these 2 giants ! Yes they are huge !!!! So as i said i ended up there with no planned ice time and left being able to say i helped coach at the U20 National Development camp . They were so happy to see a goalie come out to teach their goalies a few things , nobody had ever went there to do that for them ??? c'mon someone has to go do this again , for free !!!! It was sad to hear some of the stories about hockey players offering their services for $10,000 ... i did it for free :) paid for it myself in fact ! Someone step up and go down there for the experience not for the money . One of the best things to ever come out of my travels happened due to this trip .... not too long ago i got a message from one of the goalie's parents to thank me for helping her son , she told me she is sure that i helped him make the U20 team and man that still brings shivers up my spine :P
When i got to Skopje , Macedonia i met Zoki who is a German living in Skopje for over 10 years now . He is a member of the National Team that is kicking off just now , they actually recently played their first international game vs. Bulgaria ... way to be guys ! I was lucky enough to get onto this team from Thessaloniki ,Greece called Iraklis (which is Hercules in Greek) ...lucky because my next stop was Thessaloniki ! The tournament was great with a decent level of play which i would highly suggest everyone goes to ... while i was there i was also very lucky to have the pleasure of meeting and spending time with the President of the Macedonian Ice Hockey Federation , Mr. Nikola Tasev ... yeah 2014 was a good year meeting all these awesome people around the world trying to make the best for the game in their countries . Nikola definitely is a sportsman and a visionary , they will hopefully be competing in World Championships in the next couple years !!!!
https://www.facebook.com/pagodromio.icenskate?fref=ts the rink owner is named Iosif Kapetanidis and was an amazing guy that got me ice time on 2 of the 3 nights that i would be in Athens ! First with the Athens Warriors then with his Ice N' Skate team ... both teams were great to be with and really showed me how they have fun there :)
The next tournament on this whirlwind 3 tournament dream trip was in Novi Sad, Serbia and the only reason i had this opportunity was because of Nebojsa Ivanov who is an IIHF ref , one of the tournament organizers AND is also the goalie for the home team . When i contacted him i am sure he was confused about this goalie wanting to travel halfway across the planet to play in their tournament :) told you i would ! He was gracious enough to step aside and let me play goal for his club and instead he played defense in a couple games ... he was also kinda happy he didn't have to be on the ice so much as he was reffing a bunch of games too ! With my GentlemeNS HK team mates we went all the way to the final but unfortunately lost 3-1 but honestly this was probably the only tournament i have ever played in and lost with a smile ... yeah i know if you know me you are shaking your head now right :) These guys fought until the end , and i made some seriously amazing friends because of this tournament and for that i would say this was by far the best tournament i played in this year and possibly the best i have ever played in ... that can be debated in another post in the future . I can't even begin to mention names of people i met there and hung out with because there were so many friends ...
Above is a pic of one of my tv interviews i did on this last trip , this one was in Serbia and the next one would be in my next country i visited ... Hungary ! Where i was meeting up with Rainer again :) This was the 5th country i would meet up with him to play hockey in this year , and the last one because as you know (if you read my blog ) that he didn't make it to England or Wales with me :( I had to play for 2 teams in this tournament ... The Rainman AllStars & the Slovakian Bulldogs ... things didn't work out so well with the Rainman Allstars mainly because of this really weak player named Mikko or Mikka ... i don't really care he is irrelevant anyways as those guys were mainly there too party and i was already wiped out from the weeks of partying i had been through at that point so my only regret is that i didn't party enough in Budapest but i am happy that i had the opportunity to meet another IIHF ref named Zoltan Sos . Zoli took me skating at Hero's Square on the biggest and oldest outdoor rink in all of Europe !!! To top that all off he took me to meet Attila Ambrus ( which i will write about ) aka The Whiskey Robber ... Zoli drove me out to Kecskemet to meet him and i skipped one of my Bulldogs games for it but it was totally worth it ! Unfortunately the Rainman Allstars were knocked out of group stage and i was lucky enough to move onto the semi's with my Bulldogs team . You guys were great thanks for having me , sorry i didn't play so great in the last games :( ... yes my game was falling apart this one day but i sharpened up for my next country ....
Next country in 2014 was England which was a quick stop in London where i watched Aston Villa beat Crystal Palace ( YES ! ) then i headed off to Wales without Rainer ... that was the main theme of this part of my trip as i had to re-arrange everything and basically travelled by the seat of my pants figuring stuff out as i went .... thankfully i met some great guys in Barcelona from a team called the Cardiff Titans , thanks to Anton Rimko i was hooked up with a place to stay , an ice time and a ride out to meet my next ride to get to Sheffield .... i stayed in Cardiff for a total of maybe 22 hours :) but it was well worth it getting to play in my 30th country ... and yes i don't care what anyone thinks , Wales is a country ! As i said i wasn't there very long but i am hoping to meet up with these guys again ... if not in Cardiff probably in Windsor at the CARHA World Championships ... slight chance i might be there goalie :)
The last country i played hockey in aside from Canada of course was in England when i met up with my good friends in Sheffield ... yeah i played awesome in those 2 skates out there and totally dominated LOL ... seriously :) Meeting up with Dazza and Sarah and Karl and Mark and Lisa and even Onsey was great ! Made a bunch of new friends there and hopefully will continue to meet them at tournaments in the future ... this post has gotten a bit long winded and i'm sorry for that if i'm boring you all . Unfortunately i don't care LOL ! This was a great year and i would give it a 9 out of 10 based on the other years i have lived through ... if next year is half as good as this then i will be happy but i hardly doubt it will kick off like 2014 as i will be home and not in Liechtenstein on the side of a mountain ....
I'm gonna end 2014 the same way i ended 2013 ... kinda ... last year i was in Davos,Switzerland to watch the Spengler Cup Final and this year i'm going to watch Russia vs. Czech Rep. in the World Jr. Championships .... lets see what happens on Jan.1st maybe just a skate in the park down the road ? Then we'll see what happens next :)
Happy New Year's to everyone reading , especially to those that made 2014 so memorable whether i mentioned you or not in this post , i am thinking about all of you and hope to see you all in 2015 !!!!