The Russians are coming!
Four Vancouver Island communities—Parksville, Port Alberni, Duncan and Campbell River—will host a Russian oldtimers' hockey team for a four-game Goodwill Hockey Tour, April 5-9.
Parksville will play host to a game April 5 (7 p.m.) at Oceanside Place.
Karyn Doerksen, vice-president of Parksville-Qualicum Beach Tourism, said they are co-hosting the Russians' game at Oceanside Place along with the Regional District of Nanaimo and Oceanside Place.
"We hope to showcase our 27 kilometres of beachfront, Goats on the Roof (at Coombs), perhaps a golf game," Doerksen said.
The Russian team will be spending the night after their game at Tigh-Na-Mara Resort.
The Russians will play as part of the Grumpy Old Men oldtimers' tournament, which will be going on at the same time as the Goodwill Hockey Tour. Doerksen said they will also draw from some 35- to 40-year-old players as well, but will be playing the Grumpy Old Men.
Port Alberni hockey enthusiast Jim Lawson has maintained a relationship with Russian interpreter Oleg Norchenko ever since Lawson and his son Shawn played host to Team Russia during the World Under-17 Hockey Championships in Port Alberni in 2009.
Lawson said he sent an invitation to Norchenko on behalf of his own oldtimers' hockey team to come back to Port Alberni to play "and darned if they didn't accept."
The Tropic Ice Hockey team from Tula, Russia, about 200 kilometres south of Moscow, boasts players from the ages of 23 (a goaltender and a defenceman) to 51.
The same four communities hosted teams during the World Under-17 Hockey Championships in 2009, forging a cooperative relationship that has carried over to this Goodwill Hockey Tour, Port Alberni organizer Ron Paulson said.
Strathcona Gardens facilities services manager Yves Bienvenu and fellow Campbell Riverite Les Ready both volunteered during the U17 tourney in 2009. Bienvenu said the communities forged such a great relationship back then that when the opportunity came up to host the team from Tula in 2013, "how could we say no?"
The communities are only now beginning to organize for the upcoming tour, which includes deciding how they will field their own oldtimers' teams. In Parksville, the Grumpy Old Men are hosting a tournament at the same time so the host team will play the Russians. In Port Alberni, an invitational team will be assembled.
"This is a goodwill tour. They're coming here to play hockey," Paulson said. "We want to win, but we don't want to win at all costs."