FLINT — A couple of area travel teams got a taste of European-style hockey last week, when an 18U team from Luxembourg swung through Genesee and Lapeer counties.
The Hiversport Huskies opened their seven-game tour of east Michigan cities at Perani Arena on Dec. 26, losing a 10- 6 decision to the Flint Phantoms. The jet-lagged visitors also lost to the Rochester Rattlers, 9-0, the next day, but started to get their legs back last Friday, when they nipped Clarkston Prep, 5-4, in a morning shootout and beat a Kearsley squad, 7-5, in the afternoon back at Perani.
On Saturday, the Huskies visited the Polar Palace in Lapeer and beat the Lapeer Storm 16U team, 5-2.
The tour was organized by Clarkston’s Mark Dawson, who coached the Luxembourg team when he was stationed over there with Delphi. Dawson said the Huskies are the only hockey team in the tiny country (pop. 524,853), which is 35 miles wide and 51 miles long.
“We’re No. 1 in the nation,” joked Steve Kiefer, another Delphi employee who has two sons on the Luxembourg team.
The Huskies play only one game a week, with trips to France and Germany a necessary part of their schedule.
“They’ll play more games here in the next week than they will in the next two months at home,” said Dawson.
Storm coach Matt Bendall was excited about the prospect of playing an international team, noting the European style is different from the game played in the U.S. European rinks are Olympic-sized and 4-12 feet wider than American rinks.
“It’s a little bit more of a skilled game,” Bendall said. “They play on an open ice, so it’s a little faster over there. Here, the rinks are shorter and smaller and there’s not much room to do some of the things they like to do.”
The Flint and Lapeer teams warmly welcomed the visitors, with the Phantoms providing a Luxembourg flag at their game and then sending the flag to Lapeer for Saturday’s game. The national anthems of both countries were played prior to the games.