06 June, 2018

Diary of a Hockey Parent at a European Summer Camp

My daughter, Frida, started playing ice hockey when we lived in Northern Virginia. When she was five years old, and after she’d been taking skating lessons for a couple of years at a local ice rink, she joined her first team – the Reston Raiders. She had only played with them for one season before our family moved to Germany, in 2013. My husband, Peter, signed her up for a team in Berlin before we even left the States.


Now, Frida is twelve. In the years that she’s been playing hockey here in Germany, she’s had the opportunity to travel to camps in Poland, Austria, and the Czech Republic. We’ve never experienced a hockey camp in the U.S., and I don’t know how it would differ from our experiences here. But I do hope this little “diary” will give you some small idea of what it’s like to travel with a kid to a hockey camp in Europe.


Camp Day 1


We didn’t get any information saying where we were supposed to check in, so we went directly to the rink. Hurrah! Guessed right this year!


The dressing rooms are a bit small for 25 kids. I hope we don’t lose another pair of socks and the new water bottle (again!).


I recognized a couple of the trainers from last summer. The one that goes “Woooh!” all the time isn’t here this year. Dang.


Every parent we talked to today was stuck in that same traffic jam on the A4 through Poland. It’s always good to have a topic to break the ice with when we meet the other parents. Said goodbye to Frida so she could check into her camp room with the other girls from the team.


Peter and I checked into our pension after practice. It’s much better than the one we stayed at last year. There will be hot water and no nomadic college dropouts playing guitar and smoking pot in the courtyard all night!!


We had dinner at the Mexican restaurant that shows horrible/fascinating music videos. Glad to see that place is still in town. Probably the only place in the Czech Republic where you can get something closely resembling salsa.



Camp Day 2


Slept in today! Well, ten minutes later than I typically get up for work. Yay, vacation!


The pension delivered a huge breakfast to the room this morning: Peter and I each had three bread rolls, ham, cheese, tomatoes, cucumber slices, yogurt, a granola bar, an apple, and juice. It was delicious! A big step up from previous breakfasts. Peter and I each saved one of our bread rolls and the granola bars for a snack later.


The walk from the pension to the rink is nice. We certainly didn’t see this part of town last year. I would have remembered that steep hill and the bright yellow church.


I wish I had brought a scarf. And boots. I was prepared to be in an ice rink a couple of hours each day, but I wasn’t expecting to need winter clothes in August in the Czech Republic. Sheesh!


The kids were in the small practice rink this morning – the colder of the two rinks in this facility. Peter and I had enough change on us to get a couple of coffees from the one working vending machine in the entire place.


The trainers started off with some warmup exercises. Of course, one of the drills had the kids pulling each other across the ice with their sticks – that’s Frida’s favorite. A big, red, mouthguard-filled grin after that one! A good start to the first full day of camp.


Between lunch and the afternoon ice time, I had time to write an article for my business newsletter. Can’t afford to take the WHOLE week off.


Dinner at the Irish pub tonight, which we were also relieved to see was still there, though I’m not sure why we were the only people drinking Guinness. I had the pickled cheese – which I’ve been raving about ever since trying it last year. Just as good as I remembered it, though not at all Irish.



Camp Day 3


Another amazingly huge breakfast: three rolls, scrambled eggs, cucumbers, cheese, a granola bar, yogurt, an apple, and juice. We’ve decided the juice could actually be Tang. Wasps seem to like it, since we can’t seem to finish a breakfast without a few wasp interruptions. It’s a very European thing to have angry wasps everywhere at the end of August. It’s like they sense that fall is near and they need to get all their fun in while they can. Since window screens are rarely used in Europe, if you want to let in some fresh air, you learn to deal with the wasps.


Had to save a couple of the bread rolls for snacks – again.


The first ice time was really early today, so we had 6 hours to kill – while Frida had skills training, lunch, and dry training – before going to watch the afternoon ice. Peter and I did a little shopping at the new hockey store in town, then took a 2-hour nap. Missed the chance for housekeeping to do our room, so now we need to go sparingly with our toilet paper usage until tomorrow.


Saw Frida before her second ice time. She was upset they didn’t get the “free time” they were expecting and had to play American football. She said that at least she scored a touchdown. I asked her who was playing quarterback and she said they didn’t have one. I asked who was throwing the football and she said that everyone could. I said, “I don’t know what you were playing, but that wasn’t American football.”


Warmups for the afternoon ice time included a game of tug-of-war, pitting Frida and one of the trainers against five of the other kids. Even with only two, they managed to stay ahead for a while!


Peter and I found a pizza restaurant that we didn’t see last year, so we went there for dinner and went to bed early.



Camp Day 4


Bacon and eggs for breakfast! Oh, and three bread rolls each, cucumbers, yogurts, granola bars, apples, and Tang. Saved the bread rolls again. We have quite a stockpile growing.


There was a lot of excitement at the morning ice time. Apparently an international 17U tournament will be starting tomorrow in the main ice arena next door. Teams are starting to arrive today – including the U.S.A.’s national 17U team! Frida’s really excited that the camp participants will be able to go to some of the games.


That reminds me of last year’s camp, when the kids had a chance to pose with the Polish national team – which just so happened to be staying at the camp hotel the night before their game against the Czech national team.


There was an eight-hour break between ice times today, so Peter and I decided to spend the time visiting the local castle. While the brochure said it was a Silesian castle, it had been renovated as more of a kitschy Renaissance Festival haven and wedding location. There were a few glimpses of the old structure, but it had a bizarre Museum of Mysteries with exhibits about Bigfoot, aliens, and dinosaurs. There was even a whole section devoted to demons, gnomes, and a “school for the devil.” We had to take photos just so we could prove to Frida we weren’t making it up.


For dinner, we had a chance to check out the Greek restaurant in the local “chateau” we didn’t even know existed. It was designed in a very Mediterranean style and is the second oldest building in the city. It’s kind of amazing how a city will open itself to you when you let it!



Camp Day 5


We’re not even bothering to save the leftover bread rolls from breakfast anymore.


We watched the first ice time and drank the horrible vending machine coffee again. I’m beginning to suspect they use chicory. Today’s training focus was on fighting for the puck against the boards. I spent the entire ice time repeating one mantra: “Please don’t let her end up with cracked ribs again!”


Afterwards, Peter and I went back to the pension to do some work. I don’t dare read any more of the book I brought because I need to save it for the three days of “real vacation” we will have after this camp is over.


It finally warmed up a little today, so Peter and I bought ice cream cones on our way to the rink for the second ice time. Got to say “Hi” to Frida before she went on the ice. It’s always strange at these camps when we only see her for a total of about half an hour each day.


After the second ice time, the kids from the camp went to see the 17U game between USA and Slovakia. Peter and I went to the game, as well. It was a good opportunity to spend a little more time with Frida – well, in the same ice rink as her.


The USA team won, and Frida and her friends had a chance to fist-bump them as they left the ice at the end of the game.


We had exhausted the list of restaurants, so Peter and I went back to the pizza place for dinner.



Camp Day 6


Final day!!


I ate one bread roll with the ham and cheese. Peter couldn’t even look at the bread rolls, so he ate just the ham and cheese with his tomatoes. We both drank our Tang really quickly to prevent the wasps from having a chance to smell it.


After breakfast, we packed up and checked out of the pension, telling the proprietor that everything was great. He seemed to not believe us for some reason. He kept saying, “Really?” We had to reassure him. And it really was great. In fact, it was the best pension experience we’ve ever had. And when you are a hockey parent in Europe, you stay in A LOT of pensions.


Said “Hi” to Frida before her ice time – the only thing on the schedule today. Lots more parents at the training. All the ones who had dropped off their kids at the beginning of the camp were just now returning to pick them up. Didn’t see much of the training because we were talking to the other parents about how the week went.


After ice time, Frida checked out of her room and we said goodbye to everyone. It’s always a good camp when no one has to be rushed to the hospital during the week. And we’re glad to know about the pension for next year.


I think I might take a break from bread rolls for a while. Maybe I’ll be ready for them again when camp time comes back around next summer.




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