Eaglebrook Hockey Team's European Adventure: A Week of New Experiences, On and Off the Ice

Over the 2023-2024 Winter Recess, a group of Eaglebrook Student athletes traveled to Europe to tour several countries and play hockey against international competition. The students and their chaperones – Coach Tim Winslow, Coach AJ Bourdon, Coach Dylan Weichselbaumer, Trainer Dr. Biscottini, and team fitness and learning guru Mr. Jan Flaska – visited Switzerland, Czechia, Poland, Slovakia, and Austria. The team would be remiss not to mention how lucky they were to have the Lichtner family – Tomas, Veronika, Erik ‘21, and Mark ‘24 – serve as tour guides and host the team for a wonderful dinner. In addition to their games, the group visited historical sites, including four castles, the Auschwitz Concentration Camp, and the gravesite of legendary Slovak hockey player Pavol Demitra, while also enjoying many other cultural experiences.

Following the team’s annual overnight trip to the Belmont Hill School’s Freshman Invitational, the team stayed an extra night in Boston before heading to Logan International Airport for the first leg of their trip overseas. The team would fly through the night from Boston to Zurich, then the following morning to Prague, Czechia. Both of the flights were fun and eventful, with a few of the players experiencing some motion sickness due to turbulence, but this was nothing a Belgian waffle pitstop could not cure.

After arriving in Prague, the team was picked up by the Kladno Rytiri Club’s team bus and taken to the Jagr Hotel, where they would spend the next few days. The team was able to practice and meet NHL Hall of Famer Jaromir Jagr and current NHL Star Jakob Voracek. They also explored the city of Prague and visited its famed Aquapalace. The team's Kladno experience ended in a well-fought 3-4 loss to Jagr’s Club.

The last portion of their stay in Czechia was a trip to the steel town of Trinec, where they stayed at the famous Steel House Hotel. The team did not play upon arriving in Trinec, instead, they were treated to their first professional game, a tight contest that ended after an 18-round shootout.

The next day the team traveled via bus to Poland where they visited the site of the Auschwitz Concentration Camp. Grayson S. '24 wrote, “[the team] were led from barrack to barrack each teaching us new interesting history that took us by shock.” After the tour, the team faced the Trinec Steelers, the top team in Czechia their age. The team was able to battle back from an 0-2 early deficit to take home their first win of the trip, a 6-4 victory. 

Day 6, was jam-packed with activities.  As the team took a bus to Trencin, Slovakia, they made a quick stop at the Aphrodite Spa. This was a wonderful experience with relaxing time spent in warm outdoor pools amid a snowstorm! After the team’s wellness stop, they continued to the Mariana Gaborika Hotel and Rink, where they spent the next two days. 

After checking into the hotel, the team was led by Miro Kubis to the Dukla Arena. At the arena, the team was given a tour of the Slovakian Hockey Hall of Fame before watching HC Dukla take on HC Slovan. The Dukla hockey game was one of the most memorable of the trip as the local fans created an exciting environment with their constant cheering and chanting. The students immersed themselves in the home crowd, and it is safe to say Dukla gained 29 new fans that night. After the game, the team had a wonderful meal before heading into the beautiful Trencin village for some holiday festivities.

During the remainder of their time in Trencin, the students and their coaches played against Miro Kubis’ Slovakian Kings team and the local Dukla team. Both games were hard battles with the team coming up short against the Kings but beating Dukla. 

The following morning Coach Miro ran a practice for the team that was up-tempo and fun. Many of the coaches and players commented on their enjoyment of Coach Miro’s practice and were grateful to have the chance to share the ice with someone so entrenched in Slovakian Hockey. On Christmas Day in Trencin, the team visited more historic sites, including the Trencin Castle and Pavol Demitra’s grave. This included an unplanned five-mile snowy hike through the woods that built character and bonded the group. The team and some parents enjoyed a wonderful Christmas dinner with caroling and other local holiday celebrations.

The team finally headed out to Bratislava where they played in HC Slovan’s home arena against tough local competition. The highlight of Bratislava was the amazing dinner at the Lichtner’s home where the team was treated to homemade goulash and other Slovakian delicacies. 

The journey ended with the team's return to the United States and was marked by reflections on the enjoyable experiences. The students expressed gratitude to the: faculty chaperones, coaches, and parents who made the trip possible.

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