A visit to Canada has been a dream come true for 13-year-old Swedish hockey player Douglas Palm.
And a stay with his host family in Morrisburg has been a wonderful experience.
Palm is a goaltender for a visiting Skargarden hockey club from Ockero, Sweden one of 10 islands in the municipality of Gothenburg.
The team arrived in Montreal on Thursday, March 29 to start the first leg of a trip they have been saving and fund raising for, for three years.
From Montreal, it was a bus trip to Brockville where each of the players met with their host families on Friday night, March 30.
For Palm, who speaks three languages (Swedish, English and German), it was a meeting with his host player Cole Beckstead of Morrisburg and his family Ernie and Lisa and big brother Marc.
For the next three days, Palm lived with the Beckstead family and this past Monday, visited with Cole, at his school, St. Mary/St. Cecilia’s in Morrisburg.
Also over the weekend, Palm’s Swedish team played Cole’s Rideau St. Lawrence Minor Bantam AA team twice.
In their series opener, with Palm in net and vowing not to let his new ‘best buddy’ Cole score, the Swedish team collected a 6-2 victory in Brockville, Saturday night.
In game two, the Kings revenged themselves (and Ernie suspects took advantage of a bit of jet lag) with an 8-0 win.
That has set the stage for tonight’s third and final game in Kemptville at 7:30 p.m.
The two games to date have attracted several hundred hockey fans to add to the excitement and the nervousness of the players.
“I was pretty nervous,” said Palm. “But we had a pretty long warm up, so that helped.”
According to Cole, the Kings too were experiencing cases of nerves. “There were lots of people, lots of scouts.”
After two games, Palm says, “I think we are both just the same high level of play.”
Cole agrees, but explains, “we play a different style. They pass a lot and have really good puck control. We do a lot of forechecking.”
Off the ice, Palm says his visit to Canada has been wonderful. He even likes Poutine.
“At the food store, everything is bigger and cheaper, like your Coca Cola. We have two litres, but that is not usual. And ice cream. You have four litres and we just get one litre.”
Palm was delighted to buy a cable for his computer and has become a big fan of the Canadian Dollar stores. “At home my cable would cost 99 to 300 crowners (Swedish currency is Krona). A dollar is about seven crowner, he said of his $2 cable purchase.
Palm says he is impressed by the trucks and cars he has seen. “In Sweden they are ugly. Here they are nice. We don’t have so many pick up trucks and vans, we have smaller cars, like the Volvo.”
Palm indicated the main hockey difference is in the ice size. “The ice is much smaller here in Canada. As a goalie, I will have to play a bit different. Everything goes faster. It’s more hits here in Canada, but my team will like that,” he said with a grin.
Palm’s team plays in an 11 team league in a 22 game schedule in addition to several tournaments. With most of the teams having the numbers for two teams (similar setup to a B and C team in Canada). Palm’s island team with just enough players for one team were pleased with this year’s fourth place finish.
Palm also had a good season highlighted by his selection to an all star team.
“You can tell he is well coached and he’s a great kid too,” said Cole’s dad Ernie. “He loves it here. It’s just been a great experience for all of us. I think Cole has made a friend for life. They are going to keep in touch for a long time.”
Palm said goodbye to the Beckstead family Monday night, to join the rest of his team in Ottawa. Last night, Tuesday, they attended an Ottawa Senators game.
Tonight, Wednesday, April 4 they play the third game against the Kings and then it’s off to New York City, for relaxation and a New York Rangers game.
Cole claimed Monday that if he gets the chance he is going to score against his buddy.
Palm answered with complete confidence, and a slight smile, “He won’t score.”
Time will tell.