Hockey Team's Visit to Sweden a Great Personal Experience
Byline: Ron Skrabacz
About two months ago I wrote about hockey players, all born in 1990, preparing for the Lions Cup tournament in Stockholm, Sweden.
Well, the boys are back in town after the late-March tournament, and their experience couldn't have been better.
"It was one of the best experiences that I think they'll ever have in their lifetime," said Sue Gattone of Addison, who accompanied her son, Joey Gattone. "It was phenomenal from start to finish. It was all about experiencing the country, and most of all it was the hospitality of the Swedish people. It was just incredible."
Three teams from the United States - the Spirit of Chicago, the Chicago Selects and the Michigan Selects - made the trip with hopes of continuing the success of past United States teams.
Chicago teams had won the tournament four times since 1984. The Spirit of Chicago built on that record with a 4-2 victory over previously undefeated Hammarby.
Ricky Vaca of Oakbrook Terrace, who played for the Chicago Selects, learned first-hand how difficult it is to play with, much less defeat, the Swedish hosts.
"They ran different plays and tried to sneak behind our defensemen a lot," Vaca said. "That was hard to defend against."
Especially for players used to the North American version of the game.
"How they play hockey is a little different than us," Joey Gattone said. "They had a different strategy. Some of us Americans just dump the puck and chase it, while they like to skate through a lot of people. They were a little better than we had expected, and a lot faster than our coaches expected, too."
Regardless of the differences, there was a cultural exchange of ideas and techniques between the coaches, said Chicago Selects coach Joe Gattone.
"They were very interested in understanding how we run practices and the drills and skills that we teach," the coach said. "They also wanted to know the frequency that we skate with the boys. …