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Photo ofCorwith Simmers

 Last year, while I was still living in Vermont, one of my really good friends from my hockey team was always talking about how he had tried out for and was invited to play in an international hockey tournament for players born all in the same year (2006) in France. I was always a little bit jealous and wished I could go. Just one month before the tournament, the team needed an extra player and my friend’s dad recommended me to the coach and I received an invitation to play. I’d be playing on the US West Coast Select team, even though most of us weren’t from the West Coast, and had players from both the US and Canada.  Luckily, my parents said I could go and my mom came with me. She picked me up after school and we drove three hours to the airport in Montreal, Canada. It was a red-eye flight on Air Canada, and I was so tired from the long day of anticipation that I fell asleep. This was my first time on an over- night flight and my first trip outside of the Americas.  When we finally arrived at the Geneva Airport in Switzerland, it was the late morning. After we escaped the crowds, we were soon picked up by a coach bus that took us to our hotel in Chamonix Mont-Blanc, France. It was early May but there was still some snow and the ski mountain was about to close down for the season.  We were met by my friend while waiting in the check-in line in the lobby. I was excited to see him and he told me where to put my hockey bag and other stuff. I put my bags in the room and even though I knew my Canadian roommate was 6’1”, I took the side of the room with the bigger bed. That was another cool thing about this experience--the players roomed together while the parents stayed separately.  About five or so hours later, we had to leave for our first practice. I was expecting this rink to be near the hotel like the main game rink, but it was over an hour away. We had to drive up a mountain, over a big windy bridge, and through some sort of very thick forest. It was crazy.  When we were not playing hockey we got to tour Chamonix and ride up the L’aiguille du Midi which is a tram up Mont Blanc and it seemed we could see forever up there. We took lots of pictures with our teammates and it was really fun. We also took a trip to another town called Annecy where I had the biggest _pain au chocolat _I have ever seen. I have been learning French since third grade so it was also fun practicing my French in the restaurants.  One of the highlights of the trip was the opening ceremony of the tournament. I can remember getting all nice in some fancy clothes and walking onto the ice on a red carpet through what looked like smoke. Our team was one of the first ones out there, and I remember seeing the faces of so many players from all different countries: France, Italy, the Czech Republic, Russia, Ukraine, Sweden, Norway, Slovakia, Belarus, Latvia and more. It was so cool how they announced each team and player as we all entered the rink. Walking out and seeing all of the smiles on the kids’ faces made me feel happy, and it also made me feel like I belonged. It was cool to meet other kids from all over the world who were all really good and loved hockey as much as I did. It was an experience I will never forget. 

© Corwith Simmers. All rights reserved. If you are interested in quoting this story, contact the national team through this website and we can put you in touch with the young person’s teacher.