by John Austen
When Kevin Figsby took over the mens hockey team at Concordia three
years ago, he vowed to restore pride and tradition to the program. Getting
the alumni more involved and instituting a Wall of Fame to honour past
greats of Loyola, Sir George and Concordia hockey squads was just part
of what he had in mind and then there were the trips to Europe!
Concordia used to have a tradition of sending teams overseas for
a couple of weeks but it had stopped, Figsby said. When we
took over we asked the players what they wanted to do, and almost all
of them said they wanted to go to Europe.
Figsby is a man of his word. On Dec. 29, the Concordia Stingers travelled
to Germany for 10 days of bonding, culture and oh, yes hockey.
The entourage of 31 people were treated like royalty from the moment they
stepped off the plane in Frankfurt.
We kept looking at each other, wondering how things could get any
more perfect for us, Figsby said.
Every day just got better and better. After one game, it took us
three hours to leave the arena because the fans crammed our dressing room
wanting our autographs. It was as if the Stones had arrived in town.
The Stingers played four games and held two practices during their 10-day
stay. They played to sellout crowds across the country and were hounded
for autographs at the rink, on the street and in the hotel. Chants of
CANADA! CANADA! cascaded down on them in every arena they played in.
This is my seventh such trip to Europe, but my first time in Germany,
said Figsby. It was a fantastic experience. Our players were great
ambassadors for both their school and their country. I didnt hear
a negative word from anyone throughout the trip.
The Stingers knew they were in for something special when more than 200
people showed up just to watch their opening practice in Darmstedt, a
town outside of Frankfurt. A day later, Concordia played its first game
against the Darnstedt Stars and whipped their hosts 12-3 before a sellout
crowd of 1,500 people.
Then it was on to Herford, where they played to another sellout crowd
of 2,000 on New Years Eve day. They lost this game 10-8, but no
one seemed to mind. Later that night, it was on to a rented hall where
their hosts held New Years Eve celebrations.
In Germany, its a custom at midnight for families to go outside
and light fireworks said Figsby, so here we were, a group
of Canadian hockey players watching the fireworks and singing O Canada
at the top of our lungs. It was a moment well never forget.
Figsby says an incident in Herford summed up the trip. I was by
myself in the shopping district of Herford which is much like Old Montreal
without the cars, he recalled. Its pouring rain and
Im sopping wet.
Suddenly I hear this little voice from across the street saying
Coach from Canada! Coach from Canada! Its a little German
lady, and shes waving her arms at me. Come with me. Ive
called my father and he will come pick you up and take you back to your
Sure enough, this stretch Mercedes pulls up and in we get. Turns
out hes a high court judge who had taken his family to our game
the night before. He had brought a big Canadian flag with him to the game
to make us feel welcome. This type of thing just doesnt happen every
The Stingers also played games in Halle (a 4-4 tie in front of 5,000 fans)
and Baden Baden (an 8-2 win).
The players and coaches visited museums, Martin Luther University, a chocolate
factory, and the church where Handel first learned to play the piano.
The trip cost a total of $50,000. Each player contributed $500 to the
cause, while the rest was raised through fundraising and donations.
Its a lot of work to plan a trip like this, Figsby said.
All the memories make it worth it, though. It will be hard to top