Storm Pee Wees impress at prestigious Quebec tournament
For Nevada Storm Pee Wee AA coach Eric Lacroix, it’s always a plus to get to head home to his native Quebec for a visit.
Even better when hockey is involved.
Last month, from Feb. 10-21, Lacroix and his Storm squad participated in the always-exciting Quebec International Pee Wee Hockey Tournament in Quebec City, going 3-1 in the Inter C division before bowing out in the quarterfinals to the eventual champion Plessisville V. Boutin.
The Storm beat Veneto 3-1 to open the event, then topped the Charlottetown Islanders 4-2 and Hong Kong Selects 5-1 prior to falling to Plessisville.
Making the trek from Las Vegas to Montreal was a direct five-hour flight, but Lacroix said there were no issues.
“It was a long day for everyone,” Lacroix said. “We went through customs and had a two and a half hour bus ride to Quebec City. The kids are great travelers – we travel a lot as a team. They do their homework, rest, and play cards. It’s always nice to go back and visit home. I had a chance to meet up with old friends and enjoy some of the greatest food in the world.”
Lacroix was born in Montreal and played in the NHL from 1994-2001 with Toronto, Los Angeles, Colorado, New York Rangers and Ottawa.
On the ice, the Storm represented the organization and the state of Nevada in a very positive light, said Lacroix.
“We played great,” said Lacroix. “The more we played, the more confident we got as a team to play in front of the big crowds. The kids responded great to the pressure of this.”
The event is somewhat of a national holiday in Quebec as schools routinely bus children to the rinks to watch the games.
Off the ice, the Storm players played pond hockey, went snowmobiling and tubing – “different activities that we don’t get to do here in Vegas,” quipped Lacroix.
In Quebec, the players lived with host families, or billet homes. Lacroix said that experience was very unique to the vast majority of his players.
“For some, it was their first time away from their parents for that amount of time,” explained Lacroix. “At the end, they gained lifelong friendships with the families they stayed with. The experience is fantastic and the kids were immersed in a different culture for 11 days without the comfort of their own family. The billets become their family and have the time of their lives.”
Not only was the billet situation a new experience, but so was getting to live and breathe the Canadian culture.
“The whole time, all the kids’ eyes were wide open,” said Lacroix. “They enjoyed every bit of food, playing with their billet brothers and/or sisters and picking up on a new language – at least a few words. The overall experience of living with a family to playing teams from around the world in an arena that hosts 18,000 people (the Videotron Centre) was once in a lifetime for most. The kids will remember this experience forever.”
The Storm Pee Wee AA team is comprised of forwards Connor Brazil, Shane Dean, William Jacob, Andrew Lackas, Chase McCrossman, Heath Mensch, John Purdy, Ean Vitz and Ian Williams; defensemen Gia Avalone, Caden Berninger, Nicholas Bonaldi, Dominic Shur and Bryce Wellman; and goaltenders Joseph Hallett and Max Lacroix. Richard Berninger and Larry Lackas join Lacroix on the bench and Denise Berninger is the team manager.
When looking at the Quebec trip overall, one can assume that the experience and off-ice activities is the focal point and the hockey can be perceived as secondary. In either case, Lacroix boasted that the memories made in Canada will never fade.
“It was the best time of their lives,” Lacroix said. “Something like this could never get old, for the parents or the kids.”
— Matt Mackinder