Players on two young hockey teams from California whose luggage was lost in transit on their way to Ottawa are determined to play in this week’s Bell Capital Cup — whether it means borrowing gear or buying more.
“We travelled across the country and these kids have to play,” said Leigh-Anne Cantwell, team manager for the Orange County Hockey Club.
“It’s not ideal but we’re trying to stay positive and make it the best experience possible for the kids.”
As she stickhandled messages from several Ottawa-area parents and hockey clubs offering to loan gear, other members of the team (and their parents) descended on a Kanata sports store Wednesday to shop for equipment at a discount negotiated by tournament organizers.
“I’m trying to mix and match between borrowing and new,” said Leanne Stoneking, the mother of 11-year-old goalie Tristan, noting that he needed new skates anyway and could use a bigger size in pads. Although she estimated it would cost over $1,000 to get her son on the ice, she was taking it in stride.
“It’s not too bad,” she said. “You come all the way out here, what’s a little bit more? Eventually, we’ll get the gear back so it’s just trying to round up what we need to last the tournament and make sure the team gets to have a goalie.”
Two Los Angeles-area teams arrived at the Ottawa International Airport on Monday, but their luggage didn’t make it, lost in the aftermath of winter storms that wreaked chaos on the airline industry and resulted in hundreds of flight cancellations and delays across North America.
Cantwell said some of the gear bags “trickled in” overnight Tuesday, leaving nine players unequipped, including both goalies.
Tracking devices in the lost luggage show that the bags are in Toronto, but Air Canada has informed the parents there’s no point in sending someone to retrieve them.
“They said ‘no’ because they can’t say where to look because there are tens of thousands of bags there,” Cantwell said with a sigh.
Also in the lost luggage is the brand-new winter clothing Laura Gilland and her husband bought for themselves and their three children for the family trip from sunny California to wintry Ottawa. Their son, Brayden, 11, is on one of the teams.
“The airplane was hot so we checked all our winter gear that we bought,” said Gilland, wearing a hoodie and sneakers as the snow fell outside. “My feet are really cold. But if we can get the kids’ gear, we can suffer through everything else.”
The trip to Ottawa was planned just six weeks or so ago. For hockey-loving kids in California, it’s a big adventure to travel to Canada.
“All the kids were excited to go to Canada,” Stoneking said. “They’re happy to be here, and we’re making the best of it, but I think we learned not to have both the goalies travel on the same plane.”
Orange County has a well-developed youth hockey program that’s supported by the area’s two NHL teams, the Anaheim Ducks and L.A. Kings, the parents said. Most of the kids have been playing for years.
Defenceman Drew Takemura, for example, has been playing for eight of his 11 years. He said his father introduced him to the sport, and the family used to attend Kings games regularly. He and his mother, Aster Sanapanya, were shopping for “everything from head to toe,” but hoping to borrow some of the smaller items needed to play.
After a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic, the 22nd edition of the Bell Capital Cup runs until Dec. 31, with games scheduled at arenas throughout Ottawa, including the Bell Sensplex, Richcraft Sensplex and the Canadian Tire Centre.
About 150 teams from across North America are registered this year. The California teams have travelled the furthest.
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