International campers find fun at Hockey Haven
By Robert Mackenzie
Published August 8, 2017
Five international youth hockey players travelled more than 25,000 kilometres to train at Haliburton’s Hockey Haven hockey camp this past week.
Alex Kerr, Fraser Vospernik, Sean Huang, Michael Xu and Yanis Wang came to Haliburton from their homes in Dubai, Austria and China in order to attend the camp and build their hockey skills
Hockey Haven’s owner and operator Troy Binnie says that having kids join the camp from all over the world benefits not only them, but the local campers as well.
“I think it’s great for the kids from Canada to learn a little bit about other people’s culture and teach them some English and teach them sports that they all came over here to play,” he said.
Alex, 10, has been coming to Hockey Haven for the past six years from his home in Dubai, and has attended soccer camp and another hockey camp in Canada so far this summer. The goalie, whose parents are originally from Montreal and Georgetown, Ont., says he’s been playing hockey since he was two years old and that the competition is better in Canada than in Dubai.
“People there aren’t very good, we only get to play two times a week,” he said. Alex has gone to many Canadian hockey camps, but says he likes Hockey Haven because there are a lot of other fun things to do in the camp aside from hockey. Alex also likes staying overnight at the camp, “Sleeping there is fun because you get to meet new people,” he said.
Fraser, whose mother is Canadian, came from Klagenfurt, Austria, to attend the Haliburton camp. He plays hockey in Austria as well, but says that the drills are different in Canada. Hockey is his favourite sport along with soccer, and he cheers for the Maple Leafs, Senators and KAC – Klagenfurt’s ice hockey team.
Sean, 11, Michael, 10, and Yanis, 10, are friends from Beijing and all came to Hockey Haven based on a recommendation from a coach in Toronto, according to Binnie. Yanis says he and his friends have been in the country for about two months now, and he thinks that hockey in Canada is better than in Beijing.
This isn’t the first time Hockey Haven has hosted international campers. Just last week, Binnie says, he had two kids from Singapore and a boy from France attend the camp. In years past, the camp has hosted kids from as far as Japan and Mexico, according to Binnie.
This past week, however, was the most international campers Hockey Haven has had at one time.
The increase in international campers, according to Binnie, is mainly due to the internet, which has given people around the world the opportunity to seek out Hockey Haven.
“The World Wide Web has opened up every possibility for people to research and figure out which camps they want to go to,” he said.
This is Hockey Haven’s first year in their new location on Kashagawigamog Lake Road, on the grounds of what was previously the Halimar Resort. Their new venue allows them to offer other sports – tennis, wakeboarding, swimming and golfing at the Haliburton Highlands Golf Course across the road – between their daily two-and-a-half hour sessions at the A.J. LaRue Arena.
“All these kids, I think in my personal opinion, play too much serious hockey,” Binnie said. “If you can do a program that gets them [to be] better skaters, better shooters and passers, but it’s a fun program, then they don’t walk out of here going ‘well, that just felt like my regular hockey season back home, and that’s what we try to get away from.”
Binnie says his numbers have doubled this year because of the camp’s new location and the other activities it now offers.
On Aug. 2, the campers bus down to A.J. LaRue to get in that day’s skate, which will be the last for Fraser, who flies back home to Klagenfurt the next day. It is also Alex’s last day, though he will likely be back for his seventh straight summer next year. After hosting Sean, Michael and Yanis, Binnie says he’s already talking about getting seven or eight kids over from Beijing for two weeks next summer.
“I think our goal is for them to leave the camp wanting to play more hockey,” Binnie said. “Hopefully they leave with a little bit more experience in some other sports that they were able to participate in and hopefully they had fun the whole time.”