Wednesday 23 June, 2 days before Sparta Cup begins.
We head to the rink to meet tournament organizer Carlos Benito and have a team skate. We are scheduled to be on the rink at 1 pm. In spanish fashion as we learned very quickly, they are in no rush to do anything. We quickly notice that the rink is far from being finished and
before we know it PGKA Alliance has joined the staff and begins assisting in laying the tiles. The best part about this whole process is that nobody complained, with
one glance between myself and Pablo we knew we had choosen the right people to be a part of our team.
As the sweat dripped from our brows, blisters began to form and our backs started to ache from the intensive manual labor as the team was in such a hurry to go for a
skate, the Latvians entered the building. Now for the past 6 weeks all we have heard is glowing reviews on thes 4 players. The reputation was nothing but 5 star and
we were very eager to meet our "PRO" players. You see these 4 young men were all professional ice hockey players and made a living out of hockey. To make matters more
exciting they all had experience in the KHL, which is on par with the NHL minus the glitz and glammer and the fact its in Russia.
We take to the rink, which is still not fully finished and and as dirty as it can be for a light skate. The problem is everyone wants to make a good first impression.
Heres what I remember, a confidnet goalie from Arizona yelling out, "Is that all you got, come on. I dare you to score." For a second I thought I was in a Rocky Balboa
movie as our goalie is only a smudge over 5 feet tall and nearly half a century old as he taunted our Latvian's whom one of them "Miks" could be the skeleton version of
The next thing that I remember as we are speaking of our Latvians, is the fact they showed up to the tournament without any helmets or gloves. (They played
the entire tournament borrowing gloves from our "Old Stars" players), the last thing I can remember from the practice is "Edgars with his marsblade chassey and 1989
labeda grippers which have worn down to about a size 68mm as they have only previously skated on concrete, standing next to Sean who happened to be wearing the brandnew
powerslide 3 wheel beauties and his cage. I am not sure what they were saying but I remember that accent yell out, "lets go Rookie" and a big smile run across sean's
face." We were becoming a team very quickly and it didnt matter what struggles we had to overcome, we were determined to keep moving forward.
Friday 25 June 8h30, the tournament begins. We are the first game at Sparta Cup and history is about to be made as the PGKA Alliance are playing there innagural match.
To add a bit of back story, Pablo Navarro who is the CEO of PGKA and the brains behind this whole team and program had already announced publically that this will be
his last ever pro tournament. The stakes were high, emotions were bottled up and wouldnt you know it that the first goal ever scored for the PGKA Alliance was none other
than Mr. Pablo Navarro himself. I must admit the pass wasnt too shabby either, haha but I will never forget the group hug on the rink, which immediately was followed by
the team "train" everyone skated over to the bench and high fived everyone, even our goalie stood in line. Smiles, tears and excitment filled our faces and we were off
and running. To make the moment even more special, one minute later ( and I know what your thinking, thats a long shift for the old guys, but those are just some of the
perks when you play on a line with the CEO and afterall it was the start of the tournament), Amandus Rottcher my little brother from Namibia scored his first ever Pro
goal, again another above average pass but more importantly to witness first hand the realization of a dream coming true for a young man who has worked so hard to get to
where he is today, is something breath taking. Ok enough of the sentimental stuff and onto the facts. Sadly, after all the celebrating and come to and end, we realized
that the oppostion goalie was no longer in the net. He had hurt himself trying to make a save and would no longer be able to finish the game. Now I am not sure whos idea
this was or how it even came about, but our backup goalie entered the game against us in order for us to continue. After all this was our first game and we needed to skate.
Never in my life have I ever played against my only goalie in a "real game", to make things even more interesting 10 minutes remaining in the game we swapped goalies again
allowing both of our PGKA goalies to recieve a good workout. The best part about this was our staring goalie Silvu aka Swiss Army Knife was out to prove something as
were our players. Head shots, back doors, dekes and dropping the hammer from inside the dots were all allowed. Our Army knife earned our resepct instantly as we were
only able to score 1 goal on him which was pretty much a power play the entire game.
Round Robin end with PGKA Alliance in the number 1 seed, our first target has been reached. We did however go to 2 shootouts along the way, but our job was done and off
to the quarterfinals we are. Being the number 1 seed from our pool meant we would play the number 2 seed from another pool. Advantage to PGKA, one would think. Surprisingly
our brothers PAMA Golden Knights were upset by a czech team and finished 2nd in there pool, meaning to the only two teams not from Europe would meet in the Quarterfinals.
We figured eventualy the two of us would meet but we were hoping for it to be in the medal rounds, but it is what it is. Pama was led by Junior Cadiz, one of the most
decorated inline hockey players in the world. He has been an incredible ambassador for our sport and a complete honour to share the rink wih him. Although I have to
admit I prefer when we are wearing the same jersey lol. Along side Mr. Cazdiz was Max Comtois. Max currently plays in the NHL for the Anahiem Ducks and recently was
crowned MVP of the gold medal game at the Ice hockey world championships for Team Canada. Max was cleary the talk of the tournament with being the most famous hockey player
there and let me tell you, he did not dissapoint.
Now I have played this sport all over the world and at the highest levels and with some very talanted players but I have never seen a one timer as hard as what I witnessed.
My guess is the puck is coming off Comtois stick around 160km an hour give or take. PGKA came out fearless and with something to prove and took an early 1-0 lead. Sadly
a bit of penalty trouble, some tired legs and the level of play was too much for us. PAMA won the game 5-1 and we were elminated. What I learned from the game, was 3 simple
things. Number 1 Pablo is the real deal. Not only did he wear his heart on his sleeve but he blocked two shots on the penalty kill from Comtois, that sent a rush of
adrenline into our veins like never seen before. Unfortuntly not the same for Pablo. One of the shots was right off the knee and left him beaten, battered and severly bruised
for weeks to come. But Pablo, in a terminator type fashion found a way to keep moving forward. There was nothing stopping him from finishing his last ever pro game. Number 2
Was the realization of what we have accomplished with PGKA. Taking players from all different parts of the world, bringing them toegther and giving them a chance to prove
not only to themselves but to there oponents that we belong. To go toe to toe with some of the best teams in the world who train day in and day out, season after season
was an incredible silver lining. We had only been a team for 3 days, meeting eachother for the first time and shaking off more rust than a beach umbrella left outside in
Swakopmund, Namibia we will have a bright future. Finally number 3, the farewell handshake for Pablo. Probably as emotional as one could get. Each player on both teams
took time to hug and congratulate him on his amazing career. As tough as it was for me to say bye to him as a player it was honor to go out in pro the way he did.
We finished the tournament 7th place out of 20 teams, what we learned and experienced will never be forgotten and I can assure you that PGKA Alliance Pro will soon be
on the podium.