Video captures Flames' spring break experience in East Asia
March 19, 2016 | Lynchburg, Va.
Players and coaches of Liberty University's Division I men's hockey team who participated in a 10-day tour of East Asia over spring break in mid-March came back with hearts kindled to share their faith and eyes wide open from their experiences overseas.
During their fourth cultural exchange trip in the past 10 years, following spring excursions to Sweden in 2007, Southern Russia in 2009, and Latvia in 2013, the Flames competed against international teams in two cities.
"Whether it is from the cultural perspective or the heart perspective, there is a lot of growth that can occur from experiencing something like this," said Liberty Associate Head Coach Jeff Boettger, who has coordinated all of the hockey team's trips along with Head Coach Kirk Handy.
Besides playing four games in East Asia, Liberty coaches and players put on two hockey clinics and interacted with elementary to high school students.
"We visited fourth- through ninth-grade classes at a private school," Boettger said. "Our players played floor hockey with the students and then spoke about university life, creating balance with academics and athletics, and what it means to develop the whole person. It proved to be both fun and educational for all."
The Flames defeated a Russian club team and lost a highly anticipated showdown with a national team from East Asia before facing another East Asia team and a university team from South Korea.
"That city in East Asia had not had that type of an event with an international team in about 20 years, so it was an awesome experience for everyone," Boettger said, noting that that game attracted more than 7,000 fans to the Olympic-sized ice arena (15 feet wider than that in the LaHaye Ice Center).
More important than the memories made on the ice were the relationships formed with players and fans before and after the games, Boettger said.
Assistant Coach Marc-Andre Bourdon, who has helped organize hockey camps in several locations across Europe, said this experience was rewarding on many levels.
"It is a good opportunity to shine a light and try and impact some people," he said. "We want to do our best (on the ice), but we go there for other purposes, too. These things are life-changing, to get out of the comfort of your house and see other cultures. Every time I go somewhere else, I always come back and appreciate things more. It makes me grow as a person."
The trip was one of several spring break trips organized through LU Send, Liberty's office for all student travel.