When you think of Hawaii sports, hockey may not be the first to come to mind, but for the next week some of the best players from all over the world will be going head to head, right here at the AAU inline hockey Junior Olympics.
"We've had many tournaments in the past, but it is by far the biggest tournament we've ever had," said Kapolei Inline Hockey Arena owner Richard Pentecost. "In the past we've had between 30 and 50 teams and the tournaments would only be lasting about four to five days. This one here, called the AAU Junior Olympics, is going to last 12 days with 105 teams."
Those 105 teams traveled everywhere from Austrailia, Taiwan, New Zealand, Columbia, Great Britain, Canada, the Mainland, and from here in Hawaii to the Kiha Arenas in Kapolei. With so many new faces and styles of play to adjust to, the Junior Olympics poses a unique challenge for coaches and players alike.
"It's always nice to play someone different," said KIHA Hockey Director Jami Yoder. "When you play the same people you kind of settle into the same kind of game plan all the time, so it teaches the kids how to adjust to different plays, different ways to break out, different ways they play."
While only a select few will walk away champions at the Junior Olympics, those who traveled from near and far agree the value of the event goes beyond the rink.
"Coming over here, the experience, just mixing it up with the different countries, friends, aquaintances that they make," said Team Australia parent Lyndal Williams. "The bonding that it creates, that's what's really good for them."
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