For most kids, a trip overseas usually means a family vacation. But for local ice hockey players Kyle Broadbent and Brett LeFebvre, their first trip outside of the country could turn into the experience of a lifetime.
Broadbent and LeFebvre play for the Capital Selects, the only hockey team representing the United States in the international Challenge Cup ice hockey tournament in Prague. Capital Selects comprises some of the mid-Atlantic region's best youth players, including several from Loudoun County. The team departs for Europe on Aug. 1 and, after stops in London and in Frankfurt, Germany, will spend the next two weeks competing in the tournament.
The Challenge Cup participants are primarily teams from Europe. Some of the countries represented are Russia, Czech Republic, Slovak Republic, Austria, Sweden, Belarus, Finland, Ukraine, Germany and Canada.
For Broadbent and LeFebvre, who normally play organized ice hockey for the Ashburn Xtreme club, this tournament is a chance to measure themselves against European competition.
"I think this will definitely make me a better player," said Broadbent, who will be a freshman at Stone Bridge High School this fall. "Over there, hockey is the number one sport, and they have probably been practicing since they were little kids. . . . I think they're going to be faster and bigger, and I think it's going to be good hockey all around."
Along with recognizing that their competition will be top-notch, the players also realize they will see many styles of play.
"There will be different kinds of players over there," said LeFebvre, who will be a freshman this fall at the new Briar Woods High School. "They might hit more, they might skate faster, so it'll be interesting to see what they play like."
Assistant Coach Rob Lorenzen, whose son Max plays for the Capital Selects, wants his young players to use the tournament as a learning experience as well as an opportunity to hone their skills against talented competition.
"This trip is going to be a tremendous cultural experience for the boys," he said. "None of these boys has been overseas before, so the whole experience of getting to see three different countries, particularly over in Europe, is a unique opportunity that they'll all share. I think the most beneficial thing they'll get out of the trip is the camaraderie amongst each other and also the chance to play against German-born, Swedish-born, Russian-born and Czech-born children and kids their age."
Although American hockey differs from the way the game is played in Europe, the Capital Selects will not enter the tournament lacking confidence.
"I think we'll do well because we've basically got the best kids from the area," LeFebvre said.