Feature photo by Teri Di-Lauro
On November 10th, the Markham Thunder embarked on their ‘road trip’ to play three away games against the KRS Vanke Rays in Shenzhen, China! Before getting on the plane for the rest of the day, rookies Ella Matteucci and Gina Repaci wanted to make sure they knew how to greet people in China when they finally got off the plane.
Knowing nǐ hǎo went to good use as the team explored Shenzhen and Hong Kong. From riding the subway, to shopping trips to the markets and ordering food, those who were experiencing China for the first time and those who were there for a second time took in all the experiences.
One of the overwhelming favourite trips was to Dafen, the oil painting village. “It was a great experience,” says Kelly Gribbons. Fellow first-year Ailish Forfar added, “The village was fascinating! To see the untouched streets lined with shops, and people outside actually painting was something very unique to Shenzhen that you can’t find elsewhere.”
Some picked up custom pieces of art or calligraphy, while others purchased pottery or picked out already framed paintings. Kristen Richards and Alexis Woloschuk even got in on the painting action, learning from artists outside their shops. “They were all so talented,” remembers Jocelyne Larocque, “I loved being able to see the culture there. It was my favourite outing!”
Another day saw the team venture to the Fairy Lake Botanical Garden and visiting the Hongfa Temple. “It was beautiful - nature and culture together,” says Forfar. “The area was so green it was almost like the park was cheering for the Thunder!”
When it came time to play hockey, the fans in the Shenzhen Universiade Sports Center were ready to cheer. “The drum would start up whenever the Rays were in our zone, and you could hear the crowd get excited,” explained Forfar. Gribbons added, “Every shot the Rays took you heard the ‘Oooohs’ roll through the crowd.”
After playing all three games and coming away with five points, including winning back-to-back games to end the trip, it was time for a team hot pot dinner. “It was so much fun to experience hot pot with everyone,” says Gribbons. “It was a great end to the trip to watch some teammates struggle with the spicy side of the pot - especially Elijah [Milne-Price] and Ailish!”
“It was an amazing trip to play hockey on another continent and have the opportunity to become immersed in the culture and be together as a team,” Laura Fortino concluded. The planning is already underway for excursions to experience even more in China next season!