The Northern Lights Hockey Tournament – 6 November 3, 2014

In the 19th century, the Duke of Wellington wrote to his friend John Croker about the Napoleonic Wars, “Some individuals may recollect all the little events of which the great result is the battle won or lost, but no individual can recollect the order in which, or the exact moment at which, they occurred, which makes all the difference in their value and importance.”

I humbly submit that in a minor key, hockey games are the same for people playing them. I can’t begin to describe the games we played that weekend, and can only tell you that in the first period of our first game, Reykjavik’s SR team massively out-played us, with much of the action in our end of the ice.

SR Reykjavik

SR Reykjavik

Yet North Toronto had a secret weapon. Our goalie, Karitas, played net on Iceland’s national women’s hockey team. The best women’s goalie in Iceland had our backs, and in that lopsided first period, she fended off shot after shot, so the score remained 0-0 as the buzzer sounded.

The games that weekend were each divided into two 20-minute periods. Regrouping after the first, fighting off jetlag and our collective lack of sleep, we attacked at the start of the second period and evened up the play, taking the game to SR’s end and getting off some pretty good shots of our own. True, we failed to score, but the game ended up in a scoreless tie and we went to a shoot-out…

…and won!

The game ended 1-0, Toronto over Reykjavik. Winning felt amazing, although I was probably a little too stunned to enjoy it as much as I should have. Back in the dressing room, we lounged around in half-equipment as we waited for our second game of the day. In a couple of hours, we’d be taking on Valkyrjur, the Women Warriors from Akureyri—and to make a 40-minute-long story short, we beat them, too. Even without Karitas in net, we won 1-0. Mind you, our new goalie, Gulla, was the back-up goalie on the national team. But we were finding our legs. The play was much more even, and we headed back to Reykjavik feeling pumped.

Over these final three days of our trip, we bounced back and forth between the arena, downtown Reykjavik and–very briefly–our hotel. Off the ice, we played amoeba again, forming and re-forming subgroups as we drifted from restaurants to tourist sites, checking out the view from the spire of the great Lutheran cathedral, drifting into museums and galleries, heading down to the flea market, the shops, and indulging in more great cuisine.

On Saturday night, the rest of the team went to the Fish Market restaurant and had what many described as the best meal they’d ever eaten. Meanwhile I slipped off to join Icelandic friends at an Indian restaurant, the Austur-Indiafjelagid, where they served tandoori lamb so tender that it was just as high on my list.

There, my Icelandic friends told me a little of the dark side of the Icelandic tourism boom that was making the trip so easy for

Valkyrjur from Akureyri

Valkyrjur from Akureyri

our team. Icelanders don’t tip, with the high prices in restaurants ensuring that servers are decently paid; the same with tour fees. But with foreigners used to tipping in their own countries—in fact, I always felt lousy when I didn’t—Icelanders working in the tourist sector are raking in money, and routinely failing to report it when doing their taxes. This has brought a species of black market to Iceland, and creates tension between the people who have access to tourist dollars and the ones who don’t.

That’s hardly the country’s only problem, of course. Read the detective novels of former journalist Arnaldur Indriðason for an easy entré into life in Reykjavik. Through his Detective Erlendur, Indriðason explores Icelandic social problems ranging from date rape to child poverty and the treatment of immigrants. What looks pretty, my Icelandic friends assure me, often isn’t.

The next morning, we were back in the arena, where we once again played the Reykjavik team, and once again beat them, winning 1-0 in our second shoot-out. Gulla was again in goal, and by this time, we were enjoying coaching help from two members of the Canadian women’s select team, Aileen and Laurie from Kitchener-Waterloo. Wanting to help their team too, we serenaded them with O Canada between periods in a tough game against the top Icelandic team, an unexpectedly moving moment as we belted the national anthem across the wide expanse of the Egilshöll arena, and the select team belted it back.

North Toronto and SR Reykjavik

North Toronto and SR Reykjavik

We lost our next game to Akureyri, who were so happy with their only win of the weekend that we could hardly begrudge them, especially since we were going to the play-offs, anyway. The championship was scheduled for 5 p.m., our third game of the day and fifth of the weekend. By this time, our equipment was contributing mightily to the smell pervading the arena and we were exhausted, trying to pump ourselves up for the play-offs by playing loud music in the dressing room. I wasn’t sure how I could find enough energy to lace on my sweaty skates and jam my hands into a pair of damp gloves, and dressed again slowly, eating too much of the chocolate appearing from pockets and bags.

Amazing how you can get it back the instant you hit the ice. Once again, we were playing Reykjavik, this time with a Canadian in our net, Kathy from the select team. By this time, we had gelled as a team, and the game proved remarkably even. Only a day and a half before, Reykjavik had dominated us out of the gates. Now we were neck and neck, and if our team was fading toward the end, Reykjavik was, too. I recall saying to Denise, my defensive partner, “I have 4:15 left in me.” This with 4:15 left on the clock, and the score again tied 0-0.

What are the odds of three shoot-outs in three games against the same team? Yet as the buzzer sounded, the game once again remained scoreless. We wanted to play overtime, but the arena was booked for other games, and after the referees conferred, we found ourselves facing our third shoot-out.

Deirdre with the tournament cup, and Jane with an opinion.

Deirdre with the tournament cup, and Jane with an opinion.

Drama as we skated out, shot–and missed. Drama as SR did the same thing. A repeat. Except they scored! And we didn’t, so this time we lost. Did we care? Well, yes. It would have been lovely to win our first tournament as a team. But this wasn’t the Olympics, and since we’d gone there expecting to lose every game, we took the figurative silver medal with pride, team captain Denise named most valuable player , Deirdre lying on the ice afterward in only semi-faked exhaustion as Reykjavik raised their sticks in celebration.

Photos. Hugs. Maybe some shopping the morning. We flew out of Iceland the next afternoon, already talking about our next tournament.

Kitchener-Waterloo in December? Stay tuned.