For Avery Bruce, a recent trip to the Czech Republic garnered him a couple of souvenirs; one that glitters with gold and the other that serves as a reminder of how tough the game of hockey can be.
Bruce was part of the Western Canadian Selects Grizzlies that travelled to Slany, Czech Republic earlier this month and captured the gold medal at an international bantam tournament.
Unfortunately for the 14-year-old Birch Hills product he suffered a broken wrist in the first playoff game and was sidelined for the semifinal and championship game.
“My friends (teammates) helped me through it,” said Bruce shortly after returning home from the 10-day trip. “I’m just glad I didn’t have to go home.”
Bruce was just one of three Saskatchewan players on the squad with the remainder coming from Alberta and British Columbia. He was asked if he wanted to play for the team while he was playing Pee Wee AA a year ago and now that the trip is over he says it was better than he expected.
“They took us on trips and we saw castles and a concentration camp,” says Bruce. “I didn’t expect the trips.”
“The coaches were really good too,” added Bruce, who had Ryan Parent from B.C. as his head coach for the tournament.
Bruce, who spent the past season playing defence for a Bantam A hockey club, got to see some action in a pair of exhibition games against the Czech Republic and Finland and then dressed for the first two games of the eight-team tournament before being injured.
The Grizzlies capped the experience with a 4-2 triumph over Finland in the gold-medal game and Bruce says it was something he will always remember.
“When they asked if I wanted to go I said yes right away,” stated Bruce. “I didn’t want to miss an experience like that.”
Bruce will spend the next few months recovering from his injury and then try out with the North East Wolf Pack of the Saskatchewan Bantam AA Hockey League in the fall. Next year will a big one for Avery as it will be his draft year for the Western Hockey League plus Midget AAA hockey clubs will also be keeping an eye on him.
The trip to the Czech Republic, although it was interrupted with an injury, was surely something he will use to his advantage in the future.