Saturday, October 16, 2004

I can't think of a more ignorant reaction to last night's Killer Bees-Team Mexico game than "wasted effort" or "why'd they play the game?" or "not a good way for the Bees to get prepared."

I mean, ok, maybe it was a waste of time for Bees goaltender Terry Dunbar, who only faced three shots, but then, he's probably not gonna make the final roster anyway. And Tracey Egeland did admit he wasn't paying attention to the finer points of line combos or players on the bubble.

But that's not what this was all about. No one expected a good game (10-1, was my prediction). And for the teams participating, these contests (ok, "contests") are in addition to, not instead of, proper preseason tilts.

Anyway, the game was -- yes, I'm really gonna say this -- closer than the final score.

Well, for 20 minutes anyway. Mexico worked hard, and were well-coached in their defensive system. They were simply overmatched, and eventually that took both a physical and mental toll. Cue 11-goal explosion.

Thing is, there were no unhappy faces walking off the ice.

"It's a great experience for us to play here," said Team Mexico coach Joaqin De La Garma. "We've never played against a professional team. I'm happy with my team because all they did was work, work work. We have an invitation for next year to come again -- playing next year would be great."

Goaltender Diego De La Garma, the coach's son, faced 52 shots, stopping 44. Asked if he'd ever experienced such a barrage, he responded, "Nothing like this. It's like a dream come true."

Typical masochistic goalie. Or else something got lost in the translation.

But the point is, these kids were thrilled to be playing a minor pro hockey team, excited to get this kind of publicity and hopeful of a bright future for Mexican hockey -- for the national team, for recreational players, and, of course, for the CHL in Monterrey come 2005. It's no different from a I-AA football team visiting Texas or Nebraska for a beating. I'm just sorry they weren't selling Team Mexico pucks.

It was also cool of healthy scratch Ryan Shmyr to camp out by the rink door, greeting the Mexican players as they left the ice.

"The best thing to take from this was, it was a good experience for them and it was a good experience for us," said Egeland. "In the bigger picture it's good for hockey. It's good to promote the game. 10 years ago -- even three years ago -- there never would have even been a game like this. It's something that I'll remember, and that I'm sure most of the guys will remember."
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