Amity hockey competing in Germany
WEST HAVEN >> For years, Amity boys hockey coach Gary Lindgren wanted to plan a trip to Europe for his team to play exhibition games against European high school teams. The trip would help with his players’ development, instill some team bonding and provide an educational experience.
After last season, knowing he was going to announce that he would step down after the 2016-17 season, Lindgren was determined to get it done in his final act as the Spartans’ coach.
But Lindgren didn’t know if he could pull it off — he needed everyone’s support to move forward.
First, he got the support of all his players who loved the idea. Then, the parents came on board. Lindgren said the final piece of the puzzle fell in place when school administrators, including superintendent of schools Dr. Charles Demais, supported the idea.
In April, he approached East Coast Hockey Tours, Inc. in Binghamton, New York, which offers high school hockey exhibition tour packages in Europe.
Today, the Spartans will depart for Munich, Germany for an eight-day trip that will include two exhibition games in Munich and one in Salzburg, Austria plus four high-profile sightseeing tours with a return flight home on Jan. 2.
“This was the last thing I wanted to achieve as Amity coach,” said Lindgren at a recent practice at Bennett Rink. He is in his 20th season as the Spartans coach. “Everything had to line up just right and we needed everyone’s support and got it. I’m just blown away by it all. The parents have been great, I can’t say enough about the great support from school and the superintendent and the entire community has come on board too.
“This is such a win-win-win situation. One big thing is this is a chance for all our players to really bond together. That’s important for me to see. We also get to play some great hockey against some very talented European teams and the educational experience is off the charts.”
The recent terrorist attack in Berlin, Germany has been on the minds of those going on the trip. But Lindgren said it hasn’t deterred anyone from wanting to go.
“The only thing I’m worried about now is the planning part and making sure everyone has their passports and documents for the trip,” Lindgren said. “No one has really mentioned it (Berlin terrorist attack) and no one is really concerned. The key is for everyone to stay together, be observant and vigilant.”
The Spartans will play EHC Munich on Wednesday, EA Schongau in Munich on Thursday and Bad Aibling in Salzburg, Austria on Friday.
“We’re all really pumped up for this,” Amity senior defender and co-captain Mac Deane said. “It’s going to be a lot of fun. The experience of going over there, the team bonding and getting to play against some strong teams, will help our team be more prepared when we come back to finish off our regular season here at home.”
Among the sightseeing tours on the trip will be a tour of Dachau Concentration Camp, tour of the Neuschwanstein Castle, walking tour of Salzburg, the city of Mozart and Sound of Music, and a tour of Munich. There will also be a New Years Eve fireworks display in Munich at midnight.
“We can’t wait to get there,” senior right wing and co-captain Nick DeGennaro said. “We’re all anticipating a great time and playing in some great games. We’re looking at this as a way for us to develop and get better as a team. Bonding will be a big thing in Germany but to be honest all the fundraising events we’ve done for this trip has brought us all together too.”
There will be 30 members of the Amity team going — 25 players, one team manager and four coaches. In addition to Lingren assistant coaches Don Linley, Jeff Buchter and Todd Dandelske will be going. Including parents and family there will be 88 going on the trip in all.
The cost for the entire trip is $2,550 per person. Lindgren said there have been many fundraisers since April with some sponsors making financial donations such as Subway. Overall the team has raised nearly $70,000 to offset costs.
“We did what we could to pull this off, everyone worked so hard, even former players and alumni helped,” Lindgren said. “It’s my last season and making this a reality is a fitting thing for me to do, a great way to go out with a bang. I look at this as an amazing experience that no one will ever forget.”
The Amity hockey team has gone on European trips two other times with exhibition games in Sweden and Finland in 1977 and again in the 1980s.