Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Support quality journalism
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
The Globe and Mail
Support quality journalism
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Globe and Mail website displayed on various devices
Just$1.99
per week
for the first 24 weeks

var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){console.log("scroll");var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1);

Slapping a Canadian Maple Leaf on your backpack when travelling abroad may have its perks, but Craig Klinkhoff has found an even better way to make friends in foreign lands.

He's one of the young Montrealers behind Hockey Without Borders, a Canadian non-profit organization that aims to support fledgling ice-hockey programs in the unlikeliest of places.

"No matter where I went with my hockey equipment, when I'm meeting people from a local hockey community, they embrace you immediately," Klinkhoff, 23, said in an interview.

Story continues below advertisement

"You meet people that are so different from you culturally, even in some cases they don't speak any English, but they treat you like you're best friends."

Founded in 2011, the organization now has programs in Serbia, Turkey, and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

While those are hardly hockey hot spots, Klinkhoff says the sport has a small but devoted following in each country. The idea is to send over young Canadian coaches to help the locals improve their existing program.

It's not, Klinkhoff emphasized, to push hockey on communities with no interest in the game.

"We don't go somewhere and say, 'You're going to play hockey now,"' he said. "We go because a local organization or club has asked us to help a hockey program."

The project was started on an informal basis a few years earlier by another young Canadian, Fred Perowne.

The native of Sherbrooke, Que., and former U.S. college player developed strong ties while playing in Serbia's professional league in the early 2000s.

Story continues below advertisement

Perowne ended up playing for the country in international competition and worked as an assistant coach for its junior teams, bringing over several other Canadians to help out.

The idea for Hockey Without Borders grew from there.

The organization now has three coaches in Serbia, working with roughly 100 young players, another two in Sarajevo working with 60, while 20 youngsters took part in a recent program in Turkey.

Organizers for Hockey Without Borders say the program isn't just about sport — and that it offers valuable life lessons for everyone involved.

"We're elevating people's games abroad, but we're also helping to grow individuals," said Matthew Robbins, 24, a longtime friend of Klinkhoff.

"We see hockey as this incredible tool to teach other things in life, like leadership."

Story continues below advertisement

As an example, Robbins pointed to the experience of a young man in Turkey who credits hockey with changing his life.

It's far from common to spot a hockey stick or skates in Ankara, a bustling city of 4.3 million people, but a small segment of the city's youth has gotten the bug, Robbins said.

Can Acar, 23, said hockey helped turn his life around.

"I used to be so lazy that I didn't even leave my house for one month or more," Acar said in a video produced by Hockey Without Borders.

"After I started hockey... it makes my life better."

The program in Ankara is run with the help of the local Police Academy hockey club, which has a team in the Turkish hockey league. It's designed to expose the players to English and offer a glimpse into a world beyond their own.

Story continues below advertisement

"This is a social program that allows people to get out and learn life skills from playing," Klinkhoff said.

"The hockey community is where they form their friendships."

The calibre, meanwhile, ranges widely.

Most of the players in Turkey only have a few years' experience on the ice. While many draw from the experience of playing roller-hockey, Klinkhoff said they would struggle against a decent rec-league team in Canada.

In Serbia, the skill level is rapidly improving and the country recently won the Division II under-18 World Championships, he said.

The facilities also vary.

Story continues below advertisement

In Sarajevo, the locker rooms are in the complex from the 1984 Olympics but the ice surface was moved to a dome in the adjacent parking lot. Players have to put skate guards on and walk about 100 metres to get on the ice.

Hockey Without Borders is hoping to set up more programs in future — but for now, it's concentrating on keeping things running with those already underway.

At the moment, the funding comes almost entirely from the volunteer coaches themselves, who must pay for their own flight abroad.

The organization has agreements in place with host clubs to provide an apartment and food, along with coaching-related expenses. It is trying to line up private and corporate sponsors to subsidize the cost of air fares for the coaches.

"Hockey Without Borders is only about a year and a half old," Klinkhoff said.

"We think it'll be an attractive program to donate to if one believes in the many benefits of hockey."

Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies