Kazakhstan’s 2007 World Women’s Championship is over, and the team failed to register a goal on the scoreboard or a point in the standings.
But that doesn’t mean the Kazakhs didn’t have an impact while they were here in Manitoba.
The team did its pre-tournament training in the local community of Morden, where they spent time with some young female hockey players.
“They really fit into the community well,” said Jim Mutcheson, head of the host committee in Morden. “I think it was a really good warm feeling. I think that they felt like they were at home.”
Jim’s 14-year old daughter Abbey was one of the young players that took part in the skate with the Kazakhs, and she said she found it inspiring to have the opportunity, mentioning that some of the players from the former Soviet republic are only a few years older than her and yet playing in a World Championship.
Abbey said that she spent a lot of time on the ice with defenceman Viktoriya Sazonova, and that she has become her favourite player.
When asked about being a role model, Sazonova sheepishly said: “I’m just happy to be a bright player for someone at least.”
Sazonova said she enjoyed her time on the ice with the girls in Morden.
“Every time I have the chance to play with the girls, I see that these little girls admire their hockey players and want to be hockey players themselves. I’m always interested in meeting girls that are interested in hockey.”
Currently, there are only 184 registered female players in Kazakhstan, and despite the youthfulness of some national team members, there are fewer opportunities for girls the same age as those in Morden to play.
“In Kazakhstan, girls that age don’t play hockey,” said Sazonova.
But she is optimistic about Kazakhstan’s hockey future and feels they will only get better with time.
“Every game is a big experience because this is a World Championship,” said Sazonova. “We tried our best at each and every game. We play on a world stage and we are proud of that.”
Sazonova and her teammates will try hard next year to win the Division I World Championship and make it back to play with the elite teams in 2009.
And there’ll be a group of young girls from Morden cheering them on.