DRESDEN – Aiming to defend the IIHF InLine Hockey World Championship title, Canada has two players shining in Dresden who earned their inline stripes playing in France.
With five goals and as many assists, Thomas Woods in the best scorer in the Top Division just behind Sweden’s Henrik Höglund, and made his way to France following his teammate, defenceman Fred Corbeil.
“He got me there. I was playing the whole year there, in Villeneuve,” Woods says.
And after some months there he can say the team name that’s not that easy to pronounce if you’re not a French speaker: Fous du Bitume de Villeneuve-la-Garenne.
Woods moved to the Paris suburb from British Columbia, where he used to play in the Vancouver Inline Hockey League.
“The league in France is way better. They take it pretty serious,” the 24-year-old explains. “You have fans coming out. You have practices during the week and workouts. There are a lots of good teams and lots of good players in the league.”
Coming from the motherland of ice hockey, Woods also played on ice, but grew into a strong inline hockey player.
“I played ice hockey when I was younger but in the last five years I’ve focused on inline hockey and I’ve been looking forward to this tournament every summer,” he adds with a smile.
“This here is the top level for sure,” he says. “You’re getting ready the whole year for this one. You’re playing against the best inline players in the world, you’re playing in great arenas, you have good fans and the best players from your country. This is the best inline there is.”
The tournament started well for Woods. He almost single-handedly led Canada to a 6-1 win over Slovakia in the first game. Then came a 5-3 defeat to the U.S. followed by a 10-3 victory against Slovenia.
“Any team can beat any team in this tournament,” Woods said. “We’re just gonna trying to get better every game.”
After finishing the group in second place, Canada’s next opponent will be the Czech Republic, which finished third in the other group of this division, in the first quarter-final game on Thursday.
The other pairings are Sweden vs. Slovenia, Finland vs. Slovakia, USA vs. Germany.