Victoria visits Kazakhstan
by Martin Merk|01 MAY 2019
From Canada to Kazakhstan: Barret Kropf and Cory Truscott joined the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group A in Nur-Sultan.
photo: Martin Merk
Four months ago the Kazakh U20 national team was playing at the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship in western Canada and started in the city of Victoria. It had a hearty welcome in the capital city of the province of British Columbia, became sort of the fan favourite at the arena and was accompanied throughout the tournament by “Sweet Caroline”, which the organizers chose as the Kazakhs’ goal song.

The event was one of the most successful in recent Kazakh hockey history as the team finished in ninth place and managed to stay in the top group. And the team was such overwhelmed that it produced a “Thank you Victoria” video after the tournament. Good times never seemed so good!
Now Kazakhstan plays for the first time host to the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group A and wanted to return the favour. Two Canadian admirers of Kazakh ice hockey were invited to the capital of Nur-Sultan, which is from Victoria almost the end of the world in the northern hemisphere.

Barret Kropf from Langley and Cory Truscott from Victoria made the way to Nur-Sultan via Vancouver and Beijing with around 18 hours of flight time in the air plus layovers.

For Kropf it has been the 15th time in Kazakhstan since he came first time in 1999. He has been coming several times to help the Ice Hockey Federation of Kazakhstan organize camps and opponents for their teams, coaching conferences and to bring equipment through the NHLPA’s Goals & Dreams Program. Later he came with teams he was coaching.

“Usually, wherever I’m working I end up coming to Kazakhstan. I love it here. It’s an awesome place,” Kropf said while Kazakh pop music sounds through the loudspeakers at Barys Arena before Kazakhstan’s game against Lithuania.

Truscott has felt connected to Kazakh ice hockey since he saw them first time at the World Juniors in 1992 but it’s the first time he actually came to Kazakhstan.

“I love what I’ve seen so far. People are really nice,” Truscott said. “I watched all their games in Victoria, spoke to players after the games and then through social media.”

He kept in touch especially with goaltender Demid Yeremeyev. And one player from last winter’s World Junior team, 19-year-old defenceman Valeri Orekhov, even made it to the men’s team here.

“For me there’s a little bit of business mixed in but I hope we will have fun as well,” said Kropf as he already started thinking of the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship in the Czech Republic where he wants to help organize a pre-event camp again and will discuss with the federation’s management.

“It’s a quite new experience for me. I’m very excited to be here and quite honoured to be invited here. I hope to meet all kinds of people, see some hockey, see the culture and maybe meet some of the players and coaches of the tournament,” said Truscott and also has a special gift for Yeremeyev with him as he ordered a bottle of maple syrup.

Demid, what about some kumiss and shubat in exchange?

Of course the Canadian duo that arrived in Nur-Sultan wants to express their gratitude as well with the start of their journey in Kazakhstan: