[This article was written by a non-native English speaker and has only been edited lightly to keep its flavor -- and heart. Enjoy. -- Richard Neil Graham]
A TRIP TO REMEMBER
by Henrique Andrade
Itís difficult to find the right words to start, but Iíll try to.
All of this started last August, when some crazy Brazilians started to plan a trip to play NARCh, thinking that will be their greatest experience of all playing hockey.
Well, Iíve played proudly for Team Brazil in 2009 IIHF World Championships in Germany, and until this trip to San Jose, it was the greatest experience that I had in my life, including personal, working, having fun... the best of them all.
Then, when we were almost set to travel and play, some friends quit because they wonít have enough money to the trip. Now we started to look for some players to fill the spots in our team andIíve found Ned Kennedy and his great background in hockey, playing in Finland, PIHA, some ice hockey and looking like a great guy in our e-mail conversations. He brought other great guys to our team, David Free and Jeremy Burton, a.k.a. ďThe Goalie,Ē a hilarious person! And of course, I canít forget Kenneth Novak and Kiefer Lupascu, amazing players and persons. If I can Iíll play with all of them anywhere, anytime!
Ned said to we start to look for some teams to make friendly games to tune up our own team and begin to know each other, because weíve never played together, so the idea sounded perfect and I gave him the green light to do it. If I thought that this decision will change our life forever, Iíd have said yes faster than I did!
When Ned told me that the Northern California Mustangs has accepted the challenge, I was happy and afraid, because I didnít know who the Mustangs are. And after I discover it I went more worried that we canít make a good presentation against them! After a few days I started to talk with one of the greatest persons that Iíve ever had the chance to meet, Mr. Mario Sousa, head coach of the NC Mustangs. We set everything up and Iíve entered in their web page and saw the matchup banners and invitations, heard about his plans to the games, and something inside of my head started to call my attention to an event bigger than NARCh itself.
Our reception couldnít be better! All Mustangs received us and have respected us from the very first minute until our last puck drop! Mr. Sousa then made us feel like home, helping us to be ready to play and arranged a goalie for us, because until 30 minutes to the initial faceoff we are without one! When he introduced us to our ďmoment goalie,Ē Jody McAlpine, and he started to talk with us and played absolutely an outstanding hockey for us. I was sure that I canít let him go away and he must play NARCh for us!
The game itself was like expected, weíve tried to make something, but against a team like the Mustangs and in their rink was impossible to face them with half of the team knowing each other a few minutes ago in the locker room! Besides that issue, the game was pretty fair, no penalties in both of them that I can remember, what shows that they are a great team.
After the game, we started to know even more all the Mustangs and then we donít realize that this will change all the trip. Jody agreed to play with us, and Mr. Sousa, Mr. David James and Mr. Mamon said that they will go there and help us! U-N-B-E-L-I-E-V-A-B-L-E!!! I was very happy in hearing that! But after all of this, Mr. Sousa said that in the next night he will schedule one practice for us and will help us there! After this moment I was sure that we have found some precious people, the kind that you canít find every time and everywhere.
Then the night before the tournament started, was everybody there Ė Mr. Sousa, Mr. Mamon, Mr. James and some guys like Jeremy Mamon, Dominic Mamon, Alex Redmond and a lot other guys that Iím sorry but I canít remember now, showing us how to do, what to do, how to play... stopping all the time to give us some hints and tips for everything. It made us a lot more prepared to play than I ever thought possible!
When the tournament started they are all there, Mr. (dad!) Sousa, Mr. Mamon and Mr. James, helping us all the way, staying with us in bench, giving precious tips and strategies to play! If we had any chance in this tournament, if we had won one game and was so close to do it again in two times, most of this credit we owe to them, including Dominic Mamon, who was with us all the time, just like the coaches, eating pizza, laughing and having tons of fun together with the crazy Brazilians!
And if that wasnít enough, then we were called to be in their Monday practice, playing with the Mustangs, using their jerseys and being a ďMustang for one dayĒ like Mr. Sousa said. Iím sorry Mr. Sousa, but I was feeling like a Mustang since day one, and still feeling like this!
To begin my special thanks, I canít do it with another person than Dominic Mamon, that adopted me, giving me a lot of Mustangs stuff, equipment, and tips and showed the great person that he, his father and brothers are. Thank you very much, my friend!
Of course, I canít forget the captain, Mr. Travis Hawkins, a real captain who leads the team in goals, assists and also when they need someone to give the first punch to show respect! Congratulations for this, my friend!
To all the Mamon family, including Baltazar, Dominic, Jeremy and their brother, my thank you for support us and for the kind words after every game, winning or losing, 12 p.m. or 2 a.m.! The Mamon family is in my heart forever!
To Mr. David ďBubbaĒ James. Coach, thanks a lot for your in-game tips, your always inspiring words and for show us that one coach donít need to talk all the time, but just say the right words! And for the puck, too! Itís here in my desk, to remember how great the person who gave it to me is!
To Alex Redmond, that stand with us after the match-ups, after the Monday practice and for show us some hockey tricks and tips. Most of all, a great lesson of being humble and proud of who you are without need any spotlight over you! Just be who you are and play with your heart; the greatest lessons that weíve learned!
To all the Mustangs too! Guys, this team is really special! Donít let this goes out! I had the greatest time of my life in this trip playing against you, with you and supported by all of you too! I hope to see all of you real soon!
To Jody, too! Jody, what a funny guy are you! Claudio still donít sleeping thinking that you are talking serious! What a pleasure to meet and play with you! Hope to receive you here in Brazil anytime you can!
And to finish I need to say the deepest and greatest THANK YOU to the coach, Mr. Mario Sousa, a.k.a. Daddy Sousa! How can I say thank you with words to you for all the help, support, for be with us in almost all games, for the gifts, the time spent with some unknown Brazilians, the pizzas, tons and tons of laughs and fun with Claudio and all of us? I still thinking if you really exist, because Iíve never, ever saw some kindness with strangers in hockey or life like you did. After our return when people ask me what was the best time of my trip, I say that was when I met you and the Mustangs! I feel like one instantly and will be one Mustang for the rest of my life. Also I want to say thank you to your wife, to you beautiful and cute baby girl! Great persons always attracts another great persons to their lives!
With you Iíve learned how a coach must do, how to talk with your players, how to be with them and most of all, how to be a winner! Iím pretty sure that the Mustangs reaching the playoffs this season was just a start for you guys! The future is promising!
Mustangs, one thing I can promise to all of you, one day weíll be together again and I hope to play with you guys at least one time. That will be an honor to me, and Iíll be proud of it for the rest of my life!
Mustangs for life!
Again, thanks for everything guys!
Best wishes, regards and a lot of hockey for all of us!
Henrique ďHendriksĒ Andrade