By Curt Sandoval
LAKEWOOD, California (KABC) — Many of the players drafted into the NHL earlier this month got their start at the Brick Invitational in Edmonton, Canada, which has been dubbed the “Little League World Series” of hockey.
This year, Western Selects Hockey, a team of 10-year-old hockey players from the Western U.S. is headed to the elite international invitational tournament.
One of the team’s stars, Lincoln Pinkelman, told Eyewitness News he is 4 foot 4 inches and weighs 68 pounds.
But don’t their size fool you, the West’s top youth hockey team represents the region well.
“Unbelievable, these guys are special to watch. It’s fun to be on the bench with them. They bring a level of maturity too that sometimes I forget they are 10 years old,” said Sam Graham, the Western Selects head coach.
The team is made of 16 of the best of thousands of young hockey players in 10 Western states.
And some of the players are from Southern California. At least two are from San Diego County, and another from Orange County. But states like Colorado and Alaska are represented as well.
“When we go to tournaments, we’ll fly in a few days early and try to get some practices in there. But, it definitely is an accelerated course,” said Andrew Cohen, the team’s general manager. “I’m amazed at how this group has bonded.”
The team was finalizing its training camp in Lakewood before flying into Edmonton this weekend for the hockey equivalent of the Little League World Series.
“It’s like the NHL playoffs for 10-year-olds. It’s a big tournament. It’s the biggest tournament for 10 year olds and one of the biggest tournaments for youth hockey,” said Graham.
When Eyewitness News visited the team, the young athletes seemed mentally prepared for what they were about to face.
“We need to come out hot every game and play our hardest,” said Pinkelman.
“If we play hard and play as a team I think that we’ll get some good chances to win Brick. So that is what I am looking for as a team,” said Hayes Kirian, a player from Dallas, Texas.
But Cohen said winning is not the most important part of the team’s mission.
“Whether we win or lose, the most intrinsic value of this program is the kids get inspired,” he said.
The current squad has an 11-game winning streak and has won its last and only two tournaments as a team, which were in Boston and Winnipeg.
So, make no mistake, these Western hockey players are confident and ready to play.
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