Steamboat Springs They traveled thousands of miles with pins, T-shirts and hockey cards in tow hoping that they would discover that the kids of the Czech Republic, Austria and Germany shared their same love for the game of hockey.
But what they found during their two week European adventure last month was so much more?
"It was really historic," squirt Timmy Rabbit said of the trip to the Czech Republic.
In Prague the skaters discovered great shopping, there were castles in Germany and cobble stone streets in Austria. It was a trip of a lifetime for any 11-year-old and their parents. These four Steamboat Springs Youth Hockey Association squirts came back with more than their share of memories from the trip.
Vladan Chase, Michael Weston, Timmy Rabbit and Miranda Shrock all made the trip along with skaters from other parts of the country as part of a special youth hockey vacation package to Europe.
The children said they didn't always understand what their European counterparts were trying to tell them, but everybody seemed to find common ground once they stepped onto the ice of the hockey rink.
The Steamboat players quickly discovered that the Europeans like a more physical game of hockey. The squirt players got a quick introduction to the body check something they are not allowed to do in the United States until they reach the Peewee level.
The local players said the Europeans didn't show a lot of hospitality on the ice, but once the game was over they were treated with respect and curiosity. They got a chance to make new friends and discover the local lifestyle.
"Prague had the best shopping," Shrock said.
While Schrock discovered the great shopping in Prague, Chase was impressed with the potato pancakes of Germany and all of the local players were impressed with the history of the regions they visited.
After nine days all four returned with stories, a few new souvenirs and a first-hand experience with several different cultures.
In all, the American's spend four out of nine days playing hockey during the trip. Two days were spent traveling and the rest of the time was reserved for site seeing.
Like most vacationers, Weston wished the players could have stayed longer in each location, so they could have done more. He also wished that he would have packed a few more hockey cards for the trip the cards were the hottest item for trading among the European players.
The cards, much like the American players themselves, drew a mob wherever they went.
In the end the Americans didn't win a lot of games on the ice, but they did learn a lot about ice hockey.
"You couldn't understand what they were saying," Chase said. "But the game was pretty much the same as we play here."
All four players said they would like to go back in the future and visit again, and yes, it's true the kids love hockey in Europe too.