Moose Use FIFA World Cup as Bonding OpportunityBy: Manitoba Moose Staff | Published: December 8th 2022
As time ticked down between Spain and Morocco's FIFA World Cup match, the Moose began to gather. The training room, which holds a pair of televisions, slowly began to swell with players and staff as they realized that the contest was nearing the penalty kick stage to decide the winner. By the time the penalty kick portion began in earnest, the room was packed, with many of the skaters remaining in half or all of their equipment for fear of missing out on the spectacle as they came off the practice ice. A cacophony of excited voices rose from the room as do-or-die portion officially began.
In the end, the Moroccan side pulled the upset and eliminated Spain from contention. The result split the room, with some players reacting with happiness at the underdog victory, while others, like netminder Arvid Holm, were less than impressed and had hoped that Spain would push ahead to keep his pool bid alive.
Defenceman Leon Gawanke was at the centre of the hum of excitement. "Oh yeah, it’s awesome", notes Gawanke. "For me as a huge soccer fan obviously it’s the greatest time of the year, even though it’s in the winter right now. It’s great to see especially now. Once the games are on at the rink, they’re usually on when we’re all at the rink and I feel like everyone is literally watching it. Even the two penalty kick games we had yesterday and the day before the boys were in there and were so into it. You have guys that didn’t even know that soccer existed before and now they’re really into it."
The Berlin, Germany native's hopes of his home country winning the World Cup were dashed in the Group Stage. That set Gawanke up cheer for the rest of the tournament's underdogs, which allowed him to come away happy with the Moroccan victory, as it eliminated a rival European squad in Spain.
Through the continuous grind of an AHL season, teams are always looking at fun alternatives to keep their players engaged and relaxed. The World Cup and an outdoor skate at Camp Manitou have done wonders for the squad. “It helps with team chemistry," notes Gawanke "If you could just see the day at Camp Manitou, everyone was having fun with everyone. And now over the last few days talking about how fun it was with the penalty kicks. Everyone is just in there yelling and hoping for their team to win. I think it just shows how tight of a group we are. It has just been fun all around all year. It just makes it even more fun for us. Our chemistry has been awesome all year."
Manitoba heads back on the road to take on the Abbotsford Canucks at Abbotsford Centre on Friday, Dec. 9. Puck drop for is slated for 9 p.m. CT. You can catch the game on CJOB.com/sports, the new Winnipeg Jets App, and AHLTV.