Written by: Andreas Athanasopolous
Edited by: Merisa Boyd
Visiting a new country for the first time brings along a whirlwind of emotions. It can be exciting and overwhelming at times, but really becomes something rewarding to look back on. The Worcester Blades returned home from Shenzhen, China last week where they played three games vs. the Shenzhen KRS Vanke Rays. This trip was the second in Blades’ franchise history, but for rookie forward Demi Crossman, this was her first and it became an experience that she’ll never forget.
Crossman and her teammates took in the culture throughout China and felt the deep appreciation they have for the sport there as they build for the future on the international stage. She recently spoke of the trip’s impact on her and what the memories made in Shenzhen with her team means now that she has the opportunity to look back on them.
Was this your first time traveling abroad to play hockey? If no, where else have you gone and when?
CROSSMAN: This was my second time traveling aboard for hockey. Back in high school, I went to Czech Republic for U18 Worlds.
Did you prepare for the long flight any specific way?
CROSSMAN: The majority of the team met at a teammate’s house for an all-nighter the night before we left, so we could sleep on the plane and get a head start on the time change. Other than that, I just made sure I drank an excessive amount of water and had all my Netflix shows downloaded. Throughout the flight, the team claimed a section of the plane where we would meet up and stretch and have a mental debrief.
When you first got off the plane or went out of the hotel to check out the Shenzhen what was your initial impression? How was it different from what you expected?
CROSSMAN: I’m not sure exactly what I expected. I’m not the foreshadowing type. Mainly, I couldn’t get over the warm weather and palm trees at first. Coming from Minnesota, I forgot those things existed. Once we got on the bus, I got my first real taste of China. My eyes were glued to the window looking at all the different buildings and all the people walking on the streets. I took a quick cat nap once the sun started going down and when I woke up again it was dark and all the buildings were lit up all different colors. That was pretty cool.
What was your first game like at the Shenzhen Universiade Sports Centre Stadium? Anything you remember about the crowd or the game specifically?
CROSSMAN: I usually like to get acclimated with a new rink by spending some time on the bench before the game which I did, but once we came out for warm-ups, it was a whole different environment with thousands of fans in the stands. It was pretty surreal. During the anthems it all kind of clicked that we were in Shenzhen playing hockey. It’s kind of funny how hockey is hockey all around the world. It sounds silly but that’s what I remember thinking.
What activities did you do with your teammates on your off days that enhanced your relationships with your teammates?
CROSSMAN: After our first morning practice, we took a business trip as a team to the shopping center. We bargained for a total of 20+ pairs of shoes (Yeezy’s and Balenciaga’s specifically), followed by the Ray Bans and Supreme suites.
One of the days off we took a trip to Hong Kong for the day. Huge shout out to the veteran players of the team who completely planned out the trip flawlessly. I realized after the fact that I was literally just a duckling walking around Hong Kong with absolutely no awareness of anything other than following the teammate in front of me and taking in everything around me.
We started with some touristy things such as heading up to The Peak which overlooked all of Hong Kong. We actually were apart of a proposal while we were there, or at least we like to think we were apart of a proposal, then we hit the streets of Hong Kong where we got some lunch, took a ferry, and did some more shopping after some waffle/ice cream desserts.
What was your favorite food in China? Did you try anything new or different?
CROSSMAN: We were all pretty big fans of the Bao. Its some doughy goodness with some more jelly goodness inside. We also went through our fair share of dumplings.
Now that you’re home and back to work when you think back to the experience as a whole, what moment or moments stick out in your mind?
CROSSMAN: Getting back to reality, the whole trip sort of feels like a dream. It was all pretty incredible but I think experiencing Hong Kong and the culture in Shenzhen was what stands out the most to me.
The Blades were the first team in the league to visit Shenzhen this season. The 18-hour flight one way along with each game and each moment spent within the city brought the CWHL’s American franchise closer together. This experience was eye-opening for rookies like Crossman because it proves that beyond borders, beyond language barriers, hockey is hockey. Sports hold the power to connect us no matter where we’re from or where we end up going. The memories made by visiting the Shenzhen KRS Vanke Rays are ones each player from every team will hold onto dearly for years to come.