"We thought the world cup may never happen, but it's finally coming."
These are the words of Richmond Cowboys Hockey Club manager Doug Collins as they prepare for the long-awaited 2023 Molson CARHA Hockey World Cup, being held right here in Richmond.
Thousands of hockey players from across the globe will be gathering at ice arenas across Richmond for the world's largest international adult recreational hockey tournament, which takes place in a different Canadian host city every four years, from March 19 to 26.
Also known as the "Olympics of recreational hockey," the tournament was initially scheduled for 2020, but due to the pandemic, it was continuously postponed.
Collins told the Richmond News that the excitement levels within the club are "really starting to mount" as the date of the tournament approaches.
"Because you know something's cancelled and you think ‘will it ever happen?’ But now we're starting to realize this thing we've been waiting for a long time is actually happening," he said.
"It's exciting to have this opportunity to play against teams from other countries and you don't really get that unless you travel outside (the province) and join other tournaments."
The Cowboys have three teams taking part in the tournament – in the 33s, 55s and 65s age categories, with the latter making its debut.
"With the delay of the world cup coming, we all aged three to four years and we found we were in the wrong division, so we decided to form another team," said Collins, adding that the oldest guys regularly competed with their younger counterparts during the season.
"The world cup's probably going to be a stepping stone for our team to basically branch out ... and hopefully continue with three teams for future games to keep everybody playing."
Richmond Cowboys was formed in 1979 by brothers who are east Richmond farmers, explained Collins.
Fast-forward, the club is approaching its third generation of Cowboys, where the teams have had grandfathers, fathers, and sons on the ice at the same time.
"It's pretty amazing when you think about it, and the kids are ... in minor hockey, too. There's a long history there," said Collins.
"This world cup makes it even more special for us as it's our first time competing in it. It's probably a once-in-a-lifetime thing for us."