Last summer, P3 Sports hosted 50 Czechia hockey players for a month of hockey training and a chance to see what it's like to be a kid in Canada.

It has now evolved into something bigger. More Czechia players are coming this summer and 36 hockey players from P3 Sports are heading to Europe for 16 days in the spring to continue to build new and, in many cases, lasting friendships.

Cochrane's elite skills and development hockey academy says they'll be hosting as many as 70 Czechia hockey players, ages 10 to 18, from June 17 to July 17. They'll be accompanied by their coaches, trainers, and liaisons from the Over Seas Stars Agency. 

czech hockey playerLast year, 50 Czechia players were here. This year there may be as many as 70. (file photo)

"We're excited to have them back," says P3 Sports president Ryan Hilderman. "We'll do a few things differently, knowing what we know now, and with more kids, it will be lots of fun."

P3 Sport is currently seeking billet families who would be a good fit to host athletes during their stay. Families will be responsible for looking after their guest athletes as they would their own children including getting them to and from their activities. It also offers the opportunity to enjoy leisure activities together.

Hilderman says many of those involved last summer remain in constant contact with their new overseas friends.

"Everybody had a great experience, and we're getting a lot of interest from people who did it last year and hoping to expand that a little bit," says Hilderman. "They brought 50 players last year. but when we talked to them a week ago they had already had 51 and are anticipating closer to 70 this year, so we'll be looking for a few more families to host."

Having Canada and Czechia face off in the gold medal game of the recent IIHF World Junior Championship held special meaning for those involved. It made for some banter and friendly side bets

"Lots of families had fun with it and staying connected when the two countries played in the final was really neat to see."

"Because of the relationship, there wouldn't have been a loser overall. For a lot of the families that hosted, if Canada had not won, it wouldn't have been the worse thing in the world. We would have been happy for them."

Even Hilderman had something on the line with one of the Czechia coaches.

"There was a lot of texting going back and forth and side bets going on. Filip, their coach, has to wear a Team Canada jersey to one of our practices when we're over there. Had it gone the other way, I would have had to wear a Czech jersey," he chuckles.

With the time change, the game came on at 1 a.m. in Czechia. That didn't prevent many of the young players from staying up to watch it live.

"When you don't have any ties with another team, you're kind of indifferent. But through this relationship, you learn how passionate they are about hockey and their country. It's very similar. The passion isn't any less with the Czech kids than it is with ours. They're equally as good of trash talkers as their buddies over here; they're equally passionate."

Counting players, parents, coaches, and liaisons, P3 has 92 people making the overseas trip. It's 16 days in duration and includes games in Czechia, Austria, and Slovakia as well as a tournament. In between, they'll be able to sightsee and spend time with billet families.

"They're excited to have us over there and show us where they're from, and we'll definitely take time to enjoy time with them on our days off."

It will be a slightly extended spring break for the participants.

"The kids don't miss a tonne of school, and something like this is a good once-in-a-lifetime kind of experience for a lot of them."

Among those coming here in the summer will be players eligible for the international draft. Hilderman anticipates scouts, coaches, and GMs from some WHL teams will be in attendance and may even become part of the schedule.

Families providing billeting will be compensated $225 per week per player to help offset grocery bills and to plan excursions with the players during their time here to offer them a real Canadian experience.  Some sponsorships are being pursued to ensure each family has affordable options to keep their billet kids busy and having fun.

Those interested in being a host family can complete the billet application form and submit it to More information is available by calling P3 Sports at 403-932-4259.