Higher education experts around the world believe international experiences are crucial to a young person’s development.
That belief transfers well to sport, with many players enhancing their abilities through time spent abroad.
British forward Lee Pollitt has embraced this ethos by heading to Canada as he looks to continue his climb up the ice hockey ladder.
The 20-year-old is currently playing with Temiscaming Titans in the Greater Metro Junior ‘A’ Hockey League – a set-up that has produced many players who have gone on to bigger and better things.
Pollitt spent last season in NIHL North with Blackburn Hawks, winning the Moralee D1 league and play-off double, but says moving to Canada was the right move to make.
“I was initially a little sceptical that it would be worth the money or that I’d improve any more than continuing to play in Britain,” said Pollitt.
“The hockey wasn’t the only thing to think about – getting to live in Canada was a big selling point and now I’m here I can say that would have been worth it on its own.
“It took a fair bit of getting used to the hockey – the game here is completely different to back home.
“There’s a lot of skill here, but the main difference is in the way everyone moves the puck so well – the game is fairly simple, but quick and physical.
“From day one, our coached drilled down the systems and we’ve been progressing with them ever since. All the teams here play their systems well, so that was key if we were to have any success.
“Having so much ice time in the week the skills take care of themselves – a few warm-up drills and we’re straight into game play scenarios.
“Another difference is the competitiveness – for the time you’re here hockey is your life, full-time. You can see that attitude – everyone is committed and competing to a high level.”
While Pollitt’s move to Canada was undoubtedly a big step to take, his family have been fully supportive.
His dad, Steve, and brother, Craig, recently travelled to visit Lee to check on his progress. Steve admitted he was apprehensive seeing one of his children move abroad, but says it was something he had to let him do it.
“We all join the rat race sooner or later, and there’s plenty of time for that later so I’m glad I’ve been able to support him to follow his dream,” he said.
“The cost was a concern, but it wasn’t as much as I anticipated. When I considered the cost of training in Britain in the junior system it is good value.
“They train on the ice twice a day on most days when they don’t have a game, with off-ice training filling the gaps.
“You also have to consider the level of ability surrounding them. I think it’s important to get in the right league and I think his points tally over the last two seasons, plus winning the double with the Hawks, exposed him to people looking out for players from overseas.
“Without taking anything away from the wealth of experience and ability in Britain, a high standard is the norm here and it has to be of benefit when you’re surrounded by that.
“It’s still early days in the season, but we’ve already seen an improvement in Lee. The trip has also enabled me to get a feel for how he lives here and the way of life.
“I think that’s the hardest thing to try to imagine after he got on the plane to leave us. The place is really small compared to home, but he enjoys the change, and it’s settled my mind seeing how they live.
“The team consists of players from Canada, USA, Sweden, Finland and Slovakia, and they’re learning to be independent in addition to playing the game.
“I’ll return home satisfied he has gone down the right road, wherever it may lead.”
The Quebec-based Titans have been one of the GMHL’s most successful teams since joining in 2011, qualifying for the Russell Cup play-offs in all five seasons, winning one division title and one regular season championship.
They have appeared in the Russell Cup finals three times, winning the trophy in 2015. Their sole British player believes the experience will stand him in good stead in the future.
“The vast majority of games we play are close – anyone could win on any given night and carrying your momentum is crucial when you play so many close games,” said Pollitt. “A three-game weekend can make or break your whole month.
“For anyone considering travelling to North America to play junior hockey I’d highly recommend it – the lifestyle is great, you’ll meet some interesting people from all over the world, make friends for life, gain some unreal memories and you’re guaranteed to grow as a hockey player.”
(Image permission: Steve Pollitt)