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Hockey abroad: Hannah McGowan’s adventures in Austria

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New teammates, new language, and a skate sharpener older than she is

Hannah McGowan with her new teammates and their team’s equipment manager.

Hannah McGowan, formerly of the Buffalo Beauts, packed her bags and moved to Austria to play women’s hockey abroad. She’ll be writing a player blog for The Ice Garden about her adventures in a new country and giving a first-person account on what it’s like to play in Europe. Stay tuned for more of Hannah’s stories!

Below is her first blog about leaving the US and meeting her new team for the first time.

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I've never left the US or Canada. I mean, Toronto is the furthest into Canada I have been. I'm now a week away from leaving and heading almost 5,000 miles from home and I don't even know who is picking me up from the airport when I arrive. The imports (the players that are coming from the US and Canada) and myself all got an email with our flight confirmation along with a message saying "Attached is your e-ticket, we will pick you up in Vienna.”

Who? Where? I have no clue what to do in a foreign airport and I won't have a phone. This should be an adventure.

After a few minor hiccups at the airport due to visa issues, I finally landed in Vienna. I quickly logged into the wifi to figure out who was picking me up and I had messages from two different teammates saying the other was picking me up, so I got to my baggage and hoped for the best!

I was greeted by our team equipment manager, Joe. We headed straight to the apartment in that I’d be living in with Delia McNally and Emily Ford, whose flights were delayed until later that afternoon. Ford and Delia both played together in Vermont before heading here to Austria.

I was completely in a daze. It felt like it was evening, but here I was at a small cafe, having a very non-American style breakfast. I finally made it to our apartment and fell asleep for a couple hours (I needed 10, but two would have to suffice). Woke up and took a shower…I’m looking at the bottles in the shower. All German. The shampoo said shampoo so I was set with that, but I later found out that I washed my body with bath bubbles and my face with conditioner. Oops.

We then headed back to Vienna an hour long drive to pick up my roommates. We got settled in for about two hours before getting a call to pack up clothes for the next four days because we were heading to training camp the next morning. Training camp took place at our home rink in Kapfenberg, about 20 minutes from our apartment. Obviously the three of us are completely thrown off but we packed our bags the next morning and headed out for day one.

Camp

Day 1

I ask the "ice master" if I can get into his sharpening room to sharpen my skates (well, actually my teammate asked for me in German). He opened the door and my jaw dropped. I swear this thing is from the 70s. So here I am just butchering my skates before I have to get on the ice for our first practice.

The first test was if I could skate. Got on, skates felt fine. Second test, the bubble. My biggest struggle day one was for sure the fact that I could see absolutely nothing through the fish bowl. I also couldn't stick handle but that's not too much of a surprise. Anyways, we made it through- thanks to our captain Julia Willenshofer that translated the drills for us after the coach drew them up!

Days 2-4

Wake up, head to breakfast, walk to the rink, warm up and play some keep up with the soccer ball, practice, cool down, jump into the pool outside the rink, eat, nap, practice again, eat, sleep. Then do it all over again!

We skated nine times in five days. Welcome to Austria!

We finally had some time to wind down and relax and get to explore our town and surrounding areas. Our small town is a ski resort area called Spital am Semmering, so we decided we should climb straight up a giant ski hill (Stuhleck) to the house we could barely see at the top, instead of you know taking the trail up like normal people do. Live and learn. But we were determined and made it to the top, avoiding most of the cow poop except the pile that Emily and I both stepped in. I guess this is why people use the intended hiking trails. We also did some more hiking through the mountains with some teammates that actually know how to get around here!

Wait, there’s no ice here! McGowan and teammates hike after camp to wind down.

It's only been a few weeks, so I'm expecting many more stories and memories to be made.

Our season opens up October 2 and it cannot come soon enough!

Stay tuned for more stories and adventures of a few Americans living in a foreign country.

You can follow Hannah McGowan on Twitter @Hannah_Maccc.