HAVERFORD, P.A. — This March, several lucky AAHA players will have the opportunity to expand their perspective far beyond the Atlantic District, as the 25th annual Finland | USA Exchange will be taking place. It is a cultural exchange program between two hockey clubs: the Haverford Hawks of Pennsylvania and the Viikingit Club of Helsinki, Finland. The goal of the Exchange is to provide a culturally enriching experience for children of different backgrounds who would never ordinarily meet to bond through their shared passion for hockey.
The two clubs have alternated hosting one another each year since the program’s inception in 1988. Last year, 234 parents and children traveled from Haverford to Helsinki. This year, it’ll be Haverford’s turn to host their Finnish counterparts when 68 players and their families from the Viikingit 12U program will visit the United States to stay with American host families and practice alongside the Hawks.
Over ten days, players will participate in two practices, one led by each of the clubs. They’ll then attend a Flyers game which will be the first NHL game for the vast majority of Viikingit families. There will also be trips to Philadelphia and New York City and other team building activities.
The program’s enduring success is a testament to how ice hockey can connect and engender lifelong bonds between people of all different cultural backgrounds.