An idea hatched by parents from Sweden during an orientation outing scored big with the Flying Dutchmen’s hockey team, resulting in an international trip and several national championships.

Parents Krister and Christina Werner of Sweden joined many other families during Hope’s International Family Orientation (IFO)—a program that addresses the special needs of third culture and international families transitioning their freshmen to Hope’s campus and exposes them to life in the Midwest.

During the activity, the Werners dreamed about how wonderful it would be to host Hope College’s hockey team in their home country of Sweden. Their freshman son, Philip Werner ’20, was getting settled on campus and planned to play hockey for the Flying Dutchmen.

In fact, they thought the team should also make a stop in the Czech Republic, an idea stemming from connections with another Hope hockey player from there who had played at an academy with their son.

The only obstacle would be securing the funding, because Hope’s hockey team is a club sport. Thanks to a generous seed gift from one hockey family, others were inspired to make financial contributions. Soon, full funding was in hand.

During the summer of 2017, the 24-member hockey team and three coaches traveled to Europe, where they competed against the White Tigers of Liberec Czech Republic and Wings Hockey of Uppsala, Sweden.

The Werners warmly welcomed the team. Krister taught the student-athletes lessons in Swedish history and culture, and they experienced Stockholm’s heritage firsthand with a tour of the Nobel Prize Museum and a visit to the Royal Palace.

The team not only toured the capital, but also served those in need. Volunteering at a Ronald McDonald House for families of children with special medical needs, the student-athletes baked cinnamon rolls, sanitized the playroom and made greatly appreciated improvements to the grounds and building.

“These student-athletes exemplify our Hope college mission: living lives of leadership and service in a global society,” said Jim VanHeest, an International Family Orientation program organizer. “The connections we make with families during orientation are invaluable for our entire campus community. The ripple effect is extraordinary.”

The trip to Europe, hockey training and competition against Division I and National Hockey League players, along with team bonding, eventually helped the Flying Dutchmen capture the national title in 2018. The team went on to win two other back-to-back national championships in 2020-21 and 2021-22.

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