Four hockey-loving locals now living in Thailand are raising money -- and attracting attention from the NHL -- with a charity game they'll play in Bangkok this weekend. The three Strathroy natives and one Londoner -- the self-styled Middlesex Connection on the Flying Farangs of the recreational Thai-World Hockey League -- hope to raise thousands for the Thai Red Cross's tsunami relief from players' entry fees and a National Hockey League donation.
"We all feel like we're residents of Thailand," said Londoner Jason White, a teacher. "We're all doing our own things (to help) and we figured we should do what we do best."
The disaster that rocked the country hit Strathroy native Jeff Lamantia harder than any of his teammates.
Lamantia, who teaches in Phuket, was on his way to the beach Boxing Day when a woman ran to his car, screaming in broken English.
It's a beautiful area, Lamantia said via e-mail this week. And in only a few hours it was levelled.
"She was yelling 'Water, water, big water,'" Lamantia recalled. "Shivers still run up my spine when I talk about it.
"I had just enough time to reverse out of harm's way."
With NHL support already secured, Lamantia hopes hockey-starved North Americans will send donations through the team's website, leaguelineup.com/twhl.
The Thai-World Hockey League (TWHL) is made up of four teams. But this game, which happens at 6 a.m. London time tomorrow, will be Canada against the world, with the Canucks taking on the league's Swedish, Finnish and American players.
Hockey and helping out -- what could be more Canadian?
"With no NHL action this season we are hoping that this charity game will get some people's attention back home," he said.
Former UWO hockey player Greg Smyth, whose brother Brad is a former London Knight and NHLer, is paying to rent the rink in a Bangkok mall.
While the Middlesex Connection is borrowing Canada's game to help affected Thai residents, White says there's no way the country's pain can be translated to North America.
"Everyone knew someone (affected)," said White, who lost one student -- the Thai king's grandson -- in the tsunami. "We figured (this game) was the least we could do as hockey players."