I always knew that John Dore's Concordia Stinger Basketball team travelled well.
Scheduled games against top NCAA programs have become an annual tradition- a 2005 visit to Duke University, no doubt among the highlights.
But when I heard the news last month that this year's Stinger team was heading to Israel, I knew immediately that this would be something special.
A Concordia team... heading to Israel!
I wanted to be there.
Hey, as a Concordia alumnist (as of a month ago anyways), the former beat writer for the basketball team, and a regular visitor to the state of Israel, it seemed to make perfect sense.
I needed about 25 things to fall into place, but sure enough, here I am in Tel Aviv... using the internet on the Shabbos no less!
The inclusion of this blog on Team990.com, was just one of those (approx!) 25 things I was looking for, and here's hoping that I can use the next 10 days to give Team990 listeners, and readers, a feel for the Stingers experience in Israel.
The question most often asked in the lead-up to this trip, was how did it happen.
Coach Dore says he was invited by Atlanta Hawks owner Ed Peskowitz to participate in the second annual Friendship Games (www.thefriendshipgames.org), and quickly worked to raise the necessary funds.
The Friendship Games is a one-week basketball tournament based out of Tel Aviv, with 30 teams from 17 different countries. The idea is to promote peace through sport, and organizers in fact got more than they bargained for in last year's inaugural event.
One of the final pairings featured a team from the Palestinian Authority against a team of Israelis, and to the surprise of many cynics, the game was in fact well-played, and widely considered a huge success both on and off the court.
The Stingers are the only team from North America in this year's tournament, further proof that basketball is in fact growing as a global game.
Still, the Stingers weren't going anywhere if they could not raise enough money.
Unlike most Division-I schools in the NCAA, Canadian universities are not exactly sitting on piles of money at the athletic department's disposal.
It therefore becomes an issue at Canadian universities when one sports team is alloted money by the school for special trips while others are not. The need to find outside financers becomes critical.
As a result, the Basketball team spent much of its off-season collecting money for this trip, including a number of fundraisers with Concordia's Hillel Chapter.
Coach Dore was particularlly grateful for private donations that made their way from acorss the country, all of which made it possible for the Stingers to arrive in Israel earlier today, May 25.
The Stingers will remain here until June 9th, and I will be with them for the majority of their stay.
Looking forward to using this blog to introduce the Concordia Stingers, one of Montreal's best kept sports secrets, and to track their experience in Israel.
The sports scene in Israel will also come into play, as will a number of the tourist attractions the team will be visiting.
There is some serious jet lag among all of us, having missed out on Thursday night's sleep, thanks to a seven hour time change.
The team has a 9:00 a.m. run tomorrow on the beachside, and I'll actually be giving this one a shot... should be interesting!
We'll check in over the weekend and throught next week as well.