Volunteers at the 2016 IIHF Women’s World Championship have come from near and far to help welcome the world to the B.C. interior; some are from Kamloops,
some from around B.C., and some from across Canada.
And then there’s Anna Birna Gudlaugsdottir.
She has come a long, long way – 5,453 kilometres, according to Google Maps – from her home in Reykjavik, Iceland, to Canada’s Tournament Capital to give
her time as a volunteer at women’s worlds.
An educator by trade and a goaltender by night, Gudlaugsdottir didn’t get into hockey until about five years ago, but once she started, she was hooked.
She started with Björninn HC in Reykjavik on a whim, after hearing an ad on the radio. In addition to playing for Björninn’s women’s club, she also
volunteers for the men’s club on game nights.
After volunteering for two IIHF Women’s World Championships (Division II) and one IIHF World Championship (Division II) in Iceland, she started to look
into other events to volunteer at. She travelled to Los Angeles last summer to help at the Special Olympics, and then saw volunteer postings for the 2016
IIHF Women’s World Championship in Kamloops.
“I had volunteered a few times at home, and I asked the event manager if I could go to other countries and volunteer. I saw the volunteer page for this
event and just decided to try it.”
While some might have hesitated at the opportunity due to the sheer distance, Gudlaugsdottir was excited to see a part of Canada she hadn’t been to before.
“I’d been to Canada twice before, but never this far west. Kamloops is a nice town. Quiet, and the people are friendly.”
The volunteer crew has also been welcoming, with the “blue shirts” making for easy introductions all over town. “I’ve gotten to know some pretty awesome
people. I mostly speak to the people in my crew, I’ve gotten to know them more than others. But it’s been a fun experience.”
Working with the off-ice officials, she sits in between the French and English announcers in the timekeeper’s box during games, controlling the in-arena
scoreboard display. “I get to sit in between the penalty boxes and enter the goals, assists, and penalties on the scoreboard,” she explains.
And with her native Iceland not participating in the tournament, Gudlaugsdottir does her best to remain impartial. Refusing to divulge which team she’s
cheering for to win gold, she gets a kick out of seeing some of the best players in the world from a seat few people get to sit in.
“It’s fun, and interesting to see players I admire out on the ice.”
No matter who wins, Gudlaugsdottir will return to Iceland next week with some more international experience under her belt, new friends, great memories,
and an appreciation for hockey here in Canada.