Balancing Finland & Motown
Balancing Finland & Motown
Defender Kahra plays hockey on two continents
Kahra is a defender on Finland's junior women's national team, which is currently competing at the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 Women's Championship in Prerov and Zlin, Czech Republic.
That's because Kahra, 15, lives in Detroit, Michigan, where she plays for the Little Caesars Hockey Club, but has to travel overseas on a regular basis to play for her national team.
“A couple times a year, at least,” Kahra said about the frequency of her trans-Atlantic flights. “I try to make a trip out of it. When I come over to visit family, I try to time it with when the international tournaments are.”
Flying to Finland aside, playing women's hockey at an elite club level in the United States involves a fair bit of travelling on its own.
“To go to practice is a 40-minute drive,” she said. “Plus, our tournaments are always around Chicago, Boston and other places, so we definitely do travel a lot.”
Kahra is the only player on this year's Finnish team that plays on a club outside Finland. But why Detroit?
“I was born there and my family lived there for a while,” she said in her Great Lakes American accent. “After living in Finland for a few years I went back there to live and play hockey.”
As for how much of her life she's lived in both Finland and the United States, she answered: “I would say about half and half.”
Although her schedule is a grind, Kahra definitely appreciates her status as a dual citizen, being fully bilingual and having the chance to experience life on two continents, saying: “It gives me a lot more options.”
One of those options is playing for the Little Caesars club, which has been accommodating to her schedule.
“I would say they're definitely a little more strict in the way they play,” she said of clubs in Finland. With her current situation, “I have a little bit more freedom to play for the Finnish team and I like that a lot.”
Still a month away from her 16th birthday, Kahra is already playing in her second U18 World Championship, and will be eligible for two more. Last year in St. Catherines, Ontario – a mere 3½-hour drive from Detroit – the Finns made the quarter-finals but lost to Russia and placed sixth.
This year, after winning their first two Group B games in Prerov, they're already assured a spot in the quarters. Obviously, they have their sights on going beyond that, and Kahra has extra motivation for wanting to play in the semi-finals.
“I would like to go up against the USA team, for sure,” she said with a smile.
As for the players on the team, she said: “I've played a lot of the teams that the girls play on, but I don't know any of them personally.”
If Kahra doesn't get a chance to face the Americans this year, chances are it will happen in the next couple of years. After her U18 career is over, she has hockey aspirations on both sides of the Atlantic.
“College hockey is definitely my dream,” she said, “and I also want to go farther on the Finnish national team.”
She has already played a handful of games for the Finnish senior women's team. Are there senior World Championships and Winter Olympics in her future?
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