Young Irish hockey players to lace up skates this weekend in Montreal's West Island

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Young Irish hockey players to lace up skates this weekend in Montreal's West Island

Just in time for St. Patrick's Day, a little bit of Ireland is in Montreal to play some hockey.

The Flying Ducks hockey team is an under-18 group from Dublin, Ireland, who were invited to play and train with local teams by the United Irish Societies of Montreal.

They will play the Hockey West Island Peewee C Kings on Saturday in Pointe-Claire.

Mark Murphy, 16, told CBC Montreal's Daybreak that he's been playing hockey since he fell in love with the sport six years ago.

But there are limits to how much ice time he can get in Dublin.

There's only one temporary rink in the city, and it's small. As he explained, the game isn't too popular in Ireland.

"Hockey is nearly nonexistent in Ireland today," he said.

On a student exchange in Canada for a few weeks, Murphy said he's getting a lot more time on the ice.

"I've been playing five times a week," he said. "A big step up from 10 times a year in Ireland."

In Dublin, the rinks aren't open year-round and the closest ice where they can play against other teams is in Belfast, about a two-hour drive away.

"Most of the year we're on rollers," he said, saying that the team tries to keep up their skills during the off-season with in-line skating.

The team will play, train, attend the annual St. Patrick's Day parade during its visit to Montreal and even take in a Habs game at the Bell Centre.

Kevin Murphy, vice-president of advertising and public relations at the United Irish Societies of Montreal, told Daybreak that the organization had arranged a whole slew of activities for the team, including a visit to a Quebec sugar shack and a private tour of the Bell Centre by a special, "surprise" guide.

He's hoping they might be able to make this kind of visit a regular occurrence. 

"It would be great to see them every couple years," he said.

The Flying Duck's opponents this Saturday, Hockey West Island Peewee C Kings, have set up a GoFundMe page to help raise some money for the Ducks.

They are also accepting donations of used equipment at the arena.