This past February, the Vermont Flames, a year-round youth hockey organization that includes players from throughout the state, participated in the Quebec International Pee-Wee Hockey Tournament and skated away as the first Vermont team in the history of the 63-year-old event to win it all.

The Flames team is made up of some of the top players in the state including the two goalies, Isaac Tane and Kaleb Sanderson, who are both from Quechee.

The Tournament is the oldest and most prestigious youth hockey tournament in the world and unofficially serves as the Pee-Wee (13U) World Championships. Founded in 1960, the event is attended annually by more than 2,250 competitors from over 15 countries. Over the years more than 1,200 future NHL players have competed in, “The Q”, including Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Eric Lindros, Patrick Roy, and Connor McDavid, to name a few.

The Vermont Flames celebrate a win

Kaleb, who split the time in goal with his teammate Isaac, said, “It felt unreal thinking about big the tournament was.” Kaleb’s mother Adele, who also grew up in Quechee and played hockey for Hartford High, echoed her son’s thoughts: “Knowing how big this tournament was, we were just happy that Kaleb made the team, got to play great hockey, and enjoy the experience.”

And enjoy the experience the team absolutely did. In addition to the thrill of taking the title, the boys enjoyed walking around Old Quebec with their teammates.

“Seeing the kids having fun the whole time” was one of Isaac’s father Brian’s favorite moments of the tournament, “Part of their success on the ice was due to how well they get along. Seeing the boys after the games, around the hotel, and having fun in the city, smiling and laughing was the best.” Danielle Tane, Isaac’s mother, agrees with her husband’s appreciation of the team’s camaraderie off the ice: “I love seeing the boys goofing around in the pool, playing video games in one of the family’s rooms and always looking out for one another when entering or leaving the hotel. You could tell they all liked each other and enjoyed the time they spent together.”

Another favorite moment of the two goalies and their families alike was entering the Videotron Centre for their first game of the tournament. The 18,000 seat professional-sized rink at the Centre is the same that the Quebec Ramparts of the Canadian Hockey League play on. After attending a Ramparts game, “It really made an impression that they were skating on the same ice as these adult players,” Danielle said.

Isaac in goal

“Everyone’s excited and there’s a lot of energy in the air. Everyone is there to compete and have a great time. It’s a special tournament and everyone who’s there feels proud to represent their team,” Brian said. These teams and their families come from all around the world. The international M13 AA Division that the Flames clinched consisted of thirty select-teams from around the world. With a perfect 5-0 record in official tournament games, the Flames path to the Championship included victories against Mid-Atlantic U.S., Korea, New York City, Austria, and most memorably, Ukraine.

The Ukraine team, comprised of a group of young refugees, were the toast of the tournament before the Flames defeated them in the Round of 16. It was an emotional experience for all involved and garnered press attention from national and local news outlets.

“Once we learned we were playing Ukraine,” Kaleb’s mother Adele said, “My stomach dropped. I knew that this would be biggest game they would play in the tournament.” Adele wasn’t worried about the boys winning or losing the game, but how they would handle the pressure of a huge crowd cheering for the opposing squad. With Kaleb in at goal for this game, Adele had serious nerves, but was very pleased that after the win Kaleb let her know he didn’t hear anything. “It was hard playing in front of a whole bunch of people going against you,” he said, “But I thought of it as just another game.”

“I was impressed with the poise of the team during the game,” Isaac’s mom Danielle added, “They knew what the Ukraine kids were going through at home. They went out and showed kindness, good sportsmanship, and the ability to stay focused under the circumstances.” Danielle mentioned to some of the other parents how it’s easy to forget that they are 12- and 13-year-old boys when they’re on the ice. “At that game especially,” she said, “They were mature beyond their years.”

Isaac took over tending goal for the final championship game against an Austrian team. “I was nervous before the puck dropped but as soon as the game started the nerves were gone,” he said, “I try to stay focused throughout the entire game. I focus on one shot at a time, one save at a time, and one period at a time. If I make a few saves in a row, it helps me stay focused. If I don’t make a save, I let it go as quickly as possible and focus on the next shot.” 

His father Brian felt that focus from the stands, “Once we realized they were focused and on their game, it was less stressful. As it got toward the end and we realized they were actually going to win, it got very exciting! Seeing them jump off the bench and celebrate was pure joy as a parent. We were all so proud of the team for what they had accomplished. It was amazing.” Both boys’ parents echo this sentiment of pride in their sons and the team.

Kaleb in goal versus the Ukrainian team

Upon their win, the Flames got the chance to hoist the cup and skate with it on the ice, celebrating as a team. The excitement in the stands and back in the locker room is something Isaac remembers well.

Isaac and Kaleb first met at Ottauquechee Elementary School in fifth grade after Isaac’s family moved to Quechee from Long Island in 2020 (Isaac’s grandparents, Stuart and Jill Tane have lived in Quechee since 2002.) The boys initially played on different local teams with Kaleb starting with the Upper Valley Storm and Isaac with Woodstock Youth Hockey, but both boys’ hockey careers started long before that.

With older brother hockey players, it’s no surprise Kaleb began skating at age 2 and playing hockey at age 4. Isaac also started at a young age. “The first time Isaac put on skates, he was a natural skater,” Brian recalls. Danielle adds: “It seems the skates never came off his feet.” Isaac recalls that his friend introduced him to hockey shortly after that: “I wanted to be a goalie right away, but I had to wait until I got a little older and could skate really well.”

In the Fall of 2022, Kaleb and Isaac found themselves as goalie partners on the Flames at the start of their second-year Pee-Wee season. Over the course of the 2022-23 season, the talented tandem helped the team achieve a 40-6-3 record and a #1 team ranking in Vermont for their age group.

After an experience of a lifetime on the largest world stage in youth hockey, the boys are back in Quechee where they enjoy skiing, fishing, lacrosse, and golf. They both look forward to continuing to play hockey with the Flames for their first Bantam season and starting eighth grade together at Hartford Memorial Middle School.