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Learning the Language of Lightning

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Milton Keynes Lightning logo The Smith Recycling MK Lightning has long been a hockey club which prides itself on a two way relationship between players and supporters - and that relationship took another step forward this season on the international front! Lightning supporter Joe Airton has been meeting Polish forward Mikolaj Lopuski and netminder Przemyslaw Odrobny regularly this season, for him to help teach them English - and the players to help Joe speak Polish.

Polish players Miko Lopuski and Przemyslaw Odrobny with supporter Joe Airton, at the end of one of their language lessons. Photo supplied by MK Lightning.Joe is the owner of the giant Polish flag seen at Planet Ice MK at the front of block 10 - and is also responsible for the ‘flags of nations’ that now appear at the back of the block every home matchnight. What prompted his passion for Poland? “I had been there on a school trip and I can safely say it did change my life! When Przemy’s shirt became available I immediately put my name down, to show my support - based on his nickname "The Witcher”, the main character in a selection of Polish folk stories.”

Przemy and Joe met soon after a pre-season challenge matche last September. “We first spoke properly when we bumped into each other after my skate lesson and before his practice,” said Joe. “We got talking and I mentioned I wanted to learn Polish - and he said he wanted to improve his English. That's where it stemmed from, really.”

The pair began to meet at Planet Ice before Lightning training sessions, Joe and Przemy helping each other learn their respective languages.

When fellow Pole Miko Lopuski returned to the UK in January from his injury rehabilitation, Przemy mentioned to Joe that his countryman also wanted to improve his English skills. As a result, the sessions now continue with both players involved!

“It has got to a point with very little prompting that we go from English to Polish and back again,” explained Przemy Odrobny. “Joe started with basic words and explained where we can use phrases in English and we have done the same in Polish. We always have fun, the only problem is we often forget the time, often finishing the lesson in overtime!”

And how are Joe's Polish language skills coming along? "I can read to some extent, tell a joke and have a couple of conversations in Polish, buy groceries etc. Give me until the start of next season and who knows, I might be the Polish speaking version of (MKL announcer) Ray Porter!"

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