With the average temperature of 30°C (85°F) you wouldn’t think ice hockey would be played in the Philippines, but the fact is the game has been played on the island for over 2 decades.
We had the great pleasure of speaking to Francois Gautier General Manger of Hockey Philippines,
Tournament Director, PHIT and Hockey Player, jack of all trades.
Ice hockey has been played for a number of years in the country. Why did it take so long to get it organize?
Indeed ice hockey has been in the Philippines for more than two decades, there were attempts in the past to form a federation but all were unsuccessful as it failed to gather everyone together. Fortunately about two to three years ago, a new group emerge and was successful in bringing in all parties together and form the federation, Hockey Philippines.
How many ice rinks are there in the country and are their any plans to build more?
There is a total of 4 rinks currently. 3 in the metro area (southmall – small rink, megamall and mall of Asia – Olympic size) and 1 in the island of Cebu. A new rink at the SM mall of Asia third floor is in the plans in time for the 2019 SEA games in the Philippines.
Can you tells us about the Manila ice hockey league?
The MIHL was established in 2008, starting with two “half”‘ seasons before eventually going one full season. It is a 4 team recreational league composed of expats and local players, more and more local players are participating especially with the youth growing up.
How did you get involved with Philippines ice hockey?
I was actually one of the first hockey players of the Philippines, starting my hockey career when I was 7 or 8 back in 1991 in southmall rink.
I started getting involved in organizing hockey starting from weekly pick up games to also helping out start and run the league (I was commissioner for a couple of years and I am in my 5th year as GM) – eventually I got into it a little more with the federation as one of its founders and GM.
You were part of the first Philippines national ice hockey team that competed at the Asian Winter Games. Do you think the team reach it’s expectations?
I think we went to Winter Games with one goal in mind and it was to show the world that Philippine Hockey is here and well and we are not a country to take lightly in our division.
We of course hoped to bring home the gold but considering it was our first time in an international tournament with IIHF rules and format, we reach a big milestone bringing home the bronze.
It was truly an honor representing my country and making it proud with our achievement.
The first ever Philippines National Ice Hockey Team at the Asian Winter Games in Sapporo, Japan.
What are the expectations for the up coming Challenge Cup of Asia and the South East Asia Games later this summer?
I think for the upcoming CCOA in Kuwait as well as the SEAG in Malaysia, we are aiming once again to come out on top, we are determined to work and prepare even harder than we did for the Winter Games. The competition in both will be different, with the SEAG level being higher as we will be facing the likes of Thailand who won the division I tournament in AWG.
Where does Philippines ice hockey get it’s funding from?
Our funding is basically from the players themselves, but now we are getting support from our government and local companies, and also from our federation president that has been contributing a great deal to help us flourish the way we have the past couple of years.
Do you see Ice hockey challenging basketball for popularity in the Philippines?
As a basketball nation, I think it will be a very big challenge but nonetheless we are ready and determined to put Hockey on the map in the Philippines, making it one of the popular sports in the country by working hard and achieving milestones our countrymen can be proud of and aspire to.
How would you evaluate the ice hockey talent in the country?
Filipinos are born athletes. The moment we put our minds into something we love, with proper training, equipment and facilities, we can achieve many great things. I am amazed with the talent and skill that our youth is showing and only give me very high hopes for the future.
Did you Idolize and hockey players when you were growing up?
Haha. I think any hockey player idolized one or two greats growing up, and I am no exception. I grew up and still am a Ducks fan (yes it started because of the movie, heck I started hockey also because of it) – so it was the tandem of Paul Kariya and, of course the Finnish flash, Teemu Selanne, which is, by far, my all time favorite player. I wish my backhand is as good as his though…