Category: Interviews (page 1 of 3)

Q & A With Adil El Farj

By National Teams of Ice Hockey

When you talk about the country of Morocco, Ice Hockey is not a subject unless you talk to Adil El Farj who is Morocco national team goalie and now is with  Fédération Royale Marocaine de Hockey sur Glace.
We caught up with Adil in Montreal and ask him some question about himself and Hockey in Morocco.

Where did you start playing the game of Ice hockey?

I live in Canada, so hockey here is not the national sport … it’s the national religion . So when my parents moved to Canada the logical thinking was to play hockey.

Goaltending is a tough position, why did you pick this position? 

As a kid from Montreal my idols were Patrick Roy, Felix Potvin, Jimmy Waite and later Martin Brodeur. So goaltending was a no brainier for me.

When did you hear about Hockey in Morocco?

I was in Quebec City in February 2006 and I saw that Morocco was a participant in the famous pee wee tournament. I was really proud to see them play.

Why did you become Involved in Morocco Hockey?

In 2008 the guys went over to UAE for the Arab cup and I got in touch with them to get involved !

What are the main challenges for the advancement of ice hockey in Morocco?

The biggest challenge right now is building a full size IIHF rink ! We have pressure from both the kids and the senior players to have one : The kids because of the growing number that want to join and start hockey, And adults because they want to play a real game 5 on 5 and not 3 on 3.
Having a full size rink will allow us to participate in the IIHF World Championship program and become a full member.

Right now we are stuck in a loop, like all the non participants countries we don’t have a regular ice so we don’t play in the IIHF championships . And since we don’t participate in any IIHF championship our authorities in Morocco don’t see why we  should have a rink.

In Morocco there are some small Ice rinks where you have held some hockey camps for kids, how did that go and will there be any future camps organized?

We had to refuse kids ! The ice was too small but we managed. During the 2015 IIHF congress we obtain donation of gear. This donation was VERY VERY much appreciated. It was not enough for the kids . Remember there is no equipment  stores in Morocco and the closes place to buy a puck is in Barcelona !

In 2016 the African Cup for club teams took place, How did Morocco do and will there be any future tournaments?

Oh it was fun! Even if it was a organization challenge, we had a lot fun.
What impressed the IIHF observers is the level of play of the teams that were there and also the crowd ! We had a full house.

Morocco National Team has not played since 2008 Arab Cup. You have mention to me about a possible organizing a tournament for small hockey nations,. has there been any progress since we last talk about it?

In my last IIHF congress in Moscow, we discussed with IIHF non participants countries to create a Championship ! The point of doing this is to give our players an opportunity to compete vs other players on an international  level.

Also our goals is to show the IIHF that we are taking things serious and we are doing something and not just waiting for a miracle !
In order For international hockey to develop, we and all the IIHF members that don’t participate in regular competition must have an international competition to offer our players a hope that they can compete with other hockey nations, otherwise we would  be telling them that they have no horizon or hope other than local house leagues!
Right now Namibia left the IIHF because they felt they are going no where with no participation.

We have to turn the tide to show the IIHF that small countries want play and want to grow the game.

Your Jersey is displayed at the Hockey Hall of Fame along with the hockey greats. This must of been a huge honour for you?

You have no idea how big an honor it is ! But most important is that this jersey and all the other artifacts are there because of all the guys and all the Morocco hockey players and staff. It’s a great honor for all of us.

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What would like to see happen in the next 5 yeas for Ice Hockey in Morocco and Africa in general?

My personal goals for the next five years
– build a full size arena
– increase the number of female players and have a female league.
– Participate in IIHF World Championship Program
– Organize an IIHF Championship for small nations
– Organize an IIHF semi annual congress

Q & A With Adrian Mizzi AKA: The Travelling Goalie

By National Teams of Ice Hockey

In case you don’t know who Adrian Mizzi is and have been living under a rock or in a cave.
Mr Mizzi is the Travelling Goalie. He has played in over 30 countries and has seen places that most of us only dream of.

I don’t know anyone that knows more people in the game of hockey then Adrian. If I starting shouting out names he says he meet him or he is friends with or he took picture with that person and it does not matter whether he or she is well known or not in the hockey world Adrian knows who they are.

We had the great pleasure of talking with the Travelling Goalie and asking him a few questions, I hope all of you enjoy this Interview.

Where did your love for hockey come from?

Good Morning George ,

When I was a kid everyone was playing street hockey and the obvious way to make friends was to play and obviously to this day I still feel the same way about the game . It brings people together , not everyone is compatible but when you are on the ice nobody thinks about that and friendships grow out of this . I’ve loved the game almost all my life.

How did your hockey travels start for you?

When my best friend was killed in a tragic construction accident I decided I needed to leave the country to start something new so I moved to Amsterdam …. you can fill in the blanks , regardless I was bored and needed to play hockey and the internet was very new to me at this time . I didn’t know where to play in Holland and I didn’t have my gear with me so I found a team in Malta and contacted them and made plans to go meet them and travel with them to Dubai to play in their international tournament . I moved back to Toronto and one year later I made the trek and I was instantly hooked as I have always loved tournaments but at the same time I caught the travel bug really hard . After that I came home and immediately started looking for other interesting countries to visit to play hockey and then I ended up in Singapore .

What attracted you to playing in ice hockey tournaments around the world?

The people ! The camaraderie ! and definitely the beer LOL ! as I mentioned earlier … the travel bug is a very real thing .

How many countries have you played in and do you have plans to travel to more countries in the future?

Currently I have played in 36 countries and planning a trip to play in Australia and New Zealand which I am pretty sure will make me the first goalie to play on every inhabited continent .

Do you have any plans to join our friend Ryan Bahl in is attempt to play a hockey game in the South Pole?

I have signed up to go play in Antarctica but will try to make my own way over someday if I don’t get the invite . It is very expensive and would take a lot of work to make happen but nothing is impossible .

Did you ever think of playing in any leagues around the world and make it a career?

Of course I have dream t of playing professionally and unfortunately when I was younger we were never told of any pro leagues outside of North America or any of the other northern countries in Europe and Asia which probably would have been an option when i was younger . I have been offered coaching positions overseas but currently I am very content with my job in the film industry in Toronto and I have no plans of ever moving away … I am very proud to be a Canadian and there is nowhere else I would rather call home .

You recently played in Egypt, can you tells about that trip and about a famous picture of you
that got a lot of attention?

Egypt was fantastic . I have always wanted to go there ever since I was a small child , seeing the pyramids was an absolute dream come true . Getting a picture in my goalie gear in front of it was one of the highlights of my life . I am pretty sure that I was not supposed to do this and I did it anyway with the help of my Egyptian friends ( Ahmed & Ayman ) . The picture got a lot of attention and for all the right reasons as I want to get ice hockey growing in Egypt . Since the picture went crazy online my friends from Anubis Ice Hockey ( https://www.facebook.com/EgyptAnubis/ ) have had a few television interviews and there has been some more people joining to play …. the sport is growing and they need as much help as possible and that is why I am keeping my GoFundMe page going to collect more money to take more gear to them hopefully in December .

You also start a Egyptian Ice Hockey Drive, How is that going and if anyone want to help where would they go?

Thanks for asking . The hockey drive I did for Egypt was fantastic . My friend here in Toronto ( Brendan Krick ) donated his old goalie equipment so I traveled from here for the first time without my own full kit and I flew to England to meet my friends from the Birmingham Rockets ( https://www.facebook.com/birminghamrockets/ ) and they donated loads of gear thanks to Gemma Taylor Albutt who runs the team there . From there I needed to transport the gear and that is where the GoFundMe page came in (  https://www.gofundme.com/Egyptianicehockey ) and with the money I collected I paid the hefty baggage fees to fly the gear over …. the fundraising went better then I thought before leaving Toronto with a lot of my amazing friends pitching in enough to even pay for 2 full sized nets and I can’t forget the donations and deals that I got from my friends at my favorite hockey store on the planet Toronto Hockey Repair/Goalie Heaven ( http://www.goalieheaven.com/ ) If anyone is interested in helping out for the next trip then please make a donation and I will do my best to get another 100 kilos of gear over to Egypt ! 

You have played in many places around the world and I am sure you have countless stories, but can you share with us one your two stories that stand pout for you?

you do know I’m a goalie and I get hit in the head with pucks a lot right ? hahaha ! my memory is a bit shot buddy …. the first trip I received an invite for was to go play for a team from Jakarta , Indonesia . My good friend from Singapore ( Matt Wheeler ) invited me to stay with him and play for the first ever team to travel from Indonesia to play in an international tourney (Singapore) . Matt was such an amazing guy and unfortunately he is no longer with us and I will never forget him and that trip where I was treated very well . Another trip that stands out was my trip to South America with my German buddies Andi Tanzer and Timo Korner . We went to Brazil , Argentina and Chile and in Chile it was actually my idea to start a tournament there in Punta Arenas which is still going on . We played under my club team as the Ghetto Blasters and played in the first ever live televised match in Chile in front of a crowd of approximately 700 spectators .

Do you have any tips for people who may want to travel and play hockey like you have?

If you are a hockey player flying from anywhere always make sure to check if the airline carries ice hockey equipment for free and follow the guidelines and tape sticks together or buy a stick bag . If you have to pay for those sticks to come home then consider leaving them behind for people that can use them sometimes the baggage fees outweighs the cost of the twigs .

In 2009 you start a team called the Ghetto Blasters can you tells about this team and why you started it?

The Ghetto Blasters ( https://www.facebook.com/groups/ghettoblasterhockey/ ) started when I hurt my neck and realized I have degenerative disc disorder and I almost needed surgery . The two teams I was playing for both promised to have the spot for me when I returned and both lied blatantly to my face … I was upset and sick of being treated like a rag doll so I started my own club which has been going strong now for 8 years and have been mentioned on the IIHF website for winning Copa Invernada in Chile and I am pretty sure that I have left a jersey in pretty much every country I have visited so we are quite well known in certain circles . We play twice a week in Toronto and we are always welcoming international friends to join us for our games .

You are also a huge football fan and in particular a Aston Villa fan, how did you become a fan of this team?

To make a long story short … I have family in Birmingham , England . My great aunt who is my grandmothers sister is very dear to me and I visit her as much as I can ! Her husband who is no longer with us was a Birmingham City fan and my cousin Steven is a Derby supporter and my cousin Paul is an Aston Villa supporter … lets just say Paul put in the best effort to get me into watching football as I honestly was not a big fan because I never liked the diving and embellishing that goes on during the games because as a hockey player I have grown up with the values of not flopping around and making a fool of myself . To this day I still don’t like that but have grown to enjoy the game and definitely will be a Villa supporter until I die … VTID ! UTV !

Of all your travels so far do you have any favorite places?

These questions flow so well , its like you know what I’m gonna say already ? hahaha ! My home away from home is Birmingham . My friends and family there are fantastic and I always have a place to crash and a team to skate with and most of all … someone to have a pint with 🙂

If you want to learn more about the Travelling Goalie check out his blog The Travelling Goalie

Q & A With Luis de Almeida Johansson

By National Teams of Ice Hockey

Who is Luis de Almeida Johansson, Not known in the hockey circles so let me introduce him he is the national team goalie for Portugal and we had the great pleasure of speaking to him about hockey in Portugal.

Can you tell our viewers where did you start playing hockey?

I grew up in Quebec, Canada and I started playing hockey when I was a child. It’s almost impossible to not play hockey while your young in Canada. It becomes almost mandatory to everyone to skate and play at least at some stage. It is a true religion over there. And of course, we played hockey everywhere, at school, during winter in the exterior ice rinks, at the back garden.

Why did you became a goalie?

I started playing as a center forward, but to be frank, I always wanted to become a goalie. I truly admire someone that is willing to face dozens of shots per practice and game and still have a smile on their face. I also like the pressure behind it, it’s almost like being a lonely wolf within a wolf pack.

And of course, I had my childhood hockey idols that were all goalies, like Martin Brodeur, Dominik Hasek, Jocelyn Thibault and Damian Rhodes. And, one day, my team was searching for a goalie, so that was the moment, when I got the chance to fulfill my dream.

How did you hear about ice hockey in Portugal?

I moved to Portugal in 1996, but it was not until, I guess around 1999 to 2000. The vast majority of players that played ice hockey also played inline, so during those years we had an inline hockey championship and there was an idea to perform an exhibition game between a Portuguese national team and a Canadian team from Toronto area. That was the first major event for the Portuguese ice hockey community and even if I wasn’t part of the group at that moment, that was when I started playing ice hockey in Portugal.

Luis de Almeida Johansson with Team Portugal.

What made you get involved in ice hockey in Portugal?

At the beginning, I would say that it was almost a must to maintain my sanity in a country where football is dominant. I had to play inline and ice hockey to keep reminding me of my roots. It also kept me close to the Canadian expat community.

Currently and with me being already on to my 30’s, it’s really to try to develop the sport in the country and to leave a legacy to the new generation of players.

When you tell people in Portugal about ice hockey what is there reaction?

When we started, I guess people didn’t really believed that we were playing ice hockey in Portugal. But recently we have been playing more and more games that have received some media coverage. As a result, the public opinion is changing. I guess people wonder how can we play ice hockey without a permanent ice rink…

As for the moment, we have a temporary ice rink near the border with Spain, for roughly two months per year, in a town called Elvas. A very peculiar fact about this arena is that it was made primarily for bull fighting spectacle’s.

Jim Aldred is coaching the team. How has he help with the ice hockey program in Portugal?

It was a turning point in the Portuguese ice hockey. Jim is a great coach that has the experience in developing young players. He also played professional and has the knowledge of someone that was within a NHL organization, the Buffalo Sabres. He also knows what it takes to bring us to the next level. I think that having the chance to have a coach with these kind of skills, is clearly the right path for a successful future.

Jim Aldred’s wife, Cristina is also playing a pivotal role within the support for the national team. She is behind many of the backstage organizational tasks, that allows the players to concentrate on their performance.

National Team of Portugal.

Portugal recently played in the Mr Taxi Cup in Spain, how do you think the team perform?

Under the current circumstances, I think that the Portuguese team played within their possibilities. We can’t forget that the vast majority of team practice prior to this tournament, were made in a roller hockey rink. The most important aim for the team, was to gain experience and to face opponents from all over Europe.

On a very positive note we had  Isaac Carreiro who has been appointed as the top left winger for the tournament and it was also the first time that a Portuguese goalie had a shutout, with Max Andreyev’s 5-0 win against the Granada Eagles .

Outside of not having a suitable rink in the country, what other challenge are there for hockey in Portugal?

In first place, we need to quickly have a full up to speed Ice Hockey Federation, so that we can participate and promote ice hockey in the country. We also need to raise awareness within the authorities and civilian society that to have a permanent ice rink is not an unbelievable project and that it can be sustainable in the future, not only for ice sports, but also with a social mission within the community. The construction of the ice rink infrastructure is crucial for the development of the sport, I have no doubt about it.

Regarding the players, I’m sure we have the talent to perform, we have the example of great hockey players like John Tavares and Mike Ribeiro that have Portuguese roots. On another note, the country is also one of the major powers in roller hockey.

Finally, the Portuguese community in countries with ice hockey tradition, like Canada and the United States is so big that, in the near future, I would expect some players that play abroad to join the national team and to get these expat communities to support our project

Are there any future events plan for Portugal National Team?

Currently we have some invitations in hand to attend tournaments abroad. In the upcoming months, we expect to have some more information about the Schedule for 2017-2018.
Personally, I would enjoy seeing the Portuguese team play near expat Portuguese communities. It would be a great way to promote the sport and also to present our project for a future ice rink in the country.

What you like to tell the Portuguese people about ice hockey in Portugal?

That our dream of having an ice rink, it’s not a pharaonic enterprise. We truly believe that once we get this infrastructure in the country we will be able to not only develop ice sports, but also to be an asset to the community. We will be able to introduce children to different ice sports and who knows what they can become.
Also, Lisbon is currently bidding to host the title of 2021 European Capital of Sports. This could be a great opportunity to build an ice rink, unfortunately, Lisbon is still one of the few European capitals without an ice rink, then this would be perfect moment to do it.

Luis de Almeida Johansson in game action with Portugal.

Q & A With Monica Arias

By National Teams of Ice Hockey

Not too many people knew about ice hockey in Chile until the last few years. This year Chile will take part in the Pan American Ice Hockey tournament for the first time, ahead of the Pan American Ice Hockey Tournament we had an opportunity to speak with the President of the  Federación Chilena de Hockey en Linea y en Hielo.

How did ice hockey start in Chile?

Ice hockey started in Chile in Punta Arenas and Santiago both at the same time.

When did you become President of Federación Chilena de Hockey en Linea y en Hielo?

On February 2005, the Chilean Ice Hockey Federation, an affiliated member of IIHF, was legally constituted. I was president until 2009.
Then, in 2014 we reactivated the functions of the Federation after being closed from 2009 to 2014, without activities and without a directions.

Why has the game of ice hockey taking so long to developed in Chile?

Firstly, because in Chile inline hockey is played and the other reason is the lack of ice hockey rinks in the country.
Very little ice hockey is played because inline hockey players are not attracted to the game of ice hockey.

How many ice rinks are there in Chile?

We have no Ice rinks in Chile only recreational ice rinks.

How many ice hockey players are there in Chile?

In Santiago approximately 30 ice hockey players. In Punta Arenas, there are more players because they have been entering the school system and motivating the children to play ice hockey.
The equipment is expensive. The people that bring equipment have to recover there investment and expenses. It is very expensive sport to play.

What Changes are you going to try to make to improve Ice hockey in the country?

To promote ice hockey after participating in the Pan American Ice Hockey Tournament.

Motivate children to play ice hockey.

Obtain sponsorship to develop ice hockey.

Create competitions

Find support in the diffusion of ice hockey.

Promote ice hockey in schools for all ages.

The Copa Invernada Tournament is a annual 3 on 3 Tournament played in Punta Arenas, Chile, Do you have any plans to improve this tournament in the future?

Until there is a ice rick with official measurements or bigger than the one’s we have in Chile, we will continue playing 3×3.
Hopefully, someone wants to invest in ice hockey in our country, on a bigger ice rink where we can play and promote the game in schools.
In Chile, investing in individual sports and new sports have to continue to wait for someone to wake up and be interested in investing.
Right now We would have to win something big to be considered as a profitable investment.

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Ice Hockey in Punta Arenas.

Chile Men’s National Ice Hockey Team is going to make their debut at this years Pan American Ice Hockey Tournament. How did this come about?

The Chilean team that competes for the first time in the Pan American formed with players from Punta Arenas, Santiago and Chilean players living outside Chile.
Many good players turn us down and decided not to go they believe that they were not prepared for this challenge.

Will the Men’s National Team team be all inline hockey players or will it feature some local ice hockey players?

Many of the ice hockey players are inline hockey players but we have some who have only played ice hockey.

Are there any future plans to a Chilean ice hockey League?

The plans to make a league in Chile are very difficult …. Punta Arenas ice rink is very far from Santiago. We did a championship with inline hockey players who have been playing hockey for a longer time rather than the ice players, it was very entertaining.
Playing strategies are dominated by inline hockey for years they have been practicing.
I think it would be the great motivation to be in constant leagues or championships, so that the training would have a purpose.

When you are done being President what do you hope Chile ice hockey will look like?

When I am  finish being president of the federation, I hope that the leaders and players of inline hockey and in ice hockey can unite and work together with the same aim over the personal interests.

I think there is a lack of unity and interest in a common good.

I hope that hockey continues to grow, that more professionals are willing to invest time in obtaining the resources.

That there are more schools and more rinks where children can skate.

Personally, I hope to continue to teach ice hockey and train players who can then become trainers themselves.

Also, I hope we can have a bigger Ice rink with the proper facilities.

That hockey does not die and continues to grow so that we can have a lot of hockey for many years.

May this Pan American Tournament be the first of many.

A dream that will be …. we have wanted to play in a championship for at least one year.

 

“We only have one way to go and it’s up! “

By Confederação Brasileira de Desportos no Gelo

The 35-year-old American, Jens Hinderlie, lives in Rio de Janeiro and has been coach of the Brazilian Ice Hockey Team since 2015. In the first campaign, he led the country to the unprecedented bronze medal at the Pan American Games in the City from Mexico. Now, about to participate in another edition, he details his experience alongside the Brazilian team, the challenges of the sport and expectations for the competition, which takes place between June 5 and 11 in Mexico again.

In 2015, Brazil won its first medal in ice hockey. Can we expect results as good or even better?

It seems like every year is evolving. In 2015, our best year, we had full support, structure and a plan to build a competitive hockey team – and we won the bronze medal. Last year things changed. Some of our best athletes could not go. We struggled to score and finished fourth. I did not have that much talent, but in many ways I think we’ve improved. This year we have made several recruitment’s and tried to convince some of the best players to go to Mexico. I am very confident in the list of athletes we are bringing in this year. The challenge is how fast we can become a team – it’s our next hurdle. We have only a few days to prepare. I’m very excited. I think we have a great chance of competing for gold.

What are the main challenges for the advancement of ice hockey in Brazil?

The biggest obstacles are infrastructure, organization and culture. We do not have ice to practice and train. If we had, even for a month, it would help a lot! We also have to be well organized to plan for the future. Brazil is hungry for something new in sports. Ice hockey can feed this hunger, but we have to start slow. We have to be patient, but at the same time keep spreading what we are already doing.

What can ice hockey do to grow in the country?

We must continue to share our history. We have a great documentary produced last season and we have to be successful when we play international matches. We get a lot of interest from people in the United States and Canada. Thus, aid from outside of the country will be the key. Besides, who knows even a Hollywood movie can be made about us? We only have one direction to go and it’s up!

What are the main objectives in preparation for the Pan American Ice Hockey?

Our focus will be on team play. Hockey is a great collective sport and we have to have everyone on the same page. Trust, responsibility, sacrifice, and work ethic: all of these components are crucial to successful teams. And, finally, train the brains of these players to think about ice hockey. It’s a different sport than inline and we have a very short time to prepare ourselves.

Who are the main rivals for Brazil and what does our team need to do to beat them?

I would say that Mexico’s U-20 team is our biggest rival. We had some great games against them last seasons. Of course, Argentina is also a great opponent. But we get better every year and I’m very proud to train these athletes. We hope to have the support of all Brazil!

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Jens Hinderlie coaching Brazilian players

Q & A With Aaron Guli

By National Team of Ice Hockey

We had the great pleasure to speak to Aaron Guli President of the Ireland Ice Hockey Association. Ireland has not been on the International scene in a number of years, but Aaron Guli hopes to change that someday but for now the focus is on youth hockey and building the game from with in.

Can you give us some insight on when you became President of the Ireland Ice Hockey Association and why did you take the job?

I became President of the IIHA four years ago. I took the job because our association was in need of a complete overhaul. With my experience in hockey and  business I felt that I could help to implement the changes that were needed.

Ireland has a rich ice hockey history but the game has not taking off like some people would like, can you explain why?

The reason for the stagnation in hockey here in Ireland boils down to one issue, the lack of a permanent rink. There was a lovely arena in Dundalk but it closed in 2010 due to management issues. So without a rink it becomes difficult to implement programs to grow the game.

The Belfast Giants have helped ice hockey grow in Northern Ireland, but has it helped Ireland?

The Belfast Giants have certainly been key in the growth of hockey in Northern Ireland. I feel that their influence has been minimal here in Ireland. It’s good to be able to go and see a live game but it is a haul to get there. It would be roughly two hours each way to get there from Dublin. We have a cable channel here that shows NHL, Swedish Elite League and English Elite League games.

What other things is the IIHA doing to grow the game in Ireland?

There are a good few things we have been focusing on over these last four years. First we are focusing on youth hockey. We have established the first ever National Junior Development Program. We take the more advanced players from out youth clubs and start to prepare them to represent Ireland on an international level. We call the team the Saints. We have been having them travel internationally the past year. We’ve were in Boston and Toronto, Iceland, UK last season and we have teams traveling to Spain, England, and Belgium this season. We work on getting donations of equipment sent from North America to provide for the youth clubs. This helps to lower the costs. We have been working on improving our coaches nationally through course work and seminars. On a senior level we created an annual Cup competition. In one year it has grown from four teams to ten. We have been fortunate to have four teams from Northern Ireland take part this season. There are certainly more things we have been working on but these are just a few.

IIHA Saints in Toronto, Canada.

Ireland Men’s National Team has not played at the IIHF World Championships since 2013 with the closure of the Dundalk Ice dome. When do think Ireland will be back at the International stage?

We are not allowed to put any of our teams in IIHF World Championships due to not having a rink. The IIHF Minimum Participation Rules state that until we get a permanent arena we can not take part.

Are there any future plans to build an Olympic size arena in Ireland?

The IIHA is continuously working on trying to get a new rink open. We have two main possibilities at this point. There is the facility in Dundalk that closed seven years ago and there is a site in Dublin we have been working on. The major issue we have at this point is financing. Our government does not support sports like ours so we would not be in a position to receive support from them. After completing a comprehensive business plan we are looking, primarily in North America, for investment.

How do you think Ireland compares to other national teams after being away for a numbers of years from the international stage?

On the Div 3 level, that was the last level we competed at, I think we would still be one of the top teams in that division.

The Irish Ice Hockey League was founded in 2007 but it collapsed due to funding issues. Are there any plans to revive the league?

The IIHL actually folded when the rink in Dundalk closed. Without a rink it’s rather difficult to run a league. Once we get a rink open again we may revisit the idea of restarting the league but it’s not something we focus on at this time. The Cross Border Cup is the extent of what we are offering at this time.

The league’s inaugural champions Dundalk Bulls 2007-2008.

Can you elaborate about the Cross Border Cup. Who plays in it and when is it played?

The Cross Border Cup consists of 8 clubs and 10 teams. There are 3 clubs/4 teams from Northern Ireland and 5 clubs/6 teams from Ireland. We are currently in the playoff final rounds now. That has been broken in to two levels, A & B. It is played on varying nights, primarily on Saturday nights. The teams are made up of players 18 yrs of age and older (there are a few exceptions of players between 16-17 yrs based on playing ability). The Cup is also open to male and female players.

Have you had any seminaries with players or coaches to improve their skills?

We have been focusing on sending our kids and coaches abroad for camps and seminars. This summer, though, I am hoping to bring over a power skating instructor to run a camp at one of the rinks in Northern Ireland.

What would you like people to know about Irish Ice hockey?

We have hockey here in Ireland! We have a great mix of Irish, eastern European, and North American players. We have a growing youth program. We do this all without a rink. Imagine what it would be like with a rink. We have two great locations to get a rink opened but we need investment. We are hoping to attract interest from North amebic in that regard. Hockey is a sport made for the Irish, fast and physical.

What is your favorite NHL team and player?

The Montreal Canadiens. Past, Larry Robinson. Current, PK Subban or Carey Price.

Q & A With Francois Gautier

By National Teams of Ice Hockey

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…

Q & A With Shahryar Amini Captain of Iran

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By National Teams of Ice Hockey

We had the great pleasure to talked to the Captain of Camel Rapperswil-Jona and also the first captain of the Iranian National Ice Hockey Team Shahryar Amini.

Was ice hockey your first choice of sports when you were growing up?

Well actually no. I started with soccer when I was 9rowing up. Ice hockey is not that cheap and easy in Switzerland when you have a single mom.
It takes up a lot of time and costs a lot – so I went to hockey when I was 13 and learned everything on my own.

Outside from your self you do you credit for helping you learn the game of ice hockey?

I have been playing for 23 years Ice Hockey and still playing at the Swiss Regio League for EHC Rapperswil Jona Camel and EHC Rapperswil Jona II and also in a fun team for Züri Wizards.
During summer I’m playing for Wetzikon Sharks Inlinehockey and maybe will change this year to Switzerland 2nd highest league.

Did you ever think in your wildest dreams that Iran would have a national team and how did you find out about Iran hockey?

To be honest I wished for it for so many years, but never thought it would happen or that I could be a part of it. Actually I saw a flyer. They were looking for players during
the inline hockey world championship in Asiago. Funnily I only saw it because they played against Switzerland (some friends play for the Swiss National Team).

When did you find out that you were going to be named captain of the first Ice hockey team from Iran and what did it mean to you?

That was right before the games, February 1st I think. It means a lot to me. To be the captain of the 1st national ice hockey team – that’s the greatest honour you could ever get. My mum was so proud when she heard about that.

First Captain of Iran Shahryar Amini.

When preparing for the Asian Winter Games Iran had two camps In Kazakhstan and Italy. How did those camps go and how many people showed up?

Actually we had three camps. First Asiago right after the Inline Hockey Games, then Kazakhstan and in the end in Dubai. I think we always were about 15 players.
It went really well. The Iranian players learned soooo fast. Jalal Keyhanfar wasn’t on the ice once before in his life and now he’s one of our fastest skaters – that’s unbelievable.
All the Iranian players made a huge step forward. I mean they never played on ice before except Farzad Houshidari, who’s also a world class Inline Hockey Player.

Iran was disqualified from the Asian Winter Games, can you tell us what happened in Sapporo, Japan?

Well, we got the accreditation of all our players in November. 1 day before we arrived in Sapporo we heard about some issues regarding our players. There was a protest from another team, saying we have too many foreign players. No one from our Olympic Committee knew that the IOC changed the rule after the Winter Games in Kazakhstan. So the rule is that all athletes have to be born in Asia or have lived at least 3 years in their country. So based on that, 13 players of our team are not allowed to play – that’s fact. The time of telling us what the issue is, wasn’t really nice and fair though. We couldn’t react. We couldn’t get any documents of the players on time and not even report new players. So two days before the games started, Iran was disqualified from the games because we didn’t have enough allowed players (15 players, 2 goalkeepers)

            Team Iran in Sapporo, Japan.

If Iran were to take part in another major ice hockey tournament, what things will Iran do to prevent what happened in Sapporo, Japan?

Read all the rules thoroughly for sure, getting all the documents ready and be prepared for any issues regarding our players.

Seeing the camps and playing in friendlies with the national team, how would you rate the talent level in Iran?

We are going to have a huge future. I mean Samson Mahbod is a KHL player, we have a bunch of other good and young players, like Jeramy Rezaeepour, Benjamin Ghaffari (Goalkeeper), Hamid Gharaee. (highest Junior Level in Switzerland – he’s only 17). It’s also going to be a big inspiration for people in Iran to start playing ice hockey.

What is next for Iran ice hockey, will there be a ice hockey league in the country for local players to play in?

Yes for sure, otherwise we do not get a membership of the IIHF. Ice Rinks are already planned.

When do you think Iran will apply for IIHF membership?

We already did, we just have to wait for the official conference in May.

Can you watch NHL on Iranian TV?

I think they do over VPN connection etc. but I can’t say for sure, as I live in Switzerland.

After the Sapporo experience what is next for you in terms of ice hockey? 

I think everybody still has to digest what happened in Sapporo. I’m 100% sure we would win gold with our roster. After everyone calmed down and built up new energy we are going to prepare for the World Roller Games in China. The hockey season on ice is over now so we have time to make plans for 2017/18. Our team head Kaveh Sedghi put a lot of effort and energy to build up everything. I think we will sit together with Coach Christian Müller from Germany in a while and make plans to start a new chapter of Iran’s version of miracle on ice. We are still One Team One Dream – making hockey big in Iran.

Who is your favorite ice hockey player past or present?

Well as a longtime Pens fan definitely Mario Lemieux and Sidney Crosby.

Q & A With Mauricio Xavier

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By National Teams of Ice Hockey

This is an interview I have been wanted to do for a very long time since my background is Portuguese.
Mauricio Xavier is the President of Federação Portuguesa de Desportos no Gelo and is a member of the International Ice Hockey Federation since 1999.

Mauricio Xavier has a real passion for the game and over the last 8-10 years he has been trying to bring and ice rink to Lisbon, Portugal with no success, now he is taken to social media to gather support.

Portugal is the only country in Western Europe not have an ice rink.

We got a change to talk to Mauricio about the history of the game in Portugal and his struggles to get an ice rink built in Lisbon, Portugal.

Can you introduce yourself to our audience and give us a brief history about Ice hockey in Portugal?

My name is Mauricio Xavier, born in Lisbon, 50 years old and currently the President of the Portuguese Ice Sports Federation. I spent 13 years of my youth in Montreal, Canada, where I nurtured my love for Hockey, where I learned how to skate and played a couple of years in an organization called Sun Youth. I just loved the game ever since, and has always been my favorite sport.

Ice Hockey was first played in Portugal around 1996, when an Ice Rink opened in a town called Viseu, which is around 270kms away from Lisbon where I live.

Like me, a lot of players would drive up from Lisbon and other parts of the country, once or twice a month to practice and sometimes play. The season would then usually end with a long weekend trip to Madrid to play on an official sized rink, as the one in Viseu was far from regular sized. Since we were a group of newcomers, Inline hockey and ex-emigrants Ice hockey players that had played abroad, this was an opportunity for us to play as one against a local Spanish team, which is something we still do every once in a while.

Ice hockey ended in Viseu in 2004 when they closed down the mall the rink was in, for renovations, and Ice Hockey has not been played there ever since. The reason for this is because the rink is now in the middle of the mall’s food court and offers no way of protecting spectators from flying pucks.

Can you talk about Ice hockey league in the country in the the early 2000s?

The players that would regularly attend practices on weekends in Viseu, created a team called the Viseu Lobos and decided to invite Inline Hockey players from around the country to form another team called the Inline Stars, and started playing against each other about once a month. One or two seasons after, a whole Inline team called the Vikings also joined in, and for about three years we had a 3 team championship. Because of the small rink size, we would play 4 on 4 and I believe the Lobos and Stars each won some championships.

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2001 Champions Viseu Lobos.

In the last 8-10 years you have been trying to get and ice rink built in the Capital of Lisbon. What has been the main obstacles to getting this done?

There are a few, but the main one is financial. First of all, Portugal has been in a serious economic crisis for most of that time, where we even had to borrow money from the IMF, and investment dropped drastically. It seems nobody wants to invest in an unknown project, because it has never been tried and there is a notion that it would be very expensive to maintain in a warm climate like we have here in Portugal. Leaders also want to promote a country that is sunny all year around and in their view, having an ice arena contradicts that notion. Then, one of the biggest obstacles is soccer. Portuguese are crazy about it. Everyone is a fan, and that’s basically all they care about, especially in this Cristiano Ronaldo and Euro Cup winners era. All other sports get very little attention.

Roller Hockey is very popular in the country and there is some inline hockey too, how have you tried to get the hockey community to come together to help your cause?

That’s real difficult to happen George. Out of the secondary sports, and here it is regulated by another Federation that is a FIRS affiliate. We don’t get along. They don’t want their player playing either Inline or Ice Hockey, and really they are kind of afraid we grow and steal players from them, like they see happening in countries where roller Hockey used to be played more intensely like Italy, Argentina, Brazil and even Spain.

Even for Inline Hockey it is very difficult to get playing and practice time, because the indoor pavilions are all occupied for roller Hockey. Right now, there are no more than three Inline teams, two of them being in the Lisbon Suburbs. One in Sintra, and another in Cascais.

Have you reached out to the Portuguese communities in Canada mainly in Toronto and Montreal for help?

Not directly, no. I do know and talk to some Portuguese people that are into hockey, living in Montreal, Toronto and New Jersey and some are ready and eager to help, but not to extent what we need, which is an ice rink in Lisbon. Your question however has given me some ideas which I will pursue in the near future.

As there been any interest by Portuguese NHLers John Tavares, Mike Ribeiro and Adam Henrique in helping your cause to get an ice rink built?

Well, no. Not yet. I do want to. I don’t think they even know we play here in Portugal. I have thought of getting their help, but I believe we need to have the rink first. I don’t expect them to just come over and build a rink for us. We have to show we deserve their help by first building the rink. That will show our will and interest.

I know from conversations with NHLPA people hockey players like to help, and I will love seeing these players you mentioned on ice with a whole bunch of Portuguese youngsters. That’s how I see them helping, as well as maybe donated some equipments for the kids to start playing.

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John Tavares, New York Islands

The last two years the Portugal has played against the Czech Republic. How did is come about?

We were lucky to get a great Czech ambassador here in Portugal, who found out we played Ice Hockey here in Portugal, and was fascinated by the idea of bringing over a group of his friends that get together in Prague for a weekly outdoor game. They came over two years ago, where we played a game in a temporary ice rink installed in a Bullring. we usually use every year in Elvas, also around 250kms from Lisbon. Last year the same group met for the second edition, in that outdoor rink in Prague used by the ambassadors friends, and this season we will get together again on the 14 of January in Elvas.

The sad thing about that, is that, last year we had the biggest ice rink ever installed in Lisbon. Even though it was temporary, and it had flimsy boards, it was installed in one of Lisbon main squares. It was promised to return this year, but it has been cancelled in the meantime.

Portugal National team played there first ever game in 2000 against The First Portuguese Canadian Cultural Center. Is their any future plans to have games against Canadian teams?

Unfortunately, there are no plans. George, without a rink there can’t be any plans. We’d love to have them over, but we never know soon enough if we’re going to have a decent rink! Even this year we were hoping and had been promised we would have the big Ice rink for the games with our Czech friends, only to see the sponsor cut that rink from their plans.

We welcomed any Canadian Inline Hockey team that would like to come over and play with us.

I’m hoping the trade deal between Canada and the European Union helps us out in the future.

1st Ice Hockey Game in Portugal (Portugal-Canada)

Portugal Jersey hangs at the Hockey Hall of Fame

What would an Ice rink do for winter sports in Portugal?

It would do wonders. Right now, in Winter Sports there are only skiers, snowboarders and a few speed skaters. Most of them have to go abroad to develop their sports. With an ice rink here in Lisbon, we would have a place to do it here. The temporary ice rinks don’t stay around long enough to help develop any of the ice sports, so an ice rink would obviously help create hockey, figure and speed skating champions. I’m positive on that George. Portuguese have excellent capabilities in skating sports. We have kids becoming World and European champions in Roller Figure skating, we have very talented roller hockey players that I’m sure would make great hockey players. I’m a firm believer they just don’t do it on ice because there is no rink. It would also be a great alternative for the people that don’t like soccer.

You also do NHL Hockey commentary for Sports TV in Portugal, How are you received in the sports community and who is your favorite players or teams?

Well, I know we don’t attract much attention as the the soccer games. We have the inconvenience of being
Premium Sports Channel where people have to pay extra to watch, and it isn’t cheap because of all the soccer they get. Another Inconvenience is that the games are live around midnight, local time. We did however do Blackhawks – Ducks game, the have a pretty big fan base, this American Thanksgiving game that we broadcasted at 9pm. We had a huge following on our facebook page, even though the other 4 sports channels were all showing soccer games.

You see, The Portuguese people love roller hockey when it’s well played and if they get to see snd follow ice hockey they’ll soon get addicted to it. Unfortunately I don’t think it’ll get the same fan base as soccer, but I believe there is room for ice sports in the country. All we need is a little push with a ice rink, so we can offer lessons and training during the winter months. I’m sure interest will start growing exponentially afterwards.

As for my favorite team, this is the easiest question to answer. I’m a true die hard Montreal Canadiens fan.
I grew up in Montreal during the 1970s, so there was no reason not to like them. 

Guy Lafleur was my favorite player, and the reason I always wore #10. Nowadays some of my favorite players are guys like Connor McDavid, Austin Matthews, Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin and Brett Burns.
From the Canadiens I Like Radulov, Galchenyuk, Price, and I am also rooting for the teams where Tavares, Ribeiro and Henriques play for if the Canadiens are not in the mix.

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Mauricio Xavier doing the first game of the Canadiens on Sporttv.

Q & A With Bruce Strachan

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By National Teams of Ice Hockey

Posted December 7th, 2015

Kenya is a country in East Africa with coastline on the Indian Ocean. It encompasses savannah, lakelands, the dramatic Great Rift Valley, mountain highlands and abundant wildlife such as lions, elephants and rhinos. From Nairobi, the capital, safaris visit the Maasai Mara reserve, known for its annual wildebeest migrations, and Amboseli National Park, offering views of Tanzania’s 5,895m Mt Kilimanjaro.
Kenya is one of the last places you would think of playing hockey, but the game is thriving in this country and we got a change to talk to Bruce Strachan one of the people who are running ice hockey in the country.

Could you tell us something about the history of hockey in Kenya?

Panari ice skating rink opened in 2005. As I understand it Andrew Gremely from Chicago was the one who got the ball rolling when he facilitated the very first game – a scrimmage between a group of development workers from Edmonton who were visiting Nairobi for one week and thought it would be fun to have an Equatorial ice hockey game.
When it became apparent that the rink had no hockey nets, by the way, Andrew solved the problem by welding nets together at his own expense. And we’re still using those nets to this day!

How did you end up playing ice hockey in Kenya?

You’re probably familiar with the saying, “build it and they will come.” Well ten years ago the Panari Hotel here in Nairobi built an ice skating rink on its second floor. And true to the word, I came to join what was back then, a handful of informal pioneering Sub-Saharan-African hockey players skating around in tee shirts and jeans, led by an intrepid expat from Chicago named Andrew Gremley.

How big is the ice rink?

Panari’s rink is 4572 square meters – roughly ¾ the IIHF regulation size

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Is the ice rink at the Panari Sky Center open all year round?

Yes.

You organize hockey games in Kenya, how many people show up and how many times do you play a week?

At this point we play once a week throughout the whole year, with attendance levels varying between ten and fifteen players per session.

Is there a Kenya ice hockey league right now if not are there any future plans to have one?

With our current array of gifted and committed players, such as David Damberger (captain), Benard Azegere (assistant captain), James Covey, Ali Kilanga and Myles Lutheran, to name a few, we’ve been taking steps towards transforming what, up until now, has been informal pick-up sessions into a formal
league competition. Our goal is to implement league play in 2016 with four initial teams that would represent the Nairobi, Kakamega, Malindi and Turkana regions of Kenya. From this pool of players we plan to field a national team for annual international competitions.

You wrote a open letter on how to increase Kenyan youth participation to the Panari Sky Center.
What are hoping to accomplish?

During the decade that I’ve been playing ice hockey in Africa I’ve always felt that as a Kenyan-based group it was unfortunate that we didn’t have greater local participation – especially given that there’s an astonishingly high level of talent, enthusiasm and heart for the game among-st the youth here –many of whom learned to skate on inline-skates.
The relatively prohibitive cost of ice time (approximately 10 USD per session) is the main factor for this disparity. And so I came up with a simple and straightforward plan to attain corporate and institutional support by which local youth participation could potentially increase.
To his great credit Toney Kitonga, the rink’s General Manager, as welcomed and received this proposal. And in fact, by the end of our very first meeting subsequent to the letter, sponsored two talented Kenyan youths effective immediately. A few hours later those two guys were out there on the ice scoring beautiful goals. And just like that, the future of indigenous ice hockey in Africa got a significant boost.

Have you had any seminaries with players or coaches to improve their skills?

As yet no. And I’ve got to say it’s pretty impressive how the youth have taught themselves the basics all on their own.
Toronto based Adrian Mizzi, known as the Traveling Goalie, has offered to come and lead a seminar, and we’d certainly welcome him – or any other player willing to donate their time.

Operation of the ice rink and playing ice hockey comes at a price. How do you try to keep costs down?

Apart from that one instance concerning my lobbying for local youth sponsorship I have no input  regarding the rink’s admission policies.

Are there any future plans to have a Kenya Ice Hockey Association and would you like to be part of it?

Yes. One of our challenges is that as a team still made up primarily of expats many of our core players reside in Africa for less than two or three years. So when it comes to building a local hockey community with a future it is imperative that we take more steps to enfranchise local youth.
As mentioned earlier, there’s an extraordinary amount of budding hockey talent over here. And I’d very much like to see this potential developed and formalized into a sustainable league, and subsequently a competitive national team.
Of course, the drawback to that is our rink doesn’t yet conform to regulation standards means that our near-term prospects for engaging in competitive hockey are limited. We do however have high hopes that, with the anticipated success of our forthcoming three-on-three tournaments, a regulation size rink will be warranted in the not too distant future. “Build it and they will come,” right?

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Have you had any contact with the IIHF about future membership?

Not as yet. We aren’t quite there yet. But as we do clearly see the benefits of membership I think we’ll be ready to take that step in the near term.

Other Africa nations like Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt are starting to have Ice hockey
programs and South Africa is well establish, would you like to be part of growing the game in Africa?

We’ve reached out to the other African clubs and likewise many of them have reached out to us.
Intercontinental relations are familial, friendly and positive. Currently I’m engaged in preliminary discussions with Adil El Farj who’s hosting Morocco’s All Africa tournament in 2016, where we hope to join Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia and South Africa. Likewise we’re also working on increasing our own capacity so that we can host a Kenyan tournament in 2017. If all goes according to plan we’ll soon be inviting these, and other African nations, to participate.
By the way, although I’m presently pushing for an inter-African tournament, we’re also quite open to establishing relationships with other teams from around the globe. Personally, I’d really love to one day bring our Kenyan squad over to Ladakh, and play pond hockey in the Himalayas.
Enthusiasts from across North America have also been supportive. My sister’s community in Newmarket, Ontario for instance, has donated much-appreciated equipment. A Vancouver based memorabilia collector has been helpful in getting team jerseys produced at an affordable cost, and a
wanderlust-full goaltender from Toronto has generously offered to come over and share his stick, skate and glove-saving expertise with our local youth.

What is the one unique thing about playing ice hockey in Kenya?

Well for starters, on clear days I’ve actually seen giraffes, zebras and gazelles prancing around outside the rink’s hotel window – that’s pretty unique no? But let’s face it, you probably wouldn’t be terribly interested in our team if we were based in Trois-Rivières or Thunder Bay. So there is something genuinely unique and intriguing just in and of itself about a group of die-hard hockey players shaving up Sub-Saharan ice. We’re sort of a contradiction in terms. Our closest ice hockey neighbor, by the way, is Cairo – that’s 2,000 miles away! And this gives you a sense of just how remote an outpost of the game we are.

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