Colombian Ice Hockey is not well known in the Ice Hockey World, but Colombian men have won the past two Pan American ice hockey and tournaments and the women capture Bronze medal last year. We caught up with Sandra Velasquez who played for the very first time with the Colombian women’s national team.
Where are you playing hockey for this season 2016-2017?
I play year-round at City Ice Pavilion in Queens and at Chelsea Piers for two different teams, it keeps me going and the guys I skate with are awesome, it’s a great way to stay in shape.
What position do you play and why?
I’m a Right Wing, however when I first started playing hockey I started out as defense because I wanted to be just like Brian Leetch, who is my favorite player of all time, haha. Once I realized I was better on offense though I stayed up on right wing since and occasionally play Center or Defense depending on what league I’m on.
You had a busy summer already playing for your native Colombia, How did you find out that Colombia had a Women’s Team?
I found out about the Colombia Ice Hockey program reading an article from a Colombian newspaper when the Men’s team won the gold two years ago. When I found out about the Women’s team participating, I reached out to the general manager regarding my interest to participate via email, and the rest is history.
Did it take awhile for you to blend in with your new teammates?
Not at all. The very first day I felt part of the team, they’re an amazing group of young ladies and even though I was the oldest, I blended right in.
Colombia Women’s team won a Bronze Medal at last years Pan American Ice Hockey
Tournament but in this year tournament Colombia finish 4th, what happened?
You have to realize that Colombia has no ice rinks for the teams to practice on. The teams we faced have those resources and became exponentially better than the previous year, and they also brought two teams each, A and B (Colombia only had one). The fact that we made it to the Bronze Medal game was a huge accomplishment on its own merit, and I’m so proud of that.
Do have any interesting stories from the tournament in Mexico?
The altitude really did a number on me. I watched some video of me skating and I could tell it made a difference. Now I know for next time, I’m probably going to have to suck it up and bring an oxygen tank, lol!
If you had one word to describe your Pan American Tournament experience what would it be?
What would you say is the talent level of the women’s team and can any them play pro in North America?
Our talent level is varied, but keeping in mind that most of the skaters come from professional Roller Hockey, the likelihood of any of us making a pro-level team in North America is not as strong as it is for someone who grew up in the Canadian or American ice hockey system. I tried out for the NWHL this year and as expected, didn’t make it, so I feel that given more resources and time, within a decade perhaps we can reach that level. For now though, we are happy knowing that we are inspiring a younger generation of Colombian and Latino players to play ice hockey in South America.
Can you describe the feeling watching the Colombian men winning the Gold Medal for a second year in row?
It’s pretty awesome. The game was a nail biter to the end and to be on the ice with them after the win, celebrating with my fellow team mates, that was a memory I will never forget.
If asked will you return next year?
Ice Hockey is New to Colombia, How is the Colombian Ice Hockey program progressing and do you see future growth?
Oh yes absolutely. I think as long as there is a desire for players to participate and to get fresh blood in each year, the program will keep growing without limits. This is just the beginning.
Given the success of both the men and women’s teams is there any future plans to build and arena in Colombia?
I don’t have the ear to the ground (or ice? haha) as much as I’d like to since I don’t currently live in Colombia, but I have heard rumblings about a year-round ice hockey rink being built in Bogota. I hope this is true, because it would be a catalyst to get the players to the next level regarding access to ice and team-building. It would also give me an incentive to bring my gear with me down there to practice with the team and to visit family. Fingers crossed that it happens!
Do have a pre game ritual?
Left skate on first, right skate on last. Always. The one time I deviated from this, I almost broke my ankle during a game and it took me 5 months to get over that sprain. Never again. Haha.
What is your Favorite NHL Team?
The New York Rangers, since 1992. I bleed blue for life!