Day: September 28, 2020

Rick Fera: The quiet man who came alive on the ice pad

Rick Fera shadowed by his former Murrayfield Racers’ line-mate, Tony Hand

By Allen Crow – Fife Today

Rick Fera was one of the most prolific points scorers of ice hockey’s modern era.

A man of many clubs and few words, the enigmatic forward knew the route to goal better than most of his peers.

His time at Fife Flyers spanned just two seasons – one he loved, one which drove him to frustration and ended with a long suspension.

Fife Flyers imports Rick Fera and Steve Gatzos celebrate a goal, season 1990-91

It also contained one singular career highlight – his 1000th point as a pro hockey player.

The moment was captured by Bill Dickman, chief photographer of the Fife Free Press, who profiled him with his arms loft jumping for joy; a special, private moment for an intensely private man.

Fera’s UK career spanned 14 years and nine clubs, and he was the leading scorer at almost each and every one of them.

A native of Keswick, Ontario, he came to these shores from the OHL, and struck gold from the very start.

Rick Fera, Fife Flyers celebrates his 1000th career point in UK ice hockey

Fera joined Murrayfield Racers in 1985/86 where his partnership with Tony Hand was astounding – his 196 points haul just two ahead of his line mate.

The following season their telepathy took them to an even higher plane as Fera plundered 242 points and Hand 216.

It was the first of several phenomenal partnerships Fera struck up as he roamed, almost nomadically, around the UK hockey circuit.

At Trafford he bagged 229 points, and found a perfect foil in Sylvain Naud, while Basingstoke Beavers saw him team up with two greats, Kevin Conway and Mario Belanger. Fera’s 181 points just pipped Conway on 171 and Belanger on 167.

They were streaks ahead of the rest of the team – Basingstoke’s next highest points scorer was defenceman, and future Flyer, Russ Parent on 74.

At Fife, Fera’s speed and skill were perfectly complemented by French Canadian, Luc Beausoleil – 153 and 124 points respectively – as they spearheaded the team coached by Rab Petrie in 1989/90.

Fera returned, excited at the prospect of lining up with new signing Hilton Ruggles, a sniper of a forward who made his name with Whitley Warriors, but the club opted for a massive U-turn in mid-summer.

Out went Ruggles even before setting foot in Fife, and in came two Czechs Jaromir Korotvicka and Lubos Oslizo. The switch to European hockey didn’t work and was quickly jettisoned.

In came former NHLer Steve Gatzos, long past his peak, and the partnership with Fera misfired completely.

New coach, the no nonsense Mike Fedorko, split them up, and dumped Fera in the third line, playing relatively inexperienced young local Brits up ahead of the Canadian.

When the player was injured he found himself de-registered to make way for Darcy Cahill – a player with a big reputation who didn’t live up to the billing.

Isolated, Fera kept his counsel as results tanked, and the team hit rock bottom. Fedorko, Cahill and company all departed.

But his nadir came in January when a season soaked in utter frustration finally exploded when Fera – one one of the mildest mannered guys on the circuit – exploded.

He was thrown out of a game against Durham. Hustled to the sin bin, he threw a chair at Wasps’ player, Ian Cooper.

A brief moment of mayhem resulted in a ban for the rest of the league league campaign.

The following season he headed south to Trafford where his wandering journey around British ice hockey continued.

Three decades on, his remarkable scoring feats still stand the test of time – a true reflection on a player blessed with skill, pace and a deadly finish.

Wilson fueling rise of women’s game in Mexico

15-year-old making strides in quest to help home country win Olympic medal

By William Douglas

Luisa Wilson said people sometimes do double takes when she tells them about her hockey roots.

“Sometimes when I’m in Canada, I’ll be practicing and they’re like, ‘You’re good, where are you from?’ I’m like, ‘I’m Mexican,'” she said. “And they’re like, ‘Mexico has hockey?’ I’m like, ‘We have hockey and ice rinks, the entire thing,’ and they can’t believe it.”

Luisa, a 15-year-old who was born in central Mexico, is turning more people into believers.

She made history when became the first Mexico-born athlete to win a Winter Olympics medal when she won the gold competing on a multinational three-on-three hockey team at the 2020 Winter Youth Olympics in Lausanne, Switzerland, in January.

“It’s really cool being able to expand the sport that I really love in Mexico,” Luisa said. “It’s amazing what this sport can do to change your life, and I want more kids to be able to experience that.”

Luisa knew she had done something special when the gold medal was draped around her neck at the award ceremony on the ice, “but I didn’t know how big it was until I got to Mexico and there were reporters there,” she said.

She added a bronze medal to her collection weeks later playing for Mexico at the 2020 International Ice Hockey Federation Under-18 Women’s World Championship Division II Group B in Mexico City.

“It was an awesome experience being able to play with the Mexican team, representing Mexico in Mexico with Mexicans cheering me on because when Mexico cheers, Mexico cheers,” said Luisa, who scored two goals in the tournament. “They bring drums and everything.”

Mexico Under-18 at the Women’s World Championship Division II Group B in Mexico City

Luisa’s exploits have earned her recognition throughout Mexico and beyond. She landed on Forbes Mexico’s list of the 100 powerful women of Mexico in 2020, a who’s who that includes actress and producer Salma Hayek, Hyundai Mexico CEO Claudia Marquez, Kellogg Latin America president Maria Fernanda Mejia, and Graciela Marquez, Mexico’s secretary of the economy.

The hockey gloves Luisa wore during the Youth Winter Olympics are at the Olympic Museum in Lausanne, said her mother, Laura San Roman Onate.

That’s pretty lofty stuff for a teenager who began skating as a 3-year-old with her father, Brian, a Canadian who was coaching hockey and playing rugby in Mexico.

Most people don’t associate hockey with Mexico, but the country has been an IIHF member since 1985 and has more than 3,000 registered players, most of them youth. Mexico has 22 indoor rinks, according to the IIHF.

The family moved around in Mexico for coaching jobs for Brian Wilson and more ice time as Luisa and her two brothers, Jack and Thomas, progressed as players.

Luisa Wilson, the first Mexico-born athlete to win a Winter Olympics medal

In 2017, the family relocated to suburban Toronto so the children could get more hockey experience and games. Luisa said she plays 50 to 60 games a season now as opposed to in Mexico, where she played about 40 games a season.

“My version of the story is we were in the kitchen and my dad and my brother were, like, we should move to Canada,” Luisa said. “And I was, like, ‘Yeah, let’s do it.’ And my mom was, like, ‘We can’t just move to Canada.’ And we did.”

San Roman Onate recalled that by the time she heard about the Canada idea, it was a done deal.

Wilson’s paternal grandparents were so excited, they had already decided “‘We’ll sell our house in Parry Sound, we’ll move to Toronto so the kids can come to Toronto and go to school and play hockey in the afternoon,'” San Roman Onate said. “Everybody moved for hockey.”

Luisa said the move has paid off in making her a better player. She said she cringes when she watches old videos of her playing.

“I had no hockey sense back then,” she said. “I really liked playing defense because I got to stay in front of the net and just pound kids down onto the ice. That was my go-to move, basically. I knew how to skate because we used to practice 16-17 hours a week on the ice. But we were terrible hockey players because we only got a tournament like once a year.”

Luisa’s increased ice time in Canada and her performance at the Youth Winter Olympics and IIHF world championship have set her focus on playing college hockey and representing Mexico at the Winter Olympics someday.

The Mexico Ice Hockey Federation wants its national women’s national team, ranked 26th in the world by the IIHF, to compete in the Winter Games in the near future.

“Every day of the week, I’m working out so when the time comes, if I can be on that team, I could actually help them,” Luisa said of the women’s national team. “If I can be on that team, I want to help them, not be a bench-warmer.”

LATAM Cup and Hockey in Latin America is Fueled by Passion

By Mike Lewis – Florida Panthers

Passion for the game has no limits or borders.

For South Florida native Juan Carlos Otero, the burgeoning hockey scene in Latin America is what inspired him to found Amerigol Miami International Hockey Association.

A self-professed “hockey fanatic” of Colombian heritage, Otero operates Amerigol with the mission of growing hockey’s presence throughout Latin America by organizing tournaments and showcases.

Although his love of hockey began during the Panthers magical 1995-96 Year of the Rat season, the seeds of Amerigol were firmly planted when he first discovered Colombia’s infatuation with hockey, more notably inline hockey during a trip to Bogota in 2017.

Otero, the General Manager of the ACHA Div. III University of Miami hockey club, formed a relationship with the Colombian National Team as he helped organize a training camp in South Florida to help them transition their inline game to the ice before heading to Mexico for the 2017 Pan American Games. Once witnessing firsthand the passion for hockey in Latin America at those Games and the chance to spread the word, Otero began constructing his plan for the LATAM Cup, an international tournament spotlighting the talent and hockey community tucked away in Latin America.

Hosted at the Panthers IceDen in Coral Springs, Fla., the first LATAM Cup was held in 2018, with five teams and roughly 90 players competing in one division. Just one year later, the 2019 LATAM Cup’s participation soared to 21 teams, four divisions and nearly 400 players. Divisions included D1, D2, U16 and a Women’s Division while also adding teams from the Caribbean, like Jamaica, who won the 2019 D1 tournament in thrilling fashion.

“Where (the LATAM Cup) is at now, I’m completely blown away, but I’m not surprised,” said Otero. “I’m not a cocky person, but I kind of knew this had the potential to grow because of what I saw (in Colombia). Their (inline) rink is like a family hub. They have over 640 players registered for inline hockey. From the U-8s all the way to adults.”

Recently named to the NHL’s Youth Hockey Inclusion Committee, Otero aims to share his passion for the game in the League’s efforts to grow the game and provide both inspiration and inclusivity for Latinx, Hispanic and minority youths to have the opportunities to learn and play hockey.
“I can’t tell you how excited I am. The NHL has worked really hard in creating initiatives to grow the game of hockey and to change the stigma that it’s just a white person’s sport. I have a lot of ideas and this will be a great place to voice them and get feedback on them.”

While the NHL continues to broaden its diversity and inclusion approach, Otero looks to the sports community as a whole, its connection to Latin America and his hockey pilgrimage to Colombia that fuels the dedication to his mission.

“Why can’t the next NHL superstar in 15 years come from Latin America?” said Otero. “In every other sport there have been superstars that have come out of Latin America. I think that it’s important for the NHL’s growth 15 years down the line to have players with names like ‘Lopez’ and ‘Fernandez’ on the backs of jerseys to grow your fanbase.”

“It’s the same over there (in Colombia). It’s a hockey community just like it is here. They love this game as much if not more than we do. You talk to these kids and they know what happened last night in the NHL.”

In September of 2019, Colombia became an associate member of the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF), becoming the fifth Latin American Country to join the IIHF after Mexico, Argentina, Brazil and Chile.

The next LATAM Cup is set to be Amerigol’s largest endeavor yet, with a new U12 division and a tremendous increase of 35-40 teams from countries in Latin America and the Carribbean. Most interestingly, that number doesn’t even include teams from Africa and Asia who had enthusiastically extended their interest in participating.

Traditionally held in early September, the tournament has since been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, when it comes to organizing the next LATAM Cup during these unprecedented times, Otero refuses to make final decisions without speaking to the teams and countries that helped make the tournament possible in the first place.

“I wouldn’t have this tournament if it wasn’t for them. It’s important everyone has a say in this event.”

A hockey dad at heart, whose son Chris captured Gold with Team Colombia in the 2019 U16 LATAM Cup Tournament, Otero is thrilled for the future of the tournament as well as the potential growth of the game he loves so dearly.

“These kids have the same (passion). Growing the game within the community. This whole tournament is a win-win-win for everybody. As this tournament continues to grow, more people become aware that people play hockey (in Latin America).”

“Seeing these kids come off the ice win or lose, they have the biggest smile on their face. To me that’s what it’s all about.”

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