Month: September 2020 (Page 2 of 2)

First Cuban American NHL Player Al Montoya Looks to Expand Hockey’s Reach in Hispanic Community

HELSINKI – JANUARY 5: Team USA wins the gold medal by defeating Team Canada 4-3 at the World Jr. Hockey Championships in Helsinki, Finland at the Helsinki Ice Arena.January 5, 2004

By Heather RuleUSA Hockey

Montoya believes if young Hispanic players get to try hockey, they’ll fall in love just as he did.

Al Montoya, the first Cuban American to play in the NHL, says he was also the first native Spanish speaker in the 100-year history of the league. 

Montoya finds both facts amazing, but also believes members of the Hispanic community would fall in love with the game as he did while growing up in Chicago. That is as long as they’re given the opportunity to try the sport.

“I realized the weight of what being the first Cuban American was the day I got drafted,” Montoya said. “You’re not representing yourself anymore. You’re representing the community. And I embraced it.” 

He spent 15 years in professional hockey as a goaltender, but it’s also his family history that results in Montoya speaking with such pride.

Montoya’s mother was born and raised in Cuba. His grandparents fled Cuba and from the Castro regime in 1963 for the United States. They went from being landowners in Cuba to Montoya’s grandfather “selling strawberries on the side of the road and working at McDonald’s,” Montoya shared. 

It’s the work ethic from his grandparents, and his mother working as a doctor, that has rubbed off on Montoya, now 35 years old. He recalls his grandfather telling him how grateful he was for the United States, the place that gave him his freedom. 

“One of the prouder moments of my life is standing on that blue line or that red line, looking up at our flag and knowing the sacrifices that they made to give me that opportunity of freedom,” Montoya said. “They passed it down to me. I can’t say enough about it.” 

Raised by his single mother and his grandparents along with three brothers, Montoya followed his older brother in playing hockey. Montoya started out as a skater, taking up hockey at 3 years old. He began hockey as a forward, but the next year, his team didn’t have a goalie. He remembers playing in a house league before that, where the goaltender bag cycled between teammates, allowing everyone a shot to try the position.  

That second year of mites, “I took that bag, and I never gave it back,” Montoya said. 

He eventually ended up with the USA Hockey National Team Development Program at 16 years old. In 2004, he was part of the U.S. National Junior Team that went undefeated (6-0-0) to win the first-ever International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship gold medal for the United States. Montoya was named Best Goaltender and named to the All-Star Team. 

He called that 2004 team, which included Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, “one of the best teams ever produced by USA Hockey.”

“This is our chance to make this statement and be the first team to ever win, the first U.S. team to win a gold medal,” Montoya said. “Once that American flag is going up, and you know you won it, and you’re surrounded by your brothers, your family, your teammates. It’s really a moment I’ll never forget.” 

He played for the University of Michigan when he was 17 years old and went 86-29-8 there across three seasons. The New York Rangers drafted him sixth overall in 2004. That’s when he realized the platform he had as the first Cuban American NHL player. He also played in Puerto Rico, gave interviews in Spanish (his first language growing up) and even had a sandwich named after him at the Carnegie Deli.

He made his NHL debut April 1, 2009 with the Phoenix Coyotes, coached at the time by Wayne Gretzky. Montoya earned a 23-save shutout in a 3-0 victory over Colorado at the Pepsi Center. He couldn’t have scripted it any better.

“Getting that chance to live that ultimate dream that first game is a moment that will always be close to my heart,” Montoya said. 

KOSICE, SLOVAKIA – MAY 2: Martin Roymark #22 of Team Norway tries to jump on a rebound as Al Montoya #35 of Team USA makes a save during preliminary round action at the 2011 IIHF World Championship.

He ended up playing 168 games in the NHL (67-49-24 with a 2.65 GAA and .908 save percentage) across nine seasons with Phoenix, the New York Islanders, Winnipeg, Florida, Montreal and Edmonton through the 2017-18 season.  

His grandparents died in 2008 and didn’t get a chance to see him play in the NHL, but they watched him at the University of Michigan and saw him get drafted. 

“They got to watch me play which was, now that I think about it, it makes my heart whole,” Montoya said.  

A year into retirement from hockey, Montoya spent time with his family and took “a spiritual, emotional trip” to Cuba last summer. He was the first in his family to return since 1963. Montoya has appreciated this time in retirement.

It’s given me the time to be intentional about the next phase of my life, and that’s dedicating my second career to my passions, which are hockey and the Hispanic community,” Montoya said.

His goal is to grow hockey by incorporating Latinos into the conversation around the sport. Recently, he was a panelist for USA Hockey’s Let’s Grow Forward webinar. This focused on different ways the Hispanic community is already joining the larger hockey family and, even more importantly, discussed ways to get them further involved. During the webinar, Montoya and fellow panelist, Robert Torres, talked about their work together. Montoya has partnered with Torres’ organization Parents for Peace and Justice, a Hispanic community in Montoya’s Chicago hometown. Montoya is also part of the NHL’s Player Inclusion Committee.

Montoya sees a grassroots effort taking shape, bringing hockey to Hispanic communities that maybe cannot afford to play hockey or don’t immediately gravitate toward the sport. Hockey isn’t the first sport Hispanics reach out to, Montoya added. In Cuba, there was no ice; kids play baseball or box, he said.

Still, he believes with the celebratory nature of Hispanic culture and how everyone loves to come together that there’s no reason that Hispanics shouldn’t be passionate about hockey as well, he said.

“I know they love speed, I know they love action,” Montoya said. “And by doing that and by starting at the grassroots level, you’ll check all the boxes at the end of the day with fan inclusion and marketing players. The game will continue to grow.”

He’s making it a goal to get out and interact with youth, so he can get them involved in hockey at more of a grassroots level. Or maybe his role will also be working at the NHL level to help put fans in the seats. He’d love for the “fantastic” game of hockey and the “fantastic” Hispanic community to be blended together.

Montoya’s outreach is local with the Hispanic community, but he’s also had conversations with NHL general managers and presidents. It’s all about finding a home for his vision and getting to work right away.

“It started out as an idea, and I’ve had a year to grow this thing and grow this thing,” Montoya said. “I’m looking forward to finally putting it all together.”

How Slovak Vladimir Kurian became a Chilean hockey player

By IamVitoNesta – National Teams of Ice Hockey Blog @ Sports.ru

Vladimir Kurian – about his career, about life, about Chile at IIHF

Why did you choose hockey?

It was an easy choice for me, I still remember that moment. When I was 9, I watched the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer on TV. At the time, I knew nothing about hockey, as I spent most of my time taking piano lessons. My mother also played the piano, and I really enjoyed playing. But that day changed everything. For the first time I saw a game that I fell in love with instantly, with such players as Palffy, Stastny, Satan became a kind of example for me. That day we beat Canada 3: 1 and then I said to my father “I want to become a hockey player!” Everything turned out to be go great – we lived in Banska Bystrica, very close to the ice arena, and a school with a sports bias, and I was taken to hockey.

What made you move to Chile?

After a difficult period in my life in Slovakia, I wanted to start life from scratch. My parents died of cancer – my father died when I was 25, and my mother 5 years later. They were literally dying in front of my eyes, it was the most difficult period in my life and it was not easy to cope with it. At that moment I realized that I had to leave Slovakia for a while. The choice was between Canada and Chile, in Canada I lived for some time, and therefore I knew the language and I had several acquaintances there. But in Chile I had a friend whom we met in the USA, when I worked there in the “Work and travel” program. Subsequently, we traveled a lot around the America and once he came to me in Slovakia. In the end, I flew to Chile, I wanted to stay there for 3 months as a tourist. But during this time I fell in love with this country, people were friendly to me, and I felt that I can start my new life here. It took me some time to learn Spanish. Now in Chile I am an independent person, I have my own business, I discover new things for myself in this country, and I help to develop hockey in Chile.

How did you get into Chilean hockey?

 I have always loved hockey, but I had no idea that there is hockey in Chile. But when I found out about this, I looked on the Internet for something about hockey in the country, and found the club “Santiago Yeti”. I contacted the club, I was immediately answered and invited to the team. At that time, I was without equipment, so I had to borrow skates and a couple of golf clubs. The team believed that since I was from Slovakia, I was playing professionally, so I spent more and more time on the ice, and then I was offered to become a become a player coach.

Vladimir Kurian in his Chilian Jersey

Do you play for any club now?

No, at one time I played for my city in the junior league, there was no chance of a professional career, since this is more of a hobby than a job with which I would like to connect my life. But hockey is still important for me.

Did the Chilean national team fulfill their tasks at the Latam Cup?

 First of all, I want to say that I am proud to be a player of the Chilean national team and a part of Chilean hockey. I came here 4 years ago, received citizenship and residence, and was able to play for the Chilean national team. We have a lot of players who play passive hockey, but they try hard to improve their skills.

Latam Cup became a huge experience for us, we were able to assess our level, the level of other teams, players, and realized that we had a huge work ahead of us to improve the quality and level of play. If we return to your question, then yes, we are satisfied with the performance of our team, and this is an invaluable experience gained at the Latam Cup.

Latam Cup is a hockey tournament among the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean, held annually in Florida (ed.), And the Chile national team in the last tournament took 6th place out of 7.

After the Latam Cup, Colombia joined the IIHF, what are the plans for the future of hockey in Chile?

Yes, becoming a part of IIHF is a great honor both for Colombia and for Latin America in general. Congratulations to them, they deserve it, it shows that the level of hockey in Latin America is growing. But Chile is still far from the IIHF. Chile is a beginner in hockey, we don’t even have the right training for our athletes, but we are trying to move on. Our main goal is to create a development program and involve children in hockey. It is also necessary to create a federation in order to get the attention of the government and get some support, but this is not an easy task. In the meantime, you need to do basic things, spend more time on the ice, find financial support for the purchase of hockey equipment, support the school.

What do you do in your free time from hockey?

I work as a DJ and a music producer, I started my own business importing vegan products from Slovakia to Chile, so there is very little time left for hockey.

Do you play your music in the dressing room?

 Not really, I leave the choice to my partners. Electronic music is not as popular in Latin America as in Europe.

How many people attend your concerts?

At the moment I’m more of a music producer than a DJ. Because of the business, there is practically no time left to work as a DJ. Therefore, I enjoy music as a producer.

What Track do you Recommend?

I would recommend “The Awakening”, this track I composed in Chile, it describes my big change in life.

Women’s Ice hockey team tuning up for Challenge Cup of Asia

Forty Women at selection camp in Iran

Source: Iran Skating Federation

According to the Ice Skating Federation of Iran, the Iran’s women’s ice hockey team started the camp for the IIHF Challenge Cup of Asia.

The event will be held in Manilla, Philippines in May 2021.

According to the public relations of the Iran Skating Federation said that  ice hockey women athletes have passed the first stage of their selection camp to participate at IIHF Challenge Cup of Asia in Manilla.

Forty athletes from the provinces of Tehran, Tehran County, Eslamshahr County , Qods County, Ray County and Pakdasht County  attended and the techniques, tactics and skills of skating were held The athletes were evaluated under the supervision of the technical staff of the national ice hockey team, and the names of those invited to the next stage will be announced through the official website of the Skating Federation.

The first stage of the selection camp for men’s ice hockey players to participate in the IIHF Challenge Cup of Asia., which will be held in Singapore in May 2021, will be held on Wednesday, September 26, 2020

The purpose of the IIHF Challenge Cup of Asia is to provide competitive opportunities for Asian teams that are either in the lower divisions of the IIHF World Championships or did not compete in any IIHF World Championships.

The first women’s tournament took place in Shanghai, China from April 10 to 14, 2010.

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