By William Douglas – NHL.com
Colombia brought 80 players to the Amerigol LATAM Cup, the most of any country in the tournament, and a papayera.
The Colombian percussion and horn band played enthusiastically as Colombia’s Division I men’s team defeated Puerto Rico 5-1 to win the cup at the Florida Panthers IceDen to end the four-day tournament.
It was the second LATAM Cup in three tournaments for Colombia — the 2020 tournament was postponed due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus — and it eliminated the bitter taste from a 3-2 shootout loss to Jamaica in 2019.
Jamaica played exhibition games during the tournament and didn’t contend for the championship.
“To avenge that loss in 2019 and come back is huge, it’s monumental,” said Colombia coach Rich Garvey. “It goes back to the country, it means so much to the rest of the hockey program, both ice and inline, it’s really immeasurable.”
Michael Nijjar, a Colombia player who is a member of the Vegas Golden Knights ownership group, agreed.
“We’re super-excited, I’m sure a lot of people back in Colombia were watching,” he said.
Colombia appeared in four of the five championship games in men’s Division I, Division II, women’s, Under-12 and Under-16 brackets.
In addition to the Division I men’s win, Colombia’s Under-16 team defeated a team comprised of South American players 10-8. Brazil’s Under-12 team defeated Colombia 5-2; and Brazil’s Division II men won 8-2 against Lebanon.
Puerto Rico’s women’s team defeated Colombia 2-0.
“This has been an amazing experience and now we can show off that Puerto Rico and hockey are a thing,” said captain Jazmine Miley, a forward who plays hockey in France. “We’re going to the Olympics, baby. We’re getting that exposure. We’re here to make our mark
That was the mantra for all the 29 teams and more than 500 players who represented Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Lebanon, Jamaica Mexico and Venezuela.
Most of the LATAM Cup nations don’t have ice rinks or have ones that don’t meet International Ice Hockey Federation standards that would allow them to play in sanctioned international tournaments or compete for a berth in the Olympics.
Their goal is to showcase their talents and inspire sports federations, Olympic committees or private investors in their countries to support ice hockey, mainly with ice rinks where they can play.
“The only way to show the world, to show our country what we’re capable of is being in this type of tournaments,” said Daniel Fierro, head of Colombia’s ice hockey federation. “Fast forward to the next years, we would like to see an ice hockey rink in Colombia, we would like to see Colombia play in world championships, in the qualification for the Olympic Games, and have more and more players playing.”