By Kyle Drinnan – overtime heroics
Ecuador is known as a football country. The sport is so connected to many people’s lives that it could even be called a religion in the region. But Ecuador is a country with a vibrant and growing sports scene. It is a growing sport that one would think would be impossible to do. Orkos Quito Hockey Club is determined to grow the impossible, ice hockey in Ecuador
The club is founded and run by a small number of individuals. Fabian Romero is the current president of the club, and they are the only club currently in Ecuador that is hosting ice hockey games. They have even traveled to other nations that are members of the IIHF, like Chile, to play hockey games and represent Ecuador.
Ecuador even has an ice surface, which many IIHF countries would consider a blessing. However, there have been some issues with the ice rink, as Quito used to have two ice rinks in the capital city. Unfortunately, one of the two ice rinks had to shut down because of economic hardship. Now with only one rink, it has been harder to meet up and play ice hockey. Quincentro Sur Ice Rink is a small surface, so only 3-on-3 hockey could be played on it, but what is tougher is that it’s located away from where most of the club members live, which makes what used to be a weekly meeting into a meeting once every-so-often.
The economic situation has also been a strain on growing the sport in the country. Hockey is an expensive sport, putting a huge strain even on the bigger hockey nations like Canada. Club Secretary Javier Balseca says that the price of the equipment alone could set someone back months of pay.
“The basic income for Ecuador is $450,” Balseca said. “You can spend $100 on a hockey stick so a lot of parents don’t have enough to pay for the full hockey gear for their children.”
Trouble Getting Equipment
There isn’t even a hockey store to sell equipment in the country. Javier’s brother, Jose Balseca, says that all of their equipment is from traveling or importing into the country.
Since they don’t have a lot of ice hockey equipment and facilities, the club uses inline hockey to help educate kids and adults about the sport on ice while keeping the club active. “There are more people playing roller hockey in this country,” said Jose Balseca. “What has happened is we have people from Canada, U.S., Germany, and even Russia to come and help out build the sport in the city.”
Inline hockey has more cultural significance in South America and is growing faster in Ecuador. Colombia, the nation north of Ecuador, has become a regional powerhouse in the sport and is also quickly growing ice hockey as well.
Inline hockey rinks have been popping up in Quito, and these rinks have been much closer to the Club’s members. It has allowed the club to grow and keep enough members to have a full team interested in ice hockey.
Right now, the club has three divisions: men, women, and children. Many nations that are currently growing ice hockey are only focused on growing the men’s side of the sport. Orkos Quito Hockey Club is looking to grow in the sport as much as possible with anyone who wants to play. Recently they had a tournament with an organization called the Friendship League. That tournament allowed them to have more equipment and notability in the hockey world.
They also have options to play in the LATAM Cup, a tournament hosted by the Florida Panthers for countries in the Caribbean, Central, and South America. Despite the economic issues and growing the sport from scratch in a nation without any ice hockey history, there are people that are inspired to grow the sport and hope to see their flag among the greats of ice hockey. Despite the challenges ahead, it will be a one-step-at-a-time approach, and maybe one day, Ecuador will be in the IIHF with the other South American nations.