An ice hockey rink at Acadia University in Nova Scotia, Canada.

By Richard Parchment – Jamaica Observer

Tropical Ice Ventures Chief Executive Officer Jason Swales says he still has plans to set up an ice hockey programme in Jamaica, although privately.

To do this though, he plans to first build a multipurpose arena that will house an ice hockey rink.

Swales, a Canadian now based and building rinks in South East Asia, says he wants to partner with a major hotel to build the facility on the north coast. Privatizing this venture, for him, would mean creating a venue that hosts various events, allowing it to generate revenue throughout the year.

“It would be a multipurpose arena,” Swales told the Jamaica Observer. “We could use it for all kinds of different events — trade shows, expos, basketball, music shows. The plan is that that hotel would fund it, and we’ll build it for you and attach it to the hotel, and in return, we will keep your hotel full by running adult and kids’ hockey tournaments, all the multipurpose events that we could run through there.

“The hotel wins because we’re keeping it full and the country wins because now, they have the facility to start training in and learning the game of hockey, ice skating, short track speed skating, and also part of my plan, too, is to build a bobsled run-off as they have in Calgary, Canada — not an actual bobsled track, just a run-off where they can pratice their run-offs and time themselves.”

Swales previously visited Jamaica to partner with the Jamaica Olympic Ice Hockey Federation (JOIHF) nearly a decade ago, but those plans fell apart because of differences with the JOIHF board, which is headed by Don Anderson.

Anderson declined to comment on the matter when contacted by the Observer, but he did say in a previous interview that he had wanted a rink built in Jamaica as it is one of the requirements by the International Olympic Committee for participation in the Winter Games. But Anderson told the Observer in January that those plans have been suspended.

Donovan Tait is a former national player, and former member of JOIHF, now serving as a gazetted police executive in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police but based in Turkey, where he coaches in the Turkish Ice Federation. He is disappointed in Anderson’s recent comments that there were construction plans which were then put on hold.

Don Anderson’s announcement in the Jamaican newspapers a month ago is really a moot point because there really was no rink conversation happening behind the scenes,” Tait told the Observer.

But he however says he is excited by the prospect of Swales’ project being a private venture as he has lost faith in JOIHF and the Government’s ability to get a rink created, especially after Swales’ recent attempt to work with both parties yielded no result.

“There was no shortage of roadblocks and barriers thrown up for Mr Swales and he eventually moved on,” Tait said. “That was really the beginning of the end for a number of us in JOIHF – myself, Graeme Townshend, Lester Griffin, and CJ Bollers, who were, for a lack of a better term, the real operational people in JOIHF moving the hockey operation forward and identifying Mr Swales as the number one person to build the rink and have those legitimate conversations with the Government and the leadership of the JOIHF group. Unfortunately, those fell on deaf ears and it became clear that JOIHF was just interested in keeping Jamaican ice hockey at one level and in the hands and control of just a few people.

“In my view, with the current leadership of JOIHF, there will be no ice hockey rink built because there’s just no interest in building the rink. It would take away total control and influence of what is Jamaican ice hockey, which in my view is dormant and has been dormant a while now, save for a lackluster and embarrassing performance at the [2021] LATAM Cup.”

Swales says that Jamaica playing ice hockey at the Olympics any time soon is far-fetched as it would take decades to develop a program.

“I have zero interest in entertaining the idea that in my lifetime, Jamaica is going to play ice hockey in the Olympics,” he said. “My interest is in getting the proper facility built in Jamaica and giving the kids and the youth a fresh new sport to play and to develop in. It gets them off the streets, gives them something else to get involved in, and gives them a team atmosphere to develop.

“With the right people such as Graeme Townshend, the first Jamaican-born ice hockey player, you develop the game in the country and that’s what we want to do.

Jamaica’s ice hockey team, which Tait was a senior member of, took the LATAM Cup with a win over Colombia in the final in 2019. It returned to the competition in 2021 but was only allowed to play exhibition matches because the squad was made up of professionals, which organizers of the tournament said was not allowed.