Category: North America (Page 1 of 9)

Ryan the latest name on Team Canada’s coaching carousel

Troy Ryan is the bench boss for Canadian Women’s National ice Hockey team

By Meaghen Johnson – TSN

Canada’s women’s hockey team has been riding a coaching carousel for the past decade.

The team has had nine different head coaches since 2010, including five different faces behind the bench since Canada last won gold at the 2012 IIHF Women’s World Championship, led by Dan Church. 

Troy Ryan is the current bench boss. He took over the role in January 2020 and is now charged with ending Canada’s nine-year gold-medal drought at next month’s 2021 IIHF Women’s World Championship in Calgary. All of Canada’s games can be seen live on TSN.  

To understand how we got to this point, let’s take a closer look at Ryan and his four most recent predecessors, dating back to the last time Canada won gold at the world championship in 2012.

Kevin Dineen
Years active: 2013-2014
World Championship: none 
Olympics: Gold (2014)

Dineen took over for Dan Church, who abruptly resigned as head coach late in 2013, less than two months before the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

Church had led Canada to gold at the 2012 IIHF Women’s World Championship, but at the time of his resignation, he said he felt there were doubts within Hockey Canada about his ability to lead the team to gold at the Olympics.  

He told the Canadian Press, “If there isn’t confidence in what I’m doing, I need to step aside and let the team move on.”  

The following week, Hockey Canada announced Dineen as Church’s successor. Dineen had recently been fired as head coach of the Florida Panthers after just over two seasons with the club. While he had international experience as a player, he had no previous coaching experience with the national team or in the women’s game.

It was an inauspicious start to Dineen’s tenure. He lost his coaching debut 4-1 to the United States in an exhibition match, which was followed by two more defeats to the Americans in a tune-up series before the Olympics. 

Ahead of the tournament, Dineen named Caroline Ouellette as captain over Hayley Wickenheiser.

“There is a tremendous amount of experience in our dressing room, and there is no shortage of qualified candidates to wear a letter,” Dineen said in a statement.

Dineen led Canada to a perfect 3-0 record in the preliminary round in Sochi, including a 3-2 victory over the U.S. In the inevitable rematch between the rivals in the gold-medal game, the Americans led 2-0 with under four minutes left.

But two quick goals from Canada – including one from Marie-Phillip Poulin with under a minute to go – sent the game to overtime, where Poulin provided the heroics once again with the winner.

Dineen later revealed that Poulin’s golden goal – which came on a Canadian 4-on-3 power play – wasn’t the play he had originally drawn up.  

“You know what? They got the puck on the right stick,” he said.

Dineen’s tenure ended as suddenly as it began. On March 20, Dineen left the women’s team after just over three months on the job to become the head coach of the Canadian men’s Under-18 team for the 2014 IIHF World U18 Championship, where the squad won bronze.  

Doug Derraugh
Years active: 2014-2015
World Championship: Silver (2015)

Derraugh took over in July 2014 for the start of a new Olympic four-year cycle. Derraugh was a former assistant with the women’s national team from 2011-2012, winning a gold medal with the team at the 2012 IIHF Women’s World Championship.

At the time of his hire, he had just completed his ninth season as head coach of Cornell University’s women’s hockey team, where he is the winningest coach in the program’s history. Derraugh is still behind the bench with the Big Red and has amassed a record of 295-152-45 and four Frozen Four appearances.

Derraugh brought a familiarity with the team and the women’s game that his predecessor lacked. He was already acquainted with several key players like Laura Fortino, Brianne Jenner, and Rebecca Johnston after coaching them at Cornell.

For the 2014 Four Nations Cup, Canada’s roster had 10 players who would make their debuts with the national team, including current mainstays like goaltender Emerance Maschmeyer and forward Blayre Turnbull. Canada would win their 14th title at the event, beating the U.S. 3-2 in a shootout to claim gold.

At the 2015 IIHF Women’s World Championship, Canada once again boasted a younger roster, which had an average age of just over 24. Ten players were making their women’s worlds debut. In a wild final against the United States, Canada ended up losing 7-5 in the highest-scoring gold-medal match in tournament history. The Canadians erased a pair of three-goal deficits but were ultimately outgunned by their rivals.

Derraugh left his role as head coach before the 2015 Four Nations Cup, but he has remained involved with the team throughout the years and is currently an assistant coach with the squad.  

Laura Schuler
Years active: 2015-2018
World Championship: Silver (2016, 2017)
Olympics: Silver (2018) 

In their next hire, Hockey Canada made history with Schuler, the first former player on the national team to serve as head coach.

As a player, Schuler won three gold medals at the women’s worlds, including at the inaugural event in 1990, as well as silver at Nagano in 1998 when women’s hockey made its Olympic debut.  

She had previously served as an assistant with the national team, as well as head coach of the women’s under-18 squad that won gold at the 2014 IIHF U18 Women’s World Championship. Schuler became the first woman to serve as head coach for Canada since Melody Davidson, the team’s former general manager, stepped down from her coaching duties in 2010.

But despite her pedigree as a player, Schuler never led Canada to gold at any major tournament as a head coach. Under Schuler, the Canadians won a combined five silver medals at the women’s worlds and Four Nations Cup and were also runners-up at the 2018 Olympics.

Schuler began her head coaching tenure with a silver medal at the 2015 Four Nations Cup, losing to the United States twice, including an overtime loss in the gold-medal game. That was followed by two more losses to the Americans at the 2016 IIHF Women’s World Championship in Kamloops, B.C. The gold-medal match was a close battle, but the U.S. edged Canada 1-0 in overtime to deny their rivals of gold on home ice for a second time in three years.

“I believe that we have the personnel to [win],” Schuler told TSN after the game. “They won the luck of the draw this time around… Next time, we’ll make sure we take care of it.” 

But it was more of the same in 2017, with the U.S. once again defeating Canada in overtime to win 3-2 and claim women’s worlds gold on home ice for the first time in Plymouth, Mich. It was a discouraging run-up to the 2018 Olympics for Canada, who finished with just two wins in five games and lost to Finland for the first time ever in the preliminary round.

Despite the unprecedented loss, a Sports Illustrated report said Schuler “was adamant that there weren’t problems to fix.” Hockey Canada seemingly agreed and awarded Schuler with the coaching position for the 2018 Olympics, charging her with leading Canada to a fifth straight Olympic gold.

All signs seemed to point to Canada continuing its Olympic dominance. In an exhibition series against the United States before the Olympics, Canada won five of the six games. The five straight victories came after the Canadians dropped the opener 5-2, and Schuler called the game “an embarrassment to our country.”

At the PyeongChang Games, the Canadians continued to roll, beating the Americans 2-1 in the preliminary round, and in the gold-medal rematch, they were six minutes away from claiming another title. The Canadians led 2-1 late in the third period until Monique Lamoreux tied it on a breakaway, and her sister Jocelyn scored the winner in the shootout to give the Americans their first Olympic gold since 1998.  

Canada’s run of Olympic gold came to an end, as did Schuler’s time as head coach.

Perry Pearn
Years active: 2018-2020
World Championship: Bronze (2019)

Pearn, who was an assistant under Schuler at PyeongChang, took over as bench boss for the new Olympic cycle. He brought more than two decades of experience as an assistant coach in the NHL, as well as some international pedigree, leading Canada to gold at the 1993 IIHF World Junior Championships.

Ahead of the 2018 Four Nations Cup, Pearn told the Canadian Press that he “would probably be willing to make a commitment to [coach] the next Olympic Games.” Pearn was also the first hire for new general manager Gina Kingsbury, who took over the role from Davidson.

“Winning is important. It really is,” Kingsbury told the Canadian Press. “When it comes down to the first Four Nations of a new quad, to me it’s about getting back to a winning culture.”

But it was more silver hardware for Canada at the 2018 Four Nations Cup, with the team losing 5-2 to the Americans in the gold-medal game. It was the fourth straight title for the United States at the Four Nations Cup, and things would get worse for Pearn and Canada at the 2019 IIHF Women’s World Championship.

The Canadians would fall 3-2 to the Americans yet again in the preliminary round, their eighth straight loss to their rivals at the women’s worlds. But this time there would be no gold-medal rematch. Finland, playing on home ice in Espoo, upset Canada 4-2 in the semifinal to advance to the final. Finnish goaltender Noora Räty finished with 43 saves and stymied the Canadians’ attack.  

“We should be really disappointed,” Pearn told TSN after the game. “We played much, much better than we showed today earlier in the tournament… Very disappointed that when we hit some adversity, we seemed to completely lose track of what it is we do as a team.”

Canada would regroup and easily take bronze with a 7-0 win over Russia, but it was still the team’s worst-ever finish at a major tournament.

“You have to be happy with the end result,” Pearn said postgame. “I think the takeaway for the whole group is we need to change some things. We need to get better. There’s no question that we’re capable of being very successful, but that’s not going to happen until some changes are made.”  

But Pearn wouldn’t get the opportunity to face the United States in another tournament. The 2019 edition of the Four Nations Cup was cancelled after ongoing contract disputes between the Swedish Ice Hockey Federation and the women’s national team players.

Canada and the United States played in a two-game exhibition series in place of the tournament, but Ryan was head coach for the mini-series, with Pearn serving as an assistant. Canada won both games.

At the end of the year, the Canadians and Americans began a five-game Rivalry Series, with Pearn back as head coach and Ryan named an assistant. The United States won the opener 4-1, and three days later edged the Canadians again by a score of 2-1, dropping Pearn’s record against the Americans to 2-6.

That spelled the end of Pearn’s tenure. On Jan. 9, 2020, Pearn was fired as head coach, with Ryan taking over. Kingsbury told the Canadian Press that a change in leadership was needed.  

“Sometimes you respond differently to different leaders, and I think this was the change this particular group needed,” she said. “We certainly don’t regret having him on board for the past year and a half. Sometimes, someone else needs to be crossing the finish line.”

Troy Ryan
Years active: 2020-present
World Championship: none 

This brings us to the Ryan era for the Canadian women.  He has been on the coaching staff since 2016, including winning silver with the squad at the 2018 Olympics.

A native of Spryfield, N.S., Ryan is deeply involved with his home province. He spent three seasons as head coach and general manager of the Maritime Hockey League’s Campbellton Tigers and was the Atlantic Canada female coach mentor with Canadian Sport Centre Atlantic (CSCA). Last summer he became head coach of Dalhousie University’s women’s hockey team.  

Ryan took over as Canada’s head coach for the final three games of the Rivalry Series against the Americans in 2020. While Canada won Ryan’s official debut as head coach by a score of 3-2, the team dropped the last two games of the series, losing four of the five total games. 

Ryan was set to return to his home province this past spring for the IIHF Women’s World Championship, which was scheduled to take place in Halifax and Truro. However, the government of Nova Scotia ultimately cancelled the tournament, resulting in it being rescheduled and moved to Calgary in August.

In May, Ryan was named the head coach of the team for next year’s Olympics in Beijing. 

“He’s a very deliberate coach,” Kingsbury told the Canadian Press. 

“Even if he hasn’t had the chance or the opportunity to have a whole lot of camps or events with our group, even how he’s managed our group in this pandemic, and the relationships he’s built, the trust he’s built, these players want to play for him. He is the guy to lead us for sure.”

Stewart raising Jamaica’s game as national team co-coach

Former NHL forward aims to inspire squad, which hopes to qualify for Olympics

By William Douglas  –

Chris Stewart took the unsolicited email as a sign.

The 33-year-old former NHL forward was grieving the recent deaths of relatives in Jamaica when the Jamaican Olympic Ice Hockey Federation (JOIHF) reached out to him to inquire whether he’d be interested in becoming a co-coach and hockey ambassador for its national team.

“I had an uncle die of cancer that was living in Jamaica and two weeks after that I had another uncle die of COVID on Jamaica,” Stewart said. “To say that Jamaica was on my heart and mind at the time was a massive understatement. I’m a big believer that everything kind of happens for a reason.”

Now Stewart is on a mission to help Jamaica defend its 2019 Amerigol LATAM Cup championship Oct. 14-17 at the Florida Panthers practice facility in Coral Springs, Florida, and boost the Caribbean country’s effort to one day compete in the Winter Olympics.

After Stewart received the email, he spoke with Sean Caple, JOIHF director of hockey operations, in May about the team comprised mostly of Canadian players of Jamaican heritage, including co-captain Jaden Lindo, a forward selected by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the sixth round (No. 173) of the 2014 NHL Draft.

Jamaica defeated Colombia 3-2 in a shootout to capture the LATAM Cup in 2019

“We got talking about where they’re going and the vision of the federation going forward, and we just aligned,” said Stewart, whose father, Norman, migrated to Montreal from Jamaica in the early 1970s and quickly became a Canadiens fan. “There’s a foundation there, for sure.”

Jamaica defeated Colombia 3-2 in a shootout to capture the LATAM Cup in a tournament that also featured men’s and women’s teams representing Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Puerto Rico and the Falkland Islands. The tournament was canceled in 2020 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus.

“Winning that trophy, I can’t tell you how important that was for Jamaica,” JOIHF president Don Anderson said. “It made … Jamaica proud of the team because, obviously, not very many people in Jamaica knew we had a hockey team.”

Anderson said Stewart’s hire adds the exclamation point to Jamaica’s effort and Olympic ambitions.

Team Jamaica 2019

Selected by the Colorado Avalanche with the No. 18 pick in the 2006 NHL Draft, Stewart scored 322 points (160 goals, 162 assists) in 668 NHL games with seven teams from 2008-20, and 11 points (six goals, five assists) in 39 Stanley Cup Playoff games. He also played for Canada at the 2011 IIHF World Championship in Bratislava and Kosice, Slovakia.

“Chris is going to bring tremendous expertise, knowledge in the sport of hockey,” Anderson said. “He also has tremendous influence within bigger hockey circles, the NHL and IIHF and we expect that we will be able to use some of that experience and know how that Chris has to be able to present programs that we believe will be worthwhile enough for the two bodies to support us on.”

Stewart will join former NHL defenseman Jamie Huscroft behind the Jamaica bench. Huscroft scored 38 points (five goals, 33 assists) in 352 NHL games with seven teams from 1988-2000 and one assist in 21 playoff games.

Anderson said Stewart is already paying dividends in his hockey ambassador role. One of his first acts was to connect the JOIHF with the NHL Players’ Association Goals & Dreams fund to apply for a donation of hockey equipment to help grow the game in Jamaica.

The fund is the world’s largest grassroots hockey program, providing more than 80,000 children in 34 countries the opportunity to play the sport over the past 21 years through equipment donations. It has donated more than $25 million to help grow the game of hockey.

“I just connected the dots, I know the PA and know they’re always looking for things to help out on,” Stewart said. “Yeah, they’ve been speaking and, hopefully, we can build the relationship into something that can materialize into something good.”

Jamaica would join Costa Rica as the second Caribbean country to benefit from the Goals & Dreams fund if the JOIHF’s application is approved.

Stewart hopes to further assist the effort in Jamaica by being one of five North American coaches at a week-long hockey clinic at the G.C. Foster College of Physical Education and Sport in St. Catherine, Jamaica, which has added the sport to its curriculum.

“We anticipate 25 to 50, even more kids,” Caple said. “It would be free of charge. We’re going to go through a lot of the basic skills and concepts of hockey that you would on the ice rink.”

Jamaica’s biggest hurdle to full IIHF membership and Olympic qualification is the lack of a skating rink on the island. Anderson said JOIHF officials hope Stewart’s presence and hockey resume will help serve as a selling point in getting one built.

There were reports in 2019 that a Canadian investor was interested in building a rink as part of a resort on the island’s north coast and Anderson told Jamaican media the federation has spoken with some private companies about constructing a synthetic ice sheet as a short-term solution.

In the meantime, Stewart is keeping his eyes on the prize that potentially awaits in Coral Springs in October.

“We’ve gone from the hunter to the hunted. We’re the defending champs,” he said. “We’re the measuring stick, right? So it’s no different than Tampa Bay (Lightning) or Chicago (Blackhawks) when they were going through it. Every team is preparing to beat you that night. We’re the measuring stick.”

El Paso Rhinos announce expanded Mexico Hockey partnership

Source: El Paso Herald-Post

Officials with El Paso’s championship winning hockey franchise – the Rhinos – announced this week that the club will expand their partnership with Mexico’s national hockey organization as well as the Ice Hockey Workshop Group of Mexico.

“The Mexican and El Paso Hockey communities have similar roots. It’s challenging to grow and develop in a non-traditional hockey market,” shared El Paso Hockey Association and El Paso Owner Cory Herman. “So we think it’s really important to come together and give every hockey player within our communities the opportunity to succeed.”

Since 2019, the El Paso Hockey Association and the Rhinos have worked with the Mexican Ice Hockey Federation.

After months of discussion and planning between Rhino General Manager Corey Heon and the Technical Director of the Mexican Ice Hockey Federation, Diego de la Garma, the U18 Mexican National team traveled to El Paso to play an exhibition game against the Rhinos in 2019.

The series was so successful and well received by both the El Paso and Mexican hockey communities that Heon and de la Garma decided it would be mutually beneficial to broaden the scope of the organizations’ relationship.

Now, not only will the Rhinos work with the Mexican Hockey Federation, they will also collaborate with Ice Hockey Workshop (IHW), an ice hockey development program based in Mexico City.

The IHW, led by Diego de la Garma, includes three teams: the Osos, the Bufalo and Stars.

“We are super excited to expand our working relationship with the de la Garmas, Ice Hockey Workshop and the Mexican Ice Hockey Federation. Our goal is to help further develop hockey in Latin America and help top players get to the next level. By working together, we create unique opportunities for our youth on both sides of the border. The future is bright,” Heon said.

The Rhinos and Ice Hockey Workshop intend to host workshops, coaching clinics and camps for youth and junior players on both sides of the border. Rhino Country also plans to host the Mexican Ice Hockey Federation’s Men’s Mexican National Team, Women’s Mexican National Team and youth national teams for exhibition games.

“It’s a huge honor for us to be able to work with such a successful organization. It will really help our top players to take the next step and eventually develop Mexican hockey at the next level while promoting hockey within the Latin American community all over the United States,” de la Garma explained.

To the excitement of both hockey communities, the bridge between Mexico and El Paso hockey is already being crossed. Last month, the Rhinos’ NA3HL team announced they had tendered Said Ayala, a member of the U18 and U20 Mexican National teams as well as the Bufalos Metepec Club team.

Just two weeks ago, five Mexican Ice Hockey Federation players suited up for Rhino teams at the NAHL Mega Camp in Blaine, MN. Additionally, there is currently a former Lady Rhino in Mexico City vying for a spot on the Women’s Mexican National Team.

Marleau surpasses Howe

Canada’s Patrick Marleau (against Sweden’s Johnny Oduya) during the gold medal game of the 2014 Olympic Winter Games where he won his second Olympic gold medal

By Andrew Podnieks –

It is the last of the old, great records, and it is gone. Patrick Marleau, from tiny Aneroid, Saskatchewan, has now played more regular-season games in the NHL than any other of the nearly 8,100 players who have skated in the league between 1917 and today.

Marleau played in his 1,768th game Monday night at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas while playing for the San Jose Sharks, the team with which he has played more than any other. The 41-year-old surpasses Gordie Howe, from the equally tiny Floral, Saskatchewan, who played 26 seasons in the NHL before retiring at age 52 in 1980, his fifth decade of play.

“It was definitely a long ride,” Marleau said after the record-breaking game. “I’m very grateful and blessed that I was able to do this with all the support I’ve had over my career. It’s something I’ll never forget… It was a really special night. You don’t have these nights without teammates, without great organizations. Definitely have those covered for sure.”

Howe’s record was one of the longest lasting in league history, having survived more than 41 years. In third place is Mark Messier, who played in 1,756 games before retiring in 2005 prior to the start of the new season and after missing all of 2004/05 because of the lockout.

Marleau is not the oldest player in the league today. That distinction goes to Slovak defenceman Zdeno Chara, who is 43 and who was drafted in 1996. Marleau was selected 2nd overall in 1997, one behind Joe Thornton, who is the second oldest player this season at 41 for the Maple Leafs.

But what separates Marleau from everyone else is not only his longevity but his consistent resilience. As of now, he has an Iron Man Streak of 894 consecutive games, the 4th-longest in NHL history. He last missed a game on 7 April 2009.

When Howe retired, he led the league in career goals, assists, points, and games played. Wayne Gretzky wiped out the first three, and now Marleau has taken care of the last. But one record that no one has come close to breaking is Howe’s record of 22 straight seasons of 20 goals or more. Ron Francis had 20, and three players had 19 – Brendan Shanahan, Jaromir Jagr, and Dave Andreychuk.

“I think dad would be very thrilled and the first one out on the ice to applaud Patrick on this really incredible milestone,” Murray Howe, one of Gordie’s four sons, said of Marleau’s achievement.

Marleau had surpassed the hallowed 500-goal and 1,000-point marks earlier in his career, but his other greatest claim to fame is a record he doesn’t want to own. He has played more games in the regular season and playoffs than anyone else without winning the Stanley Cup. He has played parts of 21 seasons with the Sharks over three stints, but in two years with Toronto he never came close and at the end of the 2019/20 season, after a trade to Pittsburgh, he lost in the first round. In all, he has played in 20 playoff seasons and 195 games, coming closest to the Cup in 2016 when San Jose advanced to the finals, only to lose to Sidney Crosby and the Penguins in six games.

Marleau may not have won the Cup, but his international career with Team Canada has few equals in the modern game. He won Olympic gold in both 2010 and 2014, playing alongside Crosby, and he also won gold at the 2003 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship and silver two years later.

Marleau’s durability in a high-paced and physical league have set him apart from the rest. Although he has never won an individual league trophy, he is respected league-wide for his sportsmanship and dedication, his love of the game and his leadership in the dressing room.

Marleau has scored 25 goals or more in a season 13 times, peaking in 2009/10 when he had 44. In 2005/06, he had 86 points, the most of his career. He has always been known as a balanced player, one who can score and pass and create offence in many ways. He leads the Sharks in virtually every significant statistical category, and no doubt when he retires his number 12 will be raised to the rafters of the SAP Center.

Above all, his games played record is one born of passion.

“I just love it,” Marleau said about playing hockey every night, every year. “There’s nothing else like it.”

And for the record, the Knights won the game, 3-2, in a shootout. Marleau took the first shootout shot for the Sharks but was stopped by goalie Robin Lehner.

As Jamaican hockey movement grows, Blackhawks’ Isaak Phillips could soon become its first NHL alumnus

Isaak Phillips has played 16 games this season for the Rockford IceHogs

In some aspects, Blackhawks prospect Isaak Phillips has followed a typical hockey path.

His mother is Finnish. He grew up an hour outside Toronto. He worked his way up through Canadian juniors, including two years with Sudbury of the Ontario Hockey League. He was drafted by the Hawks in the fifth round in October and signed his NHL entry-level contract March 31.

In other aspects, however, Phillips’ background and path have been different. He is Black. His father hails from the Caribbean island of St. Vincent. And, in 2018, he played on what was essentially the first Jamaican hockey team.

‘‘That was a pretty awesome experience to have a team full of kids that look like you,’’ Phillips, 19, said. ‘‘You look around, and everyone looks the same. It was a fun summer tournament and hopefully something that can put Team Jamaica on the map.’’

Jamaica became an associate member of the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) in 2012, and the momentum to grow hockey in the island nation of 2.9 million has taken off in recent years.

It started with that 2018 team, which competed in the Team Elite Prospect Hockey Showcase tournament in Toronto and won, going undefeated in eight games.

‘‘We needed to go ahead and field a team ourselves, so we could show people that this was a probable idea,’’ said E.J. Phillipps, the co-founder and CEO of the Jamaica Olympic Ice Hockey Federation (JOIHF). ‘‘Isaak did a tremendous job coming and really helping elevate the team — and himself, as well — to get the maximum exposure for us to move forward.’’

Team Jamaica at the 2018 TEP Tournament celebrates their championship

That team was made up of Canadian-born under-20 players with various Caribbean ancestries. In the time since, however, the JOIHF has expanded its player-outreach programs enough that it now uses only players with specifically Jamaican ancestry.

Board member Gary Smith said it has developed a 75-player prospect list spanning Canadian junior leagues, college hockey conferences and pro minor leagues.

Jamaica fielded a roster in the 2019 LatAm Cup — a tournament in Florida that included 21 teams from Central and South American countries — and won that tournament, too. After the 2020 edition was canceled because of COVID-19, it will seek to defend its title in October.

And Jamaica has its eyes on greater heights, including Olympic participation. The JOIHF has designed and is raising money for a multipurpose ice rink in Kingston, which would allow the country to become a full IIHF member. And it debuted a hockey class with 42 students enrolled this semester at G.C. Foster College in Spanish Town.

The goal is to develop a national hockey program similar to that of Mexico, which has competed in the IIHF’s Division II World Championships since 2000 and has about 2,700 registered adult players.

‘‘[We want] to continue to grow the program at the grassroots level in Jamaica, which would start with a street-hockey, roller-hockey transition scenario, developing young children at the school level,’’ Smith said. ‘‘Five years from now, hopefully the rink will be built and we’ll have learn-to-skate and learn-to-play hockey programs.

‘‘That’ll really be the start, genuinely, of Jamaican-born players developing into legitimate ice-hockey players.’’

Phillips can take pride in his contributions to the start of this movement. He has become the first JOIHF alum to sign an NHL contract and hopes to become the first to play in the NHL in the not-too-distant future.

Special rules during the pandemic gave Phillips the rare opportunity to play in the American Hockey League this season as a 19-year-old, and he admitted he arrived in Rockford with ‘‘pretty low expectations.’’ He wasn’t sure whether he was just there to practice and improve under the Hawks’ development staff or whether he would play in regular-season games.

It turned out to be the latter. The 6-3 defenseman has played in 16 of the IceHogs’ first 21 games, recording six points and learning how to adapt to the next level.

‘‘You just learn to think the pro game,’’ Phillips said. ‘‘In junior [hockey], you can get away with some stuff — an extra move or holding on to [the puck] for an extra second. But here, everything is going quick, quick, quick. Everyone in this league can play at the next level and everyone is fighting to get there, so you just learn little tendencies and little tips and tricks: how to move the puck quicker, how to use your body.

‘‘I try to learn something new after each game . . . and then I try to be a quick study, get that into my game right away and show them I can be really coachable.’’

When Phillips received the contract offer late last month, he called his parents to break the news, and ‘‘some tears of joy’’ were shed.

The three-year deal officially kicks in next season. Phillips knows he’ll be back in the AHL next fall, but he’s hoping to make his NHL debut at some point during the season.

That would make history for Team Jamaica, but Phillips hopes it eventually won’t be seen as notable at all.

‘‘We are coming up in the sport,’’ he said. ‘‘As you see more Black players in the game, it’s going to help out the younger generations. For me, I know when you see a couple of Black players in the NHL, it inspired me to keep chasing my dreams.’’

From bobsleds to blades Jamaica Ice Hockey sharpens its skates

(From left) Jaden Lindo, co-captain of the LATAM Cup winning team; Don Anderson, director of JOIHF; Minister of Sports, Olivia Grange; and Teegan Moore, co-captain of the team, on the occasion of their visit to the minister after the LATAM Cup victory









Source: Jamaica Observer

Having made its initial foray in the Winter Olympic Games with the bobsled team, Jamaica is now forging ahead with plans to enter an ice hockey team as well.

The Jamaica Under-20 team in 2017 impressed many with their 5-1 victory over a Nova Scotia (Canada) All Star team, comprising the best college players in the region.

Since then the senior team competed in the Latin American (LATAM) Cup for the first time in 2019, beating defending champions Colombia, runners-up Argentina, as well as Mexico and Brazil, to win the coveted trophy. The onset of COVID-19 prevented the team from defending the trophy in 2020, but the team is gearing up to defend the trophy in September or October this year.

As part of this plan, there have been numerous developments geared towards building the sport, locally and internationally, to enable the team to play in Olympic Qualifying tournaments in the near future.

Big recruitment program under way

The Jamaica Olympic Ice Hockey Federation (JOIHF) has launched a massive recruitment drive to enlist players of Jamaican descent currently playing ice hockey in the US, Canada and Europe. So far, this totals approximately 70 players, some of whom were part of the winning LATAM team in 2019. A major drive, through all existing channels, is under way to strengthen this roster of players.

Discussions with coaches

JOIHF is currently finalising discussions with two very experienced coaches and National Hockey League (NHL) alumni, who have both expressed an interest in working with the team to defend the LATAM Cup. The coaches know each other and are prepared to partner with JOIHF as co-coaches. Former ice hockey players themselves, they each have played over 400 games in the NHL, and are now heavily involved in managing ice rinks and hockey programmers at youth and adult levels. Details are being finalised and will be released very shortly.

Additional hockey and business expertise

In addition to the co-coaches, JOIHF now has on board two other highly experienced ice hockey personnel. One is Gary Smith, who played professionally in Europe, has coached the game at the youth through adult levels, and has 24 years of experience in ice rink development, including design and equipment selection, throughout the USA. The other, Sean Caple, also a former hockey player, has managed ice rinks, developed hockey programmers, and coached teams in the USA. He was one of the original members of the ice hockey personnel that visited Jamaica in 2010, at the launch of the program, and who met with Minister of Sports Olivia Grange then.

The other recent major addition to the team is Cindi Dixon, a financial, marketing, and organizational leadership consultant, who has vast corporate and investment banking experience in the US and other regions, as well as business interests in Jamaica.

MOU with G C Foster College

Last year, JOIHF signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with G C Foster College to develop a grass-roots program, which is a prerequisite for Olympic qualifying. The curriculum for the course will fall under the coaches and business degree program, and is being developed incorporating content provided by the International Ice Hockey Federation, as well as assistance from other world-class coaching organizations.

In the meantime, the organizers of the LATAM Cup have already expressed their delight that Jamaica will be back to defend the trophy, and are eagerly awaiting the country’s participation. The tournament has already attracted significant new interest because of the excitement created by Jamaica’s participation, and ultimate victory, in 2019.

The next one? Shane Wright has the intangibles – and shot – of a generational star

Source: The Score

Shane Wright’s never accepted losing. Not even as a toddler.

“Shane has this other edge,” his mother, Tanya, told theScore. “When he was young I had to discipline him for it. It was embarrassing. It would be like three-year-old ‘sportball,’ and he would be losing his mind at three-year-olds who weren’t doing it right or trying hard enough.”

Wright’s competitiveness extends beyond sports, even boiling over into family game nights.

“There’s been the odd board that has ended upside down before it’s over,” his father, Simon, said.

Wright admitted his intensity always shows up, regardless of what’s at stake.

“Everything I do, I want to win,” he said. “I’m also kind of a perfectionist. I hold myself to high standards. I want to win in whatever I do. Whether it’s a board game or a sport or whatever it is, I’m competitive and I want to win it.”

That competitive nature and that will to win, while sometimes embarrassing for his parents when he was growing up, has helped Wright blossom into a potential generational hockey player. Even though he’s only 16 years old and not NHL draft eligible until 2022, he’s already drawn comparisons to Connor McDavid, Sidney Crosby, and John Tavares – the next ones that came before him.

Wright was granted exceptional status into the OHL last year as a 15-year-old, and scored 39 goals and finished with 66 points in 58 games with the Kingston Frontenacs. His point total matched McDavid’s from his age-15 season, but Wright played five fewer games. Of the five players before Wright to be granted exceptional status into the CHL (Tavares, Aaron Ekblad, McDavid, Sean Day, and Joe Veleno), only Tavares had more points in his rookie season (77 in 65 games).

The talent’s obvious. Already listed at 6-feet and 183 pounds – and still growing – Wright’s a strong skater with a heavy shot and elite hockey IQ. Talent only takes a player so far, though. Intangibles are what make Wright special enough to be mentioned in the same conversations as McDavid, Crosby, and Tavares.

“I think what Shane brings is that quiet, unassuming leadership with his drive and determination,” NHL director of central scouting Dan Marr said. “When other players on a team see that the best player is out there as the hardest worker, and wanting to win every battle, wanting to be on every puck, wanting to make things happen out there, that’s infectious.”

Marr has a wide lens on the game’s top prospects and even though his primary focus is generally on the immediate draft class, he still watched Wright in person “about a half dozen times” this season.

Frontenacs assistant coach Luca Caputi, meanwhile, had a front-row seat to observe Wright on a daily basis during his Rookie of the Year season in the OHL. He was equally impressed by his work ethic, maturity, and leadership.

“Every young player that comes through our organization for the next two years will look up to him, just because of the way he does it right every day,” Caputi – who spent parts of three seasons in the NHL with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Toronto Maple Leafs – said.

“When you have those intangibles – and I was lucky enough to play with Crosby – when you’re the best player and you work the hardest and you have the right goals and you’re a good person off the ice, people follow you. People you want around are going to follow you.”

Wright became the youngest player in CHL history to get a letter on his jersey when he was named assistant captain in December. Caputi thinks he could “100%” be an NHL captain someday.

“I talk a lot about being like Crosby, and that’s not fair, and a lot of pressure to put on a kid, but I see some of those similarities just in the way he goes about his business,” Caputi added.

Crosby and Wright possess different on-ice strengths – the former’s more of a playmaker and the latter more of a goal-scorer – but there are some similarities in how each grew up.

“I think it was pretty embarrassing for my parents when people walked by and saw all the holes in our garage,” Wright said jokingly.

“So embarrassed,” Tanya acknowledged with a laugh. “I know we brought the value of the whole neighborhood down.”

Simon added about the door: “I’m surprised it actually still went up and down.”

All those reps on the driveway helped Wright develop a lethal shot on the ice – one that impressed Caputi immediately.

“I think his first goal in the league, I believe his third or fourth game, was an eye-popping goal,” Caputi recalled. “He just caught it on his off wing on the dot in the offensive zone and he went back bar. I think it hit every bar in the net and you said, ‘Oh! There it is.'”

Even though his release was already a strength, Caputi said Wright missed the net a lot early in the season. And so the teenager put in the necessary work to hone his accuracy.

“We do it every day after practice,” Caputi said. “From his one spot on the power play, he might’ve had 5,000 (shots) this year. That’s how committed he is to his craft.”

The work eventually paid off. After starting with six goals in his first 17 games, Wright ended the season scoring 33 times in his final 41 contests. Despite his individual success, though, Kingston finished the season with only 19 wins in 62 games – the third-lowest total in the 20-team league.

“We didn’t win a heck of a lot of games this year, so when you face adversity you see people’s true character and he really cares,” Caputi said. “I’d say the winning aspect, even some of the games when he thought he could play better, that’s when you see that he really cares. Extra reps the next day, staying late to watch video. That’s somebody you want to build your identity and your core around.”

At the end of the day, it’s simple: Wright’s commitment to winning stems from his hatred of losing, which he’s known he’s detested since he began walking. It’s cost him at times – when he “literally exploded with anger” during a centipede ski race his family was losing at a summer cottage, according to Tanya, and when he was slide tackling as a six-year-old during soccer games. But Wright’s matured and learned to harness his competitiveness; in fact, it’s become his biggest strength.

“He hates losing,” Simon reiterated. “He competes to win every single time.”

Wright, it seems, has that fire inside him, that sets the elite of the elite apart, that is required to be the best, and to be “the next one.”

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.”

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.”

New gig for John Parco as former Thunderbirds coach heads over to Italy

Sault Ste. Marie native John Parco is returning to Italy for a new gig with the Italian Hockey Federation

By Randy Russon – Sault This Week

A successful three season run at the helm of the Soo Thunderbirds of the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League has turned into a new challenge for high-end coach John Parco.

The soon-to-be-49-year-old Sault Ste. Marie product has signed a two-year contract with the Italian Ice Hockey Federation.

In his new role, Parco will be the director of hockey development for the Italian Federation.
Parco told Sault This Week that as director of hockey development for the IIHF, he will oversee all levels of the game from the under 20 national program down to four- and five-year-old kids.
He noted that part of his job relates to a pre-Olympic hockey project program.
“The 2026 Winter Olympics will be held in Milan, Italy and we want to make sure that we can put together a team that is at least competitive,” he explained.
“Overall, it is a big job with a lot of responsibility but I am up for the challenge,” relayed Parco, who is no stranger to Italy, having met his wife there and having played and coached overseas for more than two decades.

Parco, his wife, and their two kids have long maintained a residence in Italy, even while he was in the Sault and coaching the Thunderbirds.
On that note, as he prepares to head to Italy at the end of this month, Parco told Sault This Week he will retain a residence in Sault Ste. Marie, adding that he plans to return on occasion to remain involved in the Superior Sports Training gym that he owns.

Before going on to a decorated professional career as a player and coach overseas — mostly in Italy — Parco was a three-year scoring star as a center with the erstwhile Belleville Bulls of the Ontario Hockey League, playing for coaches Larry Mavety and Danny Flynn.

Drafted by Belleville out of the Sault Major Hockey Association in the third round of the 1988 OHL priority selections draft, Parco produced 109 goals, 148 assists, 257 points over three regular season campaigns with the Bulls.

A National Hockey League draft pick of the Philadelphia Flyers, Parco went on to a 19-year pro career, spending the majority of it as an A Division standout with HC Asiago in Italy.

As he was a team captain in the OHL with Belleville, he also wore the “C” on his jersey with HC Asiago. Parco also starred for Team Italy at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin.

After retiring as a player, Parco was the coach for HC Asiago for three seasons and led them to two championships. And having spent the past three seasons in his hometown as coach of the Thunderbirds, Parco led the local NOJHL team to three-year regular season record of 110-46-12.

He led the Thunderbirds to the NOJHL championship series in 2018-2019 before losing to the Hearst Lumberjacks in the seventh and deciding game of what was a thrilling, outstanding set.

Parco resigned his position with the Thunderbirds after the recent 2019-2020 season and has since been replaced by Denny Lambert as head coach.

Lambert, a former journeyman winger of many years in the NHL, also played for, and later coached, the Soo Greyhounds of the OHL.

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