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.