By Kyle Drinnan – The Puck Authority
In life, we have a habit of making possible ideas impossible. In the same vein, we make those possible ideas too good that it becomes unrealistic. To dismiss the idea that ice hockey can be played around the world, like in Africa, is making the possible, impossible. But looking at the harsh realities that the sport has, no history, not a suitable climate, and lack of facilities is the realistic side of growing the sport.
But it’s possible. South Africa, Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia are the only African nations to be represented in the IIHF, with three of them joining in the past 10 years. Even without a membership, Egypt and Kenya have made bigger steps in their quest to join the organization. Now in Ghana, there are grassroots organizations that are ready to make the impossible, possible. Ice hockey in Ghana.
BLADER SKATES GHANA is a not-for-profit organization that wants to make a pathway for ice hockey in Ghana. It was founded by Bright Ababio Mensah, and was co-founded by Henry D.K Mensah and Kwame Sefa Johnson. It is located in the capital of the country, Accra, and is found in the University of Cape Coast. The organization is focusing on all kinds of skating, including skateboarding and inline hockey. The dream of most members is to help develop ice hockey, but they are focusing on what they currently have, and without an ice rink, there are easier sports to first develop.
“Yes, there is. Both are somewhat of a contact sport, except bodychecks are not allowed in inline hockey and inline roller skates are used instead of ice skates, as is used in ice hockey,” said Bright Ababio Mensah, founder of BLADER SKATES GHANA. “The equipment is similar.”
Although similar, ice hockey and inline hockey in terms of governance are very much different. Ice hockey, of course, is governed by the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF), and while inline hockey used to be governed by the IIHF, in recent years, World Skate has taken over to develop the sport. World Skate has a lot of sports under its organization. The most popular sport in its arsenal would be skateboarding, which made its debut in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
While Ghana has no organization with the IIHF, they are members of World Skate. However, Mensah said that Ghana Skaters Association, the one connected with World Skate, has had its activity halted and has been dormant for a while.
So, BLADER SKATES GHANA picked up the responsibility as soon as it was established in 2019. Since then, the group’s numbers have grown and taken off, having seen registration trend upwards since 2020. The group wants to start educating its population on the sports, but unlike hockey organizations, they have many different sports they want to market to their citizens.
“(We want) public education on skating, and the development of roller sports in Ghana are two of the major aims of our organization,” Mensah said. “So, we try to link the skating to a lot of sports disciplines in the likes of roll-ball, 100 meters and relay race, as well as high and long jumps, hockey, speed skating, and many others.”
It is also tough, as there is only one place to buy equipment, and that is in the nation’s capital, Accra. However, interest has started to show in more provinces around the country, and there are hopes that the interest will help make sports more accessible in the country.
Winter sports have a unique relationship with Ghana. Ghana is one of the rare countries in Africa that are involved with at least one of the seven sports bodies that make up the Winter Olympics. They are also in a more exclusive group where the country is involved with two.
Ghana is a member of both the International Ski Association (FIS) and the International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation (IBSF). Ghana has been in three Winter Olympics, with their first being in 2010 Vancouver. They missed out in Sochi, but were represented in Pyeongchang and Beijing.
Ghana’s first winter Olympic athlete, Kwame Nkrumah-Acheampong, has helped set up the Ghanaian Winter Olympic Association and hopes to build Ghana’s first artificial ski slope.
But right now, ice hockey is a far goal for Ghana. Even with Mensah’s interest, it is a long and winding road. However, the development of inline will help the future goal. Nations like Jamaica, and even places in the United States, have used an iceless hockey form to help teach the locals about the sport and get the government involved with the sport.
“We want to have started regional and nationwide inline hockey, and then would have been supported with at least one ice hockey rink to start training,” Mensah said, “and to host competitions for the whole of the West African Subregion.”
But right now, the organization needs equipment and training for inline hockey if they want to grow the sport. Any help, no matter how big or small, would be appreciated by BLADER SKATES GHANA.