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The Castillo Knights Hockey Club

When you think of places to play the game of ice hockey Costa Rica is not the first place you would think about but the game as taking a foot hold in the country thanks to transplanted Canadian Bruce Callow. We had the great pleasue of interviewing him earlier this week.

Can you introduce yourself to our audience and give us a brief history on how hockey got started in Costa Rica?
I am from Calgary, Alberta and grew up playing hockey in the Brentwood neighborhood of the city.In 1996 I had been living here for 3 years and was missing playing ice hockey. That same year I heard that a local mall being built at the time planned to install a synthetic ice surface in the middle of their food court. I offered my services to the mall administration to start a hockey program and they hired me. A few months later I also started giving hockey classes at the rink at the Castillo Country Club which has a real ice surface.

When was the Castillo Knights Hockey Club established and who do they play?
The Castillo Knights were established in 1996 as a recreational hockey program at the Castillo Country Club located in the highlands above the city of Heredia. We mostly play scrimmages amongst ourselves but occasionally we play teams from outside the club, most recently against United World College and Country Day School. Some years ago we played against a visiting team from Canada called the Air Canada Flying Pirates. In the coming months we will be playing games against a team from California, the Costa Rican roller hockey team and possibly a team from the Falkland Islands.

Where dose the funding come from to keep the ice hockey program going?

The Castillo Country Club maintains the rink and gives us the ice times to run the classes. Most of our hockey equipment and skates have come from donations from the NHLA`s Goals and Dreams fund. Over the years we have received important sponsorship support from Snickers and individual sponsors as well.

Costa Rica Jersey
Snickers is now displayed on the Costa Rica National Team Jersey

Where do coaches come from to play and teach ice hockey in Costa Rica?
I am from Calgary, we have another Canadian coach who is Serge Salvador ( from Montreal) and our other coach is David Vargas who is from Costa Rican.

There are plans in the works to have an old timers program, what is the goal of this program?
This year our Oldtimers program is really kicking into gear and we are getting more and more players signing up for it. Coach Serge Salvador is in charge of this group. It requires a special touch to teach beginners who are in their 40s and 50s and he is doing an amazing job. Another way we are getting older guys involved in hockey is encouraging them to join their kids on the ice who are already in the program. This creates a really fun and family oriented atmosphere on the ice, like pond hockey on outdoor rinks in Canada.

People who play and coach ice hockey in Coast Rica

You are on verge of establishing the Costa Rica Ice hockey Association, what is the long term vision for this Association?
The formation of an Ice Hockey Association would be an important step towards us getting affiliated with the IIHF. Costa Rica could then step out on the world stage as a competitive ice hockey nation just like Mexico and some other countries in Latin America countries.

Canadian Prime Minster Stephen Harper once paid a visit to Castillo Country Club how did he help boost the ice hockey program?
The visit of Prime Minister Harper to our rink in 2011 was the catalyst that led to the expansion of the rink last year. There had been discussion at the Castillo Club for many years about modernizing and expanding the rink but after his visit the project got put on the front burner by the Castillo board of directors,  and got it completed. PM Harper brought us a hockey net too.

Are there any plans in the works to play in the Pan American ice hockey tournament in Mexico?
We were invited to the Pan American ice hockey tournament in Mexico and hope in the future to be able to compete in it . It depends if we can find the sponsorship to pay for it.

When you first got started in establishing an ice hockey program in Costa Rica, did you ever think to yourself what I am doing here?
Not really, at the heart of it all I just wanted to be around hockey in some way and have my two sons, Kenny and Tony grow up with it. Now they are 17 and 20 and are assistant coaches.

Can you tell us what is the one unique thing about playing ice hockey in Costa Rica?
Ice hockey is a niche sport here in Costa Rica so we attract a certain amount of "characters" to our program as well as kids with special needs that use hockey as a way to work through different things. Hockey is incredible for building self esteem in kids, especially kids with special needs. A favorite part for me is feeling tired and happy after a hard practice on a Sunday morning, having a typical Costa Rican lunch at the staff cafeteria with my sons and then walking outside the building into the lush, tropical highland beauty of Costa Rica. It doesn`t get much better than that.


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