Month: August 2019

Q&A With Sam Cockwell

By George Da Silva – National Teams of Ice Hockey

With a total population of just 3,198 people, Falkland Islands is the smallest hockey nation to play organized ice hockey. We had a change to talk to Sam Cockwell PR and Media Coordinator and also the Vice Chairman of the Falkland Islands Hockey Association.

How does an Island of about 3000 people have an Ice Hockey Team?

It’s taken a few years to get to where we are, and while we compete in ice hockey our normal leagues are all inline. Our success comes from a strong youth development through the club, the head coach is brilliant and takes the youth development really seriously which then encourages parents, brothers and sisters and friends to give it a try. The interest has grown every year, and as an indoor sport Hockey doesn’t rely on the whims of the weather like many other team sports. Apart from that those that try it just love it, what can I say, hockey has just grabbed the imagination of our little nation!

When was The Falklands Island Hockey Association form and how many different programs and teams are there?

We started out playing deck hockey in 2006 with a light street hockey style puck; this was started by a few people here including our head coach Grant Budd. This was all there was until 2015 when Grant started up a youth inline part of the club, they went away with a few adults to Punta Arenas to compete in a competition there and did really well. It then grew each following year and we have had 5 leagues of inline across 5 age ranges for the last couple of years now with around 20 teams in total and approximately 150 players (some play in multiple leagues).

The basic structure is all about youth development with it starting at Peewee, then Junior, Rookie, Elite, and finally the Senior league which includes the adult inline players. We also have training throughout the off season for all different abilities and ages to keep their skills tight and introduce new people to the sport.

Falkland Islands Team at Punta Arenas

Where does funding come from to keep exciting programs going?

We receive a lot of funding for equipment and team livery from a few local businesses, Seafish Chandlery, Fortuna, Energise, Tonedog Designs and Sure a are a couple of the long standing ones, along with some very generous individuals who donate every year, and a huge number of other businesses which support us. We also fund raise ourselves throughout the year by having special games and events, and recently had a whole day of games which raised well over £1000. Everything helps with supporting the club, and we also have some merchandise for sale in stores which gives a good trickle of funds especially in the summer when the tourists are in town. We also rely a lot of the committee to dedicate time and effort to the club, and have been really lucky to have such passionate and dedicated people to run it.

The team in Red are the U16s team for Miami, and the Black are the best team from our 2019 league with a few extra senior players from the ROTW team going to LATAM Cup also

The final match of the recent all day playing event we held to raise funds for the LATAM Cup

The Falkland has taking part in international competitions in the past, but this September you will be at the Latam Cup which will the biggest competition that the Island has taken part in with Men and a U16 team. How are you preparing the teams for this event?

We have been training together for this event over the last 4 months with a lot of time at the rink. It is tricky as our whole playing space is only a tiny bit bigger than the end zone of a normal rink so we have to try and devise special drills to get better in the small space we have. We are also going to be going away a week before the tournament to get some ice time and convert from inline to ice. All of us have done that before in the regional tournaments so we hope that it will not be too bad, but all you can do is give it everything you’ve got and put your best into it.
We are also doing a lot of video sessions watching and critiquing the recent games in the IIHF world cup, which is helping our team look at strategy, set plays, and player development.

I don’t want to spend too much time on this but I do have to ask. Politics and Sport don’t mix and there has been some friction between Argentina and the Falklands Islands over your participation’s at the Latam Cup. Do see way that two sides can come to some kind of an agreement for future events?
After all everyone has the right to play.

It’s impossible not to mention it, and we don’t want to dwell on it either. I can’t say what motivates the issues from the sporting bodies in Argentina, but our experience of playing with teams from Argentina has always been positive. I am confident that the Argentine team our U16s will play against in Miami will be exactly the same, and I hope that both sides get a positive experience from it. I have a good feeling that all the players and coaches love for the sport will eclipse any political issues or tensions. I hope that we can arrange some friendly training together or maybe a friendly game or two for after the tournament with our Argentine neighbours as well as the other teams in the contest; really we are all just people who want to play hockey. In our view that’s all that matters.

With regard to the future, I hope that the organizers and bodies from countries that attend will see that the more that attend the better the contest and the better for the sport. So I hope once we have met and broken through the barriers to communication we will be able to work on a productive and positive future for the sport in the region.

Penguins and Nires (Ushuaia) congratulate each other after the game at Puerto Williams, Chile

The Falklands Islands has no ice rinks, are there any future plans to have one built?

We really hope so! There is a plan for a new sporting arena that is currently being designed, we have lobbied hard and got a lot of community support for the design to include the pipework in the floor for an ice rink. It will already have the boards and floor markings etc. for inline hockey, but we hope that if we can get the pipework included in the start then we can fund raise and look for support for the associated plant to go in another phase of the development. At the moment its watch and wait, but we are hopeful that there should be some news on this soon, especially as the sport continues to grow. Currently inline hockey is the most popular sport in the Islands, and with ice we think it could become even more popular.

The Falkland Islands takes part in the Islands Games but there is no hockey at this event. Is there a push to have Inline or ball hockey in future games?

We recently learned that Bermuda have an inline and ball hockey league, which is great news, and we are part of the Falkland Islands Overseas Games Association (FIOGA) which is the body for the islands games here, and they are interested in the potential for hockey in the future either inline or ice if possible, however we haven’t yet put a plan to the Island Games, but it is definitely on our to-do list.

With the game of ice hockey growing on the Island do see other British territories picking up the game in the future?

We hope so, although many of the other Overseas Territories do already have other sports which they focus on. There is the example of Bermuda which has a strong hockey in place already so we are hopeful that there are links there. We have a good relationship with the Foreign Office, and they are very supportive of international sport events, so there is a good chance that through that relationship we could look at an overseas territories kind of game or development of the sport. Of course we would be delighted to help any new clubs anywhere and overseas territories even more so.

What would you say is unique about playing hockey in the Falklands Islands?

There are several things; probably the main one is exclusivity. As we play a very low contact inline hockey we are able to have a totally mixed gender league, and with a mix of ages. For example if there is a young player which has a dedicated and mature approach to the sport and a high level of skill, when we will often allow them to also play in the league above as well as their primary age group. This helps individuals develop and also gives each tier something to aim for and drive them to push themselves. In a similar way we also have a total mix of abilities which we spread out through the teams in each year when they are picked which helps everyone develop and grow, and keeps the leagues competitive.

We fundamentally believe that everyone should have the chance to play and enjoy sports, and that’s really the basis for our club.

Fort Garry player suiting up for Chile

Nicholas Opazo-Ceicko to play in LatAm Cup

By Danielle Da Silva – Winnipeg free Press

An injection of Canadian talent direct from Fort Garry will boost the Chilean national ice hockey team’s bench this fall in the Amerigol LatAm Cup.  

Nicholas Opazo-Ceicko, 19, will suit up for Team Chile as the newly minted squad takes on teams from seven neighbouring South American and Caribbean countries at the Florida Panthers IceDen, Sept. 6 to 8.

“I just feel like I’m lucky to be in this position,” Opazo-Ceicko said. “I never thought I would be playing for any national team, so I’m just lucky to be a part of one.”

The second annual tournament is organized by the Amerigol Miami International Hockey Association which promotes ice hockey in Latin America through tournaments and showcases, with a goal of developing future players and expanding the market for the game in those countries.

In its first year, the tournament hosted teams from Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico and Venezuela, with Colombia ultimately securing the championship title.

Opazo-Ceicko, who is a dual Canadian-Chilean citizen, reached out to the Chilean team in late 2018. He sent videos of his time as a defenceman with the AA Winnipeg Twins to team captain Cristobal Vega and manager Monica Arias, and after some email exchanges and providing proof of Chilean citizenship (his mother is of Chilean descent), was invited to join the team at the LatAm Cup.

“Growing up, I was always proud to say I am half-Chilean,” he said. “To be able to play for a team that’s newer to hockey, and if even one or two kids who live in Chile watch the tournament and get interested, and they start to develop their skills, and hopefully become better than me, then they can start playing for the national team.

“I’m taking this opportunity to show Chile hockey, and I think that’s the same for everyone else on the team.”

Chile has been a member of the International Ice Hockey Federation since 2000 and won its first game in 2017 against Brazil in the Pan-American Ice Hockey Tournament. The national team, which has previously focused its attention on inline hockey and has just two indoor ice facilities at its disposal (according to the IIHF), is now looking beyond its borders for players, a strategy similarly employed by Colombia in its LatAm Cup debut.      

Opazo-Ceicko, who has been skating since he was a toddler, played hockey out of the Fort Garry Community Centre, and with the Twins until 2018, hopes to contribute to the team as best he can and expects to be a strong presence on the blueline.    

“I’m bringing some Canadian grit,” Opazo-Ceicko said, adding he and a few other imported players are coming with experience in the physical aspects of the game. “They are taking a chance on me so whatever (ice time) I get I will be happy with, and I will be proud to do it.

“I think this tournament is more to get an idea of how we work together and if it’s a team they’d like to keep together for a while,” he added. “This will be a learning experience for the team.”

This year’s tournament also features teams from Jamaica, Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Mexico, and Puerto Rico. For more information go to amerigolhockey.com

Q & A With Hector Iannicelli

By George Da Silva – National Teams of Ice Hockey

Argentina is not well know for winter sports but Hector Iannicelli president of Asociación Argentina de Hockey sobre Hielo y en Línea (AAHHL) is trying to change that.

Currently there 1,060 Total ice hockey players in the country according to IIHF but there are many more that play the game on Wheels. We caught up with Hector Iannicelli and asked him a few question about the game In Argentina

Can you provide our viewers a brief history of ice hockey in Argentina?

During the 1980s, in the city of Buenos Aires and in several cities in the interior of Argentina, there were many ice rinks, the vast majority were private enterprises, but very few were being used by clubs.

There was no sports spirit, they were only economic projects, which only interested them to have as many people skating at one time.

The economic crises of the country at the end of the 1980s, ended with the vast majority of the rinks closed, there were a couple of small ice rinks in Buenos Aires and only one was consider keeping ice hockey alive.

In the 1990s, without ice rinks, hockey lovers, discovered in inline hockey, and took it as an alternative sport, waiting for the return of the ice rinks.

In 1997 a group of players advised by the IIHF, founded the Argentina Ice Hockey Association and inline hockey, with the objective of developing ice hockey through inline hockey.

Thanks to the wheels, the sport remained alive and today we have a very large number of ice hockey players across the country.

When did you become president of Asociación Argentina de Hockey sobre Hielo y en Línea (AAHHL) and what are your goals for the ice hockey Program?

I have been president of the AAHHL for 10 years, having been treasurer and vice president.

All these years we have achieved many goals, we organize national, international tournaments, development camps, and we participate in the IIHF inline world championships, Pan American Tournaments in Mexico, Winter Youth Olympic Games and in the Latam  Cup in Miami.

Argentina National team

What is the current situation when it comes to domestic ice hockey in the country?

At this time, we are working on the qualifying for the 2020 Youth Olympic Games in Lausanne Switzerland, on the only regular size ice rink we have in the city of Ushuaia in Tierra del Fuego, more than 3000 km away from Buenos Aires.

We are also making  preparation for the LATAM CUP this September in Florida.

Future players for youth Olympics

How hard is it to get players to convert from inline to Ice hockey and play for the national ice hockey team?

Our work was successful, the vast majority of our players began to skate on wheels, we have a league in which we play every weekend, in which about 600 players participate, between men and women.

The switch from wheels to the ice is not complicated, it only needs many hours of training,

Unlike the countries that have ice rinks, we are obliged to skate on wheels and on the ice rinks we train the ice skating technique.

Argentina celbrates a goal at the IIHF Inline World Cup.

Last year Argentina Men’s team took part in the Latam Cup but this year event is bigger with Men, Women and U16 teams taking part, What steps are you taking to prepare the teams for 2019 Latam cup?

In September we will be participating in LATAM CUP, with a category A team and another Category B in men division, A women team and a Under 16 team, we hope next year we will have more categories.

It is a very big effort that the organization makes for this tournament to grow and I am sure that next year we will have more categories.

I would like Mexico to re-organize the Pan American Tournament, which was very important for us and developing hockey countries in South America, an exclusive tournament for the national teams.

Argentina goalie at last years Latam Cup

Are there any players playing outside of the country that will be playing for Argentina at the 2019 Latam Cup?

As the LATAM CUP becomes better known, Argentina players appear everywhere, some born in our country, others are children of Argentina parents that moved away, there are players in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Italy, Great Britain and I am sure that more will continue to appear.
These Children are determined to play for us.

What would you say is the talent level of the Argentina ice hockey players and can any them play minor or pro in North America?

The Argentinians are always well positioned in many sports, football, rugby, field hockey, basketball, tennis, boxing, judo, etc., I have no doubt that one day we will have the necessary infrastructure to develop Argentina hockey and we will have good hockey players on ice, but it will take a long time.

We currently have no players, who have the level to play in the professional leagues in the North America.

Currently Argentina does not take part in IIHF World Championships program. Do see this changing in the future?

The IIHF has a rule that does not allow any members to participate in the world championships, as long as it does not have a covered ice rink.

There is a project going on to put a roof on the ice rink of Ushuaia, which has the regulatory measures, which would give us the opportunity to participate in the programs of the IIHF world championships.

For this reason, it is important that the IIHF support the DEVELOPMENT CUP and other such tournaments, it gives us the possibility and countries that do not have an ice rink, to participate in an international tournaments endorsed by the International Ice hockey Federation Federation.

Argentina Women’s National Team

What is the one thing that is unique about playing ice hockey in Argentina?

I do not know if it is unique, but the passion that the players put to overcome and reach a competitive level, is what characterizes our athletes.

Junior showcase ends

Finland led the round-robin tournament on the final three days with Lenni Killinen (left) and the event’s scoring leader Anttoni Honka (right)

By IIHF.com

The World Junior Summer Showcase returned to Plymouth, Michigan after a year in Victoria, British Columbia, and the 18th edition of this August congregation of U20 players produced many meaningful results for the four participating teams – United States, Canada, Finland, Sweden – all of whom hope to win gold at the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship in the Czech Republic.

In all, 12 games were played over the last week. The Americans started with a split squad (Blue and White), and Canada brought a healthy number of additional bodies over and above the 20 required for a game.

More than that, however, the quality of the teams was nothing short of sensational. There were 101 players who had been drafted in either 2018 (56) or 2019 (45), and an additional 19 players who are draft eligible in 2020, notably number-one ranked prospect Alexis Lafreniere of Canada.

Impressively, all 31 NHL teams had at least one player at the event while leading the way the L.A. Kings had seven and Carolina six. Of these draft choices, 29 were first rounders. Notable names included 2019 selections Kirby Dach (CAN), the 3rd overall selection this past June; Bowen Byram (CAN), 4th; Alex Turcotte (USA), 5th; Philip Broberg (SWE), 8th; and, Trevor Zegras (USA), 9th.

Scouts were aplenty in the arena, looking both at their own selections from the previous two years as well as assessing available talent for 2020. In addition to Lafreniere, many 17- and 18-year-olds made a good impression. Two of the top players who will almost certainly be playing at the 2020 U20 in anticipation of next year’s draft are Swedes Alexander Holtz and Lucas Raymond. Both were sensational for their team during last season’s gold-medal run at the U18, and they continued to impress coach Tomas Monten in Plymouth.

The Finns had the greatest number of draft eligible players (11) yet, despite their team youth, made a favourable impression on coach Raimo Helminen. “I’m happy with how we played here,” he offered. “The whole group played well, at a really good speed. They have a lot to learn, of course, but they all do.”

The point of this event has always been the same – to give coaches and players some experience heading into a new season, and to prepare for the upcoming World Junior Championship (being played in Ostrava and Trinec, Czech Republic during the coming Christmas/New Year’s holiday).

To that end, it’s not about winning or losing that counts so much at this event as it is the coaches getting to know the players off ice and the players showing something of their character. The intensity level is nowhere near what it will be at the teams’ U20 camps in December, but players still have to show dedication to the team as well as some skills on ice.

What did we learn? Who can we admire from the Summer Showcase? Well, the hosts gave everyone several good performances, starting with Cole Caufield. Not the biggest player around, the Montreal Canadiens draft choice showed tremendous skill and puck sense around the net.

Teammate Arthur Kaliyev scored four goals and displayed a shot that is without question the best one-timer in the world not in the NHL. Joel Farabee (Philadelphia) and John Beecher (Boston) also impressed coach Scott Sandelin.

Sweden won twice and lost three times, scoring only 12 goals and allowing 19, but Monten was pleased with several players, including the aforementioned Holtz and Raymond. On the final day, Kings’ draft choice Samuel Fagemo had a hat trick in his team’s 6-3 win over Finland.

The Finns won three of their five games and despite their youth took many fine impressions home. Sampo Ranta scored four times in five games and was a dominating presence. At 6’2” (188cm) and 190 lbs. (86kg), he was a big body with plenty of skill, something the Colorado Avalanche liked enough to select him 78th overall in 2018. He plays for the University of Minnesota in NCAA Division I.

Lassi Thomson, 19th overall by Ottawa in 2019, was the top draft choice playing for the Finns and defenceman Anttoni Honka (Carolina, 83rd overall, 2019) was perhaps the team’s best blueliner.

A number of Canadians proved they are players to watch as their NHL dreams unfold, starting with Nolan Foote, son of Adam. Drafted by Tampa Bay in the lirst round juts a few weeks ago, he is a big and strong forward who has great skill around the goal. Defenceman Braden Schneider, draft eligible next year, also made a great impression, as did Byram and another forward, Connor McMichael (25th by Washington in 2019).

The hitting wasn’t there. The goal celebrations were muted. It was summer, when most teenagers are lying on a beach or throwing a frisbee. But for these young talents who hope to play at the upcoming World Juniors, hope to take their draft selection to an NHL career, this was an important stepping stone. Careers won’t be made or lost based on what happened in Plymouth, but any chance they can get to play world-class competition, they know they have to take it.

Overall records
G W L GF GA
USA (combined) 10 5 5 30 22
Finland 5 3 2 21 23
Canada 4 2 2 15 16
Sweden 5 2 3 12 19