Category: Africa

Madaraka Day Cup puts Kenya on map

Kenya’s “Ice Lions” celebrate a goal at the Madaraka Day Cup in Nairobi where they were challenged by selections of local Americans, Canadians and Europeans

By Christian

While the season is over in many hockey countries in the northern part of the world, ice hockey is being played at places you may not necessarily expect. On the equator of all places, an ice hockey tournament was inaugurated. Small indeed, however, undoubtedly substantial for its enthusiastic organizers: the Madaraka Day Cup.

The Madaraka Day Cup is the first international ice hockey tournament hosted in Nairobi, Kenya and marks another milestone in the early existence of Kenyan ice hockey. It involved the local Kenya Ice Lions against teams made up of members of embassies and NGOs from Canada, Europe and the United States.

And this is what it looked like the moment the Kenyans beat Canada:

What originally started as a gimmick a few years ago, providing ice skating opportunities to the guests of the Panari Hotel in Nairobi, has grown out of proportions and became an undisputable quest for recognition by their peers of the worldwide ice hockey community for the continuous growing number of Kenyan ice hockey players.

Madaraka Day Cup: the Origins

“Madaraka Day, a national holiday in Kenya which is celebrated on 1st June of each year, commemorates Kenya’s anniversary of gaining internal self-rule from the United Kingdom,” explains Rob Ao Opiyo, one of the players of the Kenyan Ice Lions and involved in the local organizing committee of the tournament. Madaraka in the local language translates as ‘power’ or ‘responsibility’.

“As told by Benard Azegere, one of the early ice hockey players, Bruce Strachan, came up with the idea in 2016,” further explains the Kenyan. “We played weekly pick-up hockey on Wednesdays. One week to the national holiday they were going for drinks, and Bruce said we should play for a 4-a-side Madaraka Day Cup. Since our original hockey jerseys came around the same time, they were also part of the inspiration. It was just a single game then. We called the opponent Team Ethiopia with Bruce Strachan, Takano, Paul Dormant and some others. The team members were expats with a hockey background working in the country. Most likely the name came about since Bruce just arrived a few days before from Ethiopia. The naming was rather for laughs. Team Kenya had about 3 Kenyan players: Jeff Magina, Amos Mungai and Benard Azegere. In total there were 12 players. It was not more than a pick-up game at that time really.”

Great Crowd

However, this first edition of the tournament brought a big crowd to the ice rink. “The inaugural tournament was a life changing moment, mainly because normally when we are playing at the ice rink we never had that number of fans and spectators coming down to cheer for us,” says Rob Ao Opiyo. “So, for the first time we actually saw many fans and especially Kenyans. It felt like being at a Kenya rugby game, but now they were at an ice rink instead,” he jokes.

To bring in the fans, the organizers did their own promotion. “Most of the publicity to promote the game was through word of mouth, reaching out through family and friends. We put out some posters on social media as well. Also, the Panari Hotel where the ice rink is located helped us promoting the tournament,” says Ao Opiyo.

It helped as both local and international press was present providing some media coverage for the event. “We reached out to media outlets that reported on us before. So, we’re quite happy how this turned out. We had CGTN, a Chinese Station, Voice of America, the Standard newspaper and also ZDF, a German TV-channel which is working on a story about the Ice Lions.”

Ice Lions vs. the World

The Ice Lions’ opponents in the tournament consisted of teams with expats working in the embassies and NGOs in Nairobi. “Tim Colby is our head coach and the person who’s helped us grow both as players and as a league in the making. He’s the one who reached out to various embassies in Kenya such as the U.S., Canadian and also European embassies calling for interested parties to join in. We also got players who occasionally come to the rink to play with us during our practice sessions. The Finnish ambassador, Erik Lundberg, was among the players for Team Europe.”

3-on-3 plus Goalies

Due to the size of the rink, the games were played 3-on-3 with goalies. “We planned to have nine players a side,” says Ao Opiyo. “Unfortunately, some teams, such as Team Europe, didn’t have enough players. On Sunday, the last day of the tournament, some of the Kenyans volunteered to help balance the numbers. The importance was to have fun playing hockey after all.”


“Looking back at the first game played in 2016, it was just something for fun,” Ao Opiyo reminiscences. “That game was scheduled during our regular pick-up hockey session and played by whoever could make it. This tournament is a major moment for us Ice Lions. After our first international game with the UN and Slava Fetisov to highlight the issue of global warming, we took it to the next level with staging our first international tournament, as participants and hosts. Given the fact that Alibaba sent us out to Korea to explore the Winter Olympics and Tim Hortons sent us to Canada to play with Crosby and MacKinnon, we’re making progress and we’re serious in wanting to develop ice hockey here in Kenya.

“This amount of exposure strengthens us, but it also helps us to remember that we started off as a couple of guys having drinks and saying, ‘let’s host a tournament’. It’s just the beginning and I truly hope that when we are planning for the next event, we are seeing more players and teams coming in from abroad and also more funds turning up. So, there is a lot to look forward to from these experiences.” 

The four teams post for a joint team photo following the 3-on-3 tournament.

From Kenya to Canada: The Story of Kenya’s Only Ice Hockey Team

News provided by Tim Hortons

In Kenya, there is only one ice hockey team, and they have nobody to play against. Every Wednesday and Sunday, the Kenya Ice Lions take to the first-ever ice rink in East and Central Africa: a 1,400-square-metre rink at the Panari Sky Center Hotel in Nairobi, Kenya. Located next to Nairobi National Park, is where the Ice Lions take to the rink and play the game they love.

n Canada, it is sometimes taken for granted that Canadians can always find someone to grab a stick, find some ice and play a game. Tim Hortons heard the story about the Kenya Ice Lions and decided to share our love of the game by bringing them to the birthplace of hockey.

“In Canada – and as a company – Hockey is part of our DNA,” says Jorge Zaidan, Head of Marketing, Tim Hortons Canada. “We are so inspired by the story of the Lions. Despite having no other teams to play against, the players on the Kenya Ice Lions’ passion for the game is unwavering. Their shared passion and love of the game knows no borders.”

Moved by their love for Canada’s favorite sport, Tim Hortons flew 12 members of the senior Ice Lions team to Canada to have the opportunity to finally play their first game ever against another team. After dressing in brand new CCM hockey equipment and personalized jerseys, they discovered they were in for an even bigger surprise: Sidney Crosby and Nathan MacKinnon were joining them on the ice as teammates.

“I was honoured to be able to join the Ice Lions as they played their first game against another team,” said Sidney Crosby, captain of the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins. “One of the things I love about hockey is how it’s able to reach so many people from so many countries around the world and bring them together.”

“While we played alongside the Ice Lions for their first game, we know it won’t be their last,” said Colorado Avalanche star, Nathan MacKinnon. “The team’s genuine passion and excitement for hockey is contagious – they were amazing teammates and it was great to play with them.”

“It is a dream to not only have the chance to play in Canada, but to play – for the first time – in full gear alongside two of the greatest players of the game,” says Benard Azegere, captain of the Kenya Ice Lions.” When we first started playing in Kenya, we didn’t even have full equipment, but now not only do we have that, we can say we’ve played a real game with some All-Star teammates.”

Tim Hortons made a donation to Kenya’s Youth Hockey League to help ensure that the Ice Lions’ passion for the sport lives on for the next generation. Check out full video of the Kenya Ice Lions hockey game with Sidney Crosby and Nathan MacKinnon,

Pyramids scheme: Will Egypt warm to ice hockey?

Egypt Ice Hockey president Sameh Ramadan is trying to stage a game at the Egyptian pyramids next winter — on a full-sized, synthetic rink — as a way to help his program get recognized by the International Ice Hockey Federation

By Greg Wyshynski –

The hieroglyphics can be found adorning the tombs at Egypt’s ancient Beni Hassan burial site. They depict two men, each holding a long palm-tree branch, with slightly curved ends. They’re pointing them at the ground, crossing one over the other.

Ignore the desert garb, and it almost looks like they’re taking a hockey faceoff. There’s an ancestral reason for this: Ancient Egyptians created a game in which sticks were used to smack around a semicircle created from papyrus fibers wrapped in leather.

In essence, Sameh Ramadan isn’t trying to bring hockey to the Egyptian pyramids. He’s trying to bring it back.

Ramadan is the president of Egypt Ice Hockey as well as a captain for its national club team, which will compete in the first Arab Club Cup Championship beginning April 3 in Abu Dhabi. It’s a tournament that seeks to spotlight the hockey programs of Algeria, Egypt, Lebanon, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates and Morocco, the only nation among the group currently recognized by the International Ice Hockey Federation.

“This tournament is a coming-out party for all these teams on an international stage,” Ramadan said.

It’s another step forward for the nascent hockey program in Egypt, which is seeking an endorsement from the nation’s governing sports bodies as its official national hockey team, which is necessary for application to the IIHF. To be granted membership, Ramadan has to prove the program’s viability, relevance and capacity for growth.

“Basically, all I need now is a letter from my sports minister that says, ‘Egypt Ice Hockey represents the ice hockey interests of Egypt.’ No money involved. Just saying the IIHF can talk to us. And then we can put in an application,” Ramadan said.

Egypt Ice Hockey’s sweaters sport one of hockey’s most memorable logos: the image of a pharaoh wearing a “Friday The 13th”-style goalie mask.

In other words, Hockey Egypt has to get these gatekeepers’ attention. That is why it is playing a game at the pyramids.

“We’re trying to get a full-sized rink. As of now, it’s going to be synthetic, for budget reasons, but we’re trying to get the sponsorships to do a full ice rink. We’re trying to target December or January in the event we can do an ice rink because it’s cold enough,” said Ramadan, who said several sign-offs from the government are required before the game can happen.

Other events have been held at the pyramids — everything from a David Guetta rave to an international squash tournament. But never hockey. Well, at least not since B.C.

“Hockey being played in front of the pyramids … that would be an iconic image. That would sweep the globe,” said Rob Ruszala of The Hockey Foundation.

Ruszala would know about playing hockey in iconic places. The last game he organized made the Guinness Book of World Records.

The Hockey Foundation is a New York-based nonprofit organization that seeks to support and grow the sport in emerging communities. In places such as, for example, the Himalayan region of Ladakh, India, where The Hockey Foundation helped facilitate a world record for the highest-altitude hockey game, at 14,340 feet above sea level.

“Our pilot program was in the Indian Himalayas,” Ruszala said. “The motivation behind this is that India does not have a regulation-sized rink in its entire country. So we were able to procure the boards, ship them over and donate them to the program. So we staged the Himalayan game to bring more interest to their developing program, but the long-lasting effect was to have a regulation-sized rink in the country.”

When it comes to a game at the pyramids, it’s not simply for the stunning visuals and novelty of the stunt. “We’re not doing it for the photo op. We’re doing it for the legacy impact,” he said.

The legacy of hockey in Egypt is one of humble beginnings.

Egypt has a population of 98.9 million people but only three ice rinks, none of them regulation size and all of them housed within shopping malls in Cairo.

Ramadan’s parents lived in a suburb of Cairo, and the family’s apartment was across the street from one of the three ice rinks in Egypt. The rinks are what one might expect them to be: each located within a mall in Cairo, each about 25 percent the size of an NHL rink (or about 300 meters long), with no Zambonis or even skate sharpeners.

“Two of our players had never had their skates sharpened,” Ramadan said of his national club team. “But you’d be shocked: Because they played on such crappy ice all the time, they were able to get up to speed quickly. [Seeing them on groomed, regulation ice] was like watching ducks fly for the first time.”

The rink near his parents’ home opened in 1997. Ramadan remembers asking his cousin to bring some hockey equipment to his apartment so they could go across the street and play.

His experience shows hockey’s place in Egyptian culture just 20 years ago. “We tried getting on the ice [with equipment], and the security guard stopped us,” Ramadan said. “He thought we were carrying weapons. No one had any idea what hockey was.”

Fast-forward to 2016. Ramadan is living in New Jersey and a father of two daughters. His friend Yasser Ahmed, the Egyptian national team’s goalie and director of hockey operations, discovered that there was an actual hockey team playing at the old rink in Cairo: The Anubis Club, a group of local players and a program completely anonymous to the local populace.

“Back in 2004, we went to play at a rink, and it just so happened that some Egyptians joined us. And we ended up with a nice little group,” Mike Letanzey, a Canadian ex-pat, told CGTN in 2017.

Ramadan, who has an MBA in marketing, reached out to the team. To get noticed, he reasoned, they needed to rebrand. The team became Egypt Ice Hockey, sporting one of the most memorable logos in the world: the image of a pharaoh wearing a “Friday The 13th”-style goalie mask.

Egypt Ice Hockey players (from left) Sameh Ramadan, Emir Elkholy, Yasser Ahmed and Ryan Elkholy visited the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, where the goalie stick Ahmed used in the 2016 African Club Cup was on display alongside Auston Matthews’ jersey

By July 2016, Egypt was playing in its first international ice hockey tournament: the African Ice Hockey Cup for club teams, held in Morocco. (The tournament had the support of the Czech Republic ice hockey federation, which even donated a bus with Jaromir Jagr’s image on its side.) The rink’s size allowed for only 3-on-3 hockey — the only regulation-sized rink on the continent is located in South Africa — and the Egyptians were, well, very much the newbies there. “We had no business being there with that specific team,” Ramadan said.

But the trip changed the course of Egyptian ice hockey — thanks, in part, to Reddit.

A man from the American embassy showed up at the Moroccan club tournament, asking to buy a Team Egypt jersey. Ramadan was shocked by this happenstance and asked how the man knew about the team. It turns out the Egyptian national team had gone viral on the Reddit hockey board, thanks to its unique branding. It was at that moment, Ramadan says, that everything clicked: a collection of ex-pats and club players could be Egypt’s national team, and together they could push for IIHF recognition.

That tournament is also where they hooked up with The Hockey Foundation.

Ruszala sat down with Ramadan and Ahmed about 18 months ago to begin formulating a plan for how to support and grow hockey in Egypt. It was clear, right away, that viable gear was the most pressing issue — including, for example, giving the goaltenders something more than shin guards.

“They only had one set of goalie pads, and every game they’d only have one goalie suit up. Mite or adult, it didn’t matter because it was one set of pads. I was floored by that,” Ruszala said.

Within a month, Hockey Foundation sent six sets of pads. Then came at least 100 other pieces of equipment, used gear the Foundation had collected in the U.S. and Canada. Sending it to Egypt proved costly, especially with local tariffs. “People don’t realize it costs up to $400 to finally get it into the hands of wherever its headed,” Ruszala said. “We’re hoping the sport revs up big enough that we can start sending over bulk shipments.”

Egypt’s first foray into international hockey came at the inaugural African Ice Hockey Cup for club teams in Morocco in July 2016. Tunisia’s Carthage Eagles
routed Egypt’s Cairo Anabus 19-0 in the opener before going on to beat Moroccan for the title game

Getting it revved up depends largely on getting Egypt to sign off on hockey officially and then investing in it. Ramadan, ever the marketing guy, decided that his best shot at this wasn’t to narrowly pitch hockey to the Youth Sports Minister and the national government. At the World Youth Forum last November, he made his pitch for a full winter sports federation that would include hockey.

“I don’t want to just grow ice hockey in Egypt. I want to grow a winter sports federation,” Ramadan said. “I told them to build me a rink, and I would have speedskating and curling and figuring skating and ice hockey all under one roof.”

He doesn’t want all of this opportunity just for men and boys, either. Ramadan has a 10-year-old daughter who plays goalie and an 8-year-old daughter who’s a forward. Kuwait and UAE have women’s teams, and he feels it’s essential that Egypt get women involved in winter sports as well.

“It’s Egypt. It’s a Muslim country. We want to promote women participating,” he said, pointing to the recent visit by members of the UAE women’s team to the Washington Capitals, with culminated with forward Fatima Al Ali dropping the ceremonial puck at a game while wearing a Capitals jersey and a hijab.

Ruszala said that participation of women in hockey is one of the harbingers The Hockey Foundation looks for in measuring the growth of an emerging hockey market. “It’s not just for boys. It’s all-inclusive,” he said.

Ramadan wants to make sure women get involved in winter sports in Egypt, as they have in some other Arab countries. UAE forward Fatima Al Ali, right, practiced with Alex Ovechkin and other Capitals players during a visit to Washington, D.C., in 2017

They want to see more participants, not only on teams but also at clinics. “If we’re investing time and equipment and the numbers are stagnant, maybe that region isn’t ready for the sport yet,” Ruszala said.

But the last requirement is, at this point, the trickiest one for Egyptian hockey: formal recognition.

“In Egypt’s case, they’re like an NCAA club right now,” Ruszala said. “They need to be formally recognized by the ministry of sport as the chief representatives of hockey in Egypt.”

Which brings us back to the pyramids.

Erica Jong once referred to jealousy as “all the fun you think they had.” No matter what the level of play in a game at the pyramids might look like, the fact is that one will have been played there. Ruszala has already seen the effect a game in one country can have on another.

“The Pakistanis reached out to us after the India game,” he said.

The pyramids game isn’t just about the growth of hockey in Egypt, though Ramadan sees it as an essential step forward down that path. It’s about making a statement in Africa and the Middle East about the viability of the game, the continuing effort to alert the region to hockey’s presence and how it fits into their changing approach to sports.

“A lot of countries just focus on the sports where they have the best chance to medal and not the recreational aspects of the sport, which is where hockey in Egypt is,” Ruszala said. “Sport for recreation and sport for competition are relatively new concepts.”

As is hockey.

“It’s a new concept. It’s a novel concept. But it’s not an unfamiliar concept,” he said. “Skating they get, but now there’s an educational barrier. So this can’t be a one-off novelty.”

Ramadan can feel the momentum. The Arab Club Cup will bolster Egypt’s profile. So did his team’s gear going viral, both on Reddit and in photographs such as this one, which was featured on TSN and shows Adrian Mizzi, a man who goes by the nickname “The Travelling Goalie,” suited up in the desert wearing team gear:


Adrian Mizzi the traveling goalie has arrived in Egypt.

A post shared by EgyptIceHockey (@egypticehockey) on

Islington’s Kerbouche keen to build up ice hockey in his native Algeria at Arab Club Cup

Head of Algerian hockey Karim Kerbouche

By Jacob Ranson – East London Advertiser

The 35-year-old, who is head of Hockey Algeria and led the country’s first-ever representative team to a creditable third-place finish in the inaugural African Club Cup in 2016, is looking to keep progressing the nation in his beloved sport.

Kerbouche will be taking his Algerian team (Algiers Corsaires) to compete in the Arab Club Cup which also features Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Lebanon and the UAE, and is due to be televised on Abu Dhabi sports channel early next month.

“It’s a nice place to go, I lived there for a little while, and I’m excited to be going back there,” Kerbouche said.

“This will be the first time I’m taking my club out there and it should be fun, there is a good amount of teams and the competition should be good, I’m expecting some decent players to be at the tournament.

“Especially from Lebanon their team should be packed full of Canadian juniors with Lebanese descent so it should be a decent level of hockey and it will be a good chance to publicise it in the international media.”

Kerbouche, who attended Central Foundation School in Bow, managed to obtain funding for his team to represent Algeria and scored their first-ever goal, against Morocco in 2008.

He went on to play as a forward for Lee Valley Lions and Streatham Redskins in the English National Ice Hockey League – as well as working for leisure provider GLL at Streatham ice rink.

At that same time, Kerbouche continued his determined efforts to spread the growth of the sport in his parents’ homeland – quite a challenge with only one permanent ice rink and minimal government backing.

And he is now hoping the tournament will be a success, adding: “I’m hoping for it to be an annual thing or a semi-annual thing so it happens every couple of years. There’s a lot of expenses involved, but it’s definitely something I’d like to continue.”

Kerbouche is also keen to keep building up the sport, saying: “There is an appetite for it, it’s just the logistics of getting equipment and coaches out there as I can only be out there for a certain amount of time a year.”

Morocco makes it

By Martin Merk –

Morocco beat Ireland 11-4 in the final to win the inaugural Development Cup. It was the first time Morocco won an international tournament in the event that also included Portugal, which finished third, and host Andorra. 

The four-team tournament is an initiative from some of the smaller IIHF member countries not part of the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship program to give them an opportunity to play amongst each other similar like the IIHF Ice Hockey Challenge Cup of Asia for the Asian members. 

Morocco was the strongest team both in the preliminary round and in the final. The team that mostly consists of Moroccans who learned and played their hockey in Europe and the Canadian province of Quebec finished the event with a 4-0 record. 

Ireland has been the toughest opponent in the preliminary round – even though scores may tell otherwise – and it was similar in the final between the two most skilled and physically strongest teams. During Morocco’s first power play Thomas Carpenter gave Ireland the lead on a breakaway but a few moments later Mehdi Ghazi converted the man advantage to tie the game. 

The Moroccans continued to be strong and were ice-cold with their chances. Hakim Bouchaoui gained Morocco its first lead and a natural hat trick from Damien Bourguignon made it 5-1 for Morocco after one period. 

“Of course it was great to have such a good start but even if I scored three goals it was not just me, it was great work from the whole team. We had a good team here. Everybody contributed to winning the tournament,” said Bourguignon. 

The son of a French father and a Moroccan mother was one of the most skilled player from the European-based contingent. Last season he played in the French second tier for the Clermont Sangliers and this season one league below for the Dijon Ducs. France, which held Morocco as a protectorate until 1956, has a big diaspora of people from Morocco and other North African countries. 

“I played first time last summer in the Africa Cup. I really appreciated playing in that tournament and that’s why I came again for this event without hesitating a second,” the 25-year-old forward said. 

“It was unbelievable to play in Morocco last year. If somebody had told me ten years ago that I’d play ice hockey in Morocco I’d have said “you’re crazy!” and when I got the invitation I first thought my friends were kidding me until I realized it was real and I went to Rabat. There’s a group of very motivated people from the President to the players.” 

The second period against Ireland continued in the same direction the first frame had ended. Youssef Chadli, Charles-Hichem Balha and Yassin Ahrazem scored for Morocco, Ian Courtney had a marker for Ireland before a few players unloaded their emotions in a hard-contested game with their fists, just to later mix together for a more peaceful team photo after the game. 

The end of the second period continued with four-on-four and one goal each for a 9-3 score after the second period. After exchanging three more goals in the third period Morocco won the game 11-4, got the trophy and celebrated with it and hearing their national anthem, the Cherifian Anthem, in the background. 

Another player with high-level experience is captain Youssef Kabbaj from Westmound, Quebec, who played three years at the highest level of junior hockey in Canada’s QMJHL, four years of CIS college hockey and since 2016 minor league hockey in Quebec, this season for St-Cyrille Condors (LHSAAAQ). 

Hakim Bouchaoui, who was born in the Swedish hockey town of Karlstad, is another player who plays amateur hockey in a top hockey country, currently for Swedish fourth-tier team Kils AIK. 

“It was fun. It was hard in the beginning. We knew Ireland was going to play hard and be good,” Bouchaoui said. “But some of the guys play a lot and know the game well.” 

Bouchaoui came in through his brother, who played for Morocco in the 2008 Arab Cup in Abu Dhabi. “We tried all kind of sports, football, hockey, but I loved hockey. I played first time last year in the Africa Cup. It was special since we played we played 3-on-3. It was a good experience.” 

Ice hockey in Morocco is a rather young sport and the first generation of players who started as kids in Morocco is slowly moving into senior hockey. The roster included two young players developed in Morocco. One of them is Mohamed El Idrissi from Rabat. 

“I started in 2005. They invited me to play for the Rabat Capitals when they started the team and I have liked playing hockey ever since then. I’m very proud to be a member of the national team and represent Morocco,” said El Idrissi, who usually plays one game a week plus practice in the Moroccan capital. 

“We have played well here, won games. We have the qualities to play good hockey. My dream is to develop hockey in Morocco and find the means to play hockey and get a full-size ice rink. We need a rink and then we can move further. We don’t have a lot of means but we dream about a rink to play international ice hockey. We have two small ones but it doesn’t work to invite bigger teams who are used to play on international-size rinks.” 

Mrini’s dream started in the ’80s in Quebec

The Royal Moroccan Ice Hockey Federation is a life-long dream of Khalid Mrini, who grew up in Morocco before moving to the Canadian province of Quebec. Behind the bench he had his fellow Morocco-Quebecer, Development Director Adil El Farj, and his brother Mimoun Mrini, who lives in Morocco and served as head coach of the team. 

“We work a lot. Now we have more than 400 players in Morocco. We started last year our first national championship. It’s growing. It’s a lot of work but the future is bright,” said Khalid Mrini. 

His dream of ice hockey in the North African country started a long time ago. He moved to Quebec as a 17-year-old to study in Canada and immediately fell in love with ice hockey when he saw a Montreal Canadiens vs. Detroit Red Wings game on TV. “In Morocco sometimes you see in the sport news the Stanley Cup or the World Championship but just a 30-second highlight. When I first time saw a full game I started following the Montreal Canadiens and travelled to games a lot in the ‘80s and ‘90s. I love this game because it’s so exciting,” he said. 

In 1983 he was at the International Pee-Wee Hockey Tournament in Quebec. “I saw all these flags, Canada, United States, Switzerland and so on. I told my girlfriend that one day I’d put my flag there. She started laughing. She said “it’s only I dream”. I knew it was a dream but you can’t live without dreams. 

“When they opened the first ice rink in Morocco in 2004 my brother called me and told me there’s an ice rink in Rabat. I went to Morocco and we started the first hockey school. In 2006 I went to Quebec City to participate with 14 players from Morocco. I called my ex-girlfriend. I told her “I made it!”. It took me more than 20 years but I did it. I had my flag there. It was a feeling I can’t explain, to have the flag there with the Canadians, Americans, Russians.” 

After starting ice hockey at the small rink in Rabat – in the meantime a second small-size rink is used for hockey in Casablanca – Morocco started to look out for international contacts. First Moroccan kids played against kids from hockey countries who were kids of diplomats in Morocco. Later they hosted a Canadian team, French teams, Spanish teams, went to Switzerland for a ten-day camp. In 2008 they participated in the first and only Arab Cup in Abu Dhabi. 

“In 2010 we became IIHF member, something I’m proud of because that’s where all the big and smaller hockey countries are members. I started to speak with many presidents from other countries and look for help,” Mrini said. 

“Last year we had the first Africa Cup against teams from Algeria, Tunisia and Egypt. The government started believing in us and saw that it’s getting serious. Two years ago we went from being a national association to being a Royal federation. It means a lot. It means the government started to believe in us and that hockey is growing in Morocco.” 

Now he has his Moroccan flag in other tournaments too including the 2017 Development Cup where Morocco for the first time played national teams from Europe. 

“I’m living my dream and being here today is still a dream because you have the Moroccan flag here, you hear the national anthem with the other countries. But it’s only the beginning. I want to show the hockey world that we’re serious. Hockey in Morocco is not exotic. We’re not just for the photo gallery,” Mrini said. 

“Hockey is not just the big countries like Canada, USA or Russia. We have here the coverage on the IIHF website. And last year Luc Tardif came to Morocco. When I told the government that he is the IIHF Treasurer and President of the French Ice Hockey Federation, they realized that the IIHF is really supporting us. It was like a wake-up call and they started helping us more and more,” he added. 

“Inshallah we will have an ice rink”

While Morocco has passionate diaspora players who represent the country of their roots, hockey has also grown in the country itself since its start. What once began with six players when the ice rink in the Mega Mall in Rabat opened is now a sport with eight club teams. When the national championship begins later this month, they will be joined by a ninth team. 

Mrini’s dream is not over yet. He knows that to develop hockey within the country and be able to play internationally with homegrown players it needs more rinks. While the federation is working on having a third small rink in Agadir, the challenge is to get the first full-size one to be able to play five-on-five and join more established ice hockey countries in the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship program. 

“Now I’m looking to build an official ice rink in Morocco. In Rabat, or Casablanca. It’s not so important where it is but to have a big ice arena. I want to start in the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division III,” Mrini said. 

“In the beginning it was very hard but now the government saw our international tournaments and the national championship in Morocco. I have all the plans to build an arena from the IIHF. I have everything ready. Now just the money is missing but I’m working hard for it and Inshallah [if God wills] we will have an ice rink,” he said. “Morocco deserves it.” 

Kerbouche is on a mission to build on Algeria’s success in their first ice hockey competition

While growing up in Islington, Karim Kerbouche discovered a passion for ice hockey after a friend gave him a Sega Mega Drive game – and, after watching his first live match at the age of 12, he was totally hooked.

More than two decades later, Kerbouche has gone on to become head of Hockey Algeria, leading the country’s first ever representative team to a creditable third-place finish in the inaugural African Club Cup this year.

To achieve that, the 34-year-old had to return to the computer for an extensive internet search to locate fellow players of Algerian origin in Europe and North America.

Kerbouche, who attended Central Foundation School, recalled: “I love football but I wasn’t that good at it and, once I found ice hockey, I left all the other sports behind.

“On my 12th birthday my mum took me to see Lee Valley Lions and I fell in love with the sport straight away – the speed, the physicality and the toughness of it.

“I went on to play for Haringey Wolves’ junior side and studied sport and leisure at college, but I always wondered if there could be an ice hockey team in Algeria.

“I started searching for other players of Algerian origin, going through stats on French websites and emailing teams to contact people who had Algerian-sounding names.

“It turned out that there were quite a few players in France as well as Canada and it seemed many of them felt the same, but no-one had taken the initiative.”

In 2008, Kerbouche managed to obtain funding for his newly-formed team to represent Algeria at an Arab Cup tournament in Abu Dhabi and scored their first ever goal, against Morocco.

He went on to play as a forward for Lee Valley Lions and Streatham Redskins in the English National Ice Hockey League – as well as working for leisure provider GLL at Streatham ice rink.

At that same time, Kerbouche continued his determined efforts to spread the growth of the sport in his parents’ homeland – quite a challenge with only one permanent ice rink and minimal government backing.

“The rink is in a mall and it’s not Olympic size – it’s only really suitable for ice skating and kids’ games,” explained Kerbouche, who now works in Poplar. “To be honest, some people in Algeria think it’s a bit of a joke.

“It’s difficult to get sponsorship – we do usually find it but it’s usually a last-minute thing. For the recent African Club Cup in Morocco we had someone sponsor our uniforms about three or four weeks beforehand.

“There is money in Algerian sport but it goes mostly towards football – especially as we’ve been in the last two World Cups and have quite a few players in the Premier League, like Riyad Mahrez.

“With that said, we do get support from the public – on Facebook we’ve got 120,000 followers and more than 6,000 on Twitter.

“Kids in Algeria are skating on roller blades so I think the potential is there and I’d love to bring in a new activity for them. When I was a kid, the biggest issues were the cost of equipment and ice time and those will be the same issues we have to deal with in Algeria.”

Kerbouche and his team-mates, who competed under the label of Algiers Corsaires for their third-place finish at the African Club Cup, are aiming to build on that by winning next year’s tournament.

He added: “It was all a bit rushed in terms of getting players together, with people booking their tickets the week before the tournament, but we learned a lot from it.

“Next summer it’ll be a big improvement and our objective is to win it.

“We’ve managed to get a $15,000 grant from the NHL for ice hockey in Algeria and that also should help us to get better facilities for the sport.”

Hockey Nation Profile: Tunisia — The Newest Hockey Champions


By Steven Ellis –

Do you think ice hockey in Las Vegas doesn’t make sense? Try playing hockey in Africa.

Wait, there’s hockey in Africa? Believe it or not, there’s hockey on almost every continent in the world, with Antartica joining the fun next year. Hockey in Africa isn’t exactly a big thing yet, but countries like Tunisia are working towards a long-term development plan for teams in the area.

Tunisia is a strange example of a hockey team because, due to a lack of a player base, their club team is essentially their men’s national team. They’re also strange because while their club team is their national team, they haven’t yet played any other national team, at least officially.

But even with that, they still managed to win their very first hockey tournament, a rare occurrence for any team.

Humble Beginnings

The Tunisian hockey dream had a slow start, but the dream would still become a reality. After hard work from French Division IIII player Ihab Eyad, the Tunisian Ice Hockey Federation was finally announced on November 11th, 2009. The future was sill unclear at that point, with rumors of the team participating in a potential African Ice Hockey Cup in 2010, which never actually came to life.

Their first game was a memorable one, even though it ended in disappointment. Featuring a full 23-man squad, the team battled it out against Les Coqs de Courbevoie, a team that participates in the fourth highest French league. Tunisia put in a good effort but despite that, they still managed to fall short in a 6-5 loss on June 14th, 2014.

Tunisia’s roster wasn’t great. They were without some of their better players, including former NHLer Ramizi Abid and Semir Ben Amor. Very few players play highly competitive leagues, with Adrien Sebag potentially being one of the best playing in the ACHA III league, which, for those that don’t know, is below the NCAA. 

They didn’t win, but they were just getting started.

First Time Champions

After years of planning, the first ever African Ice Hockey Championships took place in Morocco during July of 2016. The sport had really never developed in the content, with South Africa competing in the lowest division of the World Championships, Division III. As the 42nd highest ranked team in the IIHF rankings out of 50, of whom 47 actually play, it’s not really a thriving market.

That’s what the African Cup was ready to help. For the teams in attendance, it was the first real effort at playing hockey in many years. For Algeria and Morocco, it was their first tournament since the 2008 Arab Cup, an event that never happened again. For Egypt, it was the first time they had entered any team in an international tournament.

With Tunisia playing just two years prior, it could be said that they were ready for the task after playing most recently out of any of the competitors. Featuring most of the players that participated in the game in 2014, Tunisia was ready to combat for a victory.

There weren’t many fans in attendance. Major news outlets weren’t talking about it. TSN wasn’t producing daily segment recaps showing you all the greatest moments from the opening 19-0 victory for the Carthage Eagles, Tunisia’s club team.The Eagles followed it up with an 11-6 victory over Algiers Corsaires from Algeria before defeating the Morocco Mallers 11-8.

That set the pace for the final game, which saw the only two unbeaten teams battling it out for gold. In the end, Carthage would score the extra goal needed to take the victory, finishing off the tournament with a perfect record for Tunisia’s first championship in an international competition, whether it be with the national team or a club team, at the men’s level.

Tunisia could now claim to be ice hockey champions, even if it was at a level that wouldn’t be considered competitive in North America.

Hope for a Good Future

Their victory was a major step in the right direction for Tunisia’s future. Yes, it wasn’t an official international tournament, despite the countries essentially using their national team players. But to beat your closest competition despite being an extremely new program is something to be proud of.

But that’s to be expected for a team such as Tunisia. The sport is fairly new there and there isn’t a lot of money available to the teams. Developing at the grassroots level is something Tunisia has been working towards, but it’s tough when your only chances to play come at random points. Still, this team is dedicated to building a strong future in the sport and have aspirations of playing at a much higher level some day.

With Ihab Eyad putting his faith into such a program, you can bet yourself that they’ll rise to be much stronger someday.

Tunisia’s Carthage Eagles Wins First Ever African Cup

By Steven Ellis –

Tunisian club Carthage Eagles are the first ever champions at the African Ice Hockey Cup, which took place in Morocco over the past week.

In a very closely contested final game, the Carthage Eagles are the very first champions of the African Ice Hockey Cup following an 8-7 victory over the Rabat Capitals from Morocco.

The Eagles, featuring many players from Tunisia’s national team that participated in exhibition action back in 2014, had no issues throughout the tournament, defeating Egypt’s Cairo Anabus 19-0 on the opening day. The team followed it up with an 11-6 victory over Algiers Corsaires from Algeria before defeating the Morocco Mallers 11-8.

That set the pace for the final game, which saw the only two unbeaten teams battling it out for gold. In the end, Carthage would score the extra goal needed to take the victory, finishing off the tournament with a perfect record for Tunisia’s first championship in an international competition, whether it be with the national team or a club team, at the men’s level.

The tournament was the first ever African Ice Hockey Cup, a tournament designed to help teams in Africa that have very little chances to play. Organized by the Royal Moroccan Ice Hockey Federation, it was a historic tournament on many levels. Of course, Tunisia had their first form of hockey success, but it was also the debut of Egypt at a tournament of this nature. The team failed to take a victory, but they did lose by a close margin of 2-1 in their final game against the Casablanca Bears.

For Algeria and the Moroccan clubs, it was the first time that many of the players had played in an international tournament since the 2008 Arab Cup, the first, and only version of the tournament. 

Ice hockey in Africa is slowly developing, with South Africa being the only team participating in international play. Morocco is currently an IIHF member, while Namibia, who did not take part in the tournament, participates in inline hockey. The hope is to see this tournament grow in the coming years and allow teams in Africa the ability to grow, similar to how the Challenge Cup of Asia has had a positive impact on hockey in the continent.

Africa Cup starts

By Martin Merk –

With 35°C (95°F) announced today in the Moroccan capital of Rabat, ice hockey may not be the first thing to come in mind for locals and tourists walking through the royal city. But going to the cool ice rink at Mega Mall is exactly what six hockey teams from North Africa will do this week.

For the first time the Royal Moroccan Ice Hockey Federation will organize the African Ice Hockey Cup for club teams that will take will start tonight in two groups of three teams followed by the semi-finals on Thursday and the medal games on Saturday. An all-star skills contest will additionally be staged in Casablanca.

This new competition and format gives many players and their six club teams from four countries the first chance to compete across their borders in a region where ice hockey is in its early development.

In Morocco ice hockey is played at malls in the capital of Rabat and a one-hour journey south in Casablanca. The one at Rabat’s Mega Mall is 40 on 20 metres and allows playing 3-on-3 games for the African Cup.

Of the four countries Morocco has reached out the most so far. The national team played in the first and only edition of the Arab Cup organized in 2008 in Abu Dhabi, welcomed teams from France and Spain in Rabat during the past few years, sent peewee teams to Quebec and was part of last year’s World Girls’ Ice Hockey Weekend.

The Rabat Capitals, the Casablanca Bears and the Morocco Mallers are the three teams from the host country to play in the event. With the biggest ice rink less than half the international size, not everything is perfect to develop the game in Morocco but the conditions in Rabat may still envy the visitors from the other three North African countries to take part in the event.

In Algeria and Tunisia no ice hockey is played and the movement to bring the sport to their countries is led by the diaspora abroad. While there are no competitions in these countries that would allow hockey to grow and give the base to form a national team, the Algerian and Tunisian hockey diaspora convened to form club teams for the tournament in Morocco.

The Algiers Corsaires will come together to represent their country in Morocco. It will be the first such game for many of the players since Algeria played in the 2008 Arab Cup. Like eight years ago the team will be led by British-Algerian forward Karim Kerbouche. All team members play abroad as there are only temporary ice rinks during the winter months at best in Algeria.

In Tunisia the hockey movement is led from Tunisians abroad, in particular by Ihab Ayed, who normally plays for the Courbevoie Coqs in the fourth tier of French hockey. It’s in the Paris suburb where Ayed organized his Tunisian team’s first game in 2014 that ended with a 6-5 win for the local team. In Rabat the team labelled Carthage Eagles will for the first time play against North African rivals.

In Tunisia like in Egypt there are ice rinks but none of them is bigger than 300 square metres, which is one sixth of the area of an international size rink. While the Algiers Corsaires and Carthage Eagles are formed of players from the diaspora in Europe and Canada, the club team from Egypt is actually based in the country where ice hockey competitions take place on the small ice rinks. The Anubis Ice Hockey Team from Cairo will fly from their country to Rabat to become the first Egyptian ice hockey team to play in an international competition abroad.

Host Morocco is the only of these countries that is a member of the International Ice Hockey Federation. The continent’s biggest country in ice hockey is 8,000 kilometres away: South Africa where ice hockey has been played since the ‘30s and that has been playing with its national teams in IIHF competitions since 1961. Additionally, neighbouring country Namibia is an affiliate member of the IIHF that has played in inline hockey.

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