Category: Interviews (page 1 of 3)

Q & A With Zoranco Griovski

George Da Silva – National Teams of Ice Hockey

We had the great pleasure to talk to Zoranco Griovski the chief of Macedonia inline hockey, but also helps promoted, sell and grow the game of ice hockey in his native country.

Can you give us a brief history about ice hockey and inline hockey in Macedonia?

Macedonia, especially the capitol Skopje, had a long hockey tradition but was interrupted about three decades after Yugoslavia broke apart. The “new” history starts in fact in 2010 when the Hockey Federation of Macedonia started with activities and sending out a call for players. Just one year later, in 2011, we started with Inline hockey and our national team took part at IIHF Inline hockey qualifications, since then we were a regular member of the Inline hockey family. Hockey is played in Macedonia officially since the 1950s.

Can you tell us bit about yourself and how you became the chief of inline hockey?

I was raised in Germany, near the Alps where hockey is popular, but I came late into hockey and started playing inline hockey just for fun. But after a time we as recreation players made a team and participated in the first Inline hockey season of the DIHL league ever played in Germany (1996). After this adventure I organized a regional league in southern Bavaria and tournaments. In 2004 I decided to move to Macedonia, my parents country of origin, and as I mentioned above, in 2010 I read the announcement of the MHF where they did a call for players.

In 2011 already we took part at the IIHF Inline Hockey Qualifications, since then we played every qualification. But as it looks like now, Inline under the IIHF is gone. No inline qualifications or World Championship this year, that is a disaster for us. The last qualification in 2016 was a historic one for Macedonia with the first wins and best placement so far and we started to dream to make the World Championships some day.

The “chief” is only a title, to make it formal. But I have experience from the past and has long as I can help or a enthusiastic guys like me is needed, I am ready anytime  to go.

With no IIHF inline hockey is Macedonia thinking about joining International Federation of Roller Sports (FIRS)?

In fact we thought about FIRS in earlier times already, we had the idea to play both competitions. But FIRS tournaments are also played outside Europe i.e. Argentina. We also had in mind that competing in IIHF Inline is the better place for us as a country who want’s to push forward in the ice hockey championships. But If the say tomorrow “FIRS Inline will be a Olympic discipline”, as discussed in the past, we will make also the way into the FIRS organizations

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Macedonia won first inline hockey game.

How popular is NHL Hockey and can you watch it on TV In Macedonia?

It is popular, but the media coverage is not good, in fact non existent. NHL,hockey, you can watch only on foreign broadcasters, gladly some sports stations from the Balkan region who are broadcasting hockey (not only NHL, also KHL and Champions League (CHL) are available in Macedonia. Macedonian Radio Television, the state broadcaster, did in earlier times some coverage of the World Championships, but later on they started to broadcast only the semi-finals and final games. This and last year – nothing of it all. But Macedonian media is interested in domestic hockey, they did good job broadcasting when we made our first steps.

How many inline and Ice hockey clubs are there in the country and what league or leagues do they play in?

There are four clubs in total in Macedonia. No leagues are functioning at the moment, sadly the Balkan Ice Hockey League in cooperation with the neighbouring federations did not continued. MHF tried beside the BIHL several times to start a regional league, we also participated in the Balkan Amateur Hockey League two years, and won it one time. The only continuous play in Macedonia so far is the Skopje Ice Festival, a international ice hockey tournament we organize every year with teams from Europe. We had already guests from Russia, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Greece, Bosnia, Romania, Germany, Finland, Serbia and US soldier team located in Germany.

The National Ice Hockey Team has played handful of games, but this November Macedonia will play in it’s first international Tournament at the Development Cup 2018. How will the team prepare?

We are really happy for this opportunity to mesh with other nations on the ice. The preparing of the national team will be outside of Macedonia, I don’t think we will have ice in the arena so early to make preparations in Skopje. The DC2018 will be played near my home town in Germany and maybe I can fix something for us friendly games or some practice with a team from the region to make it a great adventure we can pickup experience for further challenges.

Macedonia vs Bosnia Herzegovina in January 2018.

Will the national team seek help from the outside?

The coaching staff will maybe different as in the past years, our coach Jure Vnuk now is occupied with coaching Olimpija Ljubljana. But this should not be the main question, as Jure introduced a system of play we use to play now 4-5 years. We just need to follow this system. For players I can not say nothing at the moment, as the date for the DC2018 is not 100% determined has of yet. We are no pros, and everyone has his life duties.

What are the future goals for hockey in general in Macedonia?

We have to focus a bit more on kids and infrastructure. Macedonia has only one ice rink (now closed, it opens from December to April), and still NO! inline hockey rink so far. Eight years have passed since MHF started and I think we have had good progress if you remember that we had a 30 year gap in Macedonia. But I would like a clear and long term strategy, this is a bit Balkan mentality, things or decisions once made change very quickly.

Has Macedonia Ice Hockey every got any help from Steven Stamkos or Chris Tanev of the NHL?

I think no one requested their help so far, and I personally think it is too early. We have to make the foundation first, when a solid base is established then we should think about options for requesting their help.

Who are your favorite ice hockey or inline players and why?

Jeremy Roenick, Tony Amonte and Joe Murphy with this line i rocked the whole Sega Mega Drive NHL 94 world, and still, if there is a running Mega Drive out there…

 

Interview With Danielle Imperial


Danielle Imperial Captain of the Philippines.

(Photo by: Tadamasa Nagayama)

By George Da Silva – National Teams of Ice Hockey

We had the great pleasure of interviewing Danielle Imperial the Captain of the Philippines Women’s National Team and how she grew up playing hockey on the driveway and in the garage, “Wow! does that sound familiar to us in North America and around the world”.

Danielle started late playing the game, but never gave up the dream of one day representing her country at an international event.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

My name is Danielle Imperial, I am twenty-one years old and I play for the Philippine
women’s national ice hockey team. I started playing ice hockey when I was fourteen years old, I’ve only trained here in Manila since I started. Currently I am a university student on my fifth year, majoring in Economics with a minor in English Literature.

How did you get involved in the game ice hockey?

My cousins grew up in California, USA and introduced us to hockey with the Mighty
Ducks movies as soon as they moved back. My brother and I grew up routinely re-watching the movies then playing outside every afternoon during summer vacations. We started in our garage with plastic sticks, moved to our driveway when we got older with wooden sticks, I brought those to the ice rink later unaware they were outdated and that we needed composite sticks that were much lighter, haha. We stuck with those moving forward.

A photo of us on our driveway at home with our cousin who introduced
us to the sport through the Mighty Ducks movies (left) and our mom who
taught us how to skate. (right)

Outside from yourself who do you credit for helping you learn the game of ice hockey?

I’ll have to name quite a few actually but if I had to mention only one, it would be Carl Montano. I was lucky to have started playing ice hockey at the time Coach Carl had just moved back to Manila from Vancouver. He inspired a different kind of passion for hockey in so many of us youth players who all looked up to him. He was my coach for six out of the eight years that I’ve been playing, and has just recently been named head coach of the women’s national team.

He knows me best and has always pushed me to be the player he believes I can be. Though other coaches I’ve played under have also inspired me in several ways to, getting to play for Coach Carl again is something special. This brings me to mentioning another person who has had so much to do with my development- my younger brother, Bj Imperial, who is actually an assistant coach for the women’s national team. He is multiple times the player I am and I’m lucky to have him coach me on the ice and off, even when I’m working out or shooting pucks at home. Watching him play on the men’s and u20 national teams is always special, and having him as my coach means as much.

There are so many more people I would mention who have made me the player I am today— my cousins who introduced me to the sport, my hockey mom and dad who have supported us so much, the older boys who made me work harder every time they would yell at me on the ice when I made mistakes starting out, the expats in our local league who made sure I stepped up in every game, several close friends from more seasoned national teams who I continue to learn so much from (Lim Wenlin, Tracy Wong, Jana Kivell, Linda Liu, etc…), and of course my own teammates who inspire me to work to become the best I can be.

When you found out you were going to be on the Philippines Women’s Ice Hockey
Team. What was your reaction?

When I found out I was going to be on the women’s national team, I was so excited for all the opportunities ahead of me. There weren’t many girls playing together in the Philippines but three others and I had already been dreaming of playing for our national team and competing in official tournaments before Hockey Philippines was even organized and recognized by the IIHF. I was eighteen years old when I was told I would be playing on the very first Philippine women’s ice hockey team and, on top of that privilege, being named captain.

Playing for the women’s national team changed my drive, commitment and passion entirely. Today, three years later, I can say for sure that I had no idea how much of an impact this would make in my life. It has only been three years but I am very thankful for all the opportunities and experiences that have come my way, as well as those that have yet to come.

Action shot from game against Thailand. (Photo by: Tadamasa Nagayama)

What are some of your training methods?

I try to get as much ice time as I can.
I go on-ice with the women’s team for training twice a week, I am currently also
part of the men’s u20 development camp that runs twice a week on ice, I play in
two divisions of our local league that runs games two to three times a week
through October to May, and every Tuesday our federation has a hockey
academy development program that I try to make has much as I can.

When I’m at home, I workout and do dry land training on my own or with my brother.
My brother and I get to workout in our gym at home, stick handling, shooting pucks,
etc… I live an hour away from the rink but it sometimes takes almost two hours
because of traffic, so there are times I can’t make on-ice sessions. I get to do
more dryland training and workouts than I do on-ice sessions for training.

I watch a lot of hockey online, women’s hockey in particular, I watch a lot of women’s hockey, and make it a point to take notes. Whether it’s of past Olympic or World Championship games, archived or livestream game videos from different divisions of the World Championships, I follow a lot of women’s hockey. I’ve recently been re-watching this year’s Olympic women’s hockey games and some of my own old game videos to see how I might apply what I learn to change my positioning or visualize what I could’ve done better.

This year I hope to stay tuned to the CWHL and maybe NWHL games more as
well. I haven’t checked if I can find NCAA streams too but I would certainly want
to with so many great players I’m a fan of too, not to mention Alina Mueller
playing for Northeastern. So many leagues and players to follow and learn from!
I’ve been reading a couple of books to develop the mental aspect of my game.
I think the mental aspect of the game is a very important part of our development that is quite overlooked. As captain of the national team, it was easy for me to realize that my mental game was something I needed to develop as much the physical, not only for myself but also for my teammates who look to me to lead by example. After we competed in our second IIHF Women’s Challenge Cup of Asia last March, I started reading several books to develop my mental game.

 

What would you say is the talent level of the women’s team and can any of them play
pro in North America?

There are very wide gaps in age and skill among the few female players we have here in the Philippines, even within the national team, and this makes our development a bit tricky. But no, I don’t think any of us can play pro in North America just yet.

Unlike in most other countries, specially those in the higher levels, none of us girls started skating at early ages. I started when I was fourteen and it’s the same story for most. Two players started at around the age of eight but that would be the earliest any of us started. At that time, they didn’t have the opportunities and training programs that players have now thanks to Hockey Philippines getting everyone organized and on the same page to really grow the game.

There aren’t many young girls under the age of fifteen but most of the active players are within the ages of fifteen to twenty-five, with a few in their thirty’s and our goalie who is fifty years old. All our players right now are home-grown, with a few training overseas because they move for university. Given the ages and late introductions to the game, no one was really able to commit to the sport and dream big until four years ago when Hockey Philippines was founded and recognized by the IIHF. When that happened, everyone got on the same page and had a direction to work towards, we had goals and a more serious purpose to keep playing. Now that Hockey Philippines is around and recognized by the IIHF, everyone has more to look forward to and work for in their hockey careers. I think that we’re only starting to realize and develop the potential of Philippine hockey. Even home-grown players have stood out well in international tournaments so I think that it will be exciting to see how we all continue taking strides moving forward.

Do you have any interesting stories from International tournaments that you have
played In?

The IIHF Women’s Challenge Cup of Asia in 2017 has been the most memorable
tournament yet. I did not expect anything like the experience that it turned out to be,
considering both the good and bad moments. There is way too much to tell but I’ll try to be brief: We lost our very first international game by a landslide, 21-1 against Thailand, but I scored my first ever IIHF goal; I played in, but lost, against one of my closest friends who was on the Singapore team; after a game played with so much heart from both sides, I was inspired by the India team who won their first ever international game against us; we won our first ever game against Malaysia, before which some of us sang our anthem already in tears eager for another win; we lost to a young New Zealand team who went on to win gold, and we won our last game
against the UAE team we had played against, and lost to twice, in a recreational tournament three years prior.

I saw the team come together and find our stride as we took our baby steps as the first ever Philippine women’s national team. Half the players on the team were playing their first ever hockey games that week, while the rest of us were learning our first few lessons on being on an entirely different stage of hockey as national team players.

Action shot (from our game against Singapore in the CCOA 2017
(Photo by: BOYPHOTO)

Can you describe the feeling watching the Philippines men winning the Gold Medal at
the South East Asian Games?

Unlike the Asian Winter Games, where they won a bronze medal earlier that year, the Southeast Asian Games is a big deal in the Philippines as it gets a lot more media coverage and public following. All of us knew that winning the tournament would mean making a name for ice hockey within the country and on the international stage as well. We got a lot of publicity and support from friends and family back home who stayed tuned to the games. It was also a surprise to see a couple of Filipinos working in Malaysia come out to watch and show their support. It was definitely a big win, and we were all very proud of the men’s team.

My brother was on that team so there was no way my parents and I were going to miss it! We flew to Kuala Lumpur and watched them get through every game to win the gold. I was behind the live updates on the Hockey Philippines Facebook page throughout the tournament. It was a challenge to keep up especially when the games got too intense that I just had to cheer first or yell as I was typing, haha. I had my phone attached to a gorilla pod as I was also video recording all the events to make this video for Hockey Philippines:

I think one of the most exciting games they played was the one against host team
Malaysia, the team that went on to win bronze. Our game against them ended in a shootout after they caught up to tie the game in the last few minutes. To add to the intensity of the game itself, the stadium was jam packed with Malaysian supporters on all three floors with maybe around fifty Philippine supporters in one corner cheering our heads off to compete with their crowd as soon as they’d tone down.

What does the future hold for Danielle Imperial?

I myself am honestly not too sure but it will definitely involve hockey for as long
possible. Outside of hockey, I am not too fixed on anything yet but will soon be working that out. I know that there is so much still ahead of us on the national team and I don’t plan on missing out. I will be playing with as much passion and commitment, if not more, for as long as the team will have me in the coming years. When time comes that I cannot be part of the national team anymore, I would definitely like to get into coaching. Hockey has made a big impact in my life and I hope that whatever the future holds for me allows me to keep growing
and working with as much passion as I have been through the sport.

Who are some of your favorite ice hockey players?

I have way too many, I’m not sure that you can still call the many of them “favorites” but I’ll try to narrow the list down. From Team USA women’s hockey I’ll have to go with Kendall Coyne. She’s a great player and we’re about the same height, it’s just crazy and inspiring to watch her play. I’m a fan of a lot of the USA girls like Gigi Marvin, Amanda Kessel and Megan Keller, to name a few. Among Canadian players some favorites are Meghan Agosta, Mélodie Daoust, Jill Saulnier and Marie-Philip Poulin. From other national teams maybe Alina Mueller and Lara Stalder. I’m sure there are a lot more I can mention but those are some off the top of
my head.

Family picture with both my brother and I in our jerseys.
Photo taken after the CCOA 2018 Men’s top division where they won bronze.

Q & A With Scott Howe

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By George Da Silva – National Teams of Ice hockey

North Korea one of most closed countries in the world and is a mystery to most in the western world, but not Scott Howe who started Howe International Friendship League and has been playing hockey in the country the last 3 years. We had the great pleasure to speak with Scott and ask him a few question about North Korea and the Friendship League

How did the friendship League get started and what is it all about?

In our role as consultants, we do a lot of work for Special Olympics, and I noticed that the DPRK did not have a chapter. While on a trip to Pyongyang to run entrepreneurial workshops in 2015, I (Scott) was driven past the ice rink and told that the DPRK has both men’s and women’s national teams. We came up with a plan to organize an ice hockey tournament in Pyongyang as a means of breaking the ice and hopefully gaining the necessary trust and connections needed to start sports programs for individuals with an intellectual disability. The plan worked, and we hope to one day see DPRK Korean athletes competing in the Special Olympics World Championships.

What sports programs do you have and how many countries is the friendship league in?

We have held three annual hockey events in North Korea, and will be hosting our first annual soccer event there this September. Our team has also organized a flag-football exchange in the beautiful Costa Rican beach town of Puerto Viejo. This November, we will be hosting our first ever hockey event outside North Korea in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan which we are also very excited about. There are also several new destinations on the horizon as our organization grows.

If someone wanted to join one of your events how would they apply?

We make no restrictions based on age, gender, nationality or skill level provided the host and sending country have placed no restrictions.  All people need to do is send us an email to contact@friendshipleague.org or visit our website http://www.friendshipleague​.org and all the info they need will be provided.  Participants are required to pay a tour fee to cover the cost of their travel and a donation to support our sports programs for individuals with an intellectual disability in the DPRK..

Over the last couple of years you have had Hockey events (Pyongyang Ice Hockey League) in North Korea, Why North Korea and how did you get your foot in one of the most closed nations in the world?

I have always been fascinated by North Korea as somebody who studied international law. In 2014, I was on my way to Bangkok for a work placement at the UN and decided to swing by Pyongyang for a brief tour. The experience left me with more questions than answers, so I became determined to find a way to return as more than a tourist. That opportunity came in the form of entrepreneurial workshops in the cities of Pyongsong and Pyongyang. While there, I realized that there is a lot of common ground that can be found with the DPRK concerning social development goals, and began to look for ways that I could make a difference. It was the connections made during that trip that would eventually give us access to the local ice hockey community.

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Friendship League playing ice hockey in North Korea

How were you received when you first went to North Korea?

I had watched countless documentaries about North Korea before I went, including the Vice Guide to Travel series, so I was expecting everybody to be very cold and strict. The truth is, I felt the opposite. People have always greeted us with a smile, and work quite hard to make sure that our time is enjoyable. Most people that I meet are quite curious about the outside world and are just interested in getting to know you.

What is the quality of hockey in the country and how is the Friendship League supporting hockey in the country?

It’s difficult for the hockey players in the DPRK because they don’t often get the opportunity to receive outside training and guidance. That being said, they are very talented and disciplined players. Overall, the country has about 1500 players and competes in both the men’s and women’s IIHF. While they’re not in the top division yet, they are improving quite quickly. Every year it gets just a little bit harder for our participants.

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North Korea national team vs Friendship League.

What is the one misconception people have of North Korea? 

It’s not so much a misconception but a barrier to knowledge, but I think the biggest thing is our failure to see North Koreans as humans. Western media coverage has, at times, carried sensationalist stories that have had the effect of dehumanizing ordinary North Koreans. Our participants often talk about how they are shocked when they see a North Korean smile. It’s not that they thought North Koreans were unable to smile, but it is something they had never previously seen. In the end, North Koreans are just people.

You mention that you do sight seeing, are you restricted to where you can go or are you free to go where you want and how is the food in North Korea?

Yes, we are restricted in where we can go. Our participants are not allowed to leave the hotel without having guides present, however, the guides are very friendly and work hard to accommodate guests requests. When we want to go somewhere new we just ask them, and usually we are allowed to go. It can actually be quite nice having the guides nearby as they are very knowledgeable and help you get around.

The food is quite good actually. We eat a different restaurants every day for lunch and dinner so participants get to experience a wide range of cuisine. The local specialty is Pyongyang cold noodle, and meals generally consist of a selection of communal dishes which people can choose from. For those who crave western food, Pyongyang is home to several surprisingly good pizza, Italian and hamburger joints.

What sporting events are you running this summer?

This summer (September) we will have our first annual Pyongyang Soccer League event, where we will play against an elite professional team from Pyongyang. Our next event after that is Turkmenistan in November.

At the end of the day what do you hope to accomplished with Friendship League?

Our immediate goal is to develop a program capable of sending North Korean athletes with intellectual disabilities to the Special Olympics World Championships. HIFL participants help achieve this by continuing to engage with officials through sport, and by making donations to support the program. Beyond that, we hope to bring thousands of adventurous athletes on life changing adventures, and look for new avenues to leave an impact on the local communities we visit in the process.

Q & A With Ralph Melki

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By George Da Silva – National Teams of Ice Hockey

Lebanon is a new to the ice hockey world and in April of 2017 Lebanon played there first every game against another newcomer Haiti in Saint-Lautent Quebec, Canada. In total Lebanon played 10 games in 2017 against various countries & club teams, But the most note worthy was the President Cup in Abu Dhabi. We had the great pleasure to Interview the coach of Lebanon Mr Ralph Melki who is always looking for a game to play.

How did you get into coaching hockey and where did you coach before taking the Lebanon Job?

Pascal Malkoun is the president of the Lebanese hockey association and also a personal good friend of mine. He offered me the opportunity to coach the Lebanese national ball hockey team last year. Since we are ISBHF members, so we compete in our first world championship tournament in Czech Republic in Pardubice last June. After that tourney we decided to start our ice hockey program with a different group of guys.

How did you hear about the Lebanon National Team and why did you decide to be there head coach?

I knew about the Lebanese Hockey Association since it’s debut, since I’m also a co-founder of the association.

In April of 2017 Lebanon played there first game against another newcomer in Haiti, How nervous were you?

Very nervous, maybe even more the the players lol. But I had to hide it lol. Once the puck was dropped in the 1st period, then I got into my game my coaching zone.

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Lebanon played in there first major International tournament at the President Cup in Abu Dhabi. How did the team perform?

The team did very good for our first international tourney. We were in game, tight scores. We didn’t win any games but we learned a lot

 

All together Lebanon has played a total of 10 games in 2017 which players have perform well and who has surprised you the most?

Gabriel Waked, Ricardo Tabet, Dory Sarkis and Elie Khalil they all been great for us. Gabriel Waked, I was surprised by how calm he is and how calm he Handel’s all the games situations.

Your Goalie Gabriel Waked has been claimed by the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. What can you tells us about him and do you think he can play pro hockey?

Gabriel Waked, absolutely there’s no doubt in my mind that the kid will be a pro player one day and I wish him all the best in the pursuit of his dream.

We know the political situation in Lebanon is not great at the present moment, but are there any future plans to build an ice rink and play games in the country?

Absolutely it’s our goal and dream to play in Lebanon. It’s the reason why we are doing all this. I will tell you that it’s a work in progress at this point.

What would it mean to you and Lebanon Ice Hockey Association to play ice hockey Lebanon?

That will be a dream come true

What would you say is your best asset as a head coach?

Communication, bring the guys together and a unified them.
Image result for Ralph Melki

 

The Arab Cup is going to be a club Tournament this year. Can You tell us what will your club team be called and is there going to be a camp for Lebanese players?

Our name will always be team Lebanon or the Lebanese cedar. Yes and our training camp will start on February 10th.

Who was or is your favorite player to watch play in the NHL?

I had 2 players, Patrick Roy and Wayne Gretzky.

Azerbaijan national ice hockey team exists … but performs in Russia

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By Sport Echo

Few know that Azerbaijan has its own ice hockey team! True, it’s based not in the territory of Azerbaijan, but in Russia and plays in one of the Russian leagues . The team mainly consists of Russians who have expressed a desire to perform under the flag of Azerbaijan.

The only Azerbaijani, Orkhan Kazimov, is playing in it. The head coach of the national hockey team of Azerbaijan is Valery Laryukov, who is also the secretary general of the Azerbaijani hockey federation since 1991.

It should be noted that Valery Laryukov was the general director of the Russian Hockey Federation from 1993 to 1998, headed the amateur hockey league in 2000-2002, since 2003 he has been an adviser to the President of Russia on physical culture and sports, since 2014 he is vice-president of the Kaluga Hockey Federation region.

In an interview with Echo.az correspondent Valery Laryukov spoke about the history of the creation of the Azerbaijan Hockey Federation, as well as about our national team that acts under his leadership.

The Azerbaijan hockey federation was established in 1991. At the same time a school was opened, which was based in the ice palace (now sports and concert complex named after Heydar Aliyev.), In which about 200 children of various ages were engaged. After the collapse of the USSR, in 1992, the World Championship was held in Prague, and then I received a call from Moscow and offered to represent Azerbaijan and joining the International Ice Hockey Federation, since at that time there was a school and a base where the children were able to trained.

As a result, during the Prague World Championship, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Ukraine and the Baltic countries were included in the International Hockey Federation. At that time, representatives of the Popular Front headed by Abulfaz Elchibey came to power in Azerbaijan. Upon our return to Baku, we found out that the leadership of the Sports Committee (now the Ministry of Youth and Sports) was replaced. The head of the department then became a representative of the Popular Front, who made it clear that attention would be paid only to national sports.

Why did they invite you to represent Azerbaijan at the World Championship in 1992?

The fact is that during the USSR the Union republics asked specialists from Moscow to develop a particular sport. Considering that the ice rink was built in Baku, then the famous Anatoly Tarasov asked me to come to Baku and help develop this sport. And he said: “We need to develop hockey in Azerbaijan”. So I found myself in Baku.

I then worked in the Ufa Salavat Yulaev system, and had a lot of experience in coaching and only went to Azerbaijan at the request of Anatoly Tarasov. After returning to Moscow, I worked for five years as the general director of the Russian Hockey Federation. Then I was constantly called by the head of the International Hockey Federation Rene Fasel, I was interested in why I did not participate in the congresses of the International Federation, as I am the secretary general of the hockey Federation of Azerbaijan. At the same time, every year I paid my membership fees. The problem was that I did not manage to establish contact with the sports leadership of Azerbaijan. Nevertheless, I began to participate in all congresses meetings of the international Federation and represent Azerbaijan.

Note that I did not ask for money, I need only an administrative resource. What does this mean? In particular, it is necessary to naturalize children who are ready to perform under the Azerbaijani flag. In addition, it is necessary to register two hockey clubs in Baku, even at a formal level. Considering that currently there is no adequate support and technical base for hockey competitions in Azerbaijan, the championship of Azerbaijan was held outside the country, here in Russia.

I gathered about 30 guys and took part in a friendly hockey league of Russia an won the “Silver” division under the brand of the Azerbaijani national team. I wrote many letters to the National Olympic Committee (NOC) of Azerbaijan, the Ministry of Youth and Sports and the Azerbaijan Embassy in Russia and other institution, but, unfortunately I received no response. I repeat, at present we do not ask for money, the parents of the children pay for for themselves ice rent and hockey equipment.

Tell us about the composition of the team?

The team includes Russian Kids and Azerbaijani Orhan Kyazimov. He has Azerbaijani roots both his father and mother, but he was born in Moscow. Basically, these are young kids aged 17-18. I only take exclusively young athletes for the future of Azerbaijani Hockey.

What is the motivation of Russians to act under the brand of the national team of Azerbaijan?

First and foremost, they are very fond of hockey. When people love hockey, they go to any country to demonstrate their skills and play there favorite sport. In Russia, they fail to play for the national team in terms of their skill level, but they let them move to countries like Armenia or other countries where hockey exists more or less, so it is possible to attract players to Azerbaijan.

What are the results of the Azerbaijani national team in the friendly hockey league?

At present we are located in the middle of the standings. In this league, mostly former professional players, all adults, play. Our team is staffed exclusively from young players, so we can say that we are performing quite well. Our young hockey players  practice and play with more experienced players, which contributes to their progress.

Given that Russia has such a strong hockey league “Kontinental Hockey League (KHL)”, which is the second the best league in the world after the NHL, the leaders of Russian hockey could be interested in expanding the geography of the league to Azerbaijan. is there interested in participating in the KHL?

If Azerbaijan were to create a high-level team and had interest in starting such a team I would be able to start a team in any Russian league, including the KHL. I also have good connections abroad, with Europeans, Americans and Canadians.

  Did you try to contact the Federation of Winter Sports of Azerbaijan?

I probably addressed the head of the Federation of Winter Sports of Azerbaijan, Iskender Khalilov, who lives in Moscow five hundred times. But he refers to the economic crisis in Russia. It is necessary to have 150 thousand rubles to form the national team of Azerbaijan, but this amount can not be singled out. I note that even our Turkish colleagues invite us to train. At the same time, they are ready to pay for the rental of ice, has long as we train together with Turkish hockey players and conduct joint training camps, competitions.

In Turkey much has been done to develop hockey. But In Azerbaijan the interest is very low it’s impossible to solve the problem in Azerbaijan for the sport of Hockey.

Hockey is one of the most popular sports that is included in the Winter Olympic Games, and it’s a big mistake that they do not want to popularize it. If there is a skating rink in Azerbaijan, four kinds of sports can be developed at once: figure skating, hockey, short track and curling – all of them are Olympic sports.

Apparently, the sports leadership of the country has a skeptical attitude to winter sports?

There are many countries with a warm climates, where there has never been a tradition of winter sports but they have began to develop winter sports. For example, at a recent congress in Moscow came a representative from Nepal, where they created a hockey federation. In the Arab countries also began to pay attention to hockey and began to invite Canadians. So the lack of traditions is not a problem for development of hockey.

Q & A With Jim Aldred

By George Da Silva – National Teams of Ice Hockey

This year Portugal played in their first ever international ice hockey tournament in Andorra. It’s been a long journey for the country to get to this point and long the way Canadian Jim Aldred has been playing and coaching the Portuguese National Team.

We caught up with Jim and asked him some question about Ice Hockey In Portugal.

Can you talk a little bit about your playing career and being drafted by the Buffalo Sabers?

My history commenced in Toronto where I was born. I was a big guy so I always played on teams that consisted of players who were a year older than I.

I played til Bantam and skipped Minor Midget and Midget and advanced to Junior B. At that time I was 15 playing in a league that consisted of mostly 19-21 year olds. `I was then drafted to the OHL as an underage player to the Kingston Canadiens. There I had the priviledge of playing with or against players such as Doug Gilmour, Bernie Nicholls, Dave Andreychuk, Johnny Vanbiesbrouck.. During my second year there, I was drafted to the Buffalo Sabres in the NHL Draft 3rd round, 59th overall. During my 3rd year with the Canadiens, I was traded to the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in the OHL where I finished my Junior career there and also had the priviledge of being a room mate with Johnny Vanbiesbrouck, and having Rick Tocchet as a team mate. As a Pro I played in the American Hockey League (AHL) with the Rochester Americans (Buffalo Sabers farm team) for two years side by side with Yvon Lambert, and attended training camps with great players such as Gilbert Perreault, Danny Gare, Lindy Ruff, Jim Schoenfeld. I also played in the International Hockey League for the Toledo Gold Diggers. Injuries got the best of me and after taking a year off I was on a plane to Holland as an import and played for the Nijmegen Spitmen where I played with Robert Forbes (Sidney Crosbies’ Uncle) and ended up winning the Championship back in 1988.

After your playing career you were the head coach of several teams in the GMHL. How did that help prepare you for what was to come?

As a head coach and player developer while working with different Junior A teams in the GMHL I worked with players not just from Canada and the USA but also from different corners of the world including Russia, Sweden, France, Italy, and Slovakia to name a few. I dealt with players who had different mentalities and outlooks which were taught in different Countries. The majority of them were being exposed to different nationalities for the very first time. I had to adapt to them and also get them to adapt to me and their new environment. Although ice hockey is an international language (to the Countries that have ice hockey) I had to work with the language barrier, different beliefs, different religions and old habits. For the majority, this was the first time they were away from the comforts of their own homes and from their families. I had to keep all of that in mind while building a winning hockey team. Some people think its easy being a coach, but there are many, many factors involved. You have to have the knowledge and be able to teach all of the required techniques for the game. You are not just a Coach, you have to be a teacher, a mentor, sometimes a parent, sometimes you have to be a friend and sometimes even their worst enemy. They have to learn new boundaries and expectations a little different from what they’re used to. After the development, you also need to build a team that can bond and work well together both on and off the ice. All of the above helped me with the position I currently find myself in at the moment. The role is reversed a bit as I’m the one who is now in a new Country and only understand a few Portuguese words, but I’m still finding myself adapting to the same scenarios and learning while I’m teaching the love for ice hockey. No, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

How did you end up in Portugal and becoming the head coach of Portugal National Team?

When I played pro for the Nijmegen Spitmen in Holland, I acquired a taste for the European lifestyle where everyone always made time for family and friends as opposed to the North American “go-go-go” lifestyle. I was in talks with the owner of Granada Igloo rink in Spain and the possibility of employment there. At the same time my in-laws decided to move full time to Portugal. One thing leads to another and my wife and I packed up and moved. During the construction delays of the rink in Span, we decided to temporarily make Portugal our home. After enjoying a lot of family and beach time, I started missing hockey. That’s when I began searching the Internet for hockey in Portugal and met a gentleman who put me in contact with Mauricio Xavier (President of FDPG – which is no longer exists) and other Portuguese residents which some have lived abroad and also acquired some passion for Ice Hockey. I started volunteering my time to coaching and developing them on in line skates and entered them into a tournament in Spain and, as they say, the rest is history.

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How would you describe the caliber of the Portuguese players compared to North America?

North Americans grew up with ice hockey being basically the #1 sport …especially in Canada. I was on the ice by the time I was 4 years old. My Dad had signed me into a league by the time I was four and a half. I was lucky that I was raised in a Country where I had that opportunity & privilege. Saturday nights we would watch hockey games on TV after dinner. I would imagine being like one of my idols one day in the future. The excitement was overwhelming. If you loved it, you’d eat, sleep, breathe ice hockey. As a player, you’d miss many family functions and celebrations either due to practices or games. When talking about Portugal, the children do not have that same opportunity or advantage. There is no ice rink here. There is no ice hockey. Saturday evenings, the majority of the country will be watching a soccer game if there’s one being televised. Hence, their mindset, attitude, heart, dedication, is completely different. When discussing practices, they’ll miss one because there’s a birthday party they have to attend. They’ll miss another because it’s a holiday and the list goes on. Their mentality is different. But it’s due to the environment they’re currently in and how they were raised. This is changing now. This will be different once we have an ice rink. I have faith that the future will be brighter.

How did you prepare the National Team for their very first International tournament in Andorra?

I’d travel over 150 km’s each way to practically volunteer my time and coaching experience 2 times per week with anyone who wanted to join practices since January. If there are players that want to learn (m/f of all ages) I want to teach them. Since during the week the practice times available are only late at night, this would mean I’d be getting home shortly after 2 in the morning as the majority of the players are from around the greater Lisbon area. But, unlike the devoted players who would attend and work hard at the practices, at least I didn’t have to get up early to go to work or to go to School the next morning as is the case with the majority of the players. Since this was the first time that the majority of the players were being trained by a professional coach, there was a lot to be taught and a lot for them to learn. Skills, drills, hockey sense, hard work, bad habits, discipline, dedication and team work had a lot of room for improvement.

What is your take on how Portugal played in Andorra at the 2017 Development Cup?

To be honest, I was hesitant about accepting the invitation. We went in and my only expectation was to not get blown away. You have to keep in mind that the other teams we would be facing all practice regularly on ice. I’ll remind you that we practice on in line skates. Along with that, the other teams had players they acquired from abroad. We were able to acquire 2 Portuguese residents that joined our team from France (Sylvain Rodrigues and Christopher Teixeira Leite) and one player who had recently moved to Portugal from the US (Mateus de Melo), but we also had a young man that got to play ice hockey for his very first time (Yuri El-Zein). Our youngest goalkeeper (20 years old) who practically stood on his head defending shots fired at him (Ivan Silva) kept us in the games he played even though this was only his second time playing on ice. Needless to say when we won the first game, we were ecstatic. And although one of our players ended up getting a ride to the hospital (Diogo Xavier) after breaking his thumb during the last game, he was back in time to celebrate our second victory and partaking in the excitement of watching our captain (Kevin Hortinha) receive the bronze cup at the closing ceremony for the Portugal National Ice Hockey Team for their very first time. I’m extremely proud of how all of the guys came together and played as a great TEAM. I believe they’ve bonded more than ever and recognized that there’s more hard work to be done to get to the next level. They now truly understand that it takes TEAMWORK to be achieve that. That weekend, they reflected what they’ve learnt along the way, they’ve been working hard and it shows. They now have a different type of outlook and a new hunger to get better and do more moving forward. The recent practices reflect this and, I’m so proud of each of them and excited to see what the future has in store for them.

What is the biggest obstacle to obtaining money from Investors?

There’s no pinpointing it down to one obstacle, it’s a combination of multiple obstacles. We need to keep in mind that Portugal is still coming out of a crisis they experienced years go. With that in mind, nobody is wanting to step out of their comfort zone and invest into something that is totally new to them. A lot of people don’t adapt well to change. And, although ice hockey arenas are supported in every other Capital of all other European Countries, Lisbon is still the only one that hasn’t crossed that milestone. They say Portugal doesn’t have money for “that”. Portugal does have money, however, the money goes towards funding soccer and the Portuguese traditional hockey, and towards figure skating on roller skates. It works for them, it has worked for them and that is the mentality here that we need to change. Normally in North America and other countries, it is usually a hockey lover (who can afford to), either individuals or a company that invests in a hockey team or in a rink. Unfortunately the majority of the Portuguese Nationality that reside in Portugal haven’t had the exposure to ice hockey to know the potential that an ice rink / ice sports could hold. Even though I’m a hockey coach, there are other sports such as speed skating, figure skating, curling and others that can not be developed in Portugal until we are able to attain our own permanent official sized ice rink. We know that there is a huge population of ex pats in Portugal that have the same dream as I do, go to the beach during the day and then off to the rink to watch a hockey game at night, yes, right here in this beautiful country. Maybe one or four of them would like to step up? With an ice rink, other business opportunities will also come about. We will need pro shops/ suppliers/ distributors for the equipment pertaining to all of the different ice sports. As of right now, obviously none of that is available in Portugal, actually even in line skates have to be ordered from abroad.

We all know that Portugal does NOT have an ice rink. Can you tell us what efforts (if any) have been made to get an ice rink built?

We are walking down all of the possible different avenues we can think of and following any leads that are suggested. We have a project which reflects Return on Investment within 5 years. We also made the decision to go under the umbrella of FDI-Portugal. (Federacao de desportos de inverno/The Federation of Winter Sports in Portugal). Their President, Pedro Farromba is also a member of the Olympic Committee here in Lisbon. FDI is also part of our journey in obtaining our first permanent official ice rink in Portugal. They are assisting us with our focus on the ice hockey operations and, they’re also working with other winter sports (curling, luge, skiing… ) We have had meetings with and are awaiting for a follow up with the Municipality of Sintra who has offered us the land to build if we can come up with the investors. We are also awaiting to hear back from the Municipalities of Oeiras and Cascais. We are putting ourselves out there via social media. Our Facebook page “Portugal Ice Hockey” is receiving a lot of attention. We have been reaching out to news stations and newspapers. Just recently one of our popular newspapers “Correio da Manha” ran a full page on us. Now that the small temporary ice rinks are poping up, we are taking that opportunity to have the team strap on their ice skates and we are holding meet, greet and skate events with the National and Luso Lynx Players. We held our first at the Dolce Vita Tejo shopping mall on November 18th and we are in the process of organizing some more. Basically, we need the public to know what we are doing. Getting as much exposure as possible is very important in hopes that the right person/people will gain interest and assist us with our goal, obtaining an ice rink.

The Luso Lynx is a new Ice hockey club from Portugal. Can you tell us about them and what are the expectations for the club?

I was invited to have a team join the Andalusian Ice Hockey League (AIHL) in Spain. I was hesitant at first due to the financial strain on the players who had recently dealt with the expense of going to Andorra’s 2017 Development Cup. After further conversations and having the FDI assisting with the registration fees, I received positive responses from the players. Not only from some of the players from the National team, but also from other players that have ice hockey experience. Interested players voted on names and came up with LUSO LYNX. (Thank you Mauricio Xavier for working on the jerseys) The league was willing to work with us to plan the calendar to ensure that we will only travel down once a month or so and play 2 to 3 games at a time as opposed to traveling down weekly and having us incur more expenses. Even with that, each player is still spending around 120 Euros out of each of their own pockets per trip on transportation, hotel and meals. We appreciate all of their sacrifices and dedication in this journey with us. By joining this league, along with expecting my players to gain more on ice experience and make them a stronger team for the upcoming scheduled tournaments (March in Holland and April in Granada, Spain), I’m also hoping that we will do well and that someone will gain interest and will want to sponsor us. We want to show everyone including and especially the Municipalities and possible investors that we do have potential and we do need an ice rink in Portugal. Why should we be vesting our funds in a different Country? Instead of us investing our money in their hotels and at their restaurants, if we had an ice hockey rink in Portugal, we could be holding tournaments and our businesses here could profit from teams coming from abroad to play here instead.

 

When will the Luso Lynx begin play?

First game will be Saturday November 25th and followed by November 26th, 2017

If anyone wanted to play or tryout for the Luso Lynx how would the get in contact?

They can email Portugalicehockey@gmail.com or phone +351 914 637 451 and speak with Christina Lopes.

If or when an Arena or ice rink is built what do you think the potential for ice hockey can be in Portugal as a non traditional sport.

Not “if” … an ice rink WILL be built in Portugal… within the next four years! It’s only a non traditional sport for now…once we get a rink, all that will change.

What is your favorite NHL team and Player?

This is a hard question for me to answer. My wife would want me to say my favorite team is the Toronto Maple Leafs. I personally enjoy watching any great games between two good teams. Back in the 70’s I’d cheer on the Flyers mainly because when I was younger, I looked up to Bobby Clarke with his style and leadership skills. Later on I admired Paul Coffey due to his skating ability and how he was able to control the game. I’m definitely showing my age here, aren’t I? I’m also a fan of Sidney Crosby who is an all around great player both defensively and ofensively with great leadership qualities. You can always count on him to perform. He has proven that playing in the NHL as well as during his time with Team Canada. Did I mention that I played pro with his uncle (Robert Forbes) back in Holland? I also enjoy watching Matthews and McDavid on the ice, and feel that their future is very bright should they continue on the path they’re currently on.

 

Q & A With Aleix Manosos

By George Da Silva –  National Teams of Ice Hockey

Andorra is a tiny, independent principality situated between France and Spain in the Pyrenees mountains. It’s known for its ski resorts and a tax-haven status that encourages duty-free shopping, but Andorra has a little secret that not to many people know about and that is it plays Ice Hockey.
We got a change to speak to Aleix Manosas Vice President of Andorra HG the only club in the country.

How did you become the Vice President of Andorran Ice Sports Federation?

I’ve been named President of the only ice hockey club in Andorra on May 2016. This same year I started to be a part of the Andorra Ice Sport Federation Board. In 2017 there was a Board change and I became the Vice President.

What changes do you think you can make for ice hockey that others have not made in the passed?

First of all I prepared a Development Plan for Andorra Ice Hockey involving referees, coaching and goalie training on one hand, and female and children hockey  development program on the other.

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

Ice hockey in Andorra has a short history. As usual in all Europe, soccer is the most played sport. In our country, skiing is the national sport and very well practiced, too. Andorra Hoquei Gel is the only ice hockey club, established in 1989. Since then, all the people who have been involved in the club has worked hard to develop this sport in our little country. We have played a regional league in France and we use to organize and participate in different friendly tournaments. Last year we started with a ladies team and a children teams Under 9. We have a lot of work to do but I’m sure that we are on the good path.

Andorra has been an IIHF member since 1995, why has the game taking so long to developed?

Ice hockey is a kind of sport that needs a lot of money to be developed. We are lucky to have the government and town hall help in that matter. Anyway, the easiest way to develop the sport is having senior league where child can mirror. Actually we are not there, but I hope that this will not take a lot of years to be done. As I said before, soccer is the most played sport in Andorra. The second one maybe is Basketball because Andorra has a team in the professional Spanish basketball league for the last two years.

There is only one Ice Hockey club in Andorra (Andorra Hoquei gel). What ice hockey programs does it provide for children and Adults?

Yes, there is only a club. Our coach and sportive director is using the Learn to Play program for the children. This helps a lot because all the kids are enjoying a the game a lot and that has been the main subject to achieve our goal of having an under 9 team.
In Adults we are playing and organizing several friendly tournaments in the club.

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The Andorra Hoquei Gel takes part in a senior tournament against clubs from France how has this tournament help the development of hockey in the country?

When you are taking part in tournaments like this, it’s is easier to bring new players, adults and children. Every player needs a goal to achieve, no matter your age. This kind of competitions will help us to grow hockey in Andorra.

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A new tournament will be played In Andorra at the end of the month 2017 Development Cup, why did Andorra get involved?

On may 2016 was my first time in the IIHF Congress. There I met people from a lot of different countries and how to learn to develop hockey in Andorra. during a coffee break, I was talking to the Ireland and Morocco delegates. They were talking about creating a new tournament where the little countries who are not available to play in IIHF competitions can play  against each other. That conversation was the seed for the Development Cup. During this year we were talking a lot about how to organize a Cup of that kind. For different reasons it was on standby for a while. At the beginning of 2017 we started to talk again. I proposed Andorra as host country for the first Development Cup. I thought that an international tournament would help Andorra to develop this sport. Since then, we are working a lot on the Cup, which is being played on the last weekend of September.

This will be the first time that the Andorran National Team plays in a tournament, How will the team be selected and prepare for this event?

Yes, for the first time Andorra has an Ice Hockey National Team. Our players have been selected by our National Coach, Oriol Boronat, an Spanish player of the Club Gel Puigcerdà and international player for Spain. We know him and we are sure that his experience is going to be a big helping point for us.

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When your tenure is over with Andorran Ice Sports Federation what things would like to have accomplished?

Once my tenure ends I hope to have accomplished the Children’s National program and have more participation on the following of the Development Cup tournaments and the most important thing: to help more people know that ice hockey is played in Andorra and to make this sport grow in our country.

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

Maybe the landscape surrounding the ice rink is different from other places. Andorra is nestled between mountains and hat makes it peculiar. In addition, we have good facilities and connections to carry out parallel activities.

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Q & A With Adil El Farj

By George Da Silva – National Teams of Ice Hockey

When you talk about the country of Morocco, Ice Hockey is not a subject unless you talk to Adil El Farj who is Morocco national team goalie and now is with  Fédération Royale Marocaine de Hockey sur Glace.
We caught up with Adil in Montreal and ask him some question about himself and Hockey in Morocco.

Where did you start playing the game of Ice hockey?

I live in Canada, so hockey here is not the national sport … it’s the national religion . So when my parents moved to Canada the logical thinking was to play hockey.

Goaltending is a tough position, why did you pick this position? 

As a kid from Montreal my idols were Patrick Roy, Felix Potvin, Jimmy Waite and later Martin Brodeur. So goaltending was a no brainier for me.

When did you hear about Hockey in Morocco?

I was in Quebec City in February 2006 and I saw that Morocco was a participant in the famous pee wee tournament. I was really proud to see them play.

Why did you become Involved in Morocco Hockey?

In 2008 the guys went over to UAE for the Arab cup and I got in touch with them to get involved !

What are the main challenges for the advancement of ice hockey in Morocco?

The biggest challenge right now is building a full size IIHF rink ! We have pressure from both the kids and the senior players to have one : The kids because of the growing number that want to join and start hockey, And adults because they want to play a real game 5 on 5 and not 3 on 3.
Having a full size rink will allow us to participate in the IIHF World Championship program and become a full member.

Right now we are stuck in a loop, like all the non participants countries we don’t have a regular ice so we don’t play in the IIHF championships . And since we don’t participate in any IIHF championship our authorities in Morocco don’t see why we  should have a rink.

In Morocco there are some small Ice rinks where you have held some hockey camps for kids, how did that go and will there be any future camps organized?

We had to refuse kids ! The ice was too small but we managed. During the 2015 IIHF congress we obtain donation of gear. This donation was VERY VERY much appreciated. It was not enough for the kids . Remember there is no equipment  stores in Morocco and the closes place to buy a puck is in Barcelona !

In 2016 the African Cup for club teams took place, How did Morocco do and will there be any future tournaments?

Oh it was fun! Even if it was a organization challenge, we had a lot fun.
What impressed the IIHF observers is the level of play of the teams that were there and also the crowd ! We had a full house.

Morocco National Team has not played since 2008 Arab Cup. You have mention to me about a possible organizing a tournament for small hockey nations,. has there been any progress since we last talk about it?

In my last IIHF congress in Moscow, we discussed with IIHF non participants countries to create a Championship ! The point of doing this is to give our players an opportunity to compete vs other players on an international  level.

Also our goals is to show the IIHF that we are taking things serious and we are doing something and not just waiting for a miracle !
In order For international hockey to develop, we and all the IIHF members that don’t participate in regular competition must have an international competition to offer our players a hope that they can compete with other hockey nations, otherwise we would  be telling them that they have no horizon or hope other than local house leagues!
Right now Namibia left the IIHF because they felt they are going no where with no participation.

We have to turn the tide to show the IIHF that small countries want play and want to grow the game.

Your Jersey is displayed at the Hockey Hall of Fame along with the hockey greats. This must of been a huge honour for you?

You have no idea how big an honor it is ! But most important is that this jersey and all the other artifacts are there because of all the guys and all the Morocco hockey players and staff. It’s a great honor for all of us.

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What would like to see happen in the next 5 yeas for Ice Hockey in Morocco and Africa in general?

My personal goals for the next five years
– build a full size arena
– increase the number of female players and have a female league.
– Participate in IIHF World Championship Program
– Organize an IIHF Championship for small nations
– Organize an IIHF semi annual congress

Q & A With Adrian Mizzi AKA: The Travelling Goalie

By George Da Silva – National Teams of Ice Hockey

In case you don’t know who Adrian Mizzi is and have been living under a rock or in a cave.
Mr Mizzi is the Travelling Goalie. He has played in over 30 countries and has seen places that most of us only dream of.

I don’t know anyone that knows more people in the game of hockey then Adrian. If I starting shouting out names he says he meet him or he is friends with or he took picture with that person and it does not matter whether he or she is well known or not in the hockey world Adrian knows who they are.

We had the great pleasure of talking with the Travelling Goalie and asking him a few questions, I hope all of you enjoy this Interview.

Where did your love for hockey come from?

Good Morning George ,

When I was a kid everyone was playing street hockey and the obvious way to make friends was to play and obviously to this day I still feel the same way about the game . It brings people together , not everyone is compatible but when you are on the ice nobody thinks about that and friendships grow out of this . I’ve loved the game almost all my life.

How did your hockey travels start for you?

When my best friend was killed in a tragic construction accident I decided I needed to leave the country to start something new so I moved to Amsterdam …. you can fill in the blanks , regardless I was bored and needed to play hockey and the internet was very new to me at this time . I didn’t know where to play in Holland and I didn’t have my gear with me so I found a team in Malta and contacted them and made plans to go meet them and travel with them to Dubai to play in their international tournament . I moved back to Toronto and one year later I made the trek and I was instantly hooked as I have always loved tournaments but at the same time I caught the travel bug really hard . After that I came home and immediately started looking for other interesting countries to visit to play hockey and then I ended up in Singapore .

What attracted you to playing in ice hockey tournaments around the world?

The people ! The camaraderie ! and definitely the beer LOL ! as I mentioned earlier … the travel bug is a very real thing .

How many countries have you played in and do you have plans to travel to more countries in the future?

Currently I have played in 36 countries and planning a trip to play in Australia and New Zealand which I am pretty sure will make me the first goalie to play on every inhabited continent .

Do you have any plans to join our friend Ryan Bahl in is attempt to play a hockey game in the South Pole?

I have signed up to go play in Antarctica but will try to make my own way over someday if I don’t get the invite . It is very expensive and would take a lot of work to make happen but nothing is impossible .

Did you ever think of playing in any leagues around the world and make it a career?

Of course I have dream t of playing professionally and unfortunately when I was younger we were never told of any pro leagues outside of North America or any of the other northern countries in Europe and Asia which probably would have been an option when i was younger . I have been offered coaching positions overseas but currently I am very content with my job in the film industry in Toronto and I have no plans of ever moving away … I am very proud to be a Canadian and there is nowhere else I would rather call home .

You recently played in Egypt, can you tells about that trip and about a famous picture of you
that got a lot of attention?

Egypt was fantastic . I have always wanted to go there ever since I was a small child , seeing the pyramids was an absolute dream come true . Getting a picture in my goalie gear in front of it was one of the highlights of my life . I am pretty sure that I was not supposed to do this and I did it anyway with the help of my Egyptian friends ( Ahmed & Ayman ) . The picture got a lot of attention and for all the right reasons as I want to get ice hockey growing in Egypt . Since the picture went crazy online my friends from Anubis Ice Hockey ( https://www.facebook.com/EgyptAnubis/ ) have had a few television interviews and there has been some more people joining to play …. the sport is growing and they need as much help as possible and that is why I am keeping my GoFundMe page going to collect more money to take more gear to them hopefully in December .

You also start a Egyptian Ice Hockey Drive, How is that going and if anyone want to help where would they go?

Thanks for asking . The hockey drive I did for Egypt was fantastic . My friend here in Toronto ( Brendan Krick ) donated his old goalie equipment so I traveled from here for the first time without my own full kit and I flew to England to meet my friends from the Birmingham Rockets ( https://www.facebook.com/birminghamrockets/ ) and they donated loads of gear thanks to Gemma Taylor Albutt who runs the team there . From there I needed to transport the gear and that is where the GoFundMe page came in (  https://www.gofundme.com/Egyptianicehockey ) and with the money I collected I paid the hefty baggage fees to fly the gear over …. the fundraising went better then I thought before leaving Toronto with a lot of my amazing friends pitching in enough to even pay for 2 full sized nets and I can’t forget the donations and deals that I got from my friends at my favorite hockey store on the planet Toronto Hockey Repair/Goalie Heaven ( http://www.goalieheaven.com/ ) If anyone is interested in helping out for the next trip then please make a donation and I will do my best to get another 100 kilos of gear over to Egypt ! 

You have played in many places around the world and I am sure you have countless stories, but can you share with us one your two stories that stand pout for you?

you do know I’m a goalie and I get hit in the head with pucks a lot right ? hahaha ! my memory is a bit shot buddy …. the first trip I received an invite for was to go play for a team from Jakarta , Indonesia . My good friend from Singapore ( Matt Wheeler ) invited me to stay with him and play for the first ever team to travel from Indonesia to play in an international tourney (Singapore) . Matt was such an amazing guy and unfortunately he is no longer with us and I will never forget him and that trip where I was treated very well . Another trip that stands out was my trip to South America with my German buddies Andi Tanzer and Timo Korner . We went to Brazil , Argentina and Chile and in Chile it was actually my idea to start a tournament there in Punta Arenas which is still going on . We played under my club team as the Ghetto Blasters and played in the first ever live televised match in Chile in front of a crowd of approximately 700 spectators .

Do you have any tips for people who may want to travel and play hockey like you have?

If you are a hockey player flying from anywhere always make sure to check if the airline carries ice hockey equipment for free and follow the guidelines and tape sticks together or buy a stick bag . If you have to pay for those sticks to come home then consider leaving them behind for people that can use them sometimes the baggage fees outweighs the cost of the twigs .

In 2009 you start a team called the Ghetto Blasters can you tells about this team and why you started it?

The Ghetto Blasters ( https://www.facebook.com/groups/ghettoblasterhockey/ ) started when I hurt my neck and realized I have degenerative disc disorder and I almost needed surgery . The two teams I was playing for both promised to have the spot for me when I returned and both lied blatantly to my face … I was upset and sick of being treated like a rag doll so I started my own club which has been going strong now for 8 years and have been mentioned on the IIHF website for winning Copa Invernada in Chile and I am pretty sure that I have left a jersey in pretty much every country I have visited so we are quite well known in certain circles . We play twice a week in Toronto and we are always welcoming international friends to join us for our games .

You are also a huge football fan and in particular a Aston Villa fan, how did you become a fan of this team?

To make a long story short … I have family in Birmingham , England . My great aunt who is my grandmothers sister is very dear to me and I visit her as much as I can ! Her husband who is no longer with us was a Birmingham City fan and my cousin Steven is a Derby supporter and my cousin Paul is an Aston Villa supporter … lets just say Paul put in the best effort to get me into watching football as I honestly was not a big fan because I never liked the diving and embellishing that goes on during the games because as a hockey player I have grown up with the values of not flopping around and making a fool of myself . To this day I still don’t like that but have grown to enjoy the game and definitely will be a Villa supporter until I die … VTID ! UTV !

Of all your travels so far do you have any favorite places?

These questions flow so well , its like you know what I’m gonna say already ? hahaha ! My home away from home is Birmingham . My friends and family there are fantastic and I always have a place to crash and a team to skate with and most of all … someone to have a pint with 🙂

If you want to learn more about the Travelling Goalie check out his blog The Travelling Goalie

Q & A With Luis de Almeida Johansson

By George Da Silva – National Teams of Ice Hockey

Who is Luis de Almeida Johansson, Not known in the hockey circles so let me introduce him he is the national team goalie for Portugal and we had the great pleasure of speaking to him about hockey in Portugal.

Can you tell our viewers where did you start playing hockey?

I grew up in Quebec, Canada and I started playing hockey when I was a child. It’s almost impossible to not play hockey while your young in Canada. It becomes almost mandatory to everyone to skate and play at least at some stage. It is a true religion over there. And of course, we played hockey everywhere, at school, during winter in the exterior ice rinks, at the back garden.

Why did you became a goalie?

I started playing as a center forward, but to be frank, I always wanted to become a goalie. I truly admire someone that is willing to face dozens of shots per practice and game and still have a smile on their face. I also like the pressure behind it, it’s almost like being a lonely wolf within a wolf pack.

And of course, I had my childhood hockey idols that were all goalies, like Martin Brodeur, Dominik Hasek, Jocelyn Thibault and Damian Rhodes. And, one day, my team was searching for a goalie, so that was the moment, when I got the chance to fulfill my dream.

How did you hear about ice hockey in Portugal?

I moved to Portugal in 1996, but it was not until, I guess around 1999 to 2000. The vast majority of players that played ice hockey also played inline, so during those years we had an inline hockey championship and there was an idea to perform an exhibition game between a Portuguese national team and a Canadian team from Toronto area. That was the first major event for the Portuguese ice hockey community and even if I wasn’t part of the group at that moment, that was when I started playing ice hockey in Portugal.

Luis de Almeida Johansson with Team Portugal.

What made you get involved in ice hockey in Portugal?

At the beginning, I would say that it was almost a must to maintain my sanity in a country where football is dominant. I had to play inline and ice hockey to keep reminding me of my roots. It also kept me close to the Canadian expat community.

Currently and with me being already on to my 30’s, it’s really to try to develop the sport in the country and to leave a legacy to the new generation of players.

When you tell people in Portugal about ice hockey what is there reaction?

When we started, I guess people didn’t really believed that we were playing ice hockey in Portugal. But recently we have been playing more and more games that have received some media coverage. As a result, the public opinion is changing. I guess people wonder how can we play ice hockey without a permanent ice rink…

As for the moment, we have a temporary ice rink near the border with Spain, for roughly two months per year, in a town called Elvas. A very peculiar fact about this arena is that it was made primarily for bull fighting spectacle’s.

Jim Aldred is coaching the team. How has he help with the ice hockey program in Portugal?

It was a turning point in the Portuguese ice hockey. Jim is a great coach that has the experience in developing young players. He also played professional and has the knowledge of someone that was within a NHL organization, the Buffalo Sabres. He also knows what it takes to bring us to the next level. I think that having the chance to have a coach with these kind of skills, is clearly the right path for a successful future.

Jim Aldred’s wife, Cristina is also playing a pivotal role within the support for the national team. She is behind many of the backstage organizational tasks, that allows the players to concentrate on their performance.

National Team of Portugal.

Portugal recently played in the Mr Taxi Cup in Spain, how do you think the team perform?

Under the current circumstances, I think that the Portuguese team played within their possibilities. We can’t forget that the vast majority of team practice prior to this tournament, were made in a roller hockey rink. The most important aim for the team, was to gain experience and to face opponents from all over Europe.

On a very positive note we had  Isaac Carreiro who has been appointed as the top left winger for the tournament and it was also the first time that a Portuguese goalie had a shutout, with Max Andreyev’s 5-0 win against the Granada Eagles .

Outside of not having a suitable rink in the country, what other challenge are there for hockey in Portugal?

In first place, we need to quickly have a full up to speed Ice Hockey Federation, so that we can participate and promote ice hockey in the country. We also need to raise awareness within the authorities and civilian society that to have a permanent ice rink is not an unbelievable project and that it can be sustainable in the future, not only for ice sports, but also with a social mission within the community. The construction of the ice rink infrastructure is crucial for the development of the sport, I have no doubt about it.

Regarding the players, I’m sure we have the talent to perform, we have the example of great hockey players like John Tavares and Mike Ribeiro that have Portuguese roots. On another note, the country is also one of the major powers in roller hockey.

Finally, the Portuguese community in countries with ice hockey tradition, like Canada and the United States is so big that, in the near future, I would expect some players that play abroad to join the national team and to get these expat communities to support our project

Are there any future events plan for Portugal National Team?

Currently we have some invitations in hand to attend tournaments abroad. In the upcoming months, we expect to have some more information about the Schedule for 2017-2018.
Personally, I would enjoy seeing the Portuguese team play near expat Portuguese communities. It would be a great way to promote the sport and also to present our project for a future ice rink in the country.

What you like to tell the Portuguese people about ice hockey in Portugal?

That our dream of having an ice rink, it’s not a pharaonic enterprise. We truly believe that once we get this infrastructure in the country we will be able to not only develop ice sports, but also to be an asset to the community. We will be able to introduce children to different ice sports and who knows what they can become.
Also, Lisbon is currently bidding to host the title of 2021 European Capital of Sports. This could be a great opportunity to build an ice rink, unfortunately, Lisbon is still one of the few European capitals without an ice rink, then this would be perfect moment to do it.

Luis de Almeida Johansson in game action with Portugal.

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