Category: Interviews (page 1 of 3)

Q & A With Jim Aldred

By 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.

Image result for Jim Aldred Nijmegen Spitmen

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 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 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 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 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.

Q & A With Monica Arias

By National Teams of Ice Hockey

Not too many people knew about ice hockey in Chile until the last few years. This year Chile will take part in the Pan American Ice Hockey tournament for the first time, ahead of the Pan American Ice Hockey Tournament we had an opportunity to speak with the President of the  Federación Chilena de Hockey en Linea y en Hielo.

How did ice hockey start in Chile?

Ice hockey started in Chile in Punta Arenas and Santiago both at the same time.

When did you become President of Federación Chilena de Hockey en Linea y en Hielo?

On February 2005, the Chilean Ice Hockey Federation, an affiliated member of IIHF, was legally constituted. I was president until 2009.
Then, in 2014 we reactivated the functions of the Federation after being closed from 2009 to 2014, without activities and without a directions.

Why has the game of ice hockey taking so long to developed in Chile?

Firstly, because in Chile inline hockey is played and the other reason is the lack of ice hockey rinks in the country.
Very little ice hockey is played because inline hockey players are not attracted to the game of ice hockey.

How many ice rinks are there in Chile?

We have no Ice rinks in Chile only recreational ice rinks.

How many ice hockey players are there in Chile?

In Santiago approximately 30 ice hockey players. In Punta Arenas, there are more players because they have been entering the school system and motivating the children to play ice hockey.
The equipment is expensive. The people that bring equipment have to recover there investment and expenses. It is very expensive sport to play.

What Changes are you going to try to make to improve Ice hockey in the country?

To promote ice hockey after participating in the Pan American Ice Hockey Tournament.

Motivate children to play ice hockey.

Obtain sponsorship to develop ice hockey.

Create competitions

Find support in the diffusion of ice hockey.

Promote ice hockey in schools for all ages.

The Copa Invernada Tournament is a annual 3 on 3 Tournament played in Punta Arenas, Chile, Do you have any plans to improve this tournament in the future?

Until there is a ice rick with official measurements or bigger than the one’s we have in Chile, we will continue playing 3×3.
Hopefully, someone wants to invest in ice hockey in our country, on a bigger ice rink where we can play and promote the game in schools.
In Chile, investing in individual sports and new sports have to continue to wait for someone to wake up and be interested in investing.
Right now We would have to win something big to be considered as a profitable investment.

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Ice Hockey in Punta Arenas.

Chile Men’s National Ice Hockey Team is going to make their debut at this years Pan American Ice Hockey Tournament. How did this come about?

The Chilean team that competes for the first time in the Pan American formed with players from Punta Arenas, Santiago and Chilean players living outside Chile.
Many good players turn us down and decided not to go they believe that they were not prepared for this challenge.

Will the Men’s National Team team be all inline hockey players or will it feature some local ice hockey players?

Many of the ice hockey players are inline hockey players but we have some who have only played ice hockey.

Are there any future plans to a Chilean ice hockey League?

The plans to make a league in Chile are very difficult …. Punta Arenas ice rink is very far from Santiago. We did a championship with inline hockey players who have been playing hockey for a longer time rather than the ice players, it was very entertaining.
Playing strategies are dominated by inline hockey for years they have been practicing.
I think it would be the great motivation to be in constant leagues or championships, so that the training would have a purpose.

When you are done being President what do you hope Chile ice hockey will look like?

When I am  finish being president of the federation, I hope that the leaders and players of inline hockey and in ice hockey can unite and work together with the same aim over the personal interests.

I think there is a lack of unity and interest in a common good.

I hope that hockey continues to grow, that more professionals are willing to invest time in obtaining the resources.

That there are more schools and more rinks where children can skate.

Personally, I hope to continue to teach ice hockey and train players who can then become trainers themselves.

Also, I hope we can have a bigger Ice rink with the proper facilities.

That hockey does not die and continues to grow so that we can have a lot of hockey for many years.

May this Pan American Tournament be the first of many.

A dream that will be …. we have wanted to play in a championship for at least one year.

 

“We only have one way to go and it’s up! “

By Confederação Brasileira de Desportos no Gelo

The 35-year-old American, Jens Hinderlie, lives in Rio de Janeiro and has been coach of the Brazilian Ice Hockey Team since 2015. In the first campaign, he led the country to the unprecedented bronze medal at the Pan American Games in the City from Mexico. Now, about to participate in another edition, he details his experience alongside the Brazilian team, the challenges of the sport and expectations for the competition, which takes place between June 5 and 11 in Mexico again.

In 2015, Brazil won its first medal in ice hockey. Can we expect results as good or even better?

It seems like every year is evolving. In 2015, our best year, we had full support, structure and a plan to build a competitive hockey team – and we won the bronze medal. Last year things changed. Some of our best athletes could not go. We struggled to score and finished fourth. I did not have that much talent, but in many ways I think we’ve improved. This year we have made several recruitment’s and tried to convince some of the best players to go to Mexico. I am very confident in the list of athletes we are bringing in this year. The challenge is how fast we can become a team – it’s our next hurdle. We have only a few days to prepare. I’m very excited. I think we have a great chance of competing for gold.

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

The biggest obstacles are infrastructure, organization and culture. We do not have ice to practice and train. If we had, even for a month, it would help a lot! We also have to be well organized to plan for the future. Brazil is hungry for something new in sports. Ice hockey can feed this hunger, but we have to start slow. We have to be patient, but at the same time keep spreading what we are already doing.

What can ice hockey do to grow in the country?

We must continue to share our history. We have a great documentary produced last season and we have to be successful when we play international matches. We get a lot of interest from people in the United States and Canada. Thus, aid from outside of the country will be the key. Besides, who knows even a Hollywood movie can be made about us? We only have one direction to go and it’s up!

What are the main objectives in preparation for the Pan American Ice Hockey?

Our focus will be on team play. Hockey is a great collective sport and we have to have everyone on the same page. Trust, responsibility, sacrifice, and work ethic: all of these components are crucial to successful teams. And, finally, train the brains of these players to think about ice hockey. It’s a different sport than inline and we have a very short time to prepare ourselves.

Who are the main rivals for Brazil and what does our team need to do to beat them?

I would say that Mexico’s U-20 team is our biggest rival. We had some great games against them last seasons. Of course, Argentina is also a great opponent. But we get better every year and I’m very proud to train these athletes. We hope to have the support of all Brazil!

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Jens Hinderlie coaching Brazilian players

Q & A With Aaron Guli

By National Team of Ice Hockey

We had the great pleasure to speak to Aaron Guli President of the Ireland Ice Hockey Association. Ireland has not been on the International scene in a number of years, but Aaron Guli hopes to change that someday but for now the focus is on youth hockey and building the game from with in.

Can you give us some insight on when you became President of the Ireland Ice Hockey Association and why did you take the job?

I became President of the IIHA four years ago. I took the job because our association was in need of a complete overhaul. With my experience in hockey and  business I felt that I could help to implement the changes that were needed.

Ireland has a rich ice hockey history but the game has not taking off like some people would like, can you explain why?

The reason for the stagnation in hockey here in Ireland boils down to one issue, the lack of a permanent rink. There was a lovely arena in Dundalk but it closed in 2010 due to management issues. So without a rink it becomes difficult to implement programs to grow the game.

The Belfast Giants have helped ice hockey grow in Northern Ireland, but has it helped Ireland?

The Belfast Giants have certainly been key in the growth of hockey in Northern Ireland. I feel that their influence has been minimal here in Ireland. It’s good to be able to go and see a live game but it is a haul to get there. It would be roughly two hours each way to get there from Dublin. We have a cable channel here that shows NHL, Swedish Elite League and English Elite League games.

What other things is the IIHA doing to grow the game in Ireland?

There are a good few things we have been focusing on over these last four years. First we are focusing on youth hockey. We have established the first ever National Junior Development Program. We take the more advanced players from out youth clubs and start to prepare them to represent Ireland on an international level. We call the team the Saints. We have been having them travel internationally the past year. We’ve were in Boston and Toronto, Iceland, UK last season and we have teams traveling to Spain, England, and Belgium this season. We work on getting donations of equipment sent from North America to provide for the youth clubs. This helps to lower the costs. We have been working on improving our coaches nationally through course work and seminars. On a senior level we created an annual Cup competition. In one year it has grown from four teams to ten. We have been fortunate to have four teams from Northern Ireland take part this season. There are certainly more things we have been working on but these are just a few.

IIHA Saints in Toronto, Canada.

Ireland Men’s National Team has not played at the IIHF World Championships since 2013 with the closure of the Dundalk Ice dome. When do think Ireland will be back at the International stage?

We are not allowed to put any of our teams in IIHF World Championships due to not having a rink. The IIHF Minimum Participation Rules state that until we get a permanent arena we can not take part.

Are there any future plans to build an Olympic size arena in Ireland?

The IIHA is continuously working on trying to get a new rink open. We have two main possibilities at this point. There is the facility in Dundalk that closed seven years ago and there is a site in Dublin we have been working on. The major issue we have at this point is financing. Our government does not support sports like ours so we would not be in a position to receive support from them. After completing a comprehensive business plan we are looking, primarily in North America, for investment.

How do you think Ireland compares to other national teams after being away for a numbers of years from the international stage?

On the Div 3 level, that was the last level we competed at, I think we would still be one of the top teams in that division.

The Irish Ice Hockey League was founded in 2007 but it collapsed due to funding issues. Are there any plans to revive the league?

The IIHL actually folded when the rink in Dundalk closed. Without a rink it’s rather difficult to run a league. Once we get a rink open again we may revisit the idea of restarting the league but it’s not something we focus on at this time. The Cross Border Cup is the extent of what we are offering at this time.

The league’s inaugural champions Dundalk Bulls 2007-2008.

Can you elaborate about the Cross Border Cup. Who plays in it and when is it played?

The Cross Border Cup consists of 8 clubs and 10 teams. There are 3 clubs/4 teams from Northern Ireland and 5 clubs/6 teams from Ireland. We are currently in the playoff final rounds now. That has been broken in to two levels, A & B. It is played on varying nights, primarily on Saturday nights. The teams are made up of players 18 yrs of age and older (there are a few exceptions of players between 16-17 yrs based on playing ability). The Cup is also open to male and female players.

Have you had any seminaries with players or coaches to improve their skills?

We have been focusing on sending our kids and coaches abroad for camps and seminars. This summer, though, I am hoping to bring over a power skating instructor to run a camp at one of the rinks in Northern Ireland.

What would you like people to know about Irish Ice hockey?

We have hockey here in Ireland! We have a great mix of Irish, eastern European, and North American players. We have a growing youth program. We do this all without a rink. Imagine what it would be like with a rink. We have two great locations to get a rink opened but we need investment. We are hoping to attract interest from North amebic in that regard. Hockey is a sport made for the Irish, fast and physical.

What is your favorite NHL team and player?

The Montreal Canadiens. Past, Larry Robinson. Current, PK Subban or Carey Price.

Q & A With Francois Gautier

By National Teams of Ice Hockey

With the average temperature of 30°C (85°F) you wouldn’t think ice hockey would be played in the Philippines, but the fact is the game has been played on the island for over 2 decades.

We had the great pleasure of speaking to Francois Gautier General Manger of Hockey Philippines,
Tournament Director, PHIT and Hockey Player, jack of all trades.

Ice hockey has been played for a number of years in the country. Why did it take so long to get it organize?

Indeed ice hockey has been in the Philippines for more than two decades, there were attempts in the past to form a federation but all were unsuccessful as it failed to gather everyone together. Fortunately about two to three years ago, a new group emerge and was successful in bringing in all parties together and form the federation, Hockey Philippines.

How many ice rinks are there in the country and are their any plans to build more?

There is a total of 4 rinks currently. 3 in the metro area (southmall – small rink, megamall and mall of Asia – Olympic size) and 1 in the island of Cebu. A new rink at the SM mall of Asia third floor is in the plans in time for the 2019 SEA games in the Philippines.

Can you tells us about the Manila ice hockey league?

The MIHL was established in 2008, starting with two “half”‘ seasons before eventually going one full season. It is a 4 team recreational league composed of expats and local players, more and more local players are participating especially with the youth growing up.

How did you get involved with Philippines ice hockey?

I was actually one of the first hockey players of the Philippines, starting my hockey career when I was 7 or 8 back in 1991 in southmall rink.
I started getting involved in organizing hockey starting from weekly pick up games to also helping out start and run the league (I was commissioner for a couple of years and I am in my 5th year as GM) – eventually I got into it a little more with the federation as one of its founders and GM.

You were part of the first Philippines national ice hockey team that competed at the Asian Winter Games. Do you think the team reach it’s expectations?

I think we went to Winter Games with one goal in mind and it was to show the world that Philippine Hockey is here and well and we are not a country to take lightly in our division.
We of course hoped to bring home the gold but considering it was our first time in an international tournament with IIHF rules and format, we reach a big milestone bringing home the bronze.
It was truly an honor representing my country and making it proud with our achievement.

The first ever Philippines National Ice Hockey Team at the Asian Winter Games in Sapporo, Japan.


What are the expectations for the up coming Challenge Cup of Asia and the South East Asia Games later this summer?

I think for the upcoming CCOA in Kuwait as well as the SEAG in Malaysia, we are aiming once again to come out on top, we are determined to work and prepare even harder than we did for the Winter Games. The competition in both will be different, with the SEAG level being higher as we will be facing the likes of Thailand who won the division I tournament in AWG.

Where does Philippines ice hockey get it’s funding from?

Our funding is basically from the players themselves, but now we are getting support from our government and local companies, and also from our federation president that has been contributing a great deal to help us flourish the way we have the past couple of years.

Do you see Ice hockey challenging basketball for popularity in the Philippines?

As a basketball nation, I think it will be a very big challenge but nonetheless we are ready and determined to put Hockey on the map in the Philippines, making it one of the popular sports in the country by working hard and achieving milestones our countrymen can be proud of and aspire to.

How would you evaluate the ice hockey talent in the country?

Filipinos are born athletes. The moment we put our minds into something we love, with proper training, equipment and facilities, we can achieve many great things. I am amazed with the talent and skill that our youth is showing and only give me very high hopes for the future.

Did you Idolize and hockey players when you were growing up?

Haha. I think any hockey player idolized one or two greats growing up, and I am no exception. I grew up and still am a Ducks fan (yes it started because of the movie, heck I started hockey also because of it) – so it was the tandem of Paul Kariya and, of course the Finnish flash, Teemu Selanne, which is, by far, my all time favorite player. I wish my backhand is as good as his though…

Q & A With Shahryar Amini Captain of Iran

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By National Teams of Ice Hockey

We had the great pleasure to talked to the Captain of Camel Rapperswil-Jona and also the first captain of the Iranian National Ice Hockey Team Shahryar Amini.

Was ice hockey your first choice of sports when you were growing up?

Well actually no. I started with soccer when I was 9rowing up. Ice hockey is not that cheap and easy in Switzerland when you have a single mom.
It takes up a lot of time and costs a lot – so I went to hockey when I was 13 and learned everything on my own.

Outside from your self you do you credit for helping you learn the game of ice hockey?

I have been playing for 23 years Ice Hockey and still playing at the Swiss Regio League for EHC Rapperswil Jona Camel and EHC Rapperswil Jona II and also in a fun team for Züri Wizards.
During summer I’m playing for Wetzikon Sharks Inlinehockey and maybe will change this year to Switzerland 2nd highest league.

Did you ever think in your wildest dreams that Iran would have a national team and how did you find out about Iran hockey?

To be honest I wished for it for so many years, but never thought it would happen or that I could be a part of it. Actually I saw a flyer. They were looking for players during
the inline hockey world championship in Asiago. Funnily I only saw it because they played against Switzerland (some friends play for the Swiss National Team).

When did you find out that you were going to be named captain of the first Ice hockey team from Iran and what did it mean to you?

That was right before the games, February 1st I think. It means a lot to me. To be the captain of the 1st national ice hockey team – that’s the greatest honour you could ever get. My mum was so proud when she heard about that.

First Captain of Iran Shahryar Amini.

When preparing for the Asian Winter Games Iran had two camps In Kazakhstan and Italy. How did those camps go and how many people showed up?

Actually we had three camps. First Asiago right after the Inline Hockey Games, then Kazakhstan and in the end in Dubai. I think we always were about 15 players.
It went really well. The Iranian players learned soooo fast. Jalal Keyhanfar wasn’t on the ice once before in his life and now he’s one of our fastest skaters – that’s unbelievable.
All the Iranian players made a huge step forward. I mean they never played on ice before except Farzad Houshidari, who’s also a world class Inline Hockey Player.

Iran was disqualified from the Asian Winter Games, can you tell us what happened in Sapporo, Japan?

Well, we got the accreditation of all our players in November. 1 day before we arrived in Sapporo we heard about some issues regarding our players. There was a protest from another team, saying we have too many foreign players. No one from our Olympic Committee knew that the IOC changed the rule after the Winter Games in Kazakhstan. So the rule is that all athletes have to be born in Asia or have lived at least 3 years in their country. So based on that, 13 players of our team are not allowed to play – that’s fact. The time of telling us what the issue is, wasn’t really nice and fair though. We couldn’t react. We couldn’t get any documents of the players on time and not even report new players. So two days before the games started, Iran was disqualified from the games because we didn’t have enough allowed players (15 players, 2 goalkeepers)

            Team Iran in Sapporo, Japan.

If Iran were to take part in another major ice hockey tournament, what things will Iran do to prevent what happened in Sapporo, Japan?

Read all the rules thoroughly for sure, getting all the documents ready and be prepared for any issues regarding our players.

Seeing the camps and playing in friendlies with the national team, how would you rate the talent level in Iran?

We are going to have a huge future. I mean Samson Mahbod is a KHL player, we have a bunch of other good and young players, like Jeramy Rezaeepour, Benjamin Ghaffari (Goalkeeper), Hamid Gharaee. (highest Junior Level in Switzerland – he’s only 17). It’s also going to be a big inspiration for people in Iran to start playing ice hockey.

What is next for Iran ice hockey, will there be a ice hockey league in the country for local players to play in?

Yes for sure, otherwise we do not get a membership of the IIHF. Ice Rinks are already planned.

When do you think Iran will apply for IIHF membership?

We already did, we just have to wait for the official conference in May.

Can you watch NHL on Iranian TV?

I think they do over VPN connection etc. but I can’t say for sure, as I live in Switzerland.

After the Sapporo experience what is next for you in terms of ice hockey? 

I think everybody still has to digest what happened in Sapporo. I’m 100% sure we would win gold with our roster. After everyone calmed down and built up new energy we are going to prepare for the World Roller Games in China. The hockey season on ice is over now so we have time to make plans for 2017/18. Our team head Kaveh Sedghi put a lot of effort and energy to build up everything. I think we will sit together with Coach Christian Müller from Germany in a while and make plans to start a new chapter of Iran’s version of miracle on ice. We are still One Team One Dream – making hockey big in Iran.

Who is your favorite ice hockey player past or present?

Well as a longtime Pens fan definitely Mario Lemieux and Sidney Crosby.

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