MEXICO CITY – The Mexican Ice Hockey Federation will start the 2011 IIHF World U20 Championship Division III with a bang. It will host the opening game, Mexico vs. Bulgaria, on Mexico City’s main square and expect no less than 50,000 people to the outdoor game. What seems like an unusual idea will become reality on 9th January.
Mexico City might not be the most usual place to play outdoors. At this time of year the temperature is expected to go up to 23°C during the day and 9°C at night. But that’s exactly what currently happens on the Plaza de la Constitución, also known as Zócalo, which measures 240 by 240 metres, one of the biggest squares in the world.
The Zócalo is the heart of the city, both of the modern city and during the Aztec times as remainders of a former temple show. It is the place of festivities, celebration, concerts and parades. And now, it is a place for ice hockey.
Three years ago, city authorities started building an ice rink each winter, both for leisure, but also to showcase different ice sports. And with temporary tribunes that were promised by the Mayor for the game on Sunday, the capacity should rise from 20,000 to 50,000 for the game. With free admission, Joaquin de la Garma, the President of the Mexican Ice Hockey Federation, hopes to fill this unusual arena.
The Bulgarians agreed to take part in this extraordinary opening game played between Aztec pyramids, the Cathedral, and the National Palace.
“We have two dressing rooms for the teams, and everything necessary for the game will be there,” de la Garma says.
The project cut short Christmas holidays for the organizers, but it might be worth it for Mexican ice hockey.
The idea, which once was just “a crazy dream”, as de la Garma admits, changes a lot for the organization. The media attention has risen since the plans became public and the practices of the Mexican U20 national team have been well attended by media.
“This game is very important for Mexican ice hockey. It is big promotion and exposure for our sport,” de la Garma says. “The games will be broadcast live on TV in Mexico, but also in other Latin American countries such as Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Colombia.”
The game starts on Sunday, 9th January, 20:30 local time. All other games of the event are played at the Lomas Verdes Rink.
Mexico is currently 32nd in the IIHF World Ranking that includes 49 nations that take part in the World Championship program. In all, 69 nations are member of the International Ice Hockey Federation.