MEXICO CITY – Sport has the power to heal and bring communities together. In a small way, the World Girls’ Ice Hockey Weekend event in Mexico City on Saturday showed how true that is.
Last month, Mexico suffered a devastating 7.1 earthquake that claimed 228 lives in the capital city alone. So it took effort and courage for 35 female hockey players, ranging in ages from 8 to 35, to gather at the Ice Dome in the south part of the city. Some of them travelled from other states as far as an hour and a half away.
Nonetheless, the camaraderie and education at the Ice Dome, which will host the 2018 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 Women’s World Championship Division I Group B Qualification in January, made it all worthwhile.
The Mexican women’s national team, which won the fourth Pan-American Ice Hockey Tournament at this venue back in June, was well-represented. Back in March, the youth-heavy roster earned promotion to Division II Group A in 2018 by topping Group B with four wins and a loss versus host Iceland, Spain, New Zealand, Turkey and Romania.
On Saturday, the 17-year-old twin forwards Joanna and Giovanna Rojas participated, along with fellow attackers Frida Cardenas and Natalia Amaya and defender Macarena Cruz.
“It’s good to see the senior team trying to help the little girls and big girls,” said organizer Daniela Montes de Oca, who serves as the Mexican Ice Hockey Federation’s operations manager. “We had about 60 people watching – moms, dads, grandparents, and some friends.”
Last season, there were six women’s teams in Mexico, and the goal is to maintain that level in 2017/18. It’s expensive to get ice time and even the national teams often ends up training late at night. Visibility for the sport is still a battle in a country where football rules the roost.
“Many girls watch the NHL on the web,” said de Oca. “Most of the players watch the national team on YouTube when they’re at the World Championship, as many of the national team players are their coaches. If we can have more access to games, I think people will watch.”
Touchingly, one local team consists of mothers who decided they wanted to take up hockey after watching their daughters play. With 22 indoor rinks and 292 registered female players in Mexico, the World Girls’ Ice Hockey Weekend offers a timely reminder that there’s a lot of room for the sport to grow in this nation of 123 million people.
“It’s cool to see how we have little girls playing,” said de Oca. “They start when they’re four or five years old. We have many playing who play because their brothers played, and some are better than their brothers now. We want more. We are working for it, trying to contact some schools. We have many girls’ schools in Mexico, and maybe we can work with them. Some people here think this sport is only for men, but we’re showing them it’s not.”