USHUAIA, Argentina – While the season has begun in many hockey countries, it has ended in others in the southern hemisphere. In Argentina it did so with a coach camp in Ushuaia organized by the Argentine Ice & Inline Hockey Association (AAHHL).
Ushuaia is regarded as the southernmost city in the world. It is located on the island of Tierra del Fuego (“Land of the Fire”), south of the Strait of Magellan, and home to roughly 60,000 people. Due to its remote location, an annual ice hockey tournament there is called the “End of the World Cup” (Copa Fin del Mundo).
The camp with the support of the IIHF, Argentina’s Olympic Committee and the regional government was held under the guidance of Jouni Lehtola, a Finnish mentor coach who lives in Dallas and speaks Spanish, and the focus of the camp was on transmitting know-how of the teaching of young players.
Working for the Dallas Stars from 1993 to 1997, he started the first local youth hockey programs in the Dallas Metroplex area and has remained involved long after that, helping them to grow to the point where they are today.
However, the participants, coaches from several Argentinian teams, didn’t just stay on the ice, they also had to hit the classroom. Each day balanced theoretical and practical elements in various sessions between 10:00 and 22:30. The practical results on the international-size outdoor rink Carlos Tachuela Oyarzun were overwhelming. “The coaches incorporated everything learned, and exceeded the expectations,” said Dicky Haiek of the AAHHL.
During these days children preparing for the national skills challenge qualifier were coached. 17 kids participated in the event.
The event was then concluded with the first edition of the Copa Islas Malvinas (globally better known as the Falkland Islands). Six teams battled in competitive and fair matches for the first title: the Rio Grande Los Dragones, Buenos Aires Gators, and three local teams (Nires, as well as two Club Andino squads, A and B) from Argentina, plus Punta Arenas from Chile. In the final, Club Andino B claimed the title with a victory over the Gators.
According to the association, the idea was to bring in an international expert in order to train the coaches in preparation for the 2020 Winter Youth Olympic Games in Lausanne, Switzerland. The AAHHL, founded in 1998, is currently an associate member of the IIHF, and does not yet participate in World Championships. It does, however, participate at the annual Pan-American Ice Hockey Tournament in Mexico where it won the bronze medal this year and in the IIIHF Inline Hockey World Championship.