BUENOS AIRES – Argentina is approaching its summer, but that doesn’t prevent more than 50 girls from taking part in the World Girls’ Ice Hockey Weekend campaign.
The only hurdle for the organizers was the lack of ice. In Argentina it’s spring and few people would think of ice hockey.
“We have beautiful weather and have our events in two inline hockey rinks,” said Dicky Haiek, the Vice President of the Argentine Ice and Inline Hockey Association (AAHHL). “The only full size ice rink is outdoors in the south of the country and it’s only open from June to August, our winter.”
To be part of the recruitment campaign despite the lack of ice, the organization invited girls to two events at inline hockey rinks in San Isidro, a Buenos Aires suburb.
Almost 30 kids came for the first event at the Peru Beach Hockey Rink on Saturday and Haiek also expects 25 to 30 girls on Sunday.
“The name of the street along the river with a nice bridge is called Peru and the beach is called after that,” Haiek explained the exotic name of the inline hockey venue. “The other rink for the event on Sunday is around 30 blocks from here at another nice place.”
Just before noon it was time to start the event. Members of the women’s national team were there to help the young girls with their first hockey experiences. And then all came together, put the sticks in the middle and screamed loudly “uno, dos, tres, hockey”!
“The atmosphere was great. We had a lot of balloons and some girls had wigs to make the event even more fun,” Haiek said. “Most were eight to ten years old. For most of them it was the first time they played with a stick and puck and many said they want to play it at school.”
The organization became an IIHF member in 1998 and competed mostly in inline hockey. But with the outdoor ice rink in Ushuaia that opened a few years ago, practising ice hockey became a little bit easier although the southernmost city of the world is a long flight away from the capital of Buenos Aires.
Last season, men’s and women’s national ice hockey teams were formed for the first time ever to compete at a camp in Mexico. It was the first international clash in ice hockey between teams from Latin America.
Through inline hockey the association hopes to develop ice hockey as well, but it knows that Argentina needs infrastructure for ice hockey.
“We have a project to build an international size rink and the girls are interested in playing ice hockey too,” Haiek said. “But for now our first step is to teach them inline hockey and then to bring them to ice hockey.”
After the first international ice hockey exhibition games for Argentina, Latin America has even bigger plans for the new hockey season.
“In February we’re again going to Mexico to play ice hockey,” Haiek said. “We spoke with them during the Congress about the possibility of having a tournament called Pan-American games with us.”
It’s again planned to have men’s and women’s national teams playing each other. Mexico and Argentina hoped to be joined by Brazil.
“And maybe we will also have junior teams from Canada and the U.S. who will play against our senior men’s and women’s teams,” Haiek said.
But for now the focus is on the second day of the World Girls’ Ice Hockey Weekend. And maybe it will be one of these girls, who will one day switch to ice hockey and become a star on the women’s national team.
MARTIN MERKClick here for the World Girls' Ice Hockey Weekend tracker.