SÃO PAOLO – Kids kicking barefooted on a ball with the dream of becoming a football superstar, and samba dancers – these might be the common stereotypes of Brazilians when it comes to physical efforts. But there’s much more in the fifth-biggest country of the world. Even ice hockey.
Brazil appears in hockey mostly when the place of birth of Team Canada and Calgary Flames player Robyn Regehr is shown. He was born in Recife while his parents were living in Brazil as missionaries. But there’s more behind hockey in the country.
Even though Brazil has been a member of the International Ice Hockey Federation since 1984, the affiliate membership is based on its inline activities nowadays. Brazil is a frequenter in the IIHF InLine World Championship where they finished in 11th place last year and the roots in roller hockey even date back to the 1910s.
However, there was also an ice age of hockey in Brazil. A German businessman and former hockey player for Riessersee, Erwin Dietenhofer, brought ice hockey to Brazil when he immigrated to the country, and the first game was played in 1967 at an ice rink in a hotel in Petrópolis, about 50 kilometres from Rio de Janeiro, where the sport remained for eight years until the closure of the hotel and casino. Later, the sport was played on temporary rinks built for Holiday on Ice. Up to 180 adults and 130 juniors were playing ice hockey.
It was also Dietenhofer, who founded the Brazilian Ice Hockey Association at that time, but the game slowly disappeared some years later and most notably with his passing in 1992.
While having problems to run ice rinks in the country, an inline hockey program started in 1994 and kept the hockey family alive. But the wish to play the cool game on ice remained.
“We originally started with ice hockey but now most players play inline hockey but at a younger age, there are now players who begin with ice hockey,” said Alexandre Capelle Junior, Director of Hockey of the 1996-founded new Brazilian Ice Hockey Association.
Today, there are some small ice rinks, mostly in shopping malls that are rather suitable for recreational skating than for hockey players shooting pucks around the shop windows. The players often don’t belong to the best friends of the shopkeepers and there are often no locker-rooms.
However, there was one shopping mall where Brazilian hockey had its comeback with a national championship last year at Shopping Eldorado in São Paolo, the most populated city of Brazil and of the southern hemisphere. And it was Sociedade Hipica de Campinas, a team from a multi-sports organization with many inline hockey national team players, which could call itself the first Brazilian ice hockey champion for decades against the local team Capelle’s Hockey School, and the teams from Minas Gerais and Mato Grosso do Sul.
And not only the big guys played. There were also championships in the categories U12, U14 and U16. Campinas also won the U16 league while Capelle’s Hockey School was successful in the two younger age categories.
A locker-room and medical service could be installed. The games were played on a 25x15-metre rink, a fourth of an Olympic-size rink. “The ice rink was located close to the centre of São Paolo and it was in good condition for the event,” Capelle said. “The objectives were fully achieved which allows our members to promote other ice hockey events.”
The other permanent ice rink is located in the other metropolis of the country, Rio de Janeiro, at Shopping Barra Garden, and there are also seven seasonal rinks. The games of the championship were played according to the IIHF rulebook but with three instead of five skaters and without icing due to the small size but there is a project for a regular-size ice rink.
Capelle is one of the driving forces behind the comeback of the sport in Brazil. His hockey school, which also organizes camps in North America, exists since 1985 and he’s the president of the 2007-founded Federação Paulista de Hockey no Gelo, the branch for the State of São Paolo. The state championship began in the same year and was followed by the national championship one year later.
“Ice hockey in Brazil is alive and progressing at a starting pace. We are doing everything to ice hockey, particularly in young categories, to have a promising future,” Capelle said. “We have also players who are living in Canada, the United States and Europe, and are practising the game there.”
While Capelle hopes for a good future with a new ice complex in São Paolo, he currently looks forward to the next ice hockey tournaments. The 2009 junior championships will be played next weekend and the senior championship starts at March 28 in Brazil’s hockey Eldorado.
Newspaper report on the Brazilian ice hockey championship.