Six North African club teams from four countries played at the first edition in the Moroccan capital. Connected by the Sahara desert, ice hockey may look like a fata morgana in this region but is slowly blossoming.
Host Morocco has been so far the only IIHF member in North Africa. Ice hockey is played at two small permanent arenas in the capital of Rabat and nearby Casablanca. The ice rink at Rabat’s Mega Mall is currently the busiest venue for hockey and hosted the event. With the ice sheet limited to 40 on 20 metres, the tournament was played 3-on-3.
Three teams came from the host country with the Rabat Capitals and two Casablanca teams, the Bears and the Mallers.
The Anubis Ice Hockey Team travelled from Egypt to the west coast. It was the first international event for a team from North Africa’s most populous country that has several ice rinks although playing the sport proves difficult since none of them is bigger than 300 square metres, same like in Tunisia. With the Carthage Eagles the country had the tournament winner although the sport is actually not practised in Tunisia, something the Tunisian hockey diaspora from countries like France hopes to change once the infrastructure is there. Same can be said of the Algiers Corsaires. The Algerian team was as well comprised of players mainly from the diaspora in Europe and Canada.
Despite struggles to play ice hockey in North Africa – the only international-size ice rinks of the continent are located roughly 8,000 kilometres away in South Africa, or a bit closer in Europe or the United Arab Emirates – the teams and players enjoyed the opportunity of joining together for a competition, and not just them.
“The arena was full and over its normal capacity, we had to refuse entrance to many fans. The Moroccans were happy to discover a new sport and it will become important to build a new arena with an international-size ice sheet,” said Adil El Farj of the Royal Moroccan Ice Hockey Federation, which welcomed IIHF Council member Luc Tardif from France in Rabat for advice on this topic.
The Tunisians now hope to bring ice hockey to the country. Ihab Ayed, who put together the team, talked at a press conference organized in Tunis after the tournament about discussions with the Ministry of Youth and Sports, hopes of registering a national ice hockey body in the country and getting an international-size ice rink, and eventually becoming a member of the IIHF and to make Tunisia “a country known and recognized for ice hockey”.
During many years before heading to the tournament and a game in France in 2014, Ayed, who plays hockey in a suburb of Paris, collected a pool of 40 hockey players who have at least one parent from Tunisia mainly through the internet to eventually be able to form the Carthage Eagles.
As different the teams and their countries may be, they all have in common the love for the sport and the hope to make the sport – and the ice sheets – bigger in their countries. Joining together to share their passion across borders and play each other will hopefully be a step for something bigger in the future.
Results and Standings
Games Group A: Carthage Eagles vs. Anubis Cairo 19-0, Anubis Cairo vs. Algiers Corsaires 3-15, Algiers Corsaires vs. Carthage Eagles 6-11.
Standings Group A: 1. Carthage Eagles (Tunisia), 2. Algiers Corsaires (Algeria), 3. Anubis Cairo (Egypt).
Games Group B: Rabat Capitals vs. Casablanca Bears 7-2, Morocco Mallers vs. Casablanca Bears 8-3, Rabat Capitals vs. Morocco Mallers 18-8.
Standings Group B: 1. Rabat Capitals (Morocco), 2. Morocco Mallers Casablanca (Morocco), 3. Casablanca Bears (Morocco).
Semi-Finals: Carthage Aigles vs. Morocco Mallers 11-8, Rabat Capitals vs. Algiers Corsaires 18-10.
5th-place game: Casablanca Bears vs. Anubis Cairo 5-2
Bronze medal game: Morocco Mallers vs. Algiers Corsaires 11-21
Gold medal game: Carthage Eagles vs. Rabat Capitals 8-7
1. Carthage Eagles (Tunisia)
2. Rabat Capitals (Morocco)
3. Algiers Corsaires (Algeria)
4. Morocco Mallers Casablanca (Morocco)
5. Casablanca Bears (Morocco)
6. Anubis Cairo (Egypt)