Girls’ hockey grows in Mexico
by Lucas Aykroyd|18 OCT 2021
Smiles abounded at the second 2021 World Girls' Ice Hockey Weekend event in Mexico City.
When you think of high-flying birds that live in Mexico, the golden eagle and crested caracara might come to mind. However, it was a club named after a flightless bird that organized Sunday’s World Girls’ Ice Hockey Weekend event at La Pista de Hielo Interlomas at the Paseo Interlomas shopping centre in Greater Mexico City.

“This event was hosted by Club Pinguinos with the help of the Mexican Ice Hockey Federation,” explained Bertha Gonzalez, the operations manager for the federation. “There were 15 girls in the rink between the age of 5 to 12.”

It was a fun sequel to Saturday’s other area event at the Buenavista shopping mall rink, which attracted 35 girls aged 5-17. Both will help the dreams of hockey-playing Mexican girls take flight.

“Sunday’s program was for the girls from the club to invite their friends to try hockey,” Gonzalez said. “During our ice time between 9 and 10 am, there were fun games. We invited some of the Mexican women’s national team players to play and have fun with the little girls. After the on-ice sessions, we held a small meeting so the girls could ask the national team members some questions. The girls were very excited and parents loved this interaction!”

With just 18 rinks and 270 registered female players in a warm-weather nation of 130 million, Mexican women’s hockey is still a work in progress. The national team recently competed in the Olympic Women’s Ice Hockey Pre-Qualification Tournament in Bytom, Poland (7 to 10 October).

The Mexicans were unable to advance, falling 7-1 to the Netherlands and 8-1 to the host nation, which won the tournament. However, Mexico finished on a positive note with a 6-1 romp over Turkey. Assistant captain Maria Chavez led the way with a hat trick and an assist.

So there was some good news to convey to the youngsters, even though the global COVID-19 pandemic has wiped out two years of lower-division IIHF women’s tournaments.

Gonzalez noted that this will be the second season of operations for the Mexico Girls’ Ice Hockey League for ages 5 to 13 under commissioner Monica Grejo. World Girls’ Ice Hockey Weekend is a valuable recruitment tool.

The national women’s hockey league debuted in 2011, and most teams outside Mexico City are located between one and three hours’ drive away. Even though pandemic restrictions have seen numerous game cancellations, players have taken advantage of the opportunity to train more at home or play inline hockey outdoors.

Even under normal circumstances, is it hard to line up ice time in Mexico City?

“It’s actually not that hard here,” Gonzalez said. “Sometimes you have to compete with figure skating or public skating hours. But otherwise, as with many rinks around the world, you just have to schedule a time that works for everyone.”

With that can-do attitude, the hope is that Mexico will, over time, develop sufficient talent to move even higher up the IIHF Women’s World Ranking (currently #26). In 2019, the Mexicans came fourth out of six teams competing in the Division IIA tournament in Dumfries, Scotland.

Getting to watch the top women’s teams do battle at the top-level Women’s Worlds in Calgary in August and at the 2022 Olympics in Beijing in February adds fuel to the fire.

“I get really excited when I watch international women’s hockey, more than with the NHL or other men’s leagues,” Gonzalez said. “I would love to see more games like these available, not only once a year. We all love it!”

And spirits are soaring like a golden eagle in the Mexican’s women’s hockey community after World Girls’ Ice Hockey Weekend. (With all due respect to penguins.)