About the only thing Haiti had in common with hockey until June 28 was the letter “H.”
But on that day, the team representing the Caribbean nation defeated the Cayman Islands, 4-2, to capture the gold medal in the B pool of the International Street and Ball Hockey Federation world championship in Zug, Switzerland.
Do you believe in miracles? Haiti does after winning international street hockey title.
The key to global success was putting together a roster composed mostly of Montreal-born Haitian-Canadians. The team’s assistant coach and chief fund-raiser was one of the NHL’s legendary tough guys, Georges Laraque.
We did it, Haïti is the new ball hockey World Champion! Nous avons réussi, Haïti nouveau Champion du Monde! pic.twitter.com/E1xrHIbNVR
Earlier in the tournament, Laraque told Allan Woods of The Toronto Star:“Until I became part of this national team I had never even heard the Haitian national anthem before. Now to represent the country and, when you win, to hear the national anthem—do you know how awesome that is? It’s amazing.”
Amazing enough that Haiti’s feat caught the attention of hockey players of Caribbean heritage like Arizona Coyotes prospect Anthony Duclair. Haiti has produced one National Hockey League player – Claude Vilgrain, who was born in Port-Au-Prince and appeared in 89 regular season games for the Vancouver Canucks, New JerseyDevils and Philadelphia Flyers from the late-1980s to mid-1990s.
Ainslie Bien-Aimé, the 43-year-old team captain, grew up in Montreal listening to his Haitian-born parents describing the plight of their impoverished native land.
“This is something that our parents always brought up at the kitchen table and most of the guys were always looking for something to give back to the country and the only thing we could do was send money or praise to our cousins or whatever,” Bien-Aimé told The Star. “But when this opportunity came up in January, I can tell you that 75 guys were ready for war. They felt they were making something for the country, but it wasn’t as big as it is right now.”
The other B-pool teams were Great Britain, France, Hong Kong and Armenia. The A pool was won by Slovakia, which beat the United States, 4-3.
This post was written by The Color of Hockey’s Lew Serviss.
Pingback: Weekly Links: Mike Richards and Mike Ribeiro continue to make headlines; Diversity at the Draft; Women’s hockey in Slovakia; and more | Hockey in Society