Congratulations to Mexico for winning the International Ice Hockey Federation’s Under-20Division III world championship this week at a tournament played in Mexico City.
Mexico crushed South Africa 9-2 to capture the crown in a round-robin tournament that featured teams from Israel, Turkey, Bulgaria and New Zealand.
The victory moves Mexico – currently ranked 32nd in the world by the IIHF -up the ladder to Division II competition. Mexico has a population of 121,736,809 that includes 2,020 hockey players – 243 men, 1,427 juniors, and 350 women, according to IIHF figures.
Winning on the international stage is becoming a habit for Mexico. The Under-20 men’s squad took home the Gold Medal in 2005 and 2011 – when both tournaments were played on Mexican soil. In 2014, Mexico’s women’s national team finished first in a IIHF Division II B qualification tournament.
The left wing for the Kamloops Blazers of the Western Hockey League dreams of becoming the second Jamaican-born player to skate in the National Hockey League, standing on the broad shoulders of Graeme Townshend.
Jermaine Loewen moved from Jamaica to Manitoba, Canada, when he was five (Photo/Kamloops Blazers).
Townshend was a rugged right wing who played 67 NHL games for the Boston Bruins, New YorkIslanders and Ottawa Senators. Loewen, who was born in Jamaica and raised in Manitoba, inched closer to his dream Monday when he turned 18 – the minimum age to be eligible for the 2016 NHL Draft.
“I think about that a lot , it’s like, ‘aw, man, I want to be the second guy,'” Loewen told Canada’s Sportsnet of joining Townshend in hockey history books “I just really want to make that happen.”
Loewen is also excited about the possibility of someday seeing Jamaica compete in the Winter Olympics in hockey. The Caribbean island nation, known for its Olympic track and field prowess and for having the world’s funkiest bobsled team, is an associate member of the International Ice Hockey Federation.
The Jamaica Ice Hockey Federation has been scouring Canada and the United States for Caribbean expatriate hockey talent in hopes of forming a touring team this summer to boost interest in the program and to attract sponsors for its Winter Olympics endeavor.
The national team effort will need deep pockets to field a team and to help build an ice skating rink in Jamaica, a requirement for full IIHF membership. In hockey’s six degrees of separation, Jamaica’s coaching staff is headed by none other than Graeme Townshend.
After being held scoreless in his rookie season, Jermaine Loewen has 5 goals so far in 2015-16 (Photo/Kamloops Blazers).
“To have an Olympic team is huge, especially the fact that we’re so small. I’m really happy that they’re making progress,” Loewen told NewsKamloops earlier this month. “Oh yeah…I definitely dream about it…maybe someday going and playing for that. There still is a lot of stuff to work out to get to that level. It’s a pretty big deal. I find it really cool.”
“You know what? I’m hoping that he’s Canadian hockey material first, to be honest,” Townshend told me recently. “Selfishly, of course, I’d love to have him on our team. But I’d like to see him be considered for Team Canada at some point. I know he’s Jamaican, but he grew up in Canada, I’m sure he has a soft spot in his heart for Canada. Like every Canadian kid, he’d want to represent his country. At some point, I’m sure our paths will cross, but I’d like to see how far he can take this. If he could play for Canada in the World Juniors, that would be amazing.”
Everything about Loewen’s hockey journey has been amazing thus far. Adopted from an orphanage in Mandeville, Jamaica, and relocated to rural Arborg, Manitoba, when he was five, Loewen didn’t lace on a pair of skates until he was six – late by Canadian standards.
He didn’t play his first organized hockey game until he was 10. But that didn’t stop him from getting drafted by the Blazers, a Canadian major junior team, six years later.
Year One with the Blazers was a learning curve for Loewen. He was scoreless in 37 games and amassed 24 penalty minutes. In 39 games this season, he has 5 goals, 3 assists, and a robust 39 penalty minutes.
Loewen wasn’t among the players listed Tuesday in NHL Central Scouting’s mid-term rankings of players eligible for the June draft in Buffalo. Still, Townshend is impressed with what Loewen has accomplished so far and believes that he has the raw talent and determination to eventually be chosen by an NHL team.
“His is one of the most amazing stories I’ve ever heard,” Townshend said. “Obviously when you start playing organize hockey at 10 when other kids start at six or seven, you’re way behind. He’s made up a lot of ground in a very short period of time. That says a lot about his character.”
President Barack Obama delivered his last State of the Union address Tuesday and the NationalHockey League and the Washington Capitals hosted a screening Wednesday of a full-length documentary on the history and growing impact of blacks in ice hockey.
“Soul on Ice, Past, Present and Future” had its U.S. premiere before a near-capacity audience at Washington’s Landmark E Street Cinema with plenty of hockey star power on hand. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly, Washington Capitals Owner Ted Leonsis and Capitals Head Coach Barry Trotz were in the house.
Willie O’Ree, the NHL’s first black player, former NHL goaltender/turned NHL Network analyst Kevin Weekes, former NHL forward and current MSG Networks and NBCSN hockey analyst Anson Carter were there for a post-screening question and answer session that I had the honor to moderate.
Left to right, Anson Carter, Kevin Weekes, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, hockey legend Willie O’Ree, filmmaker Damon Kwame Mason, and Washington Capitals Owner Ted Leonsis at U.S. screening of Mason’s “Soul on Ice, Past, Present and Future.”
“It’s a story that needed to be told, but not many people even imagined it could exist,” Bettman said of the documentary. “If you told somebody about this movie without actually seeing it, they’d think it was a work of fiction, like ‘how could it be because I’ve never heard of such a thing’ is what you get from most people.”
Canadian filmmaker Damon Kwame Mason was on hand to gauge a U.S. audience’s response to a film that he poured his heart, soul, and wallet into for the last four years. Mason was so committed to the project that the former disc jockey sold his condo to help fund it.
Mason hasn’t seen a paycheck in about three years, but he basked in a wealth of applause and appreciative remarks from the D.C. audience Wednesday night.
“The biggest thing that this screening means to me is all that hard work, all those midnights worrying, all that stressing out, all that wondering what’s going to happen the next day, it made me feel like it was all worth it,” he told me. “For a guy who dreamed about doing a film, and being in a position like this, is remarkable.”
The film tells the little-told story of blacks in hockey from the Coloured Hockey League in the Canadian Maritimes in the 1800s to the exploits of forward Herb Carnegie – regarded as the best Canadian hockey player never to skate in the NHL – to O’Ree breaking in with the Boston Bruins, despite being blind in one eye.
While paying homage to the past, “Soul on Ice” examines the present by focusing on current stars like Philadelphia Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds, Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban, and Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Trevor Daley.
It gives a glimpse of the game’s future by following the path of OwenSound Attack forward Jaden Lindo from his Ontario Hockey League junior team to the 2014 NHL Draft in Philadelphia. He was chosen by the Penguins in the sixth round of the draft with the 173rd overall pick.
Bettman and other NHL officials had seen the movie earlier, but Ken Martin, the league’s senior vice president of community and diversity programming, didn’t let O’Ree, who is the NHL’s director of youth development, get an early peek at Mason’s product.
Color of Hockey Editor William Douglas with The Bearded One – NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman at “Soul on Ice, Past, Present and Future” screening in Washington, D.C.
When O’Ree watched his legacy on the big screen, the hockey pioneer who joined the Bruins in 1958, became emotional.
“Unbelievable,” he told NHL.com. “Now I know why he didn’t want me to see it. It was breathtaking, really. I was thrilled when I saw it.”
Trotz, who coached forward Joel Ward when he was with the Capitals and NashvillePredators, said the documentary was an eye-opener.
“What I liked about it is it was three stories for me – it was a history of the game, Kwame’s story, and it was young Jaden’s story,” Trotz told NHL.com. “There are some things that I feel ignorant on being someone in the game and not knowing all the story. It’s quite enlightening.”
Each player is chasing his dream for National Hockey League stardom, climbing professional hockey’s ladder at his own pace – or that dictated by the team that drafted him.
Jones, taken by the Nashville Predators with the fourth overall pick of the draft, hasn’t spent a day in the minor leagues. But after he spent more than two seasons in Music City, the Predators traded him last week to the ColumbusBlue Jackets for talented but enigmatic center Ryan Johansen.
The swap from Nashville, currently sixth in the NHL’s Western Conference, to Columbus, dwelling in the NHL Eastern Conference cellar, wasn’t a knock on Jones’ play.
The Blue Jackets expect big things from the Texas-born son of former National Basketball Association forward Popeye Jones. In Nashville, Seth Jones was the student to defensive master Shea Weber.
In 40 games with the Predators, Jones tallied 1 goal and 10 assists and averaged 19:42 minutes on ice per game.
With Columbus, he’ll play more minutes and see more power play time and penalty-killing action under demanding Head Coach John Tortorella. He’ll go from being one of the guys on Nashville’s blue line to being The Man on the Blue Jackets back end.
“He’s going to get a lot bigger role with our team,”Blue Jackets General Manager Jarmo Kekalainen told reporters last week. “He’s 21 years old and he’s got the future ahead of him and a lot of room for growth and development. We believe he’s a good two-way defenseman that can add some offense to our game.”
Ironically, one of the last things Jones saw in Nashville was the player he was traded for as he and Johansen passed each other at the airport. Jones expressed excitement about the new opportunity in Columbus.
“They made it pretty clear that they’re going to throw a little bit more at me than I’ve been used to getting,” Jones told reporters in Columbus. “I’m excited and ready to take on the challenge.”
Nurse believed he was NHL-ready from the moment he slipped on an Oilers jersey on draft day. But the team’s brain trust thought otherwise and sent him back to the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, his junior team inthe Ontario Hockey League, for the 2013-14 season. He went back to the Soo again in 2014-15.
He was assigned to the Bakersfield Condors, the Olilers’ AHL affiliate,after this season’s
After being promoted from the AHL, Darnell Nurse is averaging 21 minutes per game.
training camp and was called up to the parent club after some of its defensemen suffered injuries.
Since then, Nurse has tallied 2 goals and 5 assists while averaging 21 minutes of ice time per game in 34 games. He’s also added a little toughness to an offensively-talented but grit-challenged Oilers lineup. He’s amassed 19 penalty minutes, five of them coming from a fight against Milan Lucic, the Los Angeles Kings’ physically-imposing and feared veteran forward.
Some thought the bout was too much too soon for the rookie Nurse. He didn’t.
“My mum was like, ‘What are you doing?’ My dad said he was proud of me,” Nurse told The Edmonton Journal. “This (fighting) is something I’m going to have to do the way I play.”
Madison Bowey is only a two-hour drive from where he hopes to eventually be: With the Washington Capitals. The team took Bowey in the second round with the 53rd pick of the 2013 draft.
After he captained his Western Hockey League Kelowna Rockets to the MasterCardMemorial Cup Final last season and teamed up with Nurse on the blue line to help a diverse Team Canada win the Gold Medal at the 2015 International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship, the Capitals sent Bowey to the AHL’s HersheyBears.
He has 2 goals, 11 assists, and 24 penalty minutes in 33 games with the Bears.
“I think it’s been going pretty well,” Bowey told PennLive last month. “It’s a learning process and I’m learning a lot every day.”
Madison Bowey hopes to be an impact player with the AHL Hershey Bears – and eventually with the Washington Capitals (Photo/Courtesy JustSports Photography).
Bears Head Coach Troy Mann agrees.
“From the bench as you watch him play, when he’s moving the puck and limiting his turnovers, he’s having a good game,” Mann told PennLive. “Like any young defenseman, there are nights where his gap control might not be as good as we need it to be, or his defensive-zone coverage. But I think he’s progressing the way we all thought he would. He’s a second-round pick that’s going to need some nurturing in the AHL for a couple seasons.”
Jordan Subban was chosen in the fourth-round of the 2013 draft by the Vancouver Canucks with the 115th pick. His older brother, MontrealCanadiens superstar defenseman P.K. Subban, declared before the draft that Jordan was a better, more cerebral blueliner than he is.
Like his big brother, Jordan is about offense from the back end. The 5-foot-9 defenseman notched 25 goals and 27 assists for the Ontario Hockey League’s Belleville Bulls last season.
Utica Comets defenseman Jordan Subban (left) doing what he does best – shooting (Photo/Lindsay A. Mogle/Utica Comets).
He’s continuing his offensive ways in his first season with for the Utica Comets, the Canucks’ AHL farm team, where he has 5 goals and 14 assists in 29 games.
“The (AHL) is a little more skilled than I thought it was going to be,” Subban told Utica’s Observer-Dispatch in November. “It was a bit of an adjustment. There are a lot of good players…I think I’ve taken a big step in my zone, but I still have work to do.”
Jonathan-Ismael Diaby will be the first to admit that he’s still very much a work in progress. At 6-foot-5 and 223 pounds, he’s described himself as “bigger, taller and slower” compared to other hockey players.
Nashville Predators 2013 draft pick Jonathan Diaby (left) working on improving his game with the AHL Milwaukee Admirals (Photo/Milwaukee Admirals).
But the Predators love his size – a “monster,” one scout called him – and his ruggedness. Nashville took him in the third round with the 64th pick in the 2013 draft.
Since then, the former Victoriaville Tigres defenseman has bounced between the Milwaukee Admirals, the Preds’ AHL affiliate, and CincinnatiCyclones, Nashville’s ECHL farm team.
The son of a soccer player from the Ivory Coast, Diaby is scoreless in five AHL games this season but has 21 penalty minutes. He has 1 assist and 11 penalty minutes in 17 ECHL games.
“I just want to show more consistency and show that I’m more poised and more in control of the game,” Diaby told The Tennesseanduring the Predators’ training camp in September. “As a hockey player, you come to training camp, you want to make the team, but it’s a learning experience. I’ve still got a lot to learn and a lot to improve on. The AHL’s a great league.”
The Game That Almost Didn’t Happen became a happening Thursday afternoon for Boston Pride defenseman Blake Bolden.
Bolden scored the tying goal of the first Outdoor Women’s Classicpresented by Scotiabank, an abbreviated running-time match between the professional National Women’s HockeyLeague Pride and the rival Canadian Women’s Hockey League LesCanadiennes that ended in a 1-1 draw.
Despite the game being a last-minute addition to the the 2016 BridgestoneNHL Winter Classic festivities at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts, and despite USA Hockey not making several Pride skaters available for the game because they were engaged in the last day of training camp ahead of a world championship competition, those who played and watched the outdoor game enjoyed themselves.
Perhaps none more than Bolden, a former Boston College women’s hockey team captain and the first African-American to play in the NWHL and the CWHL.
Thursday’s game almost didn’t happen because of tension between the NWHL, a first-year league that pays its players, and the more established CWHL, which doesn’t offer its skaters salaries.Think pre-merger National Football League-American Football League or National Hockey League-World Hockey Association hate.
Throw in USA Hockey’s stance on not releasing national team players for the classic, and the odds of the women’s outdoor game coming off looked dim.
Talks between NWHL Commissioner Dani Rylan and CWHL Commissioner Brenda Andress and intervention by the NHL helped make the game a reality.
“I think this was a great first step. I would say that the NHL was standing in the middle, holding our hands, as we walked to Gillette, so to speak,” Rylan told Yahoo Sports’ Puck Daddy blog. “But it was a good first step.”
Still, things weren’t ideal. The ice conditions for the afternoon game were problematic. Pride forward Denna Laing suffered an injury when she stepped on a stick and crashed into the boards.
The historic game wasn’t televised or streamed online. And instead of three 20-minute periods, the game was two 15-minute periods played in running time.
Three women of color played in Thursday’s game: Bolden, Pride forward Rachel Llanes and Les Canadiennes forward Julie Chu, who carried the U.S. flag during the closing ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
“I think that this was an incredible first stepping stone for all of us,” Chu told reporters after the game. “Hopefully, next year we’re introduced into the game a bit earlier so there’s more promotion of the event. We always have to start with one step and hopefully take the next step and continue to move forward and grow.”