The first tryouts for the Jamaica Olympic Ice Hockey Federation (JOIHF) were held in Toronto, Ontario (Canada) recently with 20 athletes turning up. Interested hockey players arrived from various areas of Canada and the United States and as far away as Sweden to put their skating and stick skills to the test.
JOIHF anticipates player numbers will grow significantly as tryouts continue to attract interested parties. Current player assessments are only part of the first steps toward identifying talent and building a Jamaican hockey team that will be able to successfully compete in the Winter Olympics.
Canadian ice hockey Hall-of-Famer (Jamaican) Graeme Townsend, who played 45 NHL games in the early 1990s, has been appointed coach. Townsend, who is a former Toronto Maple Leafs skating coach and first Jamaican to play in the NHL, was impressed with the talent he saw. He says, “If we can pull this off you are looking at an inspiring story and the idea that anything is achievable if you put your mind to it. If Jamaica can get a team in the World Championship or the Olympics that’s something so outlandish I think it might actually work.”
Star forward, Teegan Moore, of the Colorado Eagles has also been helping out with player auditions. Moore is of Jamaican connections. Canadian-born Chris Stewart, is another NHL player of Jamaican descent.
To qualify for an Olympic appearance, the team would have to win a pre-qualifying tournament before the final qualification rounds. If they win, they would stand a chance at an appearance at the 2018 Olympics in South Korea.
Jamaica has made tracks in the Olympics twice before with the country’s Cool Runnings bobsleigh team; once in 1998 in Nagano, Japan and again in at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics in Russia.