Jamaica building Olympic ice hockey team
FIRST there was the bobsled team in the Calgary Olympic Games in 1988, then there was an alpine skier competing in the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Games.
Jamaica will continue its exploits on ice as the newly established Jamaica Olympic Ice Hockey Federation (JOIHF) is working on building a team that it expects will compete in the Winter Olympic Games at some time.
Established in 2011, it secured affiliation with the Jamaica Olympic Association (JOA) and in 2012 was accepted by the International Ice Hockey Federation as an associate member. Lester Griffin the Jamaica programme's assistant manager and a former player himself, says that there is a significant number of players of Jamaican descent already competing in the Canadian and American Ice Hockey leagues and indicated that several of them have expressed an interest in representing Jamaica in the sport.
As an indication of the seriousness of their efforts JOIHF has signed up Graeme Townsend as head coach to spearhead the national programme. Townsend was the NHL's first Jamaican-born player when he debuted for the Boston Bruins in 1989-1990. Townsend was born in Kingston and left for Canada with his family at the age of three.
He played professional ice hockey for 10 years and subsequently coached professionally and was player development coordinator for the San Jose Sharks. He was inducted into the Canadian Black Hockey Hall of Fame in 2006.
Today, the JOIHF will have its first player tryouts in Ontario, Canada, and already several players have signed up to participate. This is the first big step towards establishing a national team to represent Jamaica in ice hockey and this will be followed by a series of exhibition games planned for 2015.
As part of its thrust to grow the sport and in line with its international mandate, the JOIHF plans to build an ice rink in Jamaica and to set up a grass-roots programme to recruit and train Jamaicans in the sport. Accordingly a visit to Jamaica is being planned for September to announce in greater detail the plans to build the national effort and encourage the participation of locals in the sport.
Don Anderson, formerly first vice-president of the JOA and who assisted in the establishment of JOIHF here in 2012, is lending his own expertise to the JOIHF and visited Canada in July to hold discussions with directors of the federation and to be better informed of their immediate plans for the sport.