In our tropical country of two seasons, there are many sports that are unavailable to us simply because we do not have the appropriate climate for it. These are the sports we can only read about, or watch on TV, particularly during the Winter Olympics which the Philippines has only very recently been part of. Some events, like skiing and snowboarding, are ones we can only dream about, but there is one major sport which, unknown to many, is actually readily accessible – ice hockey.
Though people may be more familiar with figure skating, its more popular relative, ice hockey is one of the biggest sports in many countries abroad. In countries such as Sweden, Finland, Canada, the United States and other northern countries, most people learn how to skate as children and many of them play winter sports recreationally. In fact, it is Canada’s national winter sport!
Now that skating has become increasingly popular, people want to try out something new, and hockey has never been more accessible than it is now. Plus, this is one incredibly unique way to beat the summer heat! Carl Montano, who traveled all the way from Canada to coach hockey and to play for the Manila Hawks ice hockey team, can attest to this. “All you gotta do is come [to the skating rink]. We have assistant coaches to teach you how to skate, and we have all the gear here,” he says.
“I moved here from Canada just to coach hockey. It’s what I love to do. I’ve been playing for 22 years,” he shares. Ice hockey is a sport that requires not only physical strength but also exceptional stamina, coordination, and agility. Just skating is a workout on its own, but having to control a hockey puck with a stick while maneuvering through the defenses of an opposing team? It’s a real full-body workout.
However, before anything else, skating is Coach Carl’s number one priority for the kids he coaches. “I came right off from the street, straight onto the ice. My first time, I went straight, fell down, and came back. The hardest part was actually skating. That’s what I try to teach all these kids. That’s the first and foremost thing for them to learn: how to skate properly. Your entire body weight is on two 1/8-inch blades. You have to have full control and full balance,” he says. “The most important thing [I want] my students to learn is discipline and work ethic. [Skating] is like learning to ride a bike. Once you learn it, you’ll never forget it. But the learning curve to get there is the most difficult part. It’s hard to get it down at first. You need discipline to keep going, and to keep pushing for it.”
Hard work and discipline truly pays off in ice hockey. Many young members of the Manila Hawks’ team have not been playing for very long, but with Coach Carl’s tutelage and a lot of perseverance, the Manila Hawks have been competing abroad, and with good results. Their most recent competition was in the last week of April, the 2014 Hockey 5’s in Hong Kong, the biggest ice tournament in all of Asia. “I hope we win a lot of championships. We do two international tournaments every year. I’m hoping to come back with more gold medals and trophies so we can bring attention to the Philippines. That way we can get more sponsorship, and more students can come and play hockey.”
Unlike Canada, where he grew up playing hockey, the Philippine team is still very small. “The kids train with me and they want to represent the country but there aren’t enough of them to represent the Philippines at the big tournaments. I want our team to grow, but I also want hockey [in the Philippines] to grow so that my team can really have something to represent,” he shares. Coach Carl has big dreams for ice hockey in the country. “I’m hoping within the next year, we can get an IIHF accreditation. Once we have a team that’s qualified enough we can play at the Winter Olympics, the World Championships, and other IIHF tournaments where we can get recognized around the world. Then we can play against teams that represent Canada, the U.S., Russia, and every country in the world. I’m really hoping to get the Philippines on the map for hockey.”
With Coach Carl and his steadily growing team of hockey players with the Manila Hawks, there has never been a better time to start playing ice hockey. This is your chance not only to play one of the most exciting winter sports in the world, but also a chance to be a part of a rising hockey team that is going to make history in the years to come.
Find out more about the Manila Hawks ice hockey team on their Facebook page.
Photos courtesy of Coach Carl Montano