Posted by: tylereddy | July 24, 2014

Copa fin del Mundo – Hockey at the End of the World

After wrapping up a glorious week in Chile it was time to head across the strait, back into Argentina to continue seeking hockey glory. The Canadians, Germans and Chileans joined forces, and were put to the test by several skilled teams from Argentina, including multiple clubs from Buenos Aires…but first we had to get there.

The travel day was scheduled to be long and arduous….but it actually turned out to be far more painful than anticipated. We planned on being in the fifteen passenger van for most of the day, early departure, a ferry crossing, border crossing, and lots of kilometres to span. But it was okay because we had a driver, right? Wrong. He was old, fine. He drove slowly, fine, followed by spurts of driving incredibly fast, whatever. Things that weren’t fine: driving down the middle of the road with oncoming traffic, getting lost in a small city that he had driven through before, inability, no wait, complete incompetence driving in snow, getting stuck in a parking lot in the EXACT same place three times, and finishing the trip off by getting in an accident. Anyway, we (amazingly) made it to Ushuaia in one piece.

The best memory of the trip was when we stopped at the ferry crossing. There was a lone sheep outside the van. Everybody commented on how cute he was and took out cameras to snap photos. We got out to stretch and as we milled about the sheep lowered its head and rammed into E2’s back knocking him to the ground. It was a dirty move. Kelly swooped over to right E2 and the killer sheep quickly turned and level his gaze on E1. One of the guys saw this transpiring and scooped E1 to safety while I charged towards the killer sheep and grabbed him by the scruff of the neck. Probably not the brightest move as I have no idea how strong a sheep is, but I distracted him enough that he found the next tourist to try and butt. We comforted kids and had a good laugh about the whole event. As the van drove away the sheep was busy humping some luggage…busy day at the port.

E2 recovering from the killer sheep attack.

E2 recovering from the killer sheep attack.

The first time I laid eyes on the rink in Ushuaia it was magical. There was over a foot of heavy wet snow with more pouring from the skies. A bobcat was cleaning off the ice and the fellas burst out of the van in excitement, frolicking in the wet snow and eyeing the giant ice surface. I hadn’t even seen Olympic sized ice before, and the boys from Chile had only played in their tiny three on three rink. The challenges that lay ahead for four or five experienced players and a handful of rookies was going to huge, but we didn’t know how huge just yet. Copa Fin Del Mundo was just beginning and excitement was in the air.

Hockey magic (and a whole bunch of snow) in the air.

Hockey magic (and a whole bunch of snow) in the air.

The opening day saw lots of pictures and we hung out around the rink to watch a couple of games. The pace was much faster than in Punta Arenas. The ice was larger, the players more skilled, and the stakes much higher in this established tournament. There were several teams from Buenos Aires (Black, Orange, Green, Hurricane and Winter), a team from Brazil, Los Nordicos from Chile, as well as the host team, Club Athletica Ushuaia. There were several teams with exceptional players, including two guys from the US and a few South Americans that were good skaters, but most lacked the lifetime of hockey skill and experience that I’m used to in most opponents.

For most of the tournament I played defence which was a new challenge for me. Thankfully the pace wasn’t unrealistic and I soon discovered that my ….ahem, stature proved advantageous. I was far sturdier on my skates than most of the South American players even if they were larger or faster. I was pushing guys off of pucks and protecting pucks with a luxury never afforded to me against Canadian players. I also got mean (isn’t that what defensemen are supposed to do?) after all, I had a Canadian reputation to uphold. No European razzle dazzle, just good tough hockey, making guys pay in front of the net, in the corners, pretty much anywhere I could.

We were in several close games, but didn’t make it into the playoff round. Simply moving the puck and mustering shots on goal on the big ice was a challenge. We managed to win a few games throughout the tournament and gain valuable experience for the Chilean squad. I was disheartened that we couldn’t win more games, but to see the pride in the smiles on the faces of the Chilean players made the entire journey worthwhile. After all, they were the first group of Chilean’s to represent their country internationally at a hockey tournament, an exceptional accomplishment. It was a great pleasure to play with Los Nordicos and having the Nordico jersey in my collection is one of my favourite treasures from the trip.

The battle weary Nordicos - Vamos Nordicos!

The battle weary Nordicos – Vamos Nordicos!

By far the best thing about Copa Fin Del Mundo is the rink in Ushhuaia. It is open air, steps from the ocean and the mountain scenery is absolutely breathtaking. The pre-dawn games in the crisp morning air were nothing short of magical. The sun would peak over the mountain tops and the players would pause a moment to bask in the rays. The sun added power into skates and joy into hearts. Even though we suffered some losses that week the comradery of playing at the end of the world is something I won’t soon forget. It’s been almost a year now, and daily I dream of one day returning to play in South America.

Another beautiful day for hockey in a beautiful rink.

Another beautiful day for hockey in a beautiful rink.

 

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Responses

  1. Not a huge hockey fan, but with a few like that, I would be tempted to watch a few games! And well done defending the familia against the wildlife!


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