Hockey in Mexico? Growing the sport in a rare location

When people think of “hockey countries,” Canada jumps to the forefront followed by cold weather nations in Europe (and, for some, the U.S. too). One of the last places people think about is Mexico. In fact, many might be surprised that there are a solid amount of ice hockey rinks in the country, but NHL.com shares an interesting article on the state of its game south of the U.S. border.

When most people think of sports in Mexico, the first images that come to mind are baseball and soccer. Although the nation has 18 ice rinks and 2,200 registered players, including 1,800 at the junior level — respectable participation for a non-traditional hockey country — few people outside its small hockey community even know the sport exists in the country. However, Mexico has been part of the world hockey community for a quarter-century, gaining membership in International Ice Hockey Federation in 1985. The country made its international tournament debut at the 2000 Group D (now Division III) World Championships.

Mexico currently plays at the Division II level and is No. 38 in the world, according to the most recent IIHF international rankings. That is up nine spots from its ranking five years ago. The Mexican hockey community has no pretensions of becoming a Division I-caliber country anytime soon. Instead, the goal is to build participation by providing more people with access to the game.

The challenges facing Mexican are fairly obvious and, in some ways, not especially foreign to the obstacles the sports deals with in non-traditional areas in America. With prohibitive costs for ice time (rink charges range between $75 and $150 for a month in Mexico, according to Brian Meltzer) and equipment, the sport is played exclusively by those who can afford it – and those who seek it out.

Ultimately, the program will need to take baby steps in order to grow into a more formidable hockey nation. The story finishes with discussion of hockey in Mexico following the apparently impressive foot steps of Spain.

Moving forward, the key to building hockey in Mexico will be to expand the existing infrastructure of its program. The natural inclination is to wonder if Mexico can follow a similar model to the one Spain has used to win the recent Division II tournament in Mexico City and earn a promotion to the Division I level next season. Earlier this year, Spanish IIHF Council member Frank Gonzalez said there can’t be a direct parallel, but there are some common themes that Mexico and other non-traditional hockey countries can glean from one another.

“Each country is so unique in their way of life, traditions and their day-to-day activities. Even though it might sound that Spain and Mexico are very alike because of the language and our history, we are completely different from each other; our ministries of sport work completely different, the funding is different, our targets in the long and short run are different. But what makes us so similar is that we are starting from zero when it comes to the infrastructure of our federations. Although we in Spain have the base, the employees, volunteers and technical staff to start the process,” Gonzalez said.

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    Preds avoid arbitration with Granberg — two years, $1.225 million

    NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE - MARCH 28:  Petter Granberg #8 of the Nashville Predators lines up for a faceoff against the Colorado Avalanche during the third  period at Bridgestone Arena on March 28, 2016 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
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    Nashville has retained the services of depth defenseman Petter Granberg, inking him to a two-year, two-way, $1.225 million extension ahead of his Aug. 3 arbitration hearing, per CBC.

    The contract will pay $575,000 at the NHL level in year one, and $650,000 in year two.

    Claimed off waivers from Toronto in November, Granberg appeared in 27 games for the Preds last season, scoring two points while racking up 13 PIM.

    He was a healthy scratch for all of Nashville’s playoff run.

    Looking ahead, Granberg could be in line for a bigger role with the Preds next season. He only turns 24 in August, and the team did buy out the remainder of veteran Barret Jackman’s contract in late June.

    That should open up some minutes on the back end, though Granberg will likely compete with free agent signings Yannick Weber and Matt Irwin for those depth spots.

     

    With DeKeyser locked up, Holland still has work to do in Detroit

    Ken Holland
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    There’s nothing too flashy about Danny DeKeyser‘s game.

    “Basically,” he told reporters today, “my game, I just try to move the puck well, play solid defensively, chip in some points or goals here or there when I can, and just try to be a good team player and do things that help the team win.”

    For that, the Red Wings gave the steady defenseman a six-year, $30 million contract, avoiding an arbitration hearing in the process. Yes, it’s a significant amount of money for a d-man that doesn’t contribute a ton of offense, but as we’ve already seen this offseason, players like DeKeyser have significant value. The Edmonton Oilers gave up Taylor Hall to get one.

    Re-signing DeKeyser is not expected to stop GM Ken Holland from trying to add to his blue line. The Wings have a surplus of forwards, and Holland has said he’d “love to get a top-three defenseman” prior to the start of next season.

    If Holland can’t swing a deal, Detroit’s pairings could look something like this:

    DeKeyser — Mike Green
    Jonathan Ericsson — Niklas Kronwall
    Brendan SmithAlexey Marchenko
    Xavier Ouellet

    It’s not a particularly young group. Kronwall is 35, Ericsson is 32, and Green is 30. The Red Wings chose not to re-sign veteran Kyle Quincey, and so far he has not been replaced. In June, they drafted a defenseman in the first round, but Dennis Cholowski is a ways away from playing in the NHL; he’s off St. Cloud State in the fall. There are a few other young blue-liners in the system, like Joe Hicketts, Ryan Sproul and Robbie Russo, but they all still have some developing to do.

    At the very least, Holland now has some cost certainty with DeKeyser. The next step will be getting Petr Mrazek‘s deal done, possibly with the aid of tomorrow’s arbitration hearing. After that, it’ll be working to get that defenseman he covets.

    Related: Blues GM says he might just keep Kevin Shattenkirk

    Nugent-Hopkins trying to ignore trade rumors — ‘If it happens, it happens’

    BOSTON, MA - DECEMBER 14:  Ryan Nugent-Hopkins #93 of the Edmonton Oilers skates against the Boston Bruins during the first period at TD Garden on December 14, 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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    The Ryan Nugent-Hopkins trade speculation may have died down since it peaked at the draft in late June, but it’s not entirely dead.

    The 23-year-old former first overall draft pick was asked to address the ongoing rumors Monday at an Oilers charity golf tournament.

    “I try not to pay attention too much,” Nugent-Hopkins said, per the Edmonton Journal. “If it happens, it happens. I know it’s definitely a different group than the one we finished with last season.”

    Indeed it is. Most notably, Taylor Hall is in New Jersey now, traded for defenseman Adam Larsson. The Oilers also signed Milan Lucic and drafted Jesse Puljujarvi.

    What’s still lacking is an offensive defenseman who can run the power play, which is why the names Tyson Barrie (Avalanche) and Matt Dumba (Wild) have been floated as potential targets.

    The Wild in particular could use a good, young center like Nugent-Hopkins, and the expansion draft is looming for a Minnesota club that already has defensemen Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon, Jonas Brodin, and Marco Scandella locked up in long-term contracts.

    Barrie, meanwhile, has an arbitration hearing scheduled for Friday.

    Blues d-man Kevin Shattenkirk is another name that’s come up; however, he can become an unrestricted free agent after next season, and whether he’d re-sign in Edmonton is in doubt.

    Flyers reportedly avoid arbitration with Manning, sign him for two more years

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    Chalk up another arbitration hearing that won’t be required. This time it’s Brandon Manning‘s. The 26-year-old defenseman has agreed on a two-year, $1.95 million deal with the Philadelphia Flyers, according to CSN Philly.

    Manning’s hearing was scheduled for next Tuesday. He was the last restricted free agent on the Flyers, after Brayden Schenn re-signed Monday.

    Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman was the first to report the Manning signing.

    Manning played 56 games for the Flyers in 2015-16, his first full season in the NHL. He had one goal and six assists while logging an average ice time of 16:32.