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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    Caps prospect Madison Bowey could face supplemental discipline for high hit, possible slur

    NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 28:  Madison Bowey #22 of the Washington Capitals skates against the Washington Capitals at the Barclays Center on September 28, 2015 in Brooklyn borough of New York City. The Capitals defeated the Islanders 3-1.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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    Capitals prospect Madison Bowey is in trouble. The 21-year-old could face supplemental discipline for a pair of incidents that occurred in Game 4 of the Calder Cup Eastern Conference Final on Friday night.

    The Hershey Bears defenseman was tossed from the game for delivering a high hit to the head of Toronto Marlies forward Kasperi Kapanen. The 19-year-old was shaken up on the play, but was able to skate off the ice on his own.

    Bowey also appears to use a homophobic slur as the on-ice official is escorting him off the ice (the incident was caught on camera).

    Here’s some footage of the hit:

    Bowey was tossed from the game.

    The hit might not be extremely vicious, but it’s unnecessarily high. The possible slur definitely doesn’t improve his odds of escaping without a suspension.

    Earlier this season, ‘Hawks forward Andrew Shaw was suspended one game by the NHL for using a homophobic slur during a game.

    ‘I felt a huge pop’: Bishop suffered an ankle/shin injury in Eastern Conference Final

    Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Ben Bishop looks at the ice after allowing a goal by Detroit Red Wings' Gustav Nyquist in the second period of an NHL hockey game in Detroit, Saturday, March 28, 2015. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
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    Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Ben Bishop revealed he had strained ligaments in his ankle/shin area, which ultimately put him on the sidelines for the Eastern Conference Final.

    Bishop was stretchered off the ice after suffering the injury in the first period of Game 1 versus the Pittsburgh Penguins, and never returned to game action, meaning back-up Andrei Vasilevskiy had to take over the starting duties for the duration of the series.

    “When I went down, I felt a huge pop. I thought somebody two-handed me in the shin. Once I felt the pop and then it was a bunch of pressure and pain, I thought my leg broke,” Bishop told reporters.

    “I pretty much strained all the stuff in my shin and ankle. I was coming back and it was getting better. I was able to skate there at the end but going down in the butterfly and those movements — like going up against the post — it was still really painful and I just wouldn’t have been effective.”

    Bishop estimated he was getting close to a return, but still a “week or so” before he could play with the pain.

    “It was getting there. Just tough timing.”

    Bishop, 29, has one more year remaining on his current deal that comes with a cap hit of $5.95 million and is slated to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of next season. Vasilevskiy, 21, played well when called upon in the post-season and has one year remaining on his deal. He’s slated to become a restricted free agent after next season.

    Lightning GM Steve Yzerman acknowledged that at some point, a decision on their goalies will probably be necessary, either for salary cap reasons or perhaps a potential expansion draft.

    “We’ve got two outstanding goaltenders. I know that,” said Yzerman.

    Added Bishop: “If you look around this league right now, you need two goalies to win.”

    Yzerman: ‘I think the best thing for this team is Jonathan Drouin being on it’

    TAMPA, FL - APRIL 30:  Jonathan Drouin #27 of the Tampa Bay Lightning celebrates his goal against the New York Islanders  during the first period in Game Two of the Eastern Conference Second Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Amalie Arena on April 30, 2016 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Scott Iskowitz/Getty Images)
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    Talk about a whirlwind season for Jonathan Drouin.

    The talented forward, and third overall pick in the 2013 NHL Draft, went from the center of a well documented controversy for a public trade request to a pivotal component for the Tampa Bay Lightning in its playoff quest that fell just short of a Stanley Cup Final berth after a Game 7 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference Final.

    The 21-year-old Drouin, recalled from the AHL when Steven Stamkos was taken out of the lineup with a blood clot, scored five goals and 14 points in 17 playoff games. And, based on the comments of general manager Steve Yzerman to reporters, he’ll be a regular on this team when the 2016-17 season begins in the fall.

    Drouin has one more year remaining on his entry-level contract before he’s a restricted free agent, as per General Fanager.

    Funny how some things can change.

    The Drouin trade request was one of the more contentious — not to mention ongoing — storylines this season. But it could be that both sides have since resolved their differences.

    “I definitely want to be here,” said Drouin, as per the Tampa Bay Times. “I love the way this ended, I guess with this different and weird year. But the way this finished and it’s definitely somewhere I want to play.”

    In this case, the best deal was the one Yzerman never made. Even as speculation and reports and rumor circulated the situation for weeks leading up to the trade deadline.

    “He makes us a better team. Simple as that,” Yzerman told reporters. “He can do things — a talented young player that’s only going to get better.

    “I think the best thing for this team is Jonathan Drouin being on it.”

     

    Penguins enter Stanley Cup Final as favorites over Sharks: online bookmaker

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    The Pittsburgh Penguins, led by the likes of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang, were last in the Stanley Cup Final in 2009, when they hoisted hockey’s silver chalice.

    The San Jose Sharks are in uncharted waters, having never been here before, and that includes Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau, both veterans of more than 1,000 regular season games played.

    Perhaps that’s why the Penguins, one of the marquee NHL teams given their generational super star Crosby, are -135 favorites to win the Stanley Cup, according to online bookmaker Bovada on Friday. The Sharks were listed as +115 underdogs.

    The Penguins, a force in the NHL since a coaching change in mid-December, became the betting favorites to win it all following their series win over Alex Ovechkin and the rival Washington Capitals in the second round.

    Game 1 of the final goes Monday in Pittsburgh, where the Penguins will start with home ice advantage.

    So far in these playoffs, the Penguins have gone 7-3 at Consol Energy Center. The Sharks are 5-4 on the road, where they actually started 3-0 following the first round against the L.A. Kings.

    Right now, the Sharks possess the top three point producers in these playoffs in Logan Couture, Joe Pavelski (the leading goal scorer with 13) and Brent Burns, while Phil Kessel — as part of that dynamic HBK Line — is fifth in the league and leads the Penguins with 18 points in 18 games.