Color of Hockey: Puerto Rico wins men’s Division I title at LATAM Cup

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CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. — The third time was the charm for Puerto Rico when it defeated Argentina 4-3 to win the Amerigol LATAM Cup men’s Division I title at the Florida Panthers IceDen on Sunday.

Puerto Rico lost twice to Argentina: 5-3 on Thursday and 6-3 at the Amerigol LATAM Cup Spring Classic hosted by the Dallas Stars in Farmers Branch, Texas, in March.

“These don’t come easy, right?” Puerto Rico captain Scott Vargas said. “You’ve got to earn it, and that’s what we did.”

Vargas said his team played with a sense of purpose while Hurricane Fiona hit Puerto Rico on Sunday, causing power outages and extensive damage across the island.

“You think about some of the things going on today,” Vargas said. “A hurricane hit the island. We’ve got a bunch of guys here that are banged up, some older guys that maybe can never play again that still battled through broken fingers, dislocated shoulders.”

Playing through it made hoisting the LATAM Cup at the end of the five-day tournament that much sweeter, Vargas said.

The tournament featured 44 teams competing in six divisions and more than 750 players who represented 21 countries and territories including Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Egypt, Israel, Lebanon, Mexico, Puerto Rico and Venezuela.

The LATAM Cup men’s Division II final had a Middle East flavor with men’s teams representing Egypt and Israel playing for the championship. Egypt’s Pharaohs defeated the Stars of Israel 3-0. Sameh Ramadan, Egypt’s captain, said their program entered the tournament to make a splash and a statement.

“There’s lot of Egyptians that play high level,” Ramadan said. “We need an ice rink in Cairo as soon as possible. This absolutely helps. This is the platform that we need. We went against teams at our same level from around the world and ultimately came out on top.”

Egypt coach Yasser Ahmed said the win “means everything for everything. A win like this puts the spotlight on us even for a little bit, just to show there are Egyptians who play ice hockey and ice hockey is for everyone.”

An Under-16 team representing Mexico City defeated Puerto Rico 5-1. Brazil’s Under-12 team won 9-6 against Hockey Players of Color Movement, a team that highlights and supports minority players. Egypt’s Under-16 team defeated a team of Caribbean heritage players 8-6 to win the tournament’s Rest of the World Division. Puerto Rico defeated Team Caribbean 8-1 for the Under-20 title. Mexico’s Warriors won the women’s championship with a 9-4 victory against Chile.

Most of the LATAM Cup countries and territories aspire to play hockey on the world stage but don’t have rinks or suitable ice facilities that meet International Ice Hockey Federation regulations and allow them to play in IIHF-sanctioned tournaments or compete for a berth in the Winter Olympics.

They play in the LATAM Cup hoping to inspire sports federations, Olympic committees or private investors in their countries and territories to support ice hockey, mainly by building ice rinks.

“Our motto is ‘Whatever it takes,’ that captures the Puerto Rican culture,” Vargas said. “The more people find out about us, and they see what these teams do on the ice and the effort they put out … they’ll get behind us and then we’ll have people on the island playing, and the community will grow.”

Photos: Courtesy of BC Photography





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