Color of Hockey: Women of Colombia to play in first IIHF Development Cup

William Douglas has written The Color of Hockey blog since 2012. Douglas joined in 2019 and writes about people of color in the sport. Today, he profiles the Colombia women’s national team, which will play in the inaugural IIHF Women’s Development Cup in Kuwait November 6-12.

Colombia’s national women’s hockey team will travel outside the Americas for the first time to play in the inaugural IIHF Women’s Development Cup in Kuwait.

Colombia will face Kuwait, Andorra, Ireland, Luxembourg and the United Arab Emirates in the tournament at the Kuwait Winter Games Club in Kuwait City from November 6-12.

“We’re so excited because we’re going to play girls that we don’t know how good they are, how they look,” Colombia captain Lorena Pendraca said. “This is going to be huge for us because we don’t have ice in Bogotá.”

Pedraca said her team hopes to follow the success of the Colombian men’s team in Development Cup play. He won the tournament in Fussen, Germany in May, defeating Portugal, Andorra, Liechtenstein, Algeria and drawing Ireland.

“It’s so important to us because we’re trying to build an ice hockey rink in Colombia, so we need results to make that dream come true,” Pedraca said.

The Development Cup was established in 2017 for IIHF members who cannot compete in the governing body’s world championship because they do not meet some of the organization’s requirements for full membership, such as having a full-size ice rink in the country.
Colombia became an associate member of the IIHF in 2019.

“The Development Cup helps to really showcase the history of these countries,” said Aaron Gooley, Director of the Development Cup and President of the Irish Ice Hockey Association. “And that’s why we started the Development Cup; to make this event part of the stepping stone for those countries to be able to get an ice rink.”

Without sufficient ice, players from countries like Colombia such as Argentina, Brazil and Chile maintain their hockey skills by playing inline hockey.

When they compete in ice hockey tournaments like the Amerigol LATAM Cup, hosted by the Florida Panthers in the fall and the Dallas Stars in the spring, they arrive early to practice and adjust from roller skates to steel blades.

Gully said the Colombian women were invited to play in the Development Cup based on the progress the country’s ice hockey program has made over the years.

“I know the guys who really run Colombian hockey and the coaches there,” he said. “I have a lot of admiration for what Colombia is doing because when it comes to hockey, especially internationally, South America seems to be the last uncharted territory, if you will.

“They focus a lot on Asia, and Africa is also there, South Africa has been in the IIHF world championships for quite some time, but South America has no one at the international level. I like this [Colombia] does, I like where they’re going and how they’re going there.”

Colombia’s women finished third at the LATAM Cup at the Florida Panthers IceDen in Coral Springs, Florida in September. Coach Rich Garvey said the tournament was a good setup for the Development Cup.

“Honestly, if we have the dream to play in the Olympics one day, the Colombian women’s national hockey team has a better shot, a faster route, in the Olympics,” he said. “So this Development Cup in Kuwait coming up for us is a huge step in that direction.”

Gully said the emergence of the Development Cup would also help Colombia and other participants shed the label of so-called “non-traditional” hockey countries.

“We hear it in Ireland and I’m sure Colombia hears it too: ‘We’re not traditionally a hockey or winter sports country,'” he said. “Well, it will soon be 2023 and I don’t think there is such a thing as an ‘ice hockey country’ or a ‘no ice hockey country.’ In today’s global economy and society, people move around so much that ice hockey can be anywhere.”

Photos: Courtesy of BC Photography, Eliot Schechter

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