On Nov. 18, Costa Rica and the Castillo Country Club will write an important page in winter sports history when the puck is dropped in Costa Rica’s first-ever international ice hockey tournament.
The two-day Castillo International Ice Hockey Tournament will take place in Central America’s only ice skating rink, located at the Castillo Country Club in Heredia. Senior level teams from Calgary, Alberta, Los Angeles, California, the Falkland Islands and the Castillo Country Club will be competing in this unprecedented sports spectacle which is sure to raise the profile of ice hockey in the region to new levels.
The original Castillo ice rink was built in 1974; in 2014 it was enlarged and modernized, creating even more interest in the hockey program which got its start in 1996.The Castillo rink is about half the size of a regulation hockey rink, ideal for the 3-on-3 (plus goalie) games that will be the format for the tournament.
The Castillo squad is a mix of some of Costa Rica’s most promising up-and-coming hockey talent combined with seasoned Canadian expats who coach and sponsor the program.
One of the most unusual elements of the tournament is the participation of a team from the Falkland Islands. The Falklands team competed in two international ice hockey tournaments in Punta Arenas, Chile, winning that tournament in 2015. Grant Budd, the director of the Falkand hockey program commented “It means a lot for us to compete in Costa Rica’s first International Ice Hockey Tournament. It is history in the making and great that the Falkland Islands are going to be a part of this prestigious event!”
The Castillo tournament represents a unique opportunity to promote hockey in Costa Rica and to attract new players of all ages to the program. Castillo hockey players range in age from six to the mid-40s, and there is a growing number of women players.
Speedy 17-year-old Knight right winger David Aviles is the Knight’s youngest player and has been playing ice hockey at the Castillo for 5 years.
“It’s an honor for me to be in this tournament and represent my country playing the sport that I love so much,” Aviles said. “I love the adrenaline rush you feel when you go after the puck and you know that someone is trying to stop you. It is one of the most active and demanding sports I’ve ever practiced.”
Chris Maltese, captain of the Los Angeles team Ruination, has a long history with the Castillo Knights program. In 2015 he organized an Indiegogo fundraiser to help the Knights buy new sticks and other hockey essentials which he personally delivered to the rink.
“This is a unique opportunity to play hockey internationally and to represent our city and country in an inaugural event,” he said. “For all of those things to line up is pretty special. How could we pass it up?”
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sent a message of greeting to participating teams which reads in part,” This tournament offers a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Castillo Knights Hockey Club and to reflect upon its success. I would like to commend the players taking part in this event for their hard work and enthusiasm for the sport. I would also like to thank the Castillo Knights Hockey Club for organizing this event and for promoting Canada’s national game.”
For more information on attending the tournament and supporting the Castillo Knights hockey program, please contact organizers through the Club’s Facebook page before Nov. 12. The Castillo Country Club is allowing a limited number of spectators to attend the tournament free of charge.
Bruce Callow is the founder of the Castillo Knights hockey program and a beginner level coach.