Jamaica is well on its way to fielding its own national ice hockey team after the International Ice Hockey Federation voted the country as an associate member on Friday.
Associate member status means that the country still can't compete in any IIHF sanctioned events, but the wheels certainly are in motion with the goal of fielding a team for the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
Yes, Jamaica, the tiny Caribbean island nation with only one ice rink in its borders, is working on sending a hockey team to a Winter Olympiad. The comparisons to the Jamaican bobsled team at the 1988 Games, immortalized by the tremendous film "Cool Runnings," are all too obvious. The bobsled team, in fact, partly inspired the Jamaican Olympic Ice Hockey Team (JOIHT) and helped blaze a trail for it.
"We had Devon Harris here with us from the bobsled team and he was telling us how when they first started, nobody took it seriously, but it's been different for us," Sandra Lord, a key strategist for the venture, told The Gleaner. "When we talk about this with people, everyone's been so supportive of us. They remember the bobsled team and they have been so encouraging, we have support that has been beyond our expectations."
The team already has an endorsement from the Jamaican Olympic Association and reportedly has the financial backing from a throng of donors to reach its estimated functioning budget of $1.7 million, a crucial hurdle leaped for a country struggling financially.
Edmond R. Phillips, 22 and an American of Jamaican decent from Columbus, Ohio, who grew up playing hockey, and his father founded the JOIHT, which is based out of Denver. Willie O'Ree, who broke the NHL's color barrier, has also been involved in the undertaking. To fill the roster, the plan is to recruit players of Jamaican heritage from across the globe to try out for the team, train and hopefully ultimately qualify for 2018.
"You would be amazed at how many amazing Jamaican hockey players there are from all over the world, whether it's Canada, Switzerland, England, the United States, and even some budding ones here," Jamaican Sports Minister Olivia Grange said.
We absolutely are pulling for this to happen. Underdogs provide some of the best story lines at the Olympics, as evidenced by the bobsled team enthralling the world at the '88 Games in Calgary. Who knows, maybe there will even be some goofy, dreadlocked pushcart driving champion somewhere in Kingston crooning people to the tune of, "Some people say you know they can't believe, Jamaica we have a hockey team!"
H/T Puck Daddy