Even though every Canadian knows hockey is easily the greatest sport in the world, its global reach is somewhat limited. Russia, Sweden and the U.S. are but only a few of the countries that share this incredible passion with us.
That’s why a coach in Vancouver has made it his mission to spread the game around the world, so that everyone can know the joy of a good round of shinny. Nathan Leslie’s first destination was certainly ambitious, though, as he chose to import the sport to Mongolia – a country with 11 outdoor rinks and only 653 registered hockey players.
Yeah, good luck.
Leslie, who coaches hockey at the Britannia Hockey Academy in Vancouver and used to play Junior-A hockey in his youth, gathered a small film crew and raised the $22,000 necessary to make the trip. They brought with them 10 bags full of hockey gear and more than 50 pairs of skates – enough to get an entire community of kids on the ice.
And get on the ice they did.
After coaching locals on seven different ice rinks, word started to spread and nomadic Mongolian people began arriving on horseback to watch practices, and, in a display of gratitude, even brought lunches. The kids, meanwhile, really took to the game, learning new techniques and strategies from Leslie – even playing in the dark at one point.
“We had a group one day wait five hours in -25 C to -29 C weather, hoping that we would show up and get on the ice,” he said. “They’re tough. They’re resilient. They’re as passionate as we are.”
Because of how warmly received the sport was in such an unlikely country, Leslie now has plans to spread his love of the sport to other countries. Next up: China and New Zealand – nations with a combined total of just over 2,500 hockey players.