Falkland Islands, hockey’s most remote community, Hockey News
By Ian Kennedy (*) – Located off the tip of South America near Antarctica, the Falkland Islands are a remote but growing hockey community. The Falkland Islands Hockey Association features 22 teams, both men’s and women’s, despite the Islands having a population under 4000.
We’re the smallest and remotest national ice hockey in the world, and our players are so dedicated and determined to give it their all, play their hearts out, said Marvis Chipunza, a women’s hockey player in the Falkland Islands. For a population so small, it is honestly the biggest sport on the Islands.
The nation has sent multiple players overseas to play and have also competed in events, including the LATAM Cup in Miami, and tournaments in Chile and Costa Rica. Currently, hockey in the Falkland Islands consists of DEK and Inline, but the nation is hoping to plan for an ice rink.
The Falkland Islands Hockey Association features 22 teams, including two women’s teams, the Valkyries and Kraken, in the women’s DEK hockey league. More girls participate in the super elite, elite, junior, rookie, and peewee teams, as well as in the Senior Inline League and men’s DEK league. When the league is playing at the Stanley Leisure Centre in Stanley, the Falklands’ capital and largest town, home to roughly 2500 people, it’s the most popular show on the Islands.
It’s crazy to see, it’s such a small league, but the turnout when there’s a game going on is just incredible, said Chipunza.
Although there is no arena in the Falkland Islands, they hope to one day have one, and the Falkland Islands have sent a national team, the Stanley Penguins, with a logo emblazoned with an image of the Southern Rockhopper penguin to the Amerigol LATAM Cup in Miami, and they plan to continue that growth. The Islands are home to colonies of several penguin species, giving meaning to the logo.
Born in Zimbabwe, Chipunza immigrated to the Falkland Islands in 2012 after her father took a job removing land mines following the implementation by the British government of the Ottawa Treaty in 1998, requiring the removal of all mines in the Falkland Islands. Chipunza’s father took a job in the demining industry to remove the roughly 30,000 land mines laid by Argentine forces during their invasion and occupation of the Islands in 1982 in what became the Falklands War. Today, it’s believed no mines remain.
Since then, Chipunza, and the rest of the Falkland Islands have fallen in love with hockey, which was brought to the Islands in 2006 by Grant Budd, an ex-professional player in Great Britain.
We’d go and watch the games and it just looked really interesting and looked really fun, so me and some of my friends joined and we’re still going, explained Chipunza of getting into the sport.
Chipunza plays for the Valkyries in the women’s league, Ducks in the Senior Inline League, and Oilers in the men’s DEK league. She also coaches the Dragons, a youth team.
Hockey News spoke to Chipunza while she was traveling with a delegation from the Falkland Islands through North America to participate in the Special Committee on Decolonization, or C-24, established by the United Nations to granting independence to colonial countries and peoples.
She hopes her travels also includes the opportunity to not only advocate for the self-determination of the Falkland Islands, but also to build connections in the hockey world.
We’d love to be able to play more regularly or visit other countries. We’d love to send a team to Canada if the opportunity presented itself, she said.
As the Falkland Islands Hockey Association website says, Hockey is not just a sport, it is a global community of amazing individuals and organizations. We are privileged to be a part of that – and want to welcome anyone to join that community.
(*) Ian Kennedy is an author and regular columnist of The Hockey News, the leading Canadian publication on the sport.