The best thing about sports is the unpredictable nature of competition. It’s impossible to say what might happen on any given day. And sometimes we hear stories from the sports world that change our ideas of what is possible. When we think of sports in Kenya, we probably think of long distance running or soccer. But there is a group of athletes in Kenya that have formed an ice hockey team.
Their team in called the Ice Lions and they play on perhaps the only ice skating rink in all of East Africa. There are no other teams to play against so the Ice Lions only play themselves. But recently they have gained some fame nonetheless.
This past year, Tim Horton’s sponsored the team to go to Canada and play an exhibition game against some NHL players. The video of the game went viral and the Ice Lions became famous.
Changes For The Team
The Ice Lions are an enterprising bunch, choosing to play hockey in a country where the sport is unpopular and all but nonexistent. The Ice Lions have had to be creative in order to play the sport they love. They play without pads or use makeshift ones, put together from cushions or other soft materials.
But things have changed after the trip to Canada. Not only has the team become energized but they’ve received funding to buy proper hockey equipment. They are slowly becoming more and more like a team from the West.
There are many challenges the Ice Lions face that teams in America and Canada do not. Hockey is a dangerous sport, especially if you are playing without the proper equipment. NHL teams have medical staff at the ready to help if something goes wrong. This just isn’t the case for the Ice Lions. If someone gets injured they either have to take care of it themselves or bring the person to the hospital. That can be tricky because not all the players have insurance.
So the Ice Lions have been working on figuring out how to keep their players safe. Part of the problem is funding. Tim Horton’s has helped a lot and some other foreign corporations have donated as well. But it’s been impossible for the Ice Lions to access the donations. They haven’t been able to set up a bank account for the team yet. So as of now, the money is just sitting there.
The Ice Lion’s Coach
The Ice Lions have had a lot of help from Tim Colby, who works for the United Nations in Nairobi. At first he was hesitant to get involved. Creating a sustainable sports organization isn’t easy. It takes a lot of people and there are many moving parts. But Colby recognized that hockey was incredibly important to the Ice Lions. Many of their players drive long distances and spend a lot of money to make it to the rink every week. So Colby agreed to coach the team and help them with logistics as well.
The Ice Lions Are On Their Way
Right now the Ice Lions are not exactly a professional team. But Colby is hoping to change that. Part of his plan is to send some of his players to Canada to get certified as coaches. But funding is difficult. As of now, the Ice Lions have raised a few thousand dollars through a GoFundMe page, which has helped with equipment and day-to-day expenses. But they don’t have enough to send players to Canada yet.
The team has about 30 regulars and some kids who come to the rink to train as well. But the way things are going, the Ice Lions are only expanding more and more. It may not be long before there are other teams and perhaps a whole league in Nairobi.