We've written in the past of how interest in our sport is piqued around the globe, developed and succeeds in taking root in the most unlikely of locales, even when odds are stacked against it. (One such story that immediately comes to mind is a feature we wrote about soldiers playing while deployed in the Middle East. And which you should consider reading.) However, we recently came across one that's just about as unlikely a success story as we've seen, (even though it does come from the fairly likely setting of Peoria, Illinois):
From the Chicago Tribune:
"Hockey has a tiny toehold in soccer-mad Mexico. In the Mexico City area, where the sport is concentrated, there are about 10 rinks of varying quality for the city of some 20 million people. ... That leaves few opportunities for Mexican players to practice, with the cost of ice time as high as $1,000 an hour. Competition outside the country is also rare."
None of that should really come as a surprise. What does? The fact that one program south of the border is attempting to set up a partnership with a team stateside:
"You need to expand perspective, horizons and competition levels," said Brian Wilson, a Canadian-born ex-hockey player who coaches the sport in Mexico City and brought 35 players to west suburban Geneva for four days of hockey. ... Wilson, hoping to nurture his enthusiastic young players, reached out to Paul O'Dacre, a former Augustana College hockey coach who manages the Fox Valley arena. O'Dacre helped set up a visit that will also feature teams of older boys playing against each other, hours of clinics and off-ice training.
And even though we do hate to shove this down your throat, we really do think you should find the time to read the rest of the article — mainly, because it's a great read. But mostly because we just quoted a lot more of the article than we set out to.