Ice Hockey for Pinoys-why not?

Feb 25, 2017

Who would have thought that Filipinos would go for ice hockey as a sport, or even be a fan of it, considering that we are in a tropical country? But ice and snow have always fascinated us, precisely because we never had those and will never have them here at home. When SM brought in the idea of ice skating in the Philippines, that was a feat, and an unimaginable one really, but ice skating caught on with the young people. Mothers brought their daughters to have formal lessons in figure skating and weekends would see families skating together at SM. We have even developed our own Filipino ice skating champion.

That was the closest we came to ice hockey, the sport, until a small group boldly set out with the idea of promoting ice hockey in the Philippines. Actually, the group is made up mostly of men and women whose young sons are into ice hockey, so one can imagine that the core group is dedicated and committed to the sport that their sons have chosen. Spearheading this group is Chris Sy, president of the Federation of Ice Hockey League in the Philippines (of Highlands Premium Steakhouse) whose son first tried out ice hockey in Canada and got hooked. He got together with other parents and formed a team of Filipino ice hockey players. His dedication has earned him the distinction of being regarded as the Godfather of Ice Hockey in the country.

Even the young players themselves will tell you that ice hockey is an expensive one to maintain as a sport. The gear and the practice sessions at the ice skating rink were big drains in the pocket, so Chris and some of the parents approached Hans Sy of SM to see what support they can get for this fledgling Philippine team. Hans readily agreed to support the team in their practices, and this was the biggest break that the team got. They were off to a good start, and since then they have formed a unified team that tirelessly practiced and joined foreign competitions in the Asian region.

Early this week, Chris gave a warm send-off to the team at his Highlands Premium Steakhouse at the Estancia in Capitol Commons. They are off to Sapporo for the Winter Games, an event that happens only once every five years, and the team is proud to have qualified to join this prestigious event. They converged at the steakhouse to receive their individual kits, gear and official uniforms and even practice ice hockey shirts, thanks to the sponsors like Nike, Flying V and others who believe in the Philippine team. And of course to feast on Highlands' famous angus burgers. There is also a measure of support from the government for the team, and some kind-hearted individuals have also pitched in with their personal contributions. After all, these kids are playing for the country, hoping to bring home honors for the Philippines.

The Philippine Ice Hockey Team has been practicing hard since July of 2016, according to Daniel Brodan, Head Coach of the team. For more than seven months, they have been conducting drills and practicing at the SM ice skating rink, exposed to the ice about five times a week. Steven Fuglister is the Team Captain,Paolo Spifford the Goalie and Paul Sanchez is the Center. Paolo, the Goalie, has been playing ice hockey for fifteen years now but only came to the Philippines seven years ago. He has seen how ice hockey has grown as a sport in the country in the seven years he has been home and is proud to be part of the team. In their division, Paolo said, there are roughly twelve teams competing, so the Sapporo Winter Games will certainly test the team's mettle. Like Paolo, Paul, the Center, has also been playing ice hockey for a long time and he said he believes that their biggest competition is themselves. He admits to having butterflies in his stomach at the prospect of meeting and playing against the more experienced foreign teams, but he is determined to do his best. This is a team-oriented sport, and they are confident that they have created team chemistry on the ice from the gruelling practice sessions they have had, spending six to eight hours a week on the ice for seven full months.

After Sapporo, there is barely enough time for the team to rest until practice sessions resume for more competitions abroad. There is the Challenge Cup that will be staged in Kuwait, and after that, there is the SEA Games in Malaysia which the team is particularly looking forward to.

The Sapporo Winter Games will be streamed live on the web, so the eager Philippine Team is looking forward to the full support of their countrymen. Watch the games and cheer for them- the moral support would mean a lot for the Philippine Ice Hockey Team.

Mabuhay!!! Be proud to be a Filipino.

For comments and inquiries (email)


About the Author

Ray Butch Gamboa graduated from the College of Arts and Letters of the University of Sto. Tomas. It was a course that should have been preparatory to a law degree, but the call of broadcasting aborted his plans.

At the age of 16, while still a student, Butch tried his hand at disc jockeying, landing a job at Mareco Broadcasting Network's AM stations DZBM and DZLM. From there, Butch moved on with his illustrious career as a popular disc jockey, riding the airwaves of Bob Stewart's middle-of-the-road music at DZXX, and ending his disc jockeying career at ABS-CBN's DZYL and DZQL.

From there, he stayed on with ABS-CBN, covering live the proceedings at the Manila Stock Exchange and eventually entered into the world of television sales as an account manager for the premier channel of ABS-CBN Channel 2.

In the early 70's, at the outbreak of Martial Law, Butch was one of the thousands of professionals who woke up jobless when then President Marcos declared the new status of the nation. With the closure of ABS-CBN, Butch ventured into different fields outside of broadcast. He tried his hand and with ease and success at export (Costume jewelry), real estate (brokerage), and restaurants (fast food).

In 1987, after the revolution, with the broadcast industry back to its free state, and with its irresistible call ringing in his ears, Butch made his inevitable comeback and pioneered in a local motoring show, producing Motoring Today on Channel 4 and co-hosting with local motor sports' living legend Pocholo Ramirez.

After 4 years, he ventured into another pioneering format by producing and hosting Business & Leisure, which was originally aired on ABS-CBN's Channel 2. The format eventually espoused similar ones in other different channels. But the clones in due course faded away leaving the original staying on airing on Channel 4 and eventually on Shop TV on Sky Cable's Channel 13.

The following year, the pioneering spirit in Butch spurred him to produce another TV show, Race Weekend, also on Channel 4, covering circuit racing at the Subic International Raceway after the motor sport's hiatus of 17 years. But when similar shows with duplicated formats sprouted, he decided to give way and ended the program after a year, although still enjoying unparalleled viewership.

In 1998, when the local automotive industry was in a slump, Butch contributed his share to help the ailing industry by producing another popular motoring-related show, this time exclusive to the automobile and its industry—Auto Focus, which became a vehicle for local automotive assemblers and importers to showcase their products and dwell on the industry's latest technological developments.

In 2003, Butch teamed up with his brother, Rey Gamboa who was a former Shell executive and presently one Philippine Star's business columnist to co-produce and co-host the TV show Breaking Barriers on Channel 13. It is a talk show that features guests who are in the news and in the middle of controversies. The program ventures to draw deeper insights into current issues to learn how they impact to our daily lives.

Today, Motoring Today on its 28th year of service to the general motoring public still enjoys its unprecedented loyal vierwership nationwide while Auto Focus, after 16 years has firmly established its niche viewership among automobile enthusiasts and on the other hand Business & Leisure is on its 24th year dishing out current business issues and lifestyle features.

Today, aside from writing weekly columns for the Philippine Star (Motoring Today on Wednesdays and Business & Leisure on Saturdays) and executive producer / host of weekly TV shows (Motoring Today, airs Sundays on Solar Sports Channel 70, Business & Leisure, airs Tuesdays on Shop TV, Sky Cable Channel 13 and Auto Focus airs Thursdays on Shop TV, Sky Cable Channel 13, Ray Butch Gamboa is currently the Chairman and CEO of Sunshine Television Production and Marketing Services Corp., President of Gamcor Management and Development Corp., Chairman of Asia-Pacific Realty Corporation, President and Chairman of Socio-Communication Foundation for Asia and Founding Chairman of the Society of Phil. Motoring Journalists (SPMJ)