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Canadians Unite!!! Hockey Night in Costa Rica, Eh?

Costa Rica Entertainment – Pond hockey, shinny, a trip to the outdoor rink.

knights-2For many Canadians it’s as much a part of the holiday season as turkey and mistletoe, and for Bruce Callow it’s something he simply couldn’t do without, even while living in a tropical paradise.

“Growing up in Canada and playing hockey, and not having that, you feel that there is something missing,” he says.

Callow moved to Costa Rica in 1992 with the intention of spending a year in the country, but 23 years later, after marrying a local woman and starting a family, the 50 year old from Calgary is still living in the Central American country.

But living amongst the palm trees didn’t dampen Callow’s passion for pucks.

So, when he discovered a small patch of ice at a country club in the city of Heredia, in central Costa Rica, he wasted no time establishing a hockey program there. A program that his two sons now help him run.

“It was a real privilege to be able to bring up children in Costa Rica, but to still maintain a little bit of that important Canadian identity,” Callow says.

There are around 30 registered players in the program in three categories, from young beginners to old timers with about a dozen players in their late teens to early twenties making up the core.

Just last year, the rink at the Castillo Country Club was expanded to include boards and a larger surface, perfect for three-on-three games. It is a development that has Callow to dream of bigger things for ice hockey in Costa Rica.

“Long term we would like to register or affiliate ourselves with the International Ice Hockey Federation,” he says.

But to do that, he says, Costa Rica would first have to build a full-size rink that was open to the general public, not part of a private club.

Its a goal that seems a little closer, after a temporary outdoor rink opened in Costa Rica’s capital San José this holiday season.

“Two or three times a week at 10 o’clock at night they are having games and quite a lot of Canadians are coming out of the woodwork, it seems, and saying ‘Hey, there is a rink.'”

David Vargas also dreams of a day when Costa Rica has a full-size hockey rink. The 21-year old defenceman has been playing hockey for five years and now helps coach in Callow’s program.

“I like that some day we can have a very big school to teach ice hockey.”

Vargas is also one of Costa Rica’s most well-travelled hockey players, having spent two weeks at a hockey camp in Penticton, B.C., three years ago.

One day, Vargas would like to travel with his Costa Rican teammates to play other countries in South and Central America, “It’s very expensive for us that each player can travel to another country like Argentina,” said Vargas.

Callow says that while sending a full team remains out of reach, his program will send two players to play in a pond hockey tournament in Quebec next month.

Callow also hopes to attract teams from other parts of the world, including Canada, to come to Costa Rica to play friendly games against his adopted home team.

by By Erin Collins, CBC News

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