Hockey in Belize? Why not? Go Buccaneers!

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San Pedro Buccaneers and Withrow Park (Toronto) Tropical Knights  come together for a group shot at the end of the tournament. Two things that I heard and liked a lot: "Wait until next year!" and "We'll bring more teams!"
San Pedro Buccaneers and Withrow Park (Toronto) Tropical Knights come together for a group shot at the end of the tournament. Two things that I heard and liked a lot: “Wait until next year!” and “We’ll bring more teams!” At San Pedro High School.

They called the tournament the inaugural Caribbean Coconut Cup and the grand prize was an artfully carved and lacquered Belizean wood-and-coconut trophy.

The program cover described it as an “International Friendly Ball Hockey Tournament.”

And it was indeed friendly — after the games. At Wayo’s or some other fine beachside drinking and socializing establishment.

During the games?

Buccaneers Squad 2 players get encouragement from teammate Wayo Vasquez.
Buccaneers Squad 2 players get encouragement from teammate Wayo Vasquez.

Let’s just say there are some aches and pains to be dealt with today. These teams played for real.

The big draw was the Withrow Park Tropical Knights from Toronto. These guys get together every year and vacation in some exotic, tropic, bucolic, serendipitous place where they play local hockey teams. In other words, they mix a lifelong passion for hockey with new pleasures while forging  new friendships.

At this point I know what your are thinking: Local hockey teams? Here in Belize? Here on Ambergris Caye?

You bet your hockey stick, bucko.

At the start of the first game Buccaneers Squad 1 players lineup to present welcome gifts to the just-landed Canadian team Withrow Park Tropical Knights. Gifts presumably included sunburn loation and lots of local rum to slow them down.....
At the start of the first game Buccaneers Squad 1 players lineup to present welcome gifts to the just-landed Canadian team Withrow Park Tropical Knights. Gifts presumably included sunburn loation and lots of local rum to slow them down…..

Ball hockey has been an island pursuit since 2010 and most every Thursday you can find as many as 20 folks with sticks in hand whacking that red ball up and down a tennis court near the Grand Bayman complex just south of town.

Shouldn’t be surprising. Canadians are well represented in the local expat population and their passion for this game rivals that of New England Patriot fans, Golden Gate Warrior fans, Chicago Cubs fans — to name a few. There are Belizeans and Americans in the local mix too! And two of the toughest goalies you will find are Niki Lamporelli and Dee Regis.

Ball hockey is equal opportunity. If you can swing a stick, run the distance and endure the pain — welcome, brothers and sisters.

On Saturday the Tropical Knights came straight off the plane to play back-to-back games against the San Pedro Buccaneers which split into two teams, Squad 1 and Squad 2, for logistical reasons.

Tropic Knights await the start of the first game.
Tropic Knights await the start of the first game.

If jet-lag was a strategy, it didn’t work. The formidable Knights swept both teams.

Before the first game the Tropical Knights gained a psychological advantage by audaciously wearing mouth guards, protective glasses and padding. A shocking display of preparation and self-preservation.

The Knights stayed on Boca del Rio, with the highest concentration of bars anywhere in Belize (imaginary statistic which enables the storyline). The next-best hope of the Buccaneers was that the Knights would exhaust themselves by snorkeling, sunburning, and downing Belikins and local rum to excess while partying with the veteran locals.

It almost worked.

Buccaneers Squad 2 lines up for inaugural pre-game ceremony, hoping that their Squad 1 would soften up the formidable Tropic Knights in the first game.
Buccaneers Squad 2 lines up for inaugural pregame ceremony, hoping that their Squad 1 teammates would soften up the formidable Tropical Knights in the first game.

On Monday afternoon,  Buccaneers Squads 1 & 2 pummeled each other on the San Pedro High School court for the honor of playing the Knights one more time. One by one, the Knights strolled into the arena wearing telltale “island grins,” with a hint of Second degree sunburn here and there.

There was hope.

Except that the Bucs had upped their games so much for the semi-final that fans had to wonder, “Will there be anything left for the final game against the Tropical Knights?”

Buccaneers Squad 2 earned the rights to the Knights. But, man, at what cost?

How they managed we’ll never know, unless one of them writes a tell-all book someday (Ghostwriter available….) The Bucky 2’s played heads-up and tenaciously and even knocked the Knights off-balance for the first half of the game. As one fan noted, their scoring output quadrupled that of both Buccaneer teams on the first night.

A strong fan base turned out for all the games. That's the inimitable master-of-ceremonies Rob Burrows to the left.
A strong fan base turned out for all the games. That’s the inimitable master-of-ceremonies Rob Burrows to the left.

Fans were clearly into it, lead in sometimes-unprintable chants — rhymes with Buccaneers — by that rascally bar owner and mad man with a mike, Rob “We call it Crazy Canucks for a reason” Burrows.

In the end, somebody had to win but it really looked the the Tropical Knights earned the Coconut Cup the hard way.

Bucs Squad 2 player Paul DuVille probably sums up the feelings of his compatriots in a Facebook post this morning: “I had a great day… thank you to me mate Vic Murphy & Captain Roger Dey for taking the time to have fun, drink beer, & play hockey. Incredible experience for me. We have formed amazing friendships in a short span of time. Thank you Withrow Park Tropical Knights … The inaugural Caribbean Coconut Cup Champs & you know we want you back in Belize, soon !!!”

Goalie Dee Regis put on an astounding display of dee-fence, especially in the final game, keeping the Buccaneers Squad 2 in contention for the whole game. She lulled the Knights by kissing a random hockey player before the game. OK, that's husband Wayo Vasquez. Dee has more than 20 years of hockey experience. She and Wayo have been married a little over one year.
Goalie Dee Regis put on an astounding display of dee-fence, especially in the final game, keeping the Buccaneers Squad 2 in contention for the whole game. She lulled the Knights by kissing a random hockey player before the game. OK, that’s husband Wayo Vasquez. Dee has more than 20 years of hockey experience. She and Wayo have been married a little over one year.

In fact, the game was barely over and there was talk of the Knights enticing a few other ball hockey teams to make the trip next year. And then word flew around that there may even be a ball hockey club on the mainland. Maybe an intra-Belize tournament in the works ….

As for fans, maybe only a few could explain the concept of “icing” but they know action-packed, all-out passionate sports play when they see it. Ball hockey gained a lot a fans this day, and maybe a few more players.

Meanwhile, a lifelong resident of Minnesota and great friend, Ruth Guliani Rinehart, who winters in San Pedro marveled, “I had to come all the way to Belize to see my first-ever hockey game!” In Minnesota,  ice hockey is the most popular high school sport and hockey has its own state TV program. Ruthie is now a fan.

Rough and tumble play in the Buccaneers squad on squad game leading up to thr final against the Tropical Knights.
Rough and tumble play in the Buccaneers squad on squad game leading up to the final against the Tropical Knights.

So is a sizable chunk of San Pedro.

Well done, Buccaneers.

MORE PHOTOS FROM THE INAUGURAL CARIBBEAN COCONUT CUP TOURNAMENT:

Rough and tumble play in the Buccaneers squad on squad game leading up to the final against the Tropical Knights.
Rough and tumble play in the Buccaneers squad on squad game leading up to the final against the Tropical Knights.
Rough and tumble play in the Buccaneers squad on squad game leading up to the final against the Tropical Knights.
Rough and tumble play in the Buccaneers squad on squad game leading up to the final against the Tropical Knights.
Rough and tumble play in the Buccaneers squad on squad game leading up to the final against the Tropical Knights.
Rough and tumble play in the Buccaneers squad on squad game leading up to the final against the Tropical Knights.
Squad 2 strategizes during a pause in play.
Squad 2 strategizes during a pause in play.
 

Caribbean Coconut Cup final game.
Caribbean Coconut Cup final game.
Caribbean Coconut Cup final game.
Caribbean Coconut Cup final game.
Caribbean Coconut Cup final game.
Caribbean Coconut Cup final game.
An exhausted Paul DuVille catches his breath beside the coveted Coconut Cup at the end of the final game. Everybody left it on the field on this day.
An exhausted Paul DuVille catches his breath beside the coveted Coconut Cup at the end of the final game. Everybody left it on the field on this day.
 

Caribbean Coconut Cup final game.
Caribbean Coconut Cup final game.
Buccaneers Squad 2
Buccaneers Squad 2
Buccaneers Squad 2 members, awaiting substitution into the game.
Buccaneers Squad 2 members, awaiting substitution into the game.
Champs Tropical Knights donate their sticks and other equipment to the San Pedro Buccaneers at the end of the tourney.
Champs Tropical Knights donate their sticks and other equipment to the San Pedro Buccaneers at the end of the tourney.
Buccaneers acknowledge the champion Tropical Knights.
Buccaneers acknowledge the champion Tropical Knights.
Champs Tropical Knights acknowledge their opponents the Buccaneers Squad 2 and lift the trophy high.
Champs Tropical Knights acknowledge their opponents the Buccaneers Squad 2 and lift the trophy high.
Handshakes and hugs all around at the end of the tournament.
Handshakes and hugs all around at the end of the tournament.
Wayne McCrae a mainstay of the Buccaneers moves on soon to Merida, Mexico, with wife Linda. He vows to start up a hockey league there and come back for Caribbean Coconut Cup II
Wayne McCrae, a mainstay of the Buccaneers, moves on soon to Merida, Mexico, with wife, Linda. He vows to start up a hockey league there and come back for Caribbean Coconut Cup II! We will miss you, Wayne and Linda!
Team picture of the winning squad Withrow Park Tropical Knights from Toronto, Canada. They promise to return next year!
Team picture of the winning squad Withrow Park Tropical Knights from Toronto, Canada. They promise to return next year! 

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!

Tournaments like this don’t happen without a lot of generosity on the part of the community. Here are some of the folks who made the Coconut Cup possible:

San Pedro Town Council — Sports Committee

Belize Tourism Board

San Pedro High School

Caye Coffee Roasting Company

Wayo’s Beach Bar

Carlos & Ernie’s Runway Bar

Belikin Beer

Lily’s Treasure Chest Restaurant

Island Tackle Bar & Grill

Sandbar Beachfront Hotel & Restaurant

Rob Burrows – Master of ceremonies

Susan Barkhouse –timer/scorekeeper

Paul Locasio & Matt Hoy — referees

Creative Graphic Impressions

Kenny Guinn

 

 

 

 

 

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3 thoughts on “Hockey in Belize? Why not? Go Buccaneers!

    Dari Bartz said:
    February 8, 2017 at 6:13 am

    Love it! We used to play on rollerblades! So much fun! Would love to come watch a game!

    Like

    Megan Rodden said:
    February 8, 2017 at 6:44 am

    Oh my gosh! so excited! moving in May and was going to really miss all my adult sports leagues so I’m over the moon to see adult rec teams!

    Like

      robertjhawkins1 responded:
      February 8, 2017 at 8:15 am

      May be fewer organized adult sports leagues than it seems — but that certainly means there is opportunity to organize something! Belizeans are big on softball and soccer (football) and the island recently opened a beautiful new field with artificial turf. There is a sandlot field at the back of the town that is popular with softball and soccer.

      Most sports run in the form of tournaments or single races — bicycle and kayak races. Competitive bicycle racing is growing, now that there are three open miles of concrete road. More and more 5 & 10 races seem to be popping up too.

      The San Pedro Town Council is very involved in the promotion of sports on the island and even has a sports coordinator Kent Gabourel (who goes by Bob) whose job it is to organize and promote sporting events here. Bob represented Belize in competitive cycling in the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Scotland and won the Belize Lion Man Triathlon three years in a row. Might be worth introducing yourself to him when you arrive! He could point you toward the best opportunities.

      Like

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