By José Abeto Zaide
As an old fogey who didn’t have a clue, I mistook the much ballyhooed team which added a gold to our Southeast Asian Games tally as a mixed idemsonance of Mighty Mouse and Donald Duck. (They actually borrowed as nome de guerre the name of the Walt Disney flick, “The Mighty Ducks” (about an inspirational Minnesota team of old players infused with new blood against a crack Iceland Team for the ice hockey championship).
The story of our Filipino “Mighty Ducks” team is a fairy tale of sorts. Compared to Thailand and Singapore, the Philippines is a newcomer and underdog on ice hockey; but our squad exuded confidence. “I think our chances are really good. We’re actually one of the favorites. I think we’re considered a big threat to the other countries,” Francois Gautier, the team’s alternate captain, said.
Mohd Fadzli Johan, the president of the Ice Skating Association of Malaysia, lobbied hard to include winter sports at the 29th Southeast Asian Games; and Malaysia has a state-of-the-art ice hockey facility. At the opening night of the ice hockey tournament at the Empire City Arena in Damansara Perdana, host Malaysia dumped Indonesia 10-3.
But Pinas “Mighty Ducks” showed “what-you-can-do, we-can-do-better” by also dubbing Indonesia 12-0.
Next, we won a bruising physical game against Singapore, 7-2, for our second straight win. But at a price – one of our players, Nico Cadiz, dislocated his left shoulder.
“Cool Runnings” meets “The Mighty Ducks.” Malaysia vs. Philippines was a tough match between two formidable teams. They went into overtime after a tied game at 7-7. Neither side scored in the extra five minutes, sending the game into a shootout, where we prevailed, 2-1.
Philippines vs. Thailand for the ice hockey gold. Playing without team captain John Steven Fuglister (who was suspended due to rough play in the previous match), our Mighty Ducks power play enabled Benjamin Imperial to score, followed by two more goals by Paul Gabriel Sanchez inside the first 14 minutes. Another power play in the second period swelled our lead, 4-0. But the Thais fought back, scoring three goals before the half ended. The Pinas Mighty Ducks awakened in the third period, with Jose Inigo Anton Cadiz scoring to raise the score, 5-3, at the 51 minute. This proved to be our winning margin, even after Thailand scored another goal.
Our Philippine team had won a bronze medal in their first official tournament at the Asian Winter Games in Japan in February. Our players are: Benjamin Jorge Imperial, Carl Michael Montano, Daniel Pastrana, Francois Emmanuel Gautier, Javier Alfonso Cadiz, Gianpietro Iseppi, Jan Aro Regencia, John Steven Fuglister, Georgino Orda, Jorell Crisostomo, Jose Inigo Anton Cadiz, Joshua Carino, Julius Frederick Santiago, Lenard Rigel II Lancero, Miguel Alfonso Relampagos, Miguel Serrano, Paolo Spafford, Patrick Russell Syquiatco, Paul Gabriel Sanchez, and Carlo Martin Sison Tenedoro. Head coach is Daniel Brodan.
Funding is a challenge for the Philippine selection, with sticks, helmets, shin pads, elbow pads, and gloves costing at least $1,000 a set. The group gets by with contributions from corporations, the government, and their own pockets.
“There’s the combination of physicality and also grace in skating,” says Füglister, who adds with a laugh, “They call it like ballet on ice with a bit of murder thrown in. Füglister, a 31-year-old Filipino-Swiss, used to play in a semi-pro league in Switzerland. But most of his teammates learned the game at SM mall rinks. ”As a team, we have a vision we want to achieve and everyone believes in that, which makes it easy to build a very good team spirit… Ice hockey has been in the Philippines for 20 years, since they built the first rink,” says Füglister. “
We who are longer in the tooth remember it differently: Long before the Disneyland ice follies at the Smart-Araneta in December, as early as 1962, the Araneta Coliseum featured a Holiday on Ice (with ice skating rink open to the public during the season).
In the event, I am just as excited as the rest of fans over the success of our Pinoy Mighty Ducks because of a related news. Our son Jose Jamil and daughter-in-law Wendy will be cross-posted to Manila. They have two roughabouts, Emilio and Danilo. Emilio the elder of the two boys, is a member of the “Ice Tigers,” a champion ice hockey team from a little town in Germany.
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