South American team competes at inline hockey world tournament

When Stephane Marcoux moved 10 years ago to Colombia, South America, with his Colombian wife Claudia, he was pleasantly surprised to see that there were two inline hockey teams playing in the capital city of Bogota.

Marcoux, who played ice hockey while earning a degree in economics and marketing at the University of McGill in his native Montreal, soon became the national inline hockey advisor with the Colombia Skating Federation. 

Participation in the sport took off. Marcoux, who owns Canpro Sports International Ltd, a distributor of inline, ice hockey and cycling equipment, founded the Canpro Hockey Club. The group now boasts 150 players in age groups from 8 and under to adult in Bogota. 

Marcoux said inline hockey is now played in high schools and in all six provinces in Colombia. There are now an estimated 2,500 players in the South American country. 

Many call Marcoux the father of inline hockey in Colombia. 

The fact that there is such a sport in South America surprised many people who watched the Colombia national team practice over the weekend at the Taylor Sportsplex. But Marcoux says inline hockey is a perfect match for his newfound homeland. 

“We have the best climate in South America,” Marcoux said Sunday. “Our temperatures are 60 to 65 during the day and about 40 at night. It’s perfect weather to play hockey. There are 45 million people in Colombia. We have a good pool of players. 

“We are only 2½ hours from Miami, so we are very American-oriented as well. We watch ESPN, which shows ice-hockey games. We know all of the players’ names.” 

In Colombia, the inline season begins in January and ends with the national championships in October, November and December. Games are played in outdoor arenas with roofs. 

Marcoux may be the oldest player in the International Roller Sports Federation-sanctioned world championships that are taking place in Taylor. At age 40, he is old enough to be the father of many of the players in the tournament. Marcoux is the captain of the Colombian national championship team, whose players are as young as 17. 

This is the third time Colombia has participated in the world tournament, Marcoux said. In 2001, the national championship team lost all of its games. In 2004, Colombia won its first three games, went 4-6 overall and finished 12th among the 15 nations. 

Despite the finish, Marcoux – at age 38 – was the second-leading scorer in the tournament with 12 goals and six assists. Only Jason Gerardo Cirone (11 goals, 11 assists) had more points. 

This year, the goal is to finish among the top eight teams and advance to the cup games, which start Thursday. 

Camilo Fierro, a 20-year-old defenseman, has been playing for 10 years and said Team Colombia is looking to make great strides in the world tournament. 

Assistant Coach William Ruiz said the national team has been on a “training plan” since the squad was “pre-selected” five months ago. 

“We have been practicing four days a week, two hours a day with the objective of working on the tactical part and the physical part of the game,” Ruiz said. 

All but one of the players on the team reside in Bogota, Fierro said. 

Colombia defeated Spain on Friday and Korea on Sunday in scrimmage games. The South American team’s first game in pool play was scheduled for yesterday afternoon against Japan. The team plays Great Britain today. 

Marcoux said that besides practicing, the team has been doing plenty of sight-seeing during its stay in Metro Detroit. Among the destinations has been Downtown Detroit and Joe Louis Arena, in particular. Marcoux noted that in college he was a teammate of current Detroit Red Wings Coach Mike Babcock. 

As for the Sportsplex, Marcoux said the facility is first rate. 

“The people we have met are very nice,” he said. “The rinks and facilities are great. The level of hockey is excellent as well. When you have a facility that has four rinks, this has to be Hockeytown.”