Para ice hockey family grows through camp

Event in Armenia provides support for countries taking on the sport

A group of people on sledges on an ice hockey rink Representatives from six countries took part at the Para ice hockey development camp in Armenia © • World Para Ice Hockey

When one of Levav Weinberg’s ice hockey players got injured and could not walk anymore, he wanted to give his athlete hope that he could still play hockey.

So Weinberg researched about Para ice hockey and it led him to attend one of World Para Ice Hockey's development camps held in Armenia between 20-22 October.

He left with more than what he came for – a family.

“One of the biggest benefits about this camp was that it gives us a good basis to understand and connect us to the biggest Para ice hockey community around the world that can help you and support you and give you good advices,” Weinberg said.

“They teach you the basic tools that you need to bring this Para programme back home to Israel and make it much bigger.”

He coaches in Metulla, where only one of two ice hockey rinks in Israel is located.

Although the support and interest in ice hockey, let alone Para, is low in his country, the camp in Armenia reassured that he is not alone.

Representatives from Belarus, Hungary, Kazakhstan and Latvia also attended the camp, supported by the Agitos Foundation through the National Paralympic Committee Development Programme.

Over those three days, they learned how to coach ice hockey to athletes with an impairment, develop a programme, classification, officiating and much more.

In Hungary, ice hockey is growing, and Boldizsar Vegh, an event manager, wants to look for ways to include Para ice hockey in that trend.

“We have many kids trying the sport,” Vegh said. “We have many facilities. We have many resources, and we were thinking about what Para ice hockey can bring to Hungary.

“The plan for the future is we bring all the knowledge from here and present to our board in Hungary. We want to recruit the first players and introduce Para ice hockey there.”

Experienced coaches, athletes and officials were at hand to pass on knowledge and insight.

Czech Republic coach Jiri Briza and Slovakian team manager and assistant coach Miroslav Drab delivered on-ice sessions. Italian player Andrea Macri demonstrated some Para ice hockey movements and gave advice.

Reuven Magnagey, one of the Israeli athletes who attended, learned about the sport and wanted to try it back at home. The ice time at the rinks at home were limited, but not in Armenia this time.

“I had a basic knowledge about hockey and the game, but here it opened a new world and new situation with other countries and other teams,” Magnagey said. “I would love to be in another camp like this.”

Israel hosted a similar development camp last year in Tel Aviv that was organised by World Para Ice Hockey, alongside the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Israel Ice Hockey Federation. Since then, the sport has grown in Israel, with seven of the 28 attendees coming from the country.

Weinberg said he hopes in two years’ time, Israel will compete in their first World Championships.

“Yes,” Magnagey agreed.

Putting his arm on Magnagey’s shoulder, Weinberg said: “With you there.”