March 25, 2016
We all know who the Ice Hockey superpowers are. Canada, U.S.A., Russia, Sweden and Finland are probably the first to come to mind. After those, some may list off Czech Republic, Slovakia and even Switzerland. However, there is another group of Ice Hockey nations that fall into lower divisions, but what they lack in popularity, they make up for in love for the game.
This week we take you on a quick tour of some of the national teams from countries that you'd least expect.
The Mexican National Team celebrated 30 years in the IIHF last year and their U-20 team won 2016 Division III Gold which helped advance them to Division II.
When it comes to climate, you wouldn't expect to hear of an ice hockey team coming out of a continent like Africa (although the San Jose Sharks would feel quite at home in Cape Town's moderate climate), but along with having ice rinks at Pretoria's "Grove Mall", Cape Town and Port Elizabeth, South Africa also sports Division III National squads.
Recently, "Pretoria Warriors" product, Charl Pretorius has made some waves here in the states as an NCAA goaltender for the Elmira College Soaring Eagles.
There are so many Australian stereotypes out there. Kangaroos, koalas, shrimp on the barbie, crocodiles, the list goes on. However, it's pretty safe to say that hockey isn't something you would normally pair with the Land of Oz.
Australia supports men's and women's national teams, as well as an eight team professional league (AIHL).
Soccer, judo and tennis are some of the more popular sports in Israel and given it's location in the world, it would probably come as a surprise that Israel has an ice hockey team who was ranked as high as 32nd in the world as of April 2015.
Israel also has an eight team league (The Israeli League) that has been around for over 25 years now and has a total of 653 men and women who are registered players (as of 2014).
Although New Zealand's weather isn't quite like Australia's, it's still a country known more for their rugby and sailing than they are for hockey.
The Kiwis have proven to hang with the best of them in Division III though and continue to grow the game in their home country.
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