Colombian Hockey Making an Impact

by Tim McManus

Over the past few years, State Wars has revolutionized into not only the top tournament in North America but the one recognized all over the WORLD as best in the sport of roller hockey. Over the coming months, we will feature different people from countries near and far who have had a major influence in the sport and get their thoughts on the 'FORCE in roller hockey'.

In 2018, Daniel Fierro and his organization 'Play Hockey-Colombia' made the trip out to St.Peters Missouri and attended their first State Wars event.  Fierro has brought players ranging in ages from 2008-2002 and teams competing in the Senior and Womens divisions as well.  The majority of the Team Colombia players are based out of the capital city of Bogota but they are also starting to get more players from the city of Cali as well.  Working with Fierro and his team is an absolute treat and I am excited to share a bit about him and his terrific program with the rest of our readers.  Enjoy!

SWH : Hi Daniel! Tell us, how did you get started in this crazy sport?

Daniel Fierro : I got started in the sport because of a cousin that liked to roller skate. He, ended up joining an inline hockey club and that is the way I got to know the sport. By watching my cousin play I got into practicing and since then I have been involved as a player, coach and tournament director in Colombia.

SWH : What does being the person in charge who gets to bring so many players and families to State Wars to experience it all mean to you?

Daniel Fierro : It really means a lot. Having the chance to be a part of State Wars and giving kids in Colombia the opportunity of experiencing this wonderful tournament is something that I always wanted to do. I believe in sport as a way of transforming lives and when I see all the fun the kids and their families have with this project, it motivates me to continue doing it. I know all the responsibility it means to be in charge of this, and I have been very fortunate to have people by my side that have been very important for all of this to happen.

SWH : Speaking of coaching, how great does it feel to be behind the bench representing your country at the biggest event in the sport?

Daniel Fierro : The feeling us coaches have is the same as the players. We have coaches that love the project and love the sport. Being able to travel and work for a team that is going to represent Colombian hockey overseas is a great experience. For coaches the State Wars experience is a true learning journey in which they are able to acquire more knowledge of the sport.

SWH : What was your first year at State Wars? How have your #s grown since? What do the players and families love most about State Wars?

Daniel Fierro : Our first State Wars participation was in 2018. We had 35 players involved in our first year. In 2019 our numbers increased to 50 players and for 2020 we expect this number to continue growing. What families and players love the most about State Wars is the fact of representing their country in the sport they love. In Colombia we love our country, meaning that any time we are able to represent our nation it means a lot. Another aspect that players enjoy is the possibility of playing against teams form all over the world. They see SW as a World Championship in every age division.

SWH : How long of travel is it for your teams to get to SW generally? 

Daniel Fierro : The teams take generally 8-10 hours to arrive to SW. We usually have to take two flights to get to the cities where the event is hosted.

SWH : What % of your players speak English? Do all of the coaches? How is the language a barrier for your teams at SW?

Daniel Fierro : I would say around 70% of the players speak English. Some of the coaches do speak English as well. The language barrier has not been a real issue for us. Those with our team that are in charge speak English fluently, so we can help all of those that do not.

SWH : What teams have been most successful at State Wars so far?

Daniel Fierro : This year was a great one when looking at our results. In 2019 Colombia won a gold medal in 2004A division, four silver medals in 2008A, 2006A, 2005AA and 2003A and a bronze medal in the 2007A division!

SWH : How would you describe your teams' style of play? Is it much different than what you see from the American teams?

Daniel Fierro : I would say that we try to have a very similar style of play in Colombia compared to the style employed in the United States. We try to learn as much as we can in every trip we have. We are trying to have a man to man defensive system with some high speed attacking opportunities.

SWH : What are your thoughts on the PAMA Pro Division? How great is it for your teams to be able to watch that? How does it compare to international play that you have seen at world championships? 

Daniel Fierro : I think that the PAMA Pro Division is the place where the best hockey can be seen. The teams and players that make part of this division are very fun to watch and a lot can be learned when watching the games. The kids have a lot of fun watching the best player in the world and as the coaches, we try to learn from them. Colombian players look at the PAMA Pro Division as a tournament they want to play in the future. I think that compared to the World Championships, the PAMA Pro Division has more elite players per team, which makes for more exciting games.

SWH : Are there any Pro teams or players that you or your teams like the most?

Daniel Fierro : The Pro team I really like watching is Mission Black Ice. I love their style of play and the way they work as a team. The kids also love watching Junior Cadiz (PAMA Labeda Golden Knights) play. He was an instructor at a camp we ran in Colombia and since then the kids love him.

SWH : So what's new with your program back home?

Daniel Fierro : For this year, we are going to start team practices earlier than the previous years. We are going to start tryouts in February and since then we are going to have the teams practicing one weekend every two weeks. Around June, we will start practicing every weekend in order to have the teams prepared.

SWH : What are your plans for Team Colombia and State Wars for 2020 in Michigan?

Daniel Fierro : For this coming year he hope we can bring even more teams than last years. We are planning on having around 70 players in total representing Colombia. This means we are also going to able to bring more coaches that can learn from this experience.

SWH : How important is the free live stream of games for the families back home?

Daniel Fierro : The free live stream has been very important for families in Colombia. Not all the families are able to travel with the kids and they are always aware of the schedules to watch their kids play. They enjoy the event as much as we do without being at the venue. I think the free live streaming is just another great thing about State Wars

SWH : The World Championships are being held in Colombia next summer?

Daniel Fierro : Yes, next year Colombia will host the world championships. I think it is a very good opportunity for people in Colombia to get to know the sport. I also think that Colombian teams are going to do a very good representation because of the work of all the clubs and parents that work day and night to develop the players to their best capabilities.

SWH : How is the growth of the sport in South America? I have seen some big news about Colombia getting involved with IIHF on the ice side.

Daniel Fierro : Yes, a couple of months ago Colombia received the IIHF membership. This is a huge step for the development of hockey in Colombia. My team and I are in charge of the Colombian Ice Hockey Federation and we are starting to do some projects to develop the sport in our country. Our experience with SW has helped us to be in this position and we are very grateful to you and your organization. This does not mean that we are stopping our inline hockey projects because we believe that inline hockey can help the development of ice hockey.

In closing, I want to thank not only Daniel but the other incredible coaches on his staff that dedicate so much time to the kids of Colombia.  Along with Daniel, you will find William and Javier behind the Colombian benches during the course of State Wars leading the way.  Of course we also need to thank all of the hard working families of Colombia that get their families or just their children to State Wars.  Team Colombia has become a HUGE part of State Wars and we look forward to continuing to help grow the sport in all of South America together with you!  See you in Michigan.  Gracias!

Tim McManus