Magazine article Americas (English Edition)

Hispanics Heat Up the Ice

Magazine article Americas (English Edition)

Hispanics Heat Up the Ice

Article excerpt

"BRODEUR LEAVES THE puck for Nemchinov, who passes across center ice to Holik at the blue line, who drops it in front of the goal to Gomez, who scores!"

So went a typical play-by-play in the recent National Hockey League's Stanley Cup finals, which the New Jersey Devils reached for the second straight year. Most of these names have a familiar ethnic ring to hockey fans--Brodeur is of French Canadian stock, Nemchinov is one of the team's "Rushing Russians," and Holik is Czech. But Gomez?

Scott Gomez, the league's first Hispanic player and already a bona fide star, came out of nowhere last year as a first-round draft pick to skate in the All-Star Game and win the NHL's Rookie of the Year award.

What was once the quintessential Canadian game of frozen ponds and snow-swept plains now has professional teams in Sunbelt states like Arizona, Texas, Florida, and California, some with players of African, Asian, and Native American ancestry. The Dallas Stars, with a potentially huge Hispanic fan base, won the Stanley Cup two years ago, and now Gomez puts a Latino name straight at the top of the NHL roster.

With a Mexican father, a Colombian mother, and an Alaskan hometown, says Gomez, "some people can't figure out if I was born in an igloo or just pulled in from Tijuana." His grandfather was a migrant farmworker, and his father was one of ten close-knit siblings. His mother came to Alaska from Medellin via a Colombian neighborhood in New York.

Coming up behind Gomez are both pro-ready junior players like Raffi Torres, drafted to the NHL from Canada, and legions of novice skaters on inner city teams in the U.S. with large Mexican, Dominican, and Puerto Rican populations. Some future pros may come directly from Latin America. The International Ice Hockey Federation has member clubs in Mexico, Argentina, Chile, and Brazil. …

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