Filipino Islanders – your hockey team to watch
By Beatrice Paez
It’s rare to spot a fellow Filipino out there on the ice, decked in all the protective trappings of hockey gear. Do a basic Google search for a Filipino Canadian hockey player, and you come up with limited results. But, train your eyes hard enough, says Carl Tomines, and you have a shot at assembling a winning team.
Tomines recently revived the Filipino Fury, Toronto’s defunct Filipino ice hockey team, culling seasoned players from across the city to form his re-branded team, the Filipino Islanders.
The Fury started out small five years ago, with just a group of guys meeting up at a rink in Brampton every Friday night to practice, but lost its momentum and dropped out of its first shot at competing in the Canadian Multicultural Hockey League’s annual tournament.
This time the team is a collection of players from all over the GTA, Tomines ventured to rinks as far as Pickering in pursuit of talent, and says, “I wanted to have a proper representation of Filipinos from the GTA.”
Practices are usually held either at the Powerade Centre in Brampton or at Chesswood Arena close to Allen Road and Sheppard, to keep it accessible for everyone interested.
As head coach, his prerequisites for making the final cut are straightforward: men between the ages of 18 and over, who are hungry to play and lace up every week, without fail. Most of team members belong to other leagues, which helped give them an edge.
These conditions served his team well in the CMHL’s December tournament placing fourth in the heritage division, losing to the Portuguese Sea Wolves — an impressive finish for a team barely into its infancy of 3 months.
To show he was serious about forming a competitive team that would outlast its predecessor, he courted Richard Bronilla, who was drafted to the Ontario Hockey League, and played for the Ottawa 67’s at 17. Bronilla went on to build his professional career in Europe and has retired to his hometown of Mississauga.
The days of playing for a professional league may be numbered, but the game has never really left Bronilla behind, he now serves as captain of the Islanders and runs Upper Hand Hockey, a hockey camp for athletes of varying ages and skill levels. His camp had its first run last summer and operates when kids are off from school – during the winter holiday and March Break.
Filipinos like Tomines and Bronilla found their way into the Canadian culture through their love of hockey, and are hoping hockey fever catches on in the Filipino community. “Nothing captures the country more than hockey, it surrounds us…ands bonds the community together,” says Tomines, who introduced his sons to hockey at 5 years old.
Basketball is the choice sport for most Filipinos, being the national sport of their ancestral home, but Tomines asserts that compared to basketball, hockey is more of a team sport, less oriented on the individual’s own scorecard and more focused on scoring as a team.
But familiarity with the sport isn’t the only limiting factor, the hefty registration fees, pricey equipment and the oversized commitment it warrants, can deter parents from introducing their kids to hockey.
There are always ways around these obstacles, says Mark Ramos, one of the Islanders.
Ramos says parents can purchase second hand equipment at Play It Again Sports, where players can trade in their old equipment as they outgrow them. Hockey skates for kids can go for as low as $40 to as high as $300 at Canadian Tire, but Play It Again Sports, a Youth Hockey Starter kit sells for $100.
For kids who are just getting into the game or want to improve their skills, the city runs a series of drop-in hockey and shinny lessons at neighbourhood parks. The Islanders also have an open door policy; though tryouts are in later in October, Ramos says the team is always looking for new recruits and for people to practice with. “Once we get to know you, you’re always going to be a part of the organization,” he says.
Word about the team’s practices and games and is usually spread on their Facebook group, Canadian Filipino Islanders Hockey Team. Catch their next game at the Asian Hockey Tournament, which is set for May 17-19.