Pond Hockey in the Far South
by Christian Pierre|22 JUL 2019
The pond hockey tournament took place in Puerto Williams in the Antarctica Chilena province for the second straight year. It became the southernmost ice hockey tournament in the world.
photo: Gobernación Provincia Antártica Chilena
While the Northern hemisphere is basking in the sun and most players have put their hockey gear to dry - except those die-hards playing summer hockey - the southern hemisphere is experiencing winter time. Take places like Ushuaia, Argentina or Puerto Williams, Chile, of the Tierra del Fuego archipelago. The latter claiming to be the southernmost city on the globe. As odd as it may be, both places have a small but dedicated hockey community. While Ushuaia boasts the southernmost outdoor ice rink, it’s the Chilean neighbours who recently hosted the most austral pond hockey tournament in the world on a frozen lagoon.

A bigger 2nd Edition

The Puerto Williams pond hockey tournament - jointly organized by the Governor of the Chilean Antarctic Province and the Aonikenk Magallanes ice hockey club from Punta Arenas - was held during the weekend of 6 and 7 July on the frozen Zanartu Lagoon, located just outside Puerto Williams, Navarino Island, Chile.

During the inaugural edition of the Puerto Williams Tournament in 2018, only mixed teams participated, however, the second edition saw a men’s and women’s tournament being set up bringing together three women’s and four men’s teams, as well as two mixed U16 teams. This year’s participants hailed from Punta Arenas and La Serena, Chile; Ushuaia, Argentina, and as a premier... Quito, Ecuador.

Teams from Chile and Ecuador Victorious

Serena Fuego Hockey (CHI) and Katari (ECU) took home the trophies in the men’s and women’s tournament respectively after a thrilling weekend full of hockey in a beautiful natural setting. Besides the sports victory, the players also experienced some life lasting memories of playing ice hockey in one the most enchanting locations on the globe.

Serena Fuego Hockey, from La Serena, came out on top in the men’s tournament. Despite the fact that its players practice mostly inline hockey, they were able to demonstrate their hockey talent winning the event. Transcendental was the high-calibre duel against Los Primos, from Ushuaia, Argentina, where they prevailed in the end by 3-2. It is the first time that a Chilean team has kept the cup in the country in the short history of the tournament - last year it was won by Argentinian club CAU, from Ushuaia.

“We are used to playing inline hockey, but we performed well on the ice here. At least we could play our game and the result is there to show: a cup and tournament champions,” its captain, Franco Varela, commented. Since in La Serena, there is no ice rink, it was a different experience for the team, celebrating their 13th anniversary as a club on 7th July as well.

Team Katari from Quito, Ecuador, usually plays on an indoor ice arena. On the Zanartu lagoon, however, they could experience ice hockey back to its roots in a unique natural environment. They managed to prevail in each game taking the trophy of the women’s tournament back to Quito.
The Katari players from Ecuador celebrate their triumph in the women’s tournament.
photo: Gobernación Provincia Antártica Chilena
Katari’s team captain Sully Vargas catalogued the participation of her team as a beautiful experience. "It's the first time we left the country as a team. We have been able to make new friends, share our passion for ice hockey. Of course, we are very happy that we return to Ecuador with the tournament’s cup," she commented.

Both captains yearn to return in a next edition to defend their respective titles. However, they pointed out that the travel costs to get to Isla Navarino are a burden. “It's quite an investment. We definitely consider it, but maybe we might skip a year,” Vargas said. 

"The travel expenses are high, and that’s a hurdle to take. There is always the desire to continue participating, to continue increasing the hockey community in these parts of the world, and hopefully adding more teams to this tournament in the future, would be ideal," said Varela.

But perhaps the message delivered by Jose Balseca, captain of Orkos Hockey Club, an Ecuadorian team that ended third in the men's category, reflects best the spirit of a tournament that promises to become a tradition.
It's a beautiful setting to play in. The landscapes are gorgeous. We have been waiting for this for almost six months, since we received the invitation. It's great for us to be here. We love Puerto Williams. The friendly atmosphere we encountered was genuine. It was a true hockey party.
Jose Balseca
Captain of Orkos HC, Ecuador
"All participants were super friendly, all teams sharing the hockey experiences of their country, how they play and grow the game,” Balseca added. “However, it was quite an adventure to get here for us. It took our team three days and three flights to arrive In Puerto Williams. It also took us some time to get accustomed to the cold here. It’s a bit warmer in Ecuador. But the views are breathtaking!”

Carlos Opazo, together with his son Gonzalo and daughter Paulina, have a similar feeling. All three are players of Serena Fuego Hockey Club. While the men obtained the first place, Paulina reached the second in the women’s category, and was also chosen as the Women’s MVP of the tournament. "Ice hockey is a sport that ultimately unites us as a family. We travel almost everywhere to play, and always accompanied by the entire team. We never cease to look for new experiences. Being here is a blessing. You have to take advantage of these incredible moments, enjoy them with the children, family, and what better than playing and practicing the sport that unites us all," Carlos stated.

Aid from the province

The governor of the Chilean Antarctic Province, Nelson Carcamo, highlighted the natural environment where this championship was held for the second time in a row, which definitely caught the attention of the players, who were amazed by the surrounding hills, mountains and snowy forests. In addition, he stressed that despite the often-competitive nature of each match, in the end the spirit of brotherhood prevailed among all participants.

"At the end of each game the rivalry between teams was set aside and that shows that there is harmony among this hockey community. The solidarity and camaraderie that is highlighted in this tournament was authentic," he said.

The tournament was developed thanks to a direct allocation financed with resources from a Sport Fund of the Regional Government of Magallanes and the Chilean Antarctic. The Regional Councilor for the Province of Chilean Antarctica, Rodolfo Moncada highlighted the number of local spectators who came to watch the tournament and mentioned the desire to continue this tournament as an annual sports event for the future: "I hope this becomes an emblematic activity, already foreseen within the regional budget while resources are allocated directly."
Southernmost hockey tournament in Chile
For the second straight year pond hockey was played at the southernmost city in the world, Puerto Williams in Chile’s Antarctic province. Check out what it looked like and find the story on IIHF.com! Footage courtesy of Gobernación Provincia Antártica Chilena & Alexis Savaria
CHI 22 JUL 2019

Guinness World Record

Although some players from Ushuaia could not make it to the event as they weren’t able to cross the Beagle Channel to be present in Puerto Williams, Domingo Orlando Vera, player of Aonikenk and organizer of the pond hockey tournament, positively evaluated this year’s edition.

"By latitude, by geographical coordinates, we are the southernmost place of the world, and we should exploit that in a good way, with sports and social initiatives," he said. His plan for next year’s edition is to certify this ice hockey tournament as the southernmost in the world in its kind, with a Guinness World Record. Although the idea came up since the first version, the year 2020 is preferred, “to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the first circumnavigation of the Strait of Magellan,” Domingo added.

Fans enjoy Hockey Action despite Cold

Like last year, residents of the province came to the frozen lagoon to watch the games. Enjoying the thrilling matches as a family, with their kids or with friends, even bringing their pets. They took photographs with their cameras, cell phones and drones; they barbequed; they played on sleds with their kids … In short, there was no lack of fun side activities during the tournament. Although the weather channel had predicted two days of low temperatures, the cold didn’t keep the spectators away. 

Amparo Thiess, a teacher at the G-44 Basic School in Puerto Toro, was not able to attend last year’s tournament, but came to this edition. She did not want to miss the games again. She came with her family to witness the hockey rivalry during these two days. "It is quite entertaining; the children can also experience an activity that they are not used to enjoying in this region. Any sports activity, recreational, is welcome here, especially for these cold days as there is not so much to do in Puerto Williams. Ice hockey is really entertaining," she commented. 

Before descending towards the lagoon, Manuel Ulloa walked with some friends to Cerro Bandera. From there, at about 600 meters above sea level, he managed to see how the tournament developed. From the emblematic summit of Isla Navarino, they listened to the echoes from the shouts of the players. "I hope winter activities such as these are enhanced, so we have an activity to attract winter tourism, such as ice hockey or ice skating, but also as an alternative recreation on weekends and during the week for the local community."

Not only ice hockey action on the frozen lagoon this year. The organization invited 15-year-old Valentina Vera, an outstanding Chilean figure skater, who last year became national champion and also obtained the first place in the South American championship in Ecuador. The athlete performed prior to the medal awarding ceremony. Despite the cold prevailing in the austral night, she achieved an outstanding presentation that was acclaimed by the spectators and players present. 

"It was an incredible experience, very beautiful. The people supported me very much, I received a lot of applause. It's good to see my friends compete, I'm happy for each of them who has managed to be here," she said after her performance.
Ice hockey in Antarctic Chile

Final Ranking

1. Serena Fuego Hockey (La Serena, Chile)
2. Los Primos  (Ushuaia, Argentina)
3. Orkos Hockey Club (Quito, Ecuador)
4. Aonikenk Magallanes (Punta Arenas, Chile)
Men’s Tournament MVP: Ramiro Beltrami (Los Primos, Ushuaia, Argentina).

1. Katari (Quito, Ecuador)
2. Serena Fuego Hockey (La Serena, Chile)
3. Aonikenk Magallanes (Punta Arenas, Chile)
Women’s Tournament MVP: Paulina Opazo (Serena Fuego Hockey, La Serena, Chile)

Game Results

Aonikenk Magallanes vs. Katari: 1-9
Aonikenk Magallanes vs. Serena Fuego Hockey: 0-7


Serena Fuego Hockey vs. Katari: 0-3
Aonikenk Magallanes vs. Serena Fuego Hockey: 1-4
Aonikenk Magallanes vs. Los Primos: 2-10
Orkos Hockey Club vs. Serena Fuego Hockey: 0-5
Serena Fuego Hockey vs. Los Primos: 3-2
Aonikenk Magallanes vs. Orkos Hockey Club: 1-2
Los Primos vs. Orkos Hockey Club: 4-2

U16 (mixed):
Aonikenk Magallanes vs. Serena Fuego Hockey: 3-7