Five new countries join IIHF
by Martin Merk|26 SEP 2019
Colombia already played against IIHF members at the Pan-American Ice Hockey Tournament in Mexico in the past.
photo: German Garcia
The International Ice Hockey Federation grows to 81 IIHF member national associations. The 2019 IIHF Semi-Annual Congress admitted five new members nations – Algeria, Colombia, Iran, Lebanon and Uzbekistan – as new associate members. In addition a new member was approved to represent Greece.

This is the biggest number of countries joining the IIHF since 1992 when the IIHF grew by ten countries following the break-up of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia.


Ice hockey is a new sport in Algeria and inspired by the Algerian diaspora in other countries, in particular in France. Players of Algerian descent have formed a team that played at tournaments such as the Arab Cup and African Club Championships (under the name Alger Corsaires) with the Algerian flag as well as in exhibition games against French club teams.

One of the hockey enthusiasts is Karim Kerbouche, who has played ice hockey in Great Britain. He and other players based abroad helped bring the sport to the country of their heritage and use the currently limited possibilities for ice to teach the sport to the locals.

“After years of hard work it is a great honour for Algeria to become members of the IIHF. We are dedicated to developing the sport in Algeria and providing physical activity for the Algerian public, and we look forward to guidance from the experienced IIHF staff and member nations, who will no doubt help take our project to the next level,” Kerbouche said.

“The Algerian government are supporting the creation of our first hockey school in the city of Setif where our current only indoor permanent ice rink is based, from there we have started to create our new generation of hockey players and national team players of the future. Thank you to all members who voted in our favour.”

The hockey school took place recently at Patinoire Dream Games, a new ice rink located at the Park Mall in Setif, a city located 270 kilometers east of the capital of Algiers. Synthetic ice rinks have also been used for hockey training in Algiers and Oran where real ice rinks are run temporarily during winters. A permanent ice rink is planned in a new shopping mall in Baraki close to Algiers, which will become the largest mall in Africa.

Click here for Algeria’s country profile.
The Algerian team Corsaires at the African Cup for ice hockey club teams that took place three years ago in Morocco.


The South American country of Colombia has a long history in inline hockey and has in the last few years made first steps to convert the skill to the ice. It had its debut at the Pan-American Ice Hockey Tournament that Mexico hosted annually between 2014 and 2017 and managed to win the men’s tournament in 2015 and 2016 – despite not having an ice rink to play the game within the country. Recently it competed at another tournament in Florida.

Now Colombia has become the fifth Latin American country after Mexico in 1986 and Brazil, Argentina and Chile in the ‘90s to join the International Ice Hockey Federation and do the next step.

“Ice hockey in Colombia is a sport that has acquired significant results without having the adequate infrastructure to develop players, referees and coaches. However, Colombian hockey has shown great talent and a potential growth that motivates us to work for the sport in our country,” said Daniel Fierro Torres, the President of the Colombian Ice Hockey Federation.

“Because of this, being members of the IIHF means a big step towards our goals of offering the hockey community in Colombia the best atmosphere to play, and in this way develop young human beings with good sportsmanship and human values.”

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The Colombian women’s national team at a recent tournament.


Similar like in Colombia, Iran gets the taste of ice hockey with players who honed their skill in inline hockey, which started in 1985 and where Iran is the current Asian champion. Currently 230 players are registered with 23 ice hockey teams.

There have been several small ice rinks in Tehran, Mashhad and on Kish Island but the recent construction of new rinks gives totally new perspective with full-size ice rinks in the capital of Tehran such as the recently opened IceBox at Iran Mall. Another full-size ice rink will be constructed at Mica Mall on Kish Island while Iran could for events also build an ice rink into the large indoor arena Azadi Sport Complex in Tehran.

Iran joins the IIHF with the Iran Skating Federation chaired by Bahman Mohammad Rezaei that has a specific hockey department chaired by Kaveh Sedghi.

“In Iran with a population of 85 million people we have many sports enthusiast who are love hockey and for sure the new opportunity that the IIHF is providing us as a new member of the great ice hockey family gives big hope for the young generation to be more involved in this amazing sport,” said Rezaei.

“Hockey is a unique sport in the sense that you need each and every person helping each other and pulling in the same direction to be successful. So, we are working together with our team in the Iran Skating Federation to develop ice hockey in the best way.”

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The recently-opened IceBox at Iran Mall in Tehran is Iran’s first full-size ice rink.


A dedicated group of Lebanese expats led by Montreal-based Charles El-Mir brings ice hockey to Lebanon with the founding of the Lebanese Ice Hockey Federation and last year’s recognition by the Ministry of Youth & Sports.

The LIHF has started convening men and women of Lebanese descent to play exhibition games not only in the Middle East but also in tournaments in Africa, Asia, Europe and North America, and has a development strategy for the youth in Beirut with the Panthers team.

The goal is to create an ice hockey program and league in Lebanon where currently the biggest piece for this puzzle is missing: an ice rink. The only recreational rink that was mostly used by expats in Lebanon closed ten years ago and has become a TV production facility.

A temporary rink of 20 on 20 metres in a tent was used for the Panthers last season with ten players including one girl between the age of 9 and 15, otherwise they play ball hockey.

El-Mir is happy that a next step was taken by joining the IIHF.

“We are a statement of love and unity expressed by today’s Lebanese generation. Our mission is to offer an opportunity for our federation to spread internationally while encouraging their values such as the spirit of unity, sharing and love for our country,” he said.

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Lebanon has recently been active with players of Lebanese roots abroad.


Ice hockey has celebrated a comeback in Uzbekistan during the last few years. During the Soviet times the capital of Tashkent had a hockey team, Binokor, in the Soviet system that made it up to the second-highest league of the Soviet Union.

Recently spoke with one of its former players, Vladimir Kapulovski, who is now a coach in Kazakhstan and led Arlan Kokshetau to the Continental Cup triumph.

“In Kazakhstan we have winter, in Tashkent it’s like in Florida. But they built an arena for 18,000 spectators, maybe there will be some serious hockey there with a team in the KHL or VHL [Russia’s second league] in the future,” he said eight months ago. And he was right.

30 years after Binokor disappeared, Humo Tashkent joined Russia’s second-tier league VHL and with a farm team the top league of neighbouring Kazakhstan. They play in the state-of-the-art Humo Arena in the capital city and thousands of fans have already visited the arena to enjoy the comeback of professional ice hockey in Uzbekistan. But it’s not just about having a professional team that obviously consists mostly of foreign players.

With the opening of the first ice rinks in the newer era, Uzbekistan has launched a championship that recently included four clubs – Binokor, Humo, Tashkent and Semurg – and the Uzbekistan Ice Hockey Federation was established on 28 March 2018.

Each club has its hockey school with now 200 kids involved. A team Tashkent Select with juniors born in 2008 and 2009 joined the Kazakh championship. There are currently four ice rinks in Tashkent and another one is planned in the city of Samarkand.

“I would like to thank all IIHF members who supported us and voted for the UIHF. For us it is a great honour to be accepted into the big ice hockey family of the IIHF. I share this feeling of pride with all hockey fans in my country and strongly believe that our new status will open more opportunities for the development of the game in Uzbekistan,” said UIHF President Bakhtiyor Fazilov.

“Getting access to the development and educational programs as well as to the variety of events and tournaments guided by IIHF, new contacts and relations with other member associations definitely will be a significant support for our plans of hockey expansion throughout the country.”

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Humo Tashkent joined Russia’s second-tier league VHL this season to the excitement of sport fans in Uzbekistan.
photo: Yuri Korsuntsev


Not new to ice hockey and the International Ice Hockey Federation is Greece. After a restructuring by the sport authorities ice hockey is now governed by the Hellenic Winter Sports Federation (EOX), which has today formally become the new IIHF member representing Greece.

Ice hockey started in Greece in the ‘80s and the country gained IIHF membership in 1987. During two periods with ice in Greece, the men’s national team participated in the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship program between 1992 and 1999, and between 2008 to 2013. But the country that invented the drama and tragedy, it hasn’t been easy for the sport. In 2010 when Greece was supposed to hold its first IIHF event, the World Championship Division III at an ice rink that was installed into a disused arena of the 2004 Summer Olympics, the only full-size rink was shut down after just one season.

The Hellenic Winter Sports Federation has now nine ice hockey clubs registered that play championships in different categories and use two small-size ice rinks in Athens and one in Thessaloniki.

“We currently have 308 ice hockey players in all categories,” said President Dimosthenis Gyrousis. Despite the unclear membership situation during the last few years, Greece was able to join development programs of the IIHF during the last years. Players, coaches and a technical delegate went to the IIHF Hockey Development Camp in Finland and participated in the recent Balkan Ice Hockey Festival in Bulgaria with nine players and two coaches.

“It is very important for our federation to become IIHF member. We strongly believe that the sport will have great development in our country. With the participation of our athletes in development camps and our coaches in training seminars and clinics, with the education and emerging of referees, with the IIHF’s technical support in issues regarding ice hockey and ice rinks, and the cooperation with other countries through participation in international tournaments and events, we are certain that ice hockey will have a vertical rise in Greece. We love the sport and we are eager and willing to take it higher.”

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Photo from a recent youth championship game between Iptamena and Panserraikos. Ice hockey is played at small-size rinks in Athens and Thessaloniki.