Interview of Ronald Calhau
Français / English
- What did you know about ice hockey before the first hockey rink opened in São Paulo in 1980 ?
Nothing at all. I had never seen it, not even on TV !
- What brought you to the rink ?
I used to roller skate, so when I heard an ice rink opened I thought I give it a try.
- How was the first team gathered ? Were there many people attracted by ice hockey ?
The first team was composed of a few foreigners and of Brazilians who regularly went skating there. Not many people were attracted to ice hockey mainly because the rink was very small and had no sitting capacity.
- You spent one year for studies in the USA in Columbus. Do you think your involvement in ice hockey would have been so important without this experience ?
It was crucial. I would probably never gotten so involved if it did not go to the USA.
- Could you tell us more about all the ice hockey teams in Brazil in the eighties (names, colours, date of foundation...) ?
OK, let's see:
- São Paulo "Pandas", founded in 1981, colours: black, red & white
- Rio de Janeiro "Gladiadores", founded in 1982, colours: blue, red & white
There was another team in Belo Horizonte, capital of the State of Minas Gerais, I can't remember the name of the team, but I think it was founded in 1984 and its colours were orange & black.
- The first ice hockey rink in Brazil was 14x12 meters, the first ice hockey rink in Portugal is 36x18. How did you adapt the game to such small-sized rinks ?
In Brazil we used to play 3 against 3 without a goalie, we had small nets with a iron cross that left only the 4 corners open for scoring, there were also no lines on the ice and the rinks had no boards, it was a completely different game. We used the rules on body and stick contact, but all other rules could not be adapted.
Here in Portugal we play 5 on 5 (including the goalies), there are boards, face-off circles and points, and a central red line that is also the off-side line (basically we deleted the neutral zone, much like an inline hockey field) and there is no icing, all other rules are the official IIHF rules.
- Why did ice hockey activities in Brazil finally disappear ?
Mainly because of the lack of proper ice rinks. The existing ice rinks were too small, too far away from each other and equipment was also very hard to find.
- What have been the differences between the situations in Brazil and Portugal which enabled the first Portuguese ice hockey league to be launched last year, while it was not possible in Brazil ?
Portugal is small, and the ice rink here is located in the centre of the country, it is basically possible to travel to the rink by car from anywhere.
It is easy to buy ice hockey equipment from abroad because Portugal is part of the European Economic Union. Furthermore Portugal is the only country in Europe where ice hockey is still not developed, in South America there is no country where ice hockey is developed. Everything is different (better) here in Portugal.
- Are you still in touch with other ice hockey pioneers in Brazil ?
Yes, Claudio Bock, the guy who actually founded the São Paulo Pandas ice hockey team while I was in USA, is one of my best friends.
- Do you think the development of inline-hockey in Brazil can prevent ice hockey from restarting because it demands more equipment and logistics ?
No, I think in Brazil inline hockey may help.
- You spent some years in Germany where you became a coach. Could you tell us about this experience ?
That is a very long story, I could write a book about my years in Germany... In summary, it gave the "hockey education" I never had as a child.
- When you moved to Portugal in 1992, did you think you could one day play ice hockey there too ?
No, I thought I would be hanging the skates for good !
- How had you been informed when the Viseu ice hockey rink opened in September 1996 ? Did ice hockey start soon there ?
The company that owns the rink called me, they needed an ice skating coach. Once there, I convinced them that starting an ice hockey team would be a good idea. The team started with the rink opening.
- Rink hockey (played on traditional skates) is very popular in Spain and Portugal. Is it a benefit or a long-term problem for the development of ice hockey in those countries ?
Here in Portugal it is definitely a big problem for us.
- I know a team of Portuguese emigrants in Toronto played in Viseu against a Portuguese national team. Have there been other international games played by Portuguese teams and are others planned ?
The Viseu Lobos played in Madrid a couple times and we also hosted an ice hockey team from Madrid in Viseu once. Furthermore we played a tournament in Ankara, Turkey. As for future plans, we would like to take the Portuguese National Team to Toronto, to play the team that visited us in here (First Portuguese Club of Toronto), but unfortunately the funds for this project are not available...
- The Canadian ambassador had helped you to this first ice hockey game. Did you get more support from the embassy and from other organizations ?
Unfortunately the Canadian Ambassador did not support us any further. Last season we received a government grant to organize referee and coaching training actions, and we are currently applying for government support for further events.
- What kind of support does the IIHF give to emerging ice hockey countries ?
The IIHF organizes quite a few programs, maybe the two most relevant ones are the training actions under the program "Partnership for Progress", in which the Member National Associations can participate at no cost (we only have to pay the travel expenses), and the "Equipment Support Program" that yearly awards ice hockey equipment for the youth level. Unfortunately all of the IIHF programs are targeted to countries that already have a certain level of ice hockey developed, there is still a lack of direct support for those countries which are really starting.
- Brazil has been a member of IIHF but has never played in an ice hockey international competition. Will Portugal achieve this second step soon ?
I certainly hope so, but it is hard to say. It depends mainly on new ice hockey rinks opening here in Portugal, if new rinks do not open soon, Portuguese ice hockey will share the same faith of Brazil.
- Has the first Portuguese league been a success ?
With in the existing conditions I would say is was a good start for competitive ice hockey in Portugal. But having only three teams, and maybe more important, having to play all the games in only one ice rink, to which some of the players have to travel 350 kms, makes it impossible to keep the League going for very long.
- What is the current situation of the planned rinks in Portugal (in Montijo, Porto...) ?
Unfortunately at the moment there are no concrete plans.
- If someone who would like to develop ice hockey in a new country asked you for advice, what would you tell him ?
It is a big challenge, a lot of dedication, hard work, patience and of course money is needed. I would advice him to give me a call, I am doing it already for the second time...
Interview by Marc Branchu (December 3, 2001)
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