The journey of hockey in Philippines

The journey of hockey in Philippines

Davide Tuniz13 Sep 2019Davide Tuniz»

Past, present and future of a growning passion: Eurohockey meets Philippines national team captain Steven Füglister


Associate Member of IIHF since 2016, Philippines is one of the countries where ice hockey is growning faster in terms of visibility and popularity, mainly thanks to the untireless work of local Federation. The Philippines will be the host of the 30th Southeast Asian Games from 30 November to 11 December 2019 that for the second consecutive time will include ice hockey and IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s Challenge Cup of Asia between 24 and 28 February 2020

Steven Füglister, 33 years old, is a Swiss-Filipino dual citizen and played in Switzerland until the age of 28. When retired, he moved to the Philippines and got in touch with the local hockey community and have been playing here ever since. When fulfilled the IIHF residency requirements, once the National Team got formed he competed with the Team in all international competitions so far. Inside the Federation, he is part of the Hockey Development Committee and Captain of the Men's National Team.

1: Congratulations for the entrance in the IIHF family. It's the final step of a long journey: could you resume the history of hockey in the Philippines? when all began and the evolution until today.

The history of ice hockey in the Philippines began with the ice rinks set up in shopping malls in the country which were initially only used for recreational activities. In 2008 the Manila Ice Hockey League was founded by hockey enthusiasts. The governing body of ice hockey in the country, the Federation of Ice Hockey League (FIHL), was formed years later in February 2015. The FIHL was admitted as an associate member of the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) on 20 May 2016 and secured Philippine Olympic Committee membership by July 2016. In 2018 the Philippine Hockey League was created to follow the IIHF’s guidelines in having a IIHF regulated League in place to allow application to the World Championship program. This means all games are now played 3x20 stop time with 3 refs and full contact. This season the Philippines will compete in the World Championship stage. 

2. How many teams are there currently and how the activities are organized? there is a Manila Ice Hockey League, it means all the hockey is concentrated in the capital?

As of now there are two leagues in the Philippines. The Philippine Hockey League (PHL) and Philippine Minor Hockey League (PMHL) both consist of 4 teams each. There is a growing community in Cebu where there is another olympic size rink and there are efforts by the Federation to grow the sport there as well and inviting players to join the national team programs on the junior level. 

3. How many rinks are there in the country? 

Currently there are 4 rinks in the country of which two are olympic sized and used for ice hockey. 

4.Is ice hockey popular in the country?

Its a growing sport but not yet overly popular among the majority of the country, given there are only rinks for hockey in the capital Manila and one in Cebu. 

5. Has Federation any activities to promote hockey among youth?

The Federation has a "learn to play" program in place where people can join at discounted ice rates. We also just received around 60 sets of youth gears donated by the IIHF to help us in promoting the sport and making it more accessible to the public. There are also plans to do roadshows in local and international schools to help promote hockey and let people know that there is an alternative sport out there. 

6. National team took home a silver medal at Challenge Cup: did the achievement contributed to popularize hockey?

The first time we had the countries attention was during the 2017 SEA Games after winning the gold medal. The ensuing media coverage helped creating awareness in the country that there was a National Team in ice hockey. Since then, we continue doing our best whenever we compete internationally and try making our country proud by aiming to bring home medals every tournament. Our Women’s Team just recently won their Division at the Women’s Challenge Cup of Asia in UAE and got promoted to the Top Division. Results like that garner media attention and hopefully that will strengthen the publics support and awareness in our teams.  

7. What ice hockey in the country needs most?

Its the youth and our grassroots programs we need to invest in to attract more people to the sport to create a bigger base. Our youth programs are doing well at the moment but there is still so much room for growth in that regard.  

8. How do you see the future for the ice hockey in Philippines?

It is a niche sport that can’t compete with the major players in the country like Basketball or Football. But it can succeed in the Philippines because it is something completely different and thats what makes it attractive. There are a lot of Filipinos working or living abroad and if they live in North America or Europe they one way or the other come in touch with ice hockey. We receive a lot of support from Filipinos abroad. As long as we can continuously attract local and international kids to join our programs and have a high retention rate by offering them fun and a perspective to compete internationally I see no problem that hockey will sustain and grow in the years to come.

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