One doesn't think of Mexico as much of a hockey nation, but when the IIHF Division III U20 tournament kicks off there next week, it might look quite a bit like Canada. The opening game of that tournament between Bulgaria and the host country will be played outdoors in Mexico City's central square, the Zócalo.â†µ
The Zócalo has been the site of public ceremonies since the Aztec times, long before hockey ever existed. Now, according to the Mexican Ice Hockey Federation, up to 50,000 people will gather there to watch the game on January 9th.â†µ
More from our international hockey blog, Puck Worlds:â†µ
IIHF Division 3 U20 tournaments are not exactly featuring elite athletes. They are kids who are pretty much the only kids in their entire country their age playing the sport at all. For those familiar with the top level, where teams like Latvia, Norway and Kazakhstan have turned up in recent years only to be absolutely blown out, it should be pointed out that those teams could blow out teams like Hungary. In 2009, Hungary was at the Division 1 level against Denmark, Austria, Italy, Norway and Ukraine and went 0-0-1-4 with a -17 goal differential. Last year, Hungary beat Mexico 28-0 at the U20 Division 2A WJHCs.â†µ
Still, the MIHF says that the game will be broadcast live across Mexico, as well as in several South American countries. It's a huge event for the sport in a part of the world that's not used to the game and it'll be interesting to see how Mexicans receive the game.