One of the most unlikely national teams in sporting history has just won the championship trophy in one of the most unlikely sports to be dominated by a Caribbean nation.
Haiti's national street hockey team (yes, that's a thing) defeated the Cayman Islands 4:2 this morning to win the finals of the B-pool of the Street Hockey World Championship in Zug, Switzerland. The road to the cup also included victories over Armenia and France — a win that was particularly sweet for the Haitian squad.
Haiti's surprise victory is unlikely for several reasons — not the least of which is the fact that Haitians don't normally play hockey. To compensate for the island's general deficiency in puck skills, the team was comprised of Haitian-Canadians, some of whom have never visited their ancestral acres.
The International Street and Ball Hockey Federation had to bend the rules ever so gently to allow to the unique team to participate in the world championship tournament, but the generous interpretation of the rule book was a good thing for the proud all-black team which embraced and honored its Haitian roots.
It wasn't exactly a Cool Runnings situation, however. The Haitian team — most of whom were born in Montreal — had a few ringers, including team captain Ainslie Bien-Aimé, who previously played on Canada's gold medal street hockey team in 2007. The team was also led by coach Georges Laraque, a Canadian-born former NHL player.
Though Haiti is essentially a foreign land for many of the Haitian team members, it is also very much a part of their identities.
“Most of the guys were always looking for something to give back to the country and the only thing we could do was send money or praise to our cousins or whatever,” Bien-Aimé told the Toronto Star. “But when this opportunity came up in January, I can tell you that 75 guys were ready for war.”
Building on its success, the Haitian team hopes to recruit hockey-abled Haitian immigrants from Toronto, Vancouver, Boston and New York for the next world championship in 2017, the Star reports.