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Stay tuned with Dave Hammond - Sparta Cup trip #3

Old Stars crowned Champions

The journey began months ago when I had an idea to take a team from Africa to the Masters World Championships. In order to remain competitive, we are going to play out

of contention as we would be adding some non-african players to the team. Pablo and Renato (Brazilian National Players) who visted Namibia in Decemeber last year agreed to

play for us. They realized that growing the sport was bigger than themselves playing for Brazil who currently ranked 5th in the world. You see opportunites like these

dont come around to often and the friendships they had made were worth the sacrifice. Along with Brazilians, we were going to add Canadians, South Africans and Americans

all who had a direct conection to Namibia.

Sadly the Masters World Championships were called off due to Covid and the dream appeared to be bust. As the dream for the Namibians began to slip away we went back to

the drawing board. We realized that the world championship would be the "Pinnacle" but the experiences gained and the opportunity is what mattered most.

PGKA Alliance was born and made a decision to attend Sparta Cup. We would enter an Old Stars team and Pro. The advantage here was in Spain the Old Stars started with

36 years of age instead of 38 years. Meaning I could play :) We quickly opened the door to the Namibian based players to see who was still eager to go. Deadlines were

set, meetings were held and budgets were put together. When the dust settled we had myself, Pablo, Luke, Jeff, Mike and Quintin who were committed. The word spread very

quickly that PGKA was entering a team and we were accepting players from all over the world. At last the team was confirmed and history was made. It turns out, this

would be the most international team ever assmebled. 3 Canadians, 1 Brazilian, 1 Swiss, 1 Mexican, 3 Americans, 1 Frenchmen, 1 German, 1 South African and 1 Namibian.

9 different nationalities on one team with each and every individual bringing something unique and special to the team. The most interesting thing was seeing how the

different cultures interacted with eachother. Regardless of where you lived or the level of hockey you played, we were all connected by this amazing sport. Im going to

share with you all a few memories and comments I have of each member of our team, then I will explain to you how we one gold.

Pablo "Warrior" Navarro- he was our general on and off the rink. He was involved with everything. (Too much to explain). On the rink, you noticed quickly that he

was one of the best players to play this game and would have been something special to see in his prime. A true warrior. Pablo takes pride in blocking shots, breaking

up the play, controlling the puck and when the time is right "Celebrating" It must be his latin blood, because it didnt matter who scored, when PGKA Alliance found the

back of the net, the "warrior" let everyone around him know.

Luis "Tequila" Pineda - alright, the cat is out of the bag. Luis is from Mexico and there is no secret that is his choice of beverage when it is time to party. On the

rink Luis was the silent assassin. He let his game speak for itself. Whether he is playing defense, forward or cheering on the bench he always had a positive attitude.

He was just happy to be there, but when the time came he stepped up for the team on the scoresheet as well. Scoring a hatrick in one of the games and scoring in the

gold medal game. Both are incredible tough to do. I will neever forget that snipe top corner and the celebration that followed as he put us one step closer to being

crownd champions.

Mitch/ Michael/ Mikki "Baby Deer" Friedel - now before i comment on his playing style, I want to mention that Mitch is one of the most loyal and respected people I have come across in

our sport. He has successful developed 52 straight weeks of our PGKA Coaches corner and he has been involved with the Swiss National program for two decades. His passion

loyality and love for the game are what I am reminded of when I think of him. His first name is still up for debate as he seems to have 3 different aliases depending on

the mood he is in. Now Mitch is a big boy with massive limbs. Picture a baby deer galoping through the snow. Gracefull, elegant, silent. He might not be the fastest or

look the prettiest when doing whatever it is he is doing but the task is always completed. Whether its playing "stay at home defense" or laying the body out he was always

there to get in the way and cause havock to the other team.

Dampy "Spotlight" Brar - our newest member to the sport of inline hockey. Mr. Spotlight is a former professional Ice hockey player and currently a Ball Hockey player for

Team Canada. He recently won the Willi Oree award for the best development program by the NHL. His company Apna Hockey is not only a global brand in ice hockey but also

a partner to PGKA. It was a huge honor to spend time with "Damps" on and off the rink. What stood out most to me is how he carried himself. Never a hair out of place,

never shirt unwrinkled, never a stutter in his words. The bigger the spotlight the more you saw the profesionalism and that couldnt be truer from his performance on

wheels. Dampy and I were paired together for our last round robin game and the chemistry only exploded in the playoffs. He scored 4 goals in the quarterfinals, 1 goal

plus a shootout goal in the semifinals and 1 goal in the finals. Finishing the tournament being named to the Old Stars allstar team. Not bad for his first time. A true

student of the game Dampy was a sponge soaking up as much information about how we play inline hockey as can be. From watching videos, to researching how to stop or simply

asking questions, he is a true professional.

Rob "Mr. Labeda" Chornomud - a household name in our beloved sport. Rob is head of Labeda hockey and has been the coach for the Pama Labeda Golden Knights (Pro and seniors)

for as long as I can remember. A former Team USA mens coach and player/manager for team USA masters program, Rob is as involved with out sport as anyone can be. He is easy

to spot with his shinny head and bulging muscles but what stands out to me the most is his peronsality. 95% of time you can find him with a smile on his face helping

someone out or enjoying the lifestyle of an Inline Hockey player (flip flops, board shorts, tank top, and some swag). He is a hardworker and great guy. That is the story

when you are on his team. Remember the other 5%, well for the opposition our Chrome Dome buddy has been known to give out the "Occassionly" slash, trip, hook, punch, rough,

and a few love taps over the years, but I must admit he was up for the lady bing tropy at this years Sparta Cup, perhaps this will be the player he becomes as he now a

full fledged legend. Amazing to still be doing what he is doing with guys more than 30 years younger than him. (P.S. I broke 4 sticks, we can talk about it later ;) )

Luke "SA Variant" Stami - I am convinced he has learned all about paperwork. (Work permits, marriage certificates, visas, cancelled flights, double bookings) lets just

say it was a mircale he was on the trip. The SA Variant in true fashion, is resiliant and made plan after plan until it all worked out. Luke was coming on the trip to

improve as a coach, playing was a cheery on top. He coaches a local club back in Namibia and a plan was put in place to help him grow as a coach. He is the "Whatever you

need" type of guy. No task was too big nor too small for him. A huge asset on our PRO teams bench as an assistant coach/ equipment manager Luke made sure the Pro's were

looked after. The same went for the "Old Stars" whether it was helping a newbie change his wheels, cut a stick or just to watch the game with, Luke was your guy. So many

great memories from skating around Blanes, to watching Pro games to long sleepless nights. On the rink, Luke is like a jack russel. So much energy and always moving.

When the team needed him he came through in the finals with that excess energy and wore the other team down. He learned that we are playing a game of chess and each move

needs to be carefully calculated. I feel as if his hockey brain was introduced to a new chapter and I am so excited to witness first hand the results as he matures as

an Inline Hockey role model.

Michael "Ducati" Byrne - arugably one of the most experienced Namibian born players with a breif stint in Canada being coached by Walter Gretzky had missed the opportunity

to play for Namibia in his youth and was hungier than ever to play overseas. He wanted to experience what so many of his peers had experienced and he wanted the opportunity

to show the world what he can do. Micheal is an extremly passionate individual and has been known to lose his temper at times as he is sometimes easily wound up, probably

comes from dealing with people less inteligent as him. (IT Guy) Micheal is an inspiration and a perfect role models for never making excuses. No matter what obstacles

life throws at you, he always finds a way in the end to prevail. Even if the dream of playing international took 20 years, he never once let that dream die and never once

gave up. It is an honour to have him as a teammate as his skills are above average and truly blessing to have him as an assistant coach with the PGKA Warriors. I am

excited to see where his player skills take him as now he knows there is a whole world of hockey out there to still be played, but I am even more excited to see how he

will give his knowledge back to the future generations. Mike started to work his way up the lineup during the tournament and proved he can play with the worlds best.

Also he has a Ducati.

Eddie "The Rocket" Limbaga - another life long inline hockey guy who has done it all. Owned rinks, managed clubs, played for his country. The current owner of Rocket puck

and a current member of the Pama Labeda Golden Knights program and Masters Team USA. Eddie might play more hockey than anyone I know. An amazing player on the rink but

an even better person off the rink. He is one of the good ones and our sport is lucky to have him. Now Eddie had a tendancy of being late but the good news was he was

consistant. From arriving at the game last, leaving the dressing room last to being the last one in the club. Eddie enjoyed being late and never once had a worry to go with

it. He lives an amazing life and if you dont believe me take a look at his social media ( The Rocket is everywhere ;) ) The best part about Eddie was he still made time

for the guys, even though he had his family with ( who were awesome by the way ), probably explains why he was always late. On the rink Eddie is a fantasic skater and

understands the game well.

Guillume "French Jagr" Silles -the french Jagr is 49 years young and has some silky mits. The current coach of one of the top teams in the French Elite league, arguably

the best Professional Inline League in the world is also a long time player for France. I didnt ask him but I am sure he has a few alcolades to his name and I believe

a world championship if im not mistaken. On the rink, he was like a surgeon, examining the situation and when the time was right he was like a hot knife through butter.

Skating the puck from his own end through the entire team to make the play. A one man wrecking crew and he was doing this at 49 years old and apparently hadnt played

in a few years. In between a few huffs and puffs from one of those manoevers ,he quarterbacked our powerplay. The greatest memory is still listening to Pablo try and

pronouce Guillume. (Just call me G, he says)

Jeffery "Allan" Bonozza - a fellow canadian who is now residing in Namibia. Jeff has a great ice hockey resume as a player and coach. He spetn 12 years in New Zealand

running there Ice Hockey National Program and when he is not playing hockey he works as a teacher. Another seasoned vet who takes pride in keeping himself in shape. I

beleive the first thing he did landing in Spain was find a gym and throw Quintin's shoes out (will get back to the shoes later). Jeff a long time ice hockey player is

also still figuring out the game and most importantly learning to stop on both sides. "Imagine how good ill be when I can stop ;) " On the rink Jeff did whatever the team

asked. No matter what the situation was he added value. Off the rink, Jeff was by far the MVP. From renting a car and driving everyone everywhere, to loaning his gear to

our pro guys, to being our player ambassdor for the old stars. He did it all and never once complained. He even took point on the Gelato hunts, nude beaches and Quintin

Project. Rum raison Gelato, pink gin n tonic and a foam roller and this guy is sorted.

Scotty "facetime" Kolehe -is a 49 year old goalie from Arizona, USA. A survivor, rock loving, technology hating, loud, crazy, insane badass of a goalie. "If im not running

my mouth and talking shit to the other team, I might as well go home" "Everyone knows, Scotty is bringing back the hardware" "For the love of god can somebody get me a fan"

"Ref, how you can expect me to play with a wet crease, I demand a new mop"

Now most goalie are ..... crazy, insane, weird, unique, different, not normal for a better term "misunderstood" Scotty is all of the above. What I respect the most about

him is his confidence. As much as he jokes around with the guys, he takes his goaltending extremly serious. He takes pride in making saves, and winning games. Scotty gives

you a chance to win his lack of size is made up for with a huge personality and work ethic. He was the fire that ignited us and ive never had so much fun scoring on a goalie

in warmups in my entire career. What a legend haha. He put the pads on for two divisions and he backstopped us to a gold medal. (Thats ot easy to do) Our theme song of

the week was "Scotty doesnt know" which is all I remember as the rest of the time, Scotty was DJ and lets just say must of the guys suddenly had head phones.

Quintin "NFG" Kotze -one of my favorite people, is truly a legend. He concepted and co-designed our PGKA Alliance Brotherhood coin. We later found out its for a drinking game,

but another cherishable memory we will all have forever. A biker gang leader by day and bar owner by night this viking look alike is one of the founders for

inline hockey in Namibia. A former National team captain and Southern African Legend has just played his last tournament. He has traded his knees in for one last good

time and good times did he have. Way too many stories to count but a few quotes for the boys. "Cuba Libre, Cuba Libre, I said Cubaaaaaa Libreeeeee", "Im bored, somebody

talk to me" "Allan, Allan, Allan" "Who threw my shoes away" "Ill sit for you any day of the week" NFG is his life motto and everything always works out for this guy

as his heart is pure and his mind is strong. His mind is so strong he played with his eyes closed. We have photo evidence to prove it ;)

Dave "Hammer" Hammond - Fat Lives Matter

Round Robin ends with PGKA Alliance finsihing as the 2nd seed. We lost a game in a shootout to the Spartans, the tournament organizers team and one of the early favorites.

Not exactly what we had planned as we were trying to avoid the czechs (Stilmat), this now meant we would meet in the semi-finals if everything went according to plan. Either

way we knew to be the best we would have to beat the best. Our quarter finals matchup was shifted to the smaller rink which also had the older floor and all games played on

this rink became some what of a coin toss. A few things went against us that game, Pablo couldnt hold his stick and was forced to play limited minutes due to some injuries

he picked up playing Pro and we got into some serious penalty trouble which made the game way closer than it ever should have been. Fortunitly we were able to battle

through adversity and advance to the semi-finals the following day. As all the top seeds won our next oponent was Stilmat. A team that had previously won this tournament

and was stacked with ex pro players. Although the team was arguable the oldest in the tournament, they came with a wealth of experience and it didnt take long to notice

they were all very good players in there youth and still a force to be dealt with. The game did not dissapoint, from high level skill to the physicality both teams were

tied 3-3 after regulation. In overtime we played 3 vs 3 which opened up the rink for more odd man rushes but the score remained tied. The birth in the Sparta Cup finals

would be decided by a shootout. We score, they score as if the game couldnt be any more equal. We score again and they missed giving us the advantage and if our final shooter

were to score the game would be over. A big save by Stilmat gave them a chance to equalize. With everyone on there feet, waiting in anticipation to see what would happen

next, Scotty comes up with a huge safe and the bench clears to rush to Scotty to celebrate our victory. What a game, both teams were exhausted and beaten up, but had the

upmost respect for one another and knew the winner of this game would go on to win the tournament.

Our celebration didnt last too long as it turned out we only had a 1 game break before we had to take on the Spartans for the gold medal. Pablo and me headed outside to

get soem fresh air and discuss the game plan for the finals. We were playing against a team who were the only ones to give us a loss and we needed to make some adjustments

if we wanted to be successful this time around. Pablo asked how do I feel, do I have enough left in the tank to bring it home. I said, of course but I feel like I look

and were going to need some fresh legs in order to tire the other team out to give us a chance. Our last two playoff games were nail biters and we played with a shorter

bench than expected. Our 3rd line was hungry, fresh and pissed off. We decided to role 3 lines equally and hoped our strategy of wearing them down would pay off. For the

first time in the entire tournament I felt we had support. You see all tournament long, PGKA had be throwing presents out to the crowd (Backpacks, key chains, stickers,

sunglasses and anything else Pablo decided the give away) So by the time the finals arrived we had a big cheering section. On top of the Spanish now supporting us in hopes

they get some more free gifts the Pama Labeda Golden Knights Pro team were in full attendance supporting us. I remember thinking, its not every day a current NHLer watches

you play, we better not dissapoint.

The game was very heated and had a ton of emotion but we were one step ahead of them at every turn. I believe our team played its best game of the tournament. Everyone was

focused and concentrating on what they were going to do right for the next shift. We played as a team and won the battles. We took pride in picking up our on man on the

faceoff and we back checked with more urgency than ever before. We made smart line changes and we gave time and space to our more gifted offensive players to work there

magic. Puck retreivel and puck possession was our main focus and when the dust settled the score was PGKA Alliance 5 and Spartans 1. The horn sounded, the music played

and the crowed cheered. We had just become champions of Sparta Cup 2021 in the Old Stars division. Dampy and Pablo were named tournament All Stars and myself MVP and

the most international team ever assembled were crownded champions. The perfect ending for our fairytale story and although winning is amazing, the journey is what I will

cherish most. For a few days, we all forgot about how crazy the world has become and we simply did what we love. Rule # 1 Your attitude determines your altidude.

Looking forward to defending our title and creatiing opportunties for good people in the greatest sport. THIS IS SPARTA!

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