The Puerto Rico Men’s National Ice Hockey Team is coming to Orlando! On February 17, 18, and 19 Puerto Rico's top athletes will compete against the top talent in Central Florida as part of a new multi-city exhibition series, Serie de Desafiadores. The games will take place at both the Amway Center in Downtown Orlando and the Ice Factory of Central Florida in Kissimmee. This will be the first time the Puerto Rico Men’s National Team takes the ice since winning the LATAM Championship in September of 2022! The opposing teams are made up of former college and professional athletes.
Luis Vargas, Vice President of the Puerto Rico Ice Hockey Association (PRIHA), who was born in San Juan, raised in Levittown, and now resides in Tampa, said “ice Hockey is a non-traditional sport for the Caribbean, but it is contagious. We have extremely talented athletes that take great pride in representing Puerto Rico. This event is an opportunity for PRIHA to connect with the Orlando community, or ‘the Second Puerto Rico’ as they are now calling it, and to create an exciting atmosphere! We fully expect the Boricua passion, dancing, and chanting to be in full effect during the event.”
The event is held in partnership with both the Orlando Solar Bears, Orlando’s professional ice hockey team that plays out of the AdventHealth Rink at Amway Center, and the Florida Puerto Rican Parade. The event will act as an activation leading up to the 2023 Florida Puerto Rican Parade which takes place on April 22.
Chris Heller, President of the Orlando Solar Bears, is excited about the event, “the Orlando Solar Bears are proud to host the Puerto Rican Men’s National Ice Hockey Team for their Serie de Desafiadores. As we continue to grow the game of hockey in Central Florida, we have partnered with PRIHA to introduce hockey to new fans, young and old. Much like our Solar Bears fans, we know the passion that Puerto Ricans have for their athletes and cannot wait to experience the atmosphere at AdventHealth Rink at Amway Center when the National Team hits the ice!”
Ralph Morales, President of the Florida Puerto Rican Parade, added “we welcome this wonderful initiative of the Puerto Rico Ice Hockey Team to join us during the 2023 parade events. As is usually the case with Puerto Rican athletes, I know that this team will truly represent our island in this sport. Kudos to the Comite Olimpico de Puerto Rico COPUR for its foresight to embrace the team. We look forward to their participation in the upcoming parade.”
Tickets are now on sale! Both Friday and Sunday's games, which include tickets to watch the Puerto Rico Men’s National Team AND the Orlando Solar Bears game, as well as Saturday’s tickets can be found at www.puertoricoicehockey.com/tickets. Sunday’s game ticket also includes a meet & greet with the Puerto Rico Men’s National Team and access to the Solar Bear’s Latina Noche Concert (artist to be announced) presented by Publix.
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Didn't know Puerto Rico had an ice hockey team? PRIHA is the sole governing body for ice and inline hockey in Puerto Rico and manages the Puerto Rico National Teams. PRIHA is part of the Puerto Rico National Olympic Committee through the Federation of Puerto Rican Winter Athletes (FPAI), the National Federation of Puerto Rico’s Skating (FENAPAPUR) and the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) - Hockey's version of sports governing bodies like IBAF (Baseball), FIBA (Basketball), and FIFA (Soccer).
Players have to be eligible to compete with the national team based on the rules established by COPUR. Athletes are eligible by being born in Puerto Rico, residing in Puerto Rico, or having Puerto Rican heritage from a parent or grandparent.
The association was founded less than three years ago in 2020 but has ambitions to become the top competitor in the Latin American ice hockey circuit (Mexico is currently ranked 35 in the world and was formed in 1985). In less than three years the Association has grown to over 240 male and female athlete-members of ages and skills. Puerto Rico is also a three-time LATAM Ice Hockey Champion (2021 Women, 2022 Men, 2022 U20 Men). For more information visit www.puertoricoicehockey.com.
About Serie de Desafiadores:
Serie de Desafiadores is an exhibition series hosted by the Puerto Rico Ice Hockey Association. 2023 will be the exhibition series’ inaugural year. The series features both the Puerto Rico Men’s and Women’s National Ice Hockey teams playing against top competition. Each team will play several games throughout the course of each calendar year against top competition in cities across the US.
The first stop of the 2023 series features the Puerto Rico Men’s National team in Orlando vs Central Florida’s best. The second and third stops of the series feature both the Men’s and Women’s teams at Fiesta de Hockey, PRIHA’s flagship event and Hockey festival, in Chicago during April and in New York City during June. The Women’s team will be featured in an exclusive weekend for the first time during May, August, or September with the city still to be announced. Additional stops are also to be announced.
About Orlando Solar Bears:
The Orlando Solar Bears are the proud affiliate of the NHL's Stanley Cup Champion Tampa Bay Lightning and members of the ECHL, the premier “AA” hockey league in North America. Since coming Out of Hibernation in 2012, the team has qualified for the Kelly Cup Playoffs five times. The club consistently ranks among the top teams in attendance in the ECHL, providing affordable sports entertainment for the City of Orlando. The Orlando Solar Bears season typically runs from early October with playoffs continuing through spring. For more information visit www.orlandosolarbearshockey.com.
About Florida Puerto Rican Parade:
The Florida Puerto Rican Parade & Festival and related activities were established to promote the Puerto Rican community culture, heritage, and its contributions to the State of Florida. The Parade and Festival promote the achievements made by Puerto Ricans in Business, Health, Music, Science, Arts, and Government. Puerto Ricans from throughout Florida cities and surrounding states are encouraged to attend. Friends and families of participants and spectators are invited to join in this annual celebration which is destined to become a milestone event for families from across the region and Puerto Rico to get together. The 2022 parade saw more than 20,000 attendees. For more information visit www.floridapuertoricanparade.org.