CORAL SPRINGS, Florida. – Francisco X. Rivera gave the 2023 Amerigol LATAM Cup a voice in the NHL.
The Los Angeles Kings’ Spanish-language play-by-play voice announced two men’s games on Thursday, marking the first time games in the annual tournament were broadcast entirely in Spanish.
“Being here, just being part of history… seeing teams from such different backgrounds, Greece, Lebanon, Egypt, Armenia, some of the new faces playing against Latin American countries,” said Rivera, whose calls have aired on FloHockey. TV. “It’s something you maybe don’t see in other sports, unless you’re talking about the Olympics or the football World Cup. It’s just amazing to see so many different nations compete, see different styles and learn more about the players.”
Rivera was behind the mic and signaled “Goooaaalll!!!” football style and providing player trivia in Colombia’s 7-4 win over Argentina in a men’s Division II game and Greece Heritage HC’s 5-0 win over Mexico’s Warriors in a Men’s Division I game at the Florida Panthers IceDen, the Panthers’ training facility.
Amerigol International Hockey Association founder and president Juan Carlos Otero said the broadcast of Rivera’s games at the LATAM Cup is a testament to his growth.
“The fact that someone is coming from the other side of the country to host two games here shows the significance of this tournament,” he said. “It’s come full circle not only for the players, their experience of having someone like Francisco Rivera announce their games, but also for the kids who want to grow up to be announcers to show them that he’s reached that point. of his career where he announces NHL games in his native language.”
Rivera, who also contributes to NHL.com/enthe League’s official Spanish-language website, said it saw the LATAM Cup grow from five teams and 92 players in 2018 to 33 teams with more than 750 players representing 21 countries and territories at this year’s tournament, which will take place from August 23 to 27. .
Among this year’s participants are teams representing Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Egypt, Israel, Lebanon and Venezuela, as well as teams made up of players of Caribbean and Central American descent. Teams representing Armenia and Greece also made their tournament debuts.
Players skate in six divisions, including Men’s Divisions I and II, a Women’s Division and teams in the Under-12, Under-14 and Under-16 groups.
The NHL and the Panthers sponsor the tournament. The Amerigol International Hockey Association received $35,000 (Canadian) from the NHL/NHL Players’ Association Industry Growth Fund at a hockey advancement event as part of the festivities of the Honda NHL All-Star Weekend 2023.
Winning the LATAM Cup Men’s, Women’s and Junior Championships was a stepping stone for Puerto Rico to earn Associate Membership of the International Ice Hockey Federation in September 2022.
Previous LATAM Cup titles won by Colombia’s men’s and women’s teams prompted the IIHF to invite them to participate in the IIHF Development Cup tournament for emerging hockey nations in 2022.
Colombia, a country without rinks, won the men’s tournament in Füssen, Germany in May and the women won their tournament in Kuwait City in November.
Rivera said the success of the LATAM Cup was a factor in the Kings creating their Mexico City Jr. Kings youth hockey program.
Los Angeles sent former Kings players Derek Armstrong, Mike Weaver and Brad Smythe, as well as Kings scout and diversity and inclusion specialist Blake Bolden, to Mexico City to help organize camps.
“We had already expanded our business, before I started, in China, and it was very important to launch a program there,” Rivera said. “But then I think seeing what the LATAM Cup and the Mexico Warriors were doing, we thought, ‘Mexico City is a great destination for us.'”
The LATAM Cup and the growth of hockey in Mexico inspired Rivera to start skating two years ago. He was supposed to play with the men’s Division II team Mexico Warriors at the tournament, but a scheduling conflict caused him to arrive a day late.
“Even if it was going to be three minutes of wasted time, just being there would have been exciting,” he said. “When the Warriors of Mexico said to me, ‘Hey man, you have a place with us, it’s an honorary place… if you want to come in when the game is not so close, skate a little with us , sit on the pew”. , listen to the anthem”, these things are really special.
“It didn’t work out, but I was going to live my dream for three minutes.”
Photo courtesy of Aubrey Corkum