SA Ice Hockey Squad in first for country and continent

Hard work and dedication has earned the South African men’s hockey team a spot in the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) qualification programme for the 2026 Milano Cortina Olympic Games Round 2, Group K.

SA senior men’s ice hockey captain Uthman Samaai and his teammates have qualified to take part in the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) qualification programme for 2026. Picture: Fuad Esack

It has been a busy year for the South African Ice Hockey Federation, and in particular, the Western Province Ice Hockey Association, as it played host to the Women’s World Division II Group B Championship, in February, the under-18 Division III-Group B World Championship, in March and senior men’s Division III-Group A championship, in April.

Now it’s onto the international stage with the qualification tournament taking place in Reykjavik, Iceland, from December 14 to December 17.

It’s the first time in the history of Africa that the SA senior national team will take part in the ice hockey Olympic qualification programme. Teams taking part in this tournament are, Estonia, Iceland, Bulgaria and South Africa.

Chinese Taipei’s Chang-Hsing Yang, left, and South Africa’s Luke Carelse face off during their sides’ clash on day three of the 2023 IIHF Senior Men’s Ice Hockey World Championship Division III Group A, at the Ice Station, GrandWest Arena earlier this year. Picture: Fuad Esack

Although a first for the country and continent, the SA Ice Hockey Federation is a long-standing affiliate of the IIHF, the sports governing body. It has been a member of the IIHF since 1937 and South Africa is currently ranked 51st in the IIHF world ranking, competing in Division III of the IIHF World Championships.

South Africa is the only African-based team that competes in IIHF tournaments.

South African Ice Hockey Federation president, Jason Cerff, at the recent WP Ice Hockey Association awards presentation. Picture: Fuad Esack

“For some people this might seem to be just another tournament, but for our players, coaches and management, this is not only another tournament,” said SA Ice Hockey president, Jason Cerff.

“It’s a historic moment that can and will be cherished forever,” he said. “This will be put down in the history of ice hockey in South Africa to be the first ever Olympic event that the national team will be competing in,” he said. “This is the start for many more to come in years to follow.”

National ice hockey player Jean-Michel van Doesburgh, left, and South African Ice Hockey Federation president Jason Cerff at the recent WP Ice Hockey Association awards presentation. Picture: Fuad Esack

“As SAIHF, we are very proud to be a part of this process and proud to be part of the sport we love,” he said, adding a quote made famous by former president, Nelson Mandela, when he said: “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

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In a historic first for Africa, the South African Ice Hockey (SAIHF) national team have made it to the qualifying rounds of the Olympics Games. Picture: Fuad Esack