The South African Ice Hockey Federation (SAIHF) was the first African nation to join the International Ice Hockey Federation. This dates back to 1937. The sport of ice hockey was very well supported and played in the mid 1900’s due to amount of foreign workers who lived in the country. The majority of the foreigners who had measurable impact on the sport were from countries such as Switzerland and Germany with a scattering of North Americans and Eastern European’s also adding some influence to the game. These foreigners together with a very competitive and well organized association took ice hockey to heights which were remarkable for a non-traditional ice hockey market.
Despite South Africa joining the IIHF ranks in the early 90’s, it was only in 1961 that South Africa made its international debut in a World Championship. Due to the sanctions put in place by the international community, South Africa would not see any international competition until 1992.
Despite this hockey continued to be played. The level of competition and support for the sport was still quite something. There were a number of venues throughout the country. This enabled a good number of teams to participate. Each team had a number of foreigners and some fantastic local talent was bred through the years.
In the late 90’s the inline hockey craze was taking over the globe. South Africa took to the outdoors on rollerblades like fish to water. Within a year there were inline hockey clubs all over South Africa. The surge in inline membership and participation had a spill over to the ice hockey community. Two Olympic sheets were built in Krugersdorp and Pretoria by Tri-Ice Sports, there were also rinks in Durban, Cape Town and Port Elizabeth. The international influence was still a positive factor. South African players and coaches were well ahead of the curve.
The development of younger talent was a big contributor to what would be a memorable era for the South African Ice Hockey Association. For the first time players were attending camps abroad and some players were even being offered try-outs in Canada and the USA. In 2001 the Grand West Arena opened in Western Province. Unfortunately, at the same time, Gauteng and Durban were losing crucial facilities. Krugersdorp was closed and so was Durban with Port Elizabeth following suit. With fewer facilities and a subsequent decline in membership development of u10’s and u12’s ceased. The sport was on life support. This carried on through to 2010.
In 2010 the SAIHA received a boost. Both administration and funding were tabled as critical factors to future growth. The Association set about looking at how to set a new direction. Development and particularly youth development were identified as keys to growth along with new methods in coaching and philosophy. In 2012 the Association began a partnership with USA Hockey. Coaching was identified as a primary area of focus and both fresh and existing coaches were educated and re-educated. Strong development and growth principles were adopted. Most importantly there was buy-in from all parties.
The South African Ice Hockey Association has now been renamed the South African Ice Hockey Federation. The Federation is a NPO (non-profit organization). With membership at record highs and strong development policies at the forefront of all agenda’s, we are happy but not nearly has the appetite for success been quenched. As an organization, reaping the rewards of long term strategy is key. We are committed to this path and we are confident that we are building a sustainable future for all our current and future members.