Egyptian goalie and the Algerian skater celebrating

William Douglas has been writing The Color of Hockey blog since 2012. Douglas joined in 2019 and writes about people of color in the sport. Today, he profiles the Dream Nations Cup, an international tournament created to celebrate and highlight emerging hockey nations, to be played Wednesday through Sunday at American Dream in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

The inaugural Dream Nations Cup is indeed a dream come true for several emerging hockey nations.

The tournament that opens Wednesday at The Rink at American Dream in East Rutherford, New Jersey, will be the U.S. debut of Algeria’s men’s national team and a chance for the International Ice Hockey Federation associate member to showcase its efforts to grow within their community near the media capital of the world.

“We’re very excited because we’re hoping for coverage in the United States because the population of the diaspora of Algerian Americans seems to be growing,” said Karim Kerbouche, the London-based president of Hockey Algeria. “We hope the news reaches people in the United States, the Algerian population there, and hopefully there are some players there.”

Algeria Photo 1

For Egypt Ice Hockey, it’s an opportunity to debut its first women’s team, a proud accomplishment for Sameh Ramadan, whose daughters Malac and Danna Ramadan are on the roster.

“Witnessing the birth of the first Egyptian women’s ice hockey team is not only a personal triumph but it’s also a pivotal moment in shaping the future of developing hockey within Northern Africa, within the Middle East, within the Arab countries,” said Ramadan, an Egypt Ice Hockey managing member in the U.S. and a men’s team forward.

The Dream Nations Cup, presented by CCM, is an invitational international tournament that celebrates and highlights the emergence of hockey in non-traditional hockey markets and communities.

Men’s and women’s teams representing Algeria, Egypt, Armenia, Central America, the Caribbean, Mexico, the Netherlands, and Indigenous players from Canada and the U.S. are competing in the tournament.

“We’re using this opportunity to create a stage or platform for these smaller, developing programs to show off that they’re there, that they’re taken seriously and that they are committed to growing their sport,” said Rob Ruszala, American Dream’s rink manager. “We know there are a few international tournaments, some in Europe, some are in Florida. For a lot of these programs, New York is a little easier logistically to attend and also, there’s a great demographic here.”

Egypt Hockey at Pyramids

But teams such as Algeria and Egypt are looking beyond New York. They’re hoping the exposure and their performances at the tournament will lead to private or public investment in the construction of rinks in their homelands that would enable them to work toward full IIHF membership to compete in their world championships and, someday, even the Winter Olympics.

Each country currently has ice rinks that are a fraction of the size of NHL rinks. But that hasn’t deterred players from hitting the ice in those countries, Ramadan and Kerbouche said. 

“It’s really interesting how the sport is growing globally and you’re having different people from different ethnicities and different backgrounds playing each other, which would have never happened when I was a kid or before I got involved in hockey,” said Kerbouche, whose team is comprised mostly of players of Algerian descent who live in France and other European countries.

That growth is what inspired Ryan Davis to form Indigenous men’s and women’s teams for the tournament. The 46-year-old retired forward, who was selected by the Buffalo Sabres in the sixth round (No. 142) of the 1996 NHL Draft but never played in the League, said he believes First Nations and Native American players are underrepresented in international competition.

“We just aren’t recognized or included,” he said. “I want teams in this tournament, in IIHF championships, in the Olympics. That’s my ultimate dream. That’s my ultimate vision.

“I say this is just the beginning for us.”

Egypt Girls with Ryan Lomberg