William Douglas has been writing The Color of Hockey blog since 2012. Douglas joined NHL.com in 2019 and writes about people of color in the sport. Today, he profiles the Puerto Rico Ice Hockey Association's Fiesta de Hockey weekend in New York which included a three-game series against Jamaica's men's national team.

FLUSHING, N.Y. -- The Puerto Rico Ice Hockey Association ended its weekend Fiesta de Hockey in New York with an exclamation point Saturday night.

Puerto Rico's men's national team defeated Jamaica 6-5 in overtime at World Ice Arena in Queens, overcoming a 4-2 deficit with 8:02 left in the third period.

Michael Marquez, a forward from Upland, California, who played for the Yarmouth Mariners of the Canada's Maritime Junior Hockey League last season, tied the game in the closing seconds of the third period.

Dennis Ruppe, a forward from Clifton, New Jersey, who played last season for Ohio State University's American Collegiate Hockey Association's Division II men's team, scored the game-winner.

Puerto Rico won the Fiesta weekend three-game series against Jamaica 2-1. Puerto Rico defeated Jamaica 6-0 on Friday and Jamaica won 8-2 on Thursday.


Scott Vargas, the PRIHA's founder, president and forward on the men's national team, said the three games against Jamaica provided a good measure on the progress of Puerto Rico's effort to develop into a hockey power that can someday compete for world championships and in the Winter Olympics.

Both Puerto Rico and Jamaica are associate members of the International Ice Hockey Federation and champions of Amerigol LATAM Cup, a largely Latin American and Caribbean tournament played annually at the Florida Panthers practice facility in Coral Springs, Florida. Puerto Rico won the LATAM Cup in 2022, Jamaica's men won the LATAM title in 2019.

"We're trying to level up competition each and every time we play," Vargas said. "And that's why we wanted Jamaica to come in the Fiesta de Hockey because that's a super talented team. On paper, in many rights, they have an edge right, more experienced and played at higher levels right, bigger, stronger, definitely faster. The thing is, I feel like we've got to offer as well. We've come a very long way."

Jamaica may have lost the weekend series, but their program gained exposure for its international and Olympic aspirations.

"What an experience -- Jamaica playing Puerto Rico in ice hockey in New York?" said Jamaican Olympic Ice Hockey Federation president Don Anderson said. "Even in Jamaica, people are [asking], 'What are you talking about? You guys play ice hockey?' It's really exciting to be part of this."


Saturday night's game helped capped the PRIHA's weekend Fiesta de Hockey in the city with the largest Puerto Rican population outside of the Caribbean island that is a territory of the United States.

The goal of the weekend was to highlight the PRIHA effort, grow the sport within the Puerto Rican community and to recruit players from the New York area who may not have been aware of the organization's existence.

More than 95 players of Puerto Rican heritage from across the United States competed on PRIHA's six men's, women's and youth teams at the Fiesta, which started Thursday at World Ice Arena and City Ice Pavilion in Long Island City.

In addition to Jamaica, PRIHA players skated against New York area teams, including Fire Department of New York Alumni, the Lady Islanders, Hockey in New Jersey and Ice Hockey in Harlem. HINJ and IHIH are affiliates of the NHL's "Hockey Is For Everyone" initiative.

"To have Puerto Rico, Ice Hockey in Harlem and Team Jamaica in this festival here means the game of hockey is growing, and it's growing in all the right ways," said IHIH executive director Malik Garvin, who's IHIH alumni team.


The Fiesta weekend was a homecoming for several Puerto Rico players. Christian Jimenez grew up playing hockey in Yorktown Heights, New York, about 45 miles outside the city.

The 21-year-old Harvard University defenseman said he was thrilled to join Puerto Rico's men's national team for the weekend games.

And PRIHA was thrilled that Jimenez had two goals in Saturday's win.

"I really was adamant about playing because representing my heritage, I think it's very important to recognize where you come from," said Jimenez, whose mother, Joanna, is Puerto Rican and British and father, Jose, is of Colombian descent. "My dad's from Jamaica, Queens, so it's pretty cool playing here. I think what's going on here is an unbelievable opportunity just for the game itself. It's a true testament to how much the game has grown in the past decade or so. I'm really blessed to be a part of it."

The Fiesta was the first time Puerto Rico women's national team defenseman Jazmine Miley was able to play competitively within 30 blocks from where she grew up in Queens. She played much of her youth hockey in New Jersey.

"It's very special that my family can watch me on my own turf," said Miley, who played NCAA Division III hockey for Finlandia University and Chatham University and has played in Europe.


Miley, who is co-founder and CEO of HPOC Movement, a group that supports and highlights players of color, said it was fitting that the Fiesta was held in Queens because it's "One of the most diverse melting pots of the five boroughs" of New York City.

"Having that opportunity to show everybody, especially on the women's side of the sport, that there are opportunities here is amazing," she said.

The Fiesta de Hockey weekend dovetailed with the 2023 National Puerto Rican Day Parade along Manhattan's Fifth Avenue on Sunday. Several players rode a float and marched wearing their distinctive Puerto Rico jerseys and marched in the parade.

"It's just a really, really special thing," Vargas said. "I think everyone is going to have some long-lasting memories there."

Photos courtesy: Katelynn Reiss and Michael Rosado