Danielle Sabido Imperial from Philippines is a very emotinal player, who loves hockey and talks about it in a touching and special way. As you listen to her story, her words leave you breathless because leave you breathless, because of their simplicity, warmth and sincerity. The following story is not about top hockey results, but it IS about deep affection and love for the sport you’re dealing with.
FROM A PLASTIC HOCKEY STICK TO THE NATIONAL TEAM
It all started in the garage of my house, where my brother and I would skate around, with our plastic hockey sticks and puck. Our cousins from California had just moved back home, and let us watch the Mighty Ducks movies. We would routinely spend afternoons watching them, and then going outside to play on our driveway.
In 2011, a hockey dad noticed us public skating, and asked if we wanted to join their club training. The invite was actually just for my brother, but after training they welcomed me as well. We started playing under coach Carl Montano, a Filipino-Canadian who had just moved back home. He got us started, and coached us all the way up to 2016. Then our practices shifted, and became national team trainings under different coaches. A lot of the national players are Carl Montano’s former students as well. Now it’s amazing seeing how everyone has grown since he stepped in, back in 2011.
TO BEGIN WITH, HOCKEY WASN’T A COMMON SPORT IN MANILA
The club I started playing in was one of two youth clubs in Manila at that time. We would only get to compete in an annual tournament in Hong Kong, called the Mega Ice Hockey 5s. When I first played there, I was far from good enough to even skate with the guys. When I graduated from the bantam age division, it was the first time that a women’s team was put together to compete. To begin with, hockey wasn’t a common sport in Manila. There were just a few players regularly training, but we managed to find some others, and recruit new ones.
OUR FIRST, HISTORICAL IIHF WIN
This year we competed in the IIHF Women’s Challenge Cup of Asia for the fist time. We had a very tough first game against a seasoned Thailand team, who had just come back from the Asian Winter Games all fired up. We won against Malaysia and UAE, but lost the rest. Maybe we’d finish with a better standing, but I guess we were young team. Half of the players were completely unexperienced, it was all about growing together and taking our first steps as a team. We weren’t prepared, a lot of us felt it, and so we came home more dedicated to training.
But in May this year we joined the Mega Ice Hockey 5s tournament again, and won gold! It was really nice to finally win, specially seeing how we had improved already from two months prior in the WCCOA. We knew we were learning from everything, and that’s what mattered most.
WE SANG OUR NATIONAL ANTHEM BEFORE THE GAME, WITH TEARS ALREADY IN OUR EYES
I’ll never forget our WCCOA game against Malaysia. After straight losses that we expected would turn out different, we sang our national anthem before the game with tears already in our eyes. I stood at the front of the line and saw how the audience was looking at our team. I turned around and saw I wasn’t the only one in tears. We were eager for a team win, and it showed in how we played. It was in this game that I saw us really come together, and find our tune. We won our first ever official game and found our stride to keep moving forward from there.
A HOCKEY FAMILY
I come from a small hockey family. My brother is on the men’s national team, but he is also officially the women’s national team assistant coach. My mom is the women’s team manager. When I’m not playing for the national team, I help out with social media for Hockey Philippines. Outside of hockey, I’m a university student majoring in Economics, double minoring in Literature, and in Global Politics at the Ateneo de Manila University.
WHEN TIME COMES I CAN’T PLAY COMPETITIVE HOCKEY, I’D LOVE TO COACH IF I GET THE CHANCE TO
I’m graduating from university next school year, and hope to get into law school afterwards. Although a lot of people tell me I won’t be able to keep playing while im pursuing that, I’ll be trying my best. If I can’t, I know I’ll be back in a few years. I looked up how old the oldest women’s national team player in the world is, and it’s 42 or so. I expect to go as far if I’m physically able to — thing is I have scoliosis, but I hope it doesn’t get too much to handle. When time comes I can’t play competitive hockey, I’d love to coach if I get the chance to. I’ve been playing for only 7 years and I look forward to all the years ahead. It’s only the beginning. 2017 was the first year that the Philippines got opportunities to compete in official tournaments and we’ll be taking big strides from now on.
HOCKEY IS MORE THAN JUST A GAME, WHEN A RINK BECOMES HOME, AND TEAM BECOMES FAMILY
We love hockey and so nothing should stop us from reaching our goals. That’s why everyone of us should work hard, and learn from our own experiences. We must never forget to have fun doing this, whether we’re just starting out, or at our peak, or if we are about to hang our skates up. Hockey is more than just a game, when a rink becomes home and team becomes family.