Robert and the Ice Lions

News Release

The Kenya Ice Lions Hockey team is the sole hockey club in in East-Central Africa and Robert Opiyo, is the only player who is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He first joined the ice hockey team for stress-relief from a hectic day. Today he shares a part in the hockey family, though he doesn’t play on the Sabbath or partake of alcoholic beverages during post game celebrations, the team understands and respects Robert’s beliefs.

Robert served a mission in Melbourne and uses his missionary skills in helping Captain Ben Azegere, with the training of the team during workouts on Wednesdays and Saturday mornings. A hotel ice rink is the meeting place—however, it isn’t an official hockey rink, being 2/3 of regulation size and design, yet it gives the hockey players a place to train. Robert explains, “Skating is hard work, though many players come from street hockey on rollerblades and know how to play the game, but it takes practice to feel comfortable on the ice.”

Robert plays defense-man and helps the team in managing their Social Accounts. Playing hockey in Kenya is all about providing discipline, teamwork and fitness to the diverse people who come in for the unique experience. Besides, who knows, the Kenyan Ice Lions may one day become the next wonder, as the Jamaican Bobsled team!

 

Last month, the team was sponsored and taken to Toronto to play their first game, ever. There are nearly 30 ice hockey players in Kenya, including English and Canadian expats, and 17 official team players—two of them are ladies, as they don’t have enough to form an official women’s team. Twelve of the team were able to travel for the away games.

What a trip Toronto turned out to be! The Ice Lions were surprised with new gear and fully personalized jerseys. The once-in-a- lifetime opportunity, to play an actual team in Toronto, shocked and humbled the Kenyan team to tears—to have the opportunity to play against recreational teams, the Mississauga Firefighters and the Mercer Hawks with two National Hockey League Superstars, Sidney Crosby and Nathan MacKinnon on their team.

The Ice Lions had never played with an actual goaltender before. Today they have a fresh new goalie wearing proper gear. In an interview on national news in Toronto, Captain Ben Azegere explained, “We didn't have goalie equipment, and nobody can take that risk to be a goalie without the proper gear. So, what we used to do was set up a rubber toy penguin and we used to put it at the center of the goal and to score you had to hit the penguin above the belly."

Robert states, “The future of the Olympics for us is but a dream, but slowly by slowly more people hear about our desire and want to help us get there. Some of the team have gone through trials to get where we are today, and most have gotten there through faith. If I won’t be around to witness the team in the Olympics, I’m grateful to have been a part that set the foundation for future generations.”

Style Guide Note:When reporting about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, please use the complete name of the Church in the first reference. For more information on the use of the name of the Church, go to our online Style Guide.