OAKVILLE, Ontario, October 17, 2018 – In Kenya, the Ice Lions is king. With no other teams, and nobody else, to play against, the Ice Lions is the country’s only hockey team.
Twice every week, on Wednesday and Sunday, the members of the team converge on the first-ever ice rink in East and Central Africa — a 1,400-square-metre rink at the Panari Sky Center Hotel in Nairobi, Kenya, located next to Nairobi National Park — to play the game they love.
Comparatively, in Canada, hockey is sometimes taken for granted; Canadians can always find someone to grab a stick, find some ice and play a game.
Enter Tim Hortons Canada, a company with an affinity for hockey, that was founded in 1964, as a single outlet coffee cafe, by a defence-man of the same name, who played with the Toronto Maple Leafs, a professional ice hockey team, based in Toronto, Ontario.
The company heard the story about the Kenya Ice Lions and decided to share Canada’s love of the game, by bringing them to the birthplace of hockey.
“In Canada — and as a company — hockey is part of our DNA,” says Jorge Zaidan, Head of Marketing for Tim Hortons Canada. “We are so inspired by the story of the Lions. Despite having no other teams to play against, the players on the Kenya Ice Lions’ passion for the game is unwavering. Their shared passion and love of the game knows no borders.”
Moved by the Ice Lions’ love for Canada’s favourite sport, Tim Hortons flew 12 members of the senior Ice Lions team to Canada, giving them with the opportunity to finally play their first game ever against another team.
After dressing in brand new CCM hockey equipment and personalized jerseys, they discovered they were in for an even bigger surprise: Sidney Crosby, the captain of the National Hockey League’s Pittsburgh Penguins, and Colorado Avalanche star, Nathan MacKinnon, were joining them on the ice, as teammates.
“I was honoured to be able to join the Ice Lions as they played their first game against another team,” said Crosby. “One of the things I love about hockey is how it’s able to reach so many people, from so many countries around the world and bring them together.”
“While we played alongside the Ice Lions for their first game, we know it won’t be their last,” added, MacKinnon. “The team’s genuine passion and excitement for hockey is contagious – they were amazing teammates and it was great to play with them.”
“It is a dream to not only have the chance to play in Canada, but to play – for the first time – in full gear, alongside two of the greatest players of the game,” said Benard Azegere, captain of the Kenya Ice Lions.
“When we first started playing in Kenya, we didn’t even have full equipment, but now not only do we have that, we can say we’ve played a real game with some All-Star teammates.”
Tim Hortons — which today has more than 4,700 system-wide restaurants, located in Canada, the United States and around the world — also made a donation to Kenya’s Youth Hockey League to help ensure that the Ice Lions’ passion for the sport lives on for the next generation.
To see the full video of the Kenya Ice Lions hockey game with Sidney Crosby and Nathan MacKinnon, please visit youtu.be/CqYfhY5gVl8