By RON FANFAIR
Sandhurst-trained former Jamaica Army officer, Devon Harris, knows what it’s like to be constantly told, ‘you must be kidding, because that cannot be done’.
That was all he and his fellow Army officers heard after they signed up to compete in bobsled in the Calgary Olympics in 1987 with the Games just over a year away.
With limited training and preparation, the raw Jamaican team finished 30th in the 42-team, two-man event and completed the four-man race despite a spectacular crash when driver Dudley Stokes lost control of the sled while coming out of a challenging turn on the track.
Never tell a Jamaican they can’t do it, because they will prove you wrong more often than not, was the lesson learned from the bobsledders’ experience.
Almost 24 years later, a group of mainly first- and second-generation Jamaicans living in the United States is pushing for another Jamaica sports team to be part of an international winter event.
A delegation, led by Canadian Hall-of-Famer, Willie O’Ree, who was the first Black to play in the National Hockey League (NHL), met with Jamaica’s sports minister, Olivia Grange, and Jamaica Olympic Association (JOA) representatives last week to garner support to field a Jamaica ice hockey team in the 2014 Moscow Winter Olympics.
Harris, now a motivational speaker residing in upstate New York, was part of the delegation.
“I received a call about two weeks ago from a contact in Los Angeles asking me if I could touch base with the group and talk to them about my bobsled experience and what it would take for them to get to the Olympics,” said Harris. “They then asked if I would go to Jamaica with them to help with the presentation.
“Both the minister and JOA officials were really impressed because we had an excellent presentation. People go to Jamaica all the time with all kinds of proposals and ideas. Our delegation was, however, well prepared and very professional, hence the reason why we were taken seriously…Those meetings took place last Monday and Tuesday, and Wednesday was spent trying to get the paperwork in order to register the Jamaica Ice Hockey Federation.”
There are several players of Jamaican heritage in the NHL, including Chris Stewart and his younger brother, Anthony; Chris Beckford-Tseu and Pernell Karl (PK) Subban whose fathers are Jamaican.
NHL agent, Eustace King, who was born in the United States to Jamaican immigrant parents, is intrigued by the news.
“Jamaica is a proud country which has set the bar high in many sports endeavours, especially track and field,” said King, who was a member of the nationally-ranked Central Collegiate Hockey Association Division One varsity team. “From a hockey perspective, there are several players out there with ties to Jamaica who may want to give it a shot.”