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Greg Wyshynski

Five Reasons Why Philip Painter, Director of the Puerto Rican Ice Hockey Federation, Loves Hockey

Greg Wyshynski
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(Ed. Note: Our series "5 Reasons I Love Hockey" features puckheads from all walks of life revealing five things that either made them a fan or that keep them watching hockey. It will run every weekend. Have a suggestion for a "5 Reasons" guest blogger? Hit us on email. Enjoy!)

Remember back in 2006, when the New York Rangers and the Florida Panthers played an exhibition game in San Juan, Puerto Rico? Philip Painter sure does.

Painter is the director of the Puerto Rican Ice Hockey Federation, which was 2 years old when the NHL came to the island. He said the program, in its sixth year, is presently on "double-secret probation" -- not being allowed to practice at their local rink, as the revolving door of management has decided that "reggaeton on ice is the future of the vacant building," according to Painter.

NHL.com had an insightful look at the PRIHF and its plight last year, along with other Latin American ice hockey programs. The IIHF had a more focused piece on PR hockey.

Painter's an interesting fellow. He was also a pioneer in bringing surfing to Labrador in Canada, and said his "bio-pic" called "Surfing in Newfoundland" goes into production next spring with Morag. He's also working on a book about the tribulations of the Puerto Rican hockey movement. Oh, and Painter said he's "a descendant of HHOF inductee RJ 'Hooley' Smith, often cited as the first power forward in NHL history, whose violent side and physical play outshone his Gold Medal and two Stanley Cups." And what a Maroon.

Here are Cinco ... er, Five Reasons Why Philip Painter Loves Hockey, even when challenged by tropical climates and political roadblocks.

1. Gump Worsely

Aside from not wearing the mask and having one of the greatest nicknames of all time, his book "They Call Me Gump" is a Classic that should be mandatory reading. Anyone who builds a replica of his favorite bar in his cellar in Minnesota so he wouldn't feel homesick for Montreal is a testament to a bygone era.

No other sport can boast a star of that level of integrity, and sports bios all pale in comparison.

2. Family

Not just my family (my cousin runs a great program in Los Alamos, New Mexico --LAHA.com) but the extended family of organizers and players around the world. the dedication and passion of these guys from places as far flung as Argentina, The Phillipines, Costa Rica, Naairobi and the United Arab Emirates showcase everything that is RIGHT with this sport we love -- their enthusiasm is contagious and we support each other entirely. (A big shout-out to writer Dave Bidini, whose book "Tropic of Hockey" sheds a light on fledgling programs around the world.)

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3. Charles Schultz

Knowing that the greatest comic strip writer of all time had a burning passion for the sport that transcended everything that the swinging '70s was all about -- in the midst of expansion, free agency and all the topics of a bygone era. His Snoopy alter ego, Joe Cool, was Derek Sanderson, Gary Unger and Arthur Fonzarelli rolled into one.

The legendary frozen bird feeder games with Woodstock were the stuff of legend. And the world needs another voice that carried the passion that only a love of the game can bring.

4. Not Being As Hip As 'Gary The B' Wants Us To Be

As MTV is flooded with rappers wearing throwback NBA duds and the sixty variations of the Yankees' lid, we quietly plod along thanking Don Cherry that we'll never see a Nashville Predators Jersey on some gun-toting, gold-toothed ding-a-ling, extolling the virtues of 28-inch rims on the Benzo.

Yet, if you saw a stranger at an airport wearing a Winnipeg Jets cap, you could be sure that a worthwhile conversation would ensue and more importantly you would probably even have time for a ...

5. BEER

The Elixer of our existence. No other libation says hockey like a couple 'o cold ones --whether you're watching TV at home, sitting in a small rink in the middle of nowhere watching a men's league game or even having one on the bench. It doesn't matter who you root for or follow; if you're having a few with a likeminded denizen, whether you're in Manitoba-Finland-Moscow or here in sunny Puerto Rico, you know you've got a worthy mate.

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And on that note, that is why I love this game and why it (and the Beer) will course through my veins forever. Thanks to all -- drop a line to Hockeypuertorico.com, and tip back a cold one for me.

(Ed. Note: In the spirit of full disclosure, Painter sent us a Puerto Rico hockey sweater along with materials about his organization before publication of this piece. He did not send the referee from the lead image, much to our chagrin.)

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