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South African woman returns to Placid for more ‘Miracle’ hockey

April 6, 2018
By GRIFFIN KELLY - Staff Writer ( , Lake Placid News

LAKE PLACID - South Africa's most popular sports are cricket, rugby and soccer - all games which are played outside when the weather is fairly nice - and yet Tamsin Wentzel is crazy for hockey.

"Hockey isn't popular at all in South Africa," she said. "It's been around in South Africa for a long time but it hasn't been marketed very well. The ice rink in my area opened in 2015, and we've really been pushing the sport and trying to grow it."

Wentzel hails all the way from Port Elizabeth, South Africa, and this was her second year as a camper at the Miracle on Ice Fantasy Camp in Lake Placid.

Article Photos

Tamsin Wentzel, of South Africa, poses at the 4th annual Miracle on Ice Fantasy Camp at the Lake Placid Olympic Center Wednesday, March 28.
(News photo — Griffin Kelly)

Wentzel said for a long time hockey wasn't even on her radar. She knew a little bit about it from her travels to the U.S., and she once stayed at a hotel in Canada at the same time as the Toronto Maple Leafs, but that was the extent of her exposure to the sport.

She first got interested in hockey after taking her children to a learn-to-skate program at her local ice rink. Her 13-year-old daughter wanted to play hockey, and Wentzel actually detested the game initially.

"I said, 'No way. It's too violent, and they've got no teeth.'"

After a coach told her hockey isn't that brutal these days, Wentzel let her daughter play. Wentzel eventually joined a women's development league and fell in love with the sport.

Growing up, Wentzel participated in a sport that she said isn't much different from hockey: dressage, which is an equestrian event. It kind of looks like dancing, but with horses.

"I've given three of my horses for hockey," she said. "It's quite interesting because the position is essentially the same -heels, hips, shoulders, ears."

Whereas dressage is just between a trainer and his or her horse, Wentzel likes that hockey is a team sport.

"Everyone's being so welcoming and so amazing," she said. "Everyone is so encouraging. I mean, I'm not a good hockey player, but everybody helps out."

Wentzel is one of the five women who attended the camp this year, and she doesn't think gender plays a huge part in the experience.

"It was a little bit scary at first, but they're all really great guys."

Wentzel played on Ken Morrow's Team White in the bronze-medal game, and early in the first period, she took a check, knocking her to the ice.

"You need to know that you are going to get pushed around," she said, "but if you're going to be a pansy about it, don't play hockey."

Her team won that game.

With her sophomore year at the camp complete, Wentzel doesn't show any signs of stopping.

"You meet such a diverse bunch of people, but they also are friendly, and you just need to do it again. It's like a drug."



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