The chorus of the vuvuzelas blasting throughout the rink helped the players of the Mosaic Hockey Collective glide across the ice in south Florida in August. The chants of the countries competing at the Amerigol LATAM Cup rang throughout the Florida Panthers Ice Den.
Passionate fans stood on their feet, opened their vocal chords with pride and waved colorful flags as the athletes of the Mosaic Hockey Collective drank in their praise too.
The Amerigol LATAM Cup is one of the biggest and fastest growing international hockey tournaments with over 20 countries, 44 teams and 750 players participating this year.
Three of the youth teams participating was a joint effort between the Mosaic Hockey Collective, a 501©3 organization and the Hockey Players of Color.
The U14 team took home an impressive second-place finish, which included a win over Team Mexico in the semifinals. Meanwhile, Brielle Clardy was a standout player at the U14 level and earned a tournament MVP award with three goals and one assist.
The Mosaic Hockey Collective started in December 2022. It was a dream of founder Meredith Lang, who wanted her daughter to see that athletes of color not only play hockey, but can have long, successful playing careers as well. Lang, a 2022 finalist for the Willie O’Ree Community Hero Award, started the original program, Minnesota Unbounded, with the intention of creating a team entirely of girls of color, from the players to the coaches. The success of Minnesota Unbounded inspired Lang to expand her program and create the Mosaic Hockey Collective for girls and boys of color.
Even though the program is relatively new, the program has blossomed throughout the Minnesota community, something board member and coach Mike Hafertepe is proud of.
“With Mosaic, we’re up to a little over 120 kids representing about 40 different associations here in Minnesota,” Hafertepe said. “From 5-year-olds all the way up to high school. We even have a high school senior this year.”
Hafertepe noticed the lack of diversity on the ice, a shock for a sport that lives and breathes throughout most Minnesotans.
“You go out on the ice and there'd maybe be one player of color on the team if you’re lucky, so we knew we needed an avenue to develop players and create a community,” Hafertepe said.
Mosaic Hockey Collective has taken steps to create a strong support system throughout the organization, staying true to their overall mission of focusing on empowering players of color with resources to grow the game. The community Mosaic has cultivated transcends hockey. Mosaic has allowed its athletes to create friends on and off the ice, even though many of them compete against each other at various tournaments. The cross-team rivalries of many of the athletes have little effect on the unshakeable bond they’ve curated through Mosaic.
“These kids are all friends now,” Hafertepe said. “They see each other at rinks, they’re high- fiving each other. They're looking forward to seeing each other at the rinks. If something bad does happen, which we've had a couple of instances of kids saying, ‘hey, this happened to me.’ You know, the community's been there to support and rally behind them. You weren't alone.”
Community is an integral part of what makes Mosaic Hockey Collective so special. Hafertepe recalls the support the Minnesota hockey community has shown him, showing up in a multitude of different ways, from coaching to player development assistance.
“I sent out emails and talked to some of my friends in the hockey world here in Minnesota, and they came and were guest coaches,” Hafertepe said. “We had access to coaches that kids normally wouldn't have access to or would have to pay a lot of money to get access to. We had Division I college coaches helping out and being guest coaches.”
Hafertepe is cognizant of the fact that for many athletes an entirely new pathway to success opens up when they’re given extra opportunities to hone their craft working with skating and skill coaches. Hafertepe and the Mosaic Hockey Collective ran on-ice clinics throughout the summer, eagerly hosting about 30-40 athletes each session.
“We know that kids can easily get frustrated in the sport of hockey, especially if you're a player of color and aren’t treated equally amongst some of your teammates. We wanted to create that community model or community of support.”
Beyond the exciting tournament finish at the Amerigol LATAM Cup, Hafertepe is proud of the way his athletes performed on and off the ice. This is the organization’s second year at the tournament, and he credits their continued participation to the Jaz Miley, director of the Puerto Rico Ice Hockey Association and member of the Puerto Rican National Hockey Team.
With nine players representing Mosaic Hockey Collective at the Amerigol LATAM Cup, including four players being first-time participants, Hafertepe understands the significance of the tournament. The experience of meeting so many players of color for the first time can be a joyous experience, albeit a little overwhelming in such a high-spirited tournament like the LATAM Cup.
Going home with a second-place medal pales in comparison to the memories made and the entirely new world introduced to them through the Mosaic Hockey Collective.
Hafertepe has big dreams for the organization, narratives to change and cultures to transform. As a large figure behind the bench, he sees how an athlete’s mindset can completely change and their confidence can raise when given something as small as an opportunity to showcase their talents on the ice. Partnering this with an environment where a player feels seen, heard and respected, and the possibilities are endless.
His ultimate goal?
“That we don't see color in the game, right?” Hafertepe said. “That we see everyone is equal and that we don't have these stats where, you know, it's one player of color on the team. Five or six players of color on a high-level Double-A bantam team is accepted and it's normal, that the game is even a better place than where it is today and that the kids can feel like I can come from any background, whether that's demographic, economic, and still succeed in playing this great game of hockey.”
Hispanic Heritage Month takes place Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 every year as a time to recognize and celebrate the many contributions, diverse cultures, and extensive histories of the American Latino community. To learn more about Hispanic Heritage Month visit, https://www.hispanicheritagemonth.gov/