Mongolia is known for its plains and steppes and horse riding tradition, but Hyattsville resident Boe Leslie is traveling to Mongolia in the hopes it will one day be known for ice hockey.
“Our goal is to give both kids and coaches of Mongolia an experience they’ve never had before. To the best of our knowledge, we are the first professional coaches who have come to work locally with kids,” Leslie said.
Leslie, his brother, Nate Leslie, and a small team will travel to Mongolia late February to teach ice hockey, and they plan to make a documentary out of the experience, tentatively entitled “Ice at the End of the Earth.”
The goal, Leslie said, is to help establish ice hockey in a country where the sport has struggled, due to lack of facilities and equipment, despite some dedicated volunteers.
In 2014, Mongolia was ranked 49th — dead last — in the rankings for the International Ice Hockey Federation, the worldwide body governing ice hockey.
“We wanted to do all we could for them and started offering all of our coaching mentorship manuals pro bono to them to help grow the great game of hockey in Mongolia,” Leslie said.
Jeff Halpern of Bethesda, who played for the Washington Capitals from 1999-2006 and again from 2011-2012, said he found out about the proposal last fall. He said ice hockey is a growing sport, but that many countries don’t have the coaching or facilities to support a program.
“I think that when you’re able to reach another part of the world with a new sport, it’s a very special opportunity,” Halpern said.
Leslie said he and his brother, both former professional hockey players, were contacted by the president of Mongolia’s ice hockey federation, Purevdavaa “Pujee” Choijiljav, regarding online training materials.
Leslie and his brother began a $20,000 Kickstarter campaign online to raise funds and equipment for a trip to Mongolia, to hold an ice hockey camp for children and coaches, as well as to pay for a cameraman and film editor. The group has raised $23,000.
“We thought the documentary would be an ideal way of making people aware of what is going on in a remote part of the world,” Leslie said.
Hudson Akarlilar, 8, of New York and his mother, who know Leslie through his hockey camps, have begun their own campaign to raise hockey supplies and funds for the project.
“We thought, given that we have so much exposure to hockey here, why don’t we ask if people have equipment to donate?” said Tracei Akarlilar, adding they have received supplies and funding from hockey groups in their area. “We have been so pleasantly surprised by the response we’ve received. It’s been absolutely amazing.”
Leslie said his group will leave in late February, where they will run a one-week camp after school and on the weekend for children ages eight to 17 and mentorship for coaches.
He said he hopes the experience will help Mongolia further develop the sport.
“We hope we can share our love and compassion for the game and pass on that love as well,” Leslie said. “We also want to work with their local coaches and help them develop their program as well.”
To learn more about the project, or to donate, visit online www.lgsportsamerica.com.