Hockey Night in Manila: how a Surrey rec-league player joined the Philippines' hockey elite

When Surrey, B.C.'s Carl Montano went to the Philippines for a vacation in 2011, he didn't expect he'd be one of the top hockey officials in the country within weeks.

But as head coach of Philippine youth hockey teams for the Philippines' Federation of Ice Hockey League, he is.

"One of my cousins has a daughter playing on one of the local teams and I asked if I could train with her while I was here on vacation so I could get ready for the playoffs back at home in Vancouver," he told On The Coast guest host Gloria Macarenko.

"So I came here, trained for about four weeks and they offered me a full-time position as head coach of the youth national team."

Montano says local coaches started peppering him with questions about "the Canadian style of hockey:" how do Canadians practise for games and tournaments? What kinds of drills they do?

Then he was asked to demonstrate for young players in the Manila area and soon after, he was offered the job.

Game has grown

Montano went back to B.C. to tie up loose ends, and then he went back to the Philippines.

He says his parents and friends were shocked that a vacation led to this opportunity for the former rec-league player.

"Really? You're going to play hockey in the Philippines?" he says was the question he heard.

But he did. And he says in the last five or six years, the game has grown in the island nation.

The men's national team recently placed third in their division at the Asian Winter Games in Sapporo, Japan — Montano plays on that team as a forward — and the women's team is going to its first international tournament in Thailand.

'I want to be like Ovechkin! Or Sidney Crosby!'

Montano says coaching in his new home has been a rewarding experience.

"Just being able to teach these kids as they grow with the sport I love is just great for me, to pass on the knowledge I learned at their age," he said.

Montano says he's trying to instill Canadian-style hockey in his kids, which he says is more defensive.

The kids are exposed to the game online through YouTube and the NHL Network, though, and they are drawn to a flashier style.

"The stuff they see on YouTube is more offensive … 'I want to be like Ovechkin! Or Sidney Crosby! Or Henrik Sedin!'" he said. "They have their idols as well as we did."

Montano says going forward, his goal is to grow the game at the youth level.

With files from CBC Radio One's On The Coast

To hear the full story, click the audio labelled: Hockey Night in Manila: how a Surrey rec-league player joined the Philippine's top hockey brass