Becoming a focal point for the Falkland Islands women’s ice hockey team, Marvis Chipunza is making key contributions on and off the ice. Originally from Zimbabwe, she relocated to the Falkland Islands in 2012 as her father belonged to an admirable group working to remove land mines. Having found her niche in hockey, Chipunza is competitive in other facets of the game, including Dek and Inline, both highly popular in the nation’s sporting and cultural fabric.
Although there is no ice arena, it has not discouraged the formation of a national team. Despite standing as one the world’s most remote teams, found between the frozen continent of Antarctica and the Patagonian Coast of South America, where the Falkland Islands are also known as Islas Malvinas, there are hopes to participate in events in Canada and the United States.
Undeniably, a significant event from 2015 served as the stimulus for Chipunza and many others in the Falkland Islands to take up the sport. Of note, the men’s ice hockey team, participated at the Copa Invernada in Punta Arenas, Chile. Contested in July 2015, facing off versus clubs such as the Yetis de Cero Grado, Kotaix Punta Arenas plus Argentina’s Dragons Rio Grande, marking a seminal moment for the national team.
Fast forward to 2018, the Falkland Islands women’s team, known as the Valkyries, also participated in Punta Arenas. Gracing the ice for the MEGA Patagonian tournament, the team captured the gold trophy. The historic roster included Kathy Aguilera, Gabby Hartley, Juliette Hennequin, Samantha McCormick, Lucy McGuire and Regan Newman, several of which later became Chipunza’s teammates.
“Hockey became very popular after the team went to Chile in 2015 (I believe). It was so cool that they had gone to Chile to play Ice Hockey, so when they came back so many people wanted to join and I was one of those people and officially joined in 2016.”
Enjoying the opportunity to recently skate in Puntas Arenas, the experience allowed Chipunza to become part of a growing legacy in national team lore. Participating in the Winter Cup Classic, the Final saw Falkland Islands defeat the local Puntas Arenas Warriors in a hard-fought 5-4 victory. With the tournament featuring four skill levels, including Under-12, Under-16 and Men’s, the Falkland Islands earned podium finishes in each level. Joining the Ladies as tournament champions, the Under-12 and Under-16 both enjoyed the jubilation of the gold trophy, while the men’s team fought valiantly, emerging with the silver medal. With the triumph of the Winter Cup Classic marking a major milestone in Chipunza’s career, the hope is that the achievement may spur a new generation of players to engage in the sport, helping expand the national team’s prominence.
“Playing in Puntas was amazing after having missed so many chances in the past. It was the second time the Falkland Islands has sent the Ladies team away. For us to come home with a gold trophy was just brilliant. We did ourselves and our home proud. We hope to see more ladies teams in the future.”
Among the most unique aspects of Falkland Islands ice hockey involves their popular penguin logo. Home to six different breeds of penguins, every summer sees the Falkland Islands home to over a million penguins nesting. Adding to the fascination of the logo is its intriguing roots. Originally used by the Jersey Rockhoppers, a now defunct American team belonging to the Eastern Professional Hockey League, Francis Santiqualini was the creative influence behind its design. Former NHL star Ron Duguay, who skated for the Rockhoppers at age 52, owns the rights to the logo. Graciously allowing the use of the logo, it has taken on an exciting new purpose.
Adding another element of purpose in Chipunza’s hockey dream involves serving in the capacity of team manager. Following in the footsteps of the dedicated Jo Turner plus Grant Budd, a former British professional player who helped form the Falkland Islands Hockey Association in 2006, both are highly revered builders. With the growth of the game, Chipunza is helping to forge a feeling of family with the women’s team, evaporating any sense of remoteness, an essential cornerstone for a highly optimistic future.
“I loved being a manager. The one thing I really enjoyed was watching the less developed skaters finding their and the advanced skaters setting them up for goals and helping them out. They learned to play as team, it was wonderful watching set plays we had discussed in the cupboard.”
Equally important in shaping the future of the Falkland Islands, Chipunza’s influence has gone beyond the sporting realm. Earning the opportunity to be part of a delegation that visited North America to speak about decolonization. With Falkland Islands among 14 British Overseas Territories, they hold the right to self government while the United Kingdom handles foreign affairs. Additionally, January 2009 saw the introduction of its recent constitution. Coincidentally, the diplomatic mission also marked the tenth anniversary of its referendum on sovereignty, whereby more than 98 percent remained in favor of standing as an overseas territory. With the right to self-determination an essential theme, June 2023 saw Chipunza join fellow Junior Ambassador Nikki Wilkis, plus MLAs John Birmingham and Gavin Short at the storied United Nations in New York. Having also travelled to Washington and Ottawa speaking on decolonization, the sporting sentiments of many Falklanders, such as Chipunza, is the hope to one day wear their Rockhopper jerseys in such cities.
“In recent years the Falkland Island’s Members of the Legislation Assembly have taken Junior Ambassadors along with them to North America to speak on behalf of the youth in the Islands about the Right to Self Determination. I became a Junior Ambassador in 2022. Early this year, I was offered the opportunity to go and represent the Falkland Islands in Washington, New York and Canada, which was a phenomenal experience. I am grateful we were able to tell people our side of the story, as we too have the Right to Self Determination.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Acknowledgements: Jo Turner