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Tamara Simmons brings Canadian content to Falkland Islands (Part One)

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Belonging to a group comprised of strong leadership, positively shaping the future of hockey in Falkland Islands, Tamara Simmons brings a wealth of knowledge and sporting acumen. With a place on the Board of Directors for the Falklands Hockey Association, her Canadian heritage brings a tremendous passion for the game, setting a highly positive tone.

Raised in Tiverton, Ontario, Simmons is a legacy fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs, a lineage including her aunt, father and grandfather. Calling Tie Domi her favorite Leaf, regarded primarily as an enforcer but admired by many as a team player, his son Max skates for the franchise during the 23-24 season.   

Upon gracing the ice, officiating encompassed the favourite part of hockey for Simmons. Throughout her years in Canada, every season saw her in the referee’s zebra stripes. 

Learning of the existence of hockey in the Falkland Islands, the opportunity to remain part of the game resulted in a new chapter for Simmons. Consisting primarily of administration and coaching, she belongs to a promising era of hockey for the South Atlantic archipelago. Prior to her arrival, several other stops comprised the journey, including the beginning of her sojourn as an educator. 

Graduating from St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, earning a Bachelor of Education, Simmons also played Second Row on the rugby team. Prior to St. FX, she enjoyed four years on the rugby pitch with Wilfrid Laurier University, enjoying the team’s MVP Award in 2010.  Coincidentally, another member of the St. FX rugby roster held a hockey connection. Star player Tyson Beukeboom, currently a member of the Canadian national team, is the daughter of Jeff, a four time Stanley Cup champion. 

Relocating to the United Kingdom to start her career, Simmons held aspirations to officiate for the IIHF. Sadly, geographic distance provided an obstacle as organized hockey was not prevalent in the Midlands, where she resided.  

Returning home to Tiverton in 2018, providing care and comfort for her mother, fighting a brave battle against  glioblastoma (a fast growing brain tumor ), the experience involved a multitude of emotions. Reflecting on fond memories of her youth, the rink serving as a focal point, highlighted by the influence of her mother’s own hockey dream, returning to the ice provided a highly therapeutic value.

“The arena is the heart of our community – or at least it was for me; we had essentially grown up there. When I was a kid, both of my parents volunteered on the Minor Sports executive committee. 

My mom also gave her time to the Parents’ Auxiliary committee and she kept adding to her volunteering resume until, my siblings and I had all aged out and moved away. The arena manager’s job was up for tender. That was it. 

She set her mind to it and went back to school to get her HVAC qualification and her National Ice Making qualification and learned to drive the Olympia! 

Moving home to be with her during her final months allowed me to re-root myself in that small town hockey way of life. My evenings quickly filled up with games and kept me bouncing between all the local arenas.”

With the passing of her mother followed by the unforeseen complications caused by the pandemic, Simmons approached a crossroads. Looking to continue her career as an educator, her past employment in the United Kingdom provided a unique qualification. 

Able to continue working abroad, Simmons landed in the Falkland Islands. Although the geographic distance from Ontario to Falkland Islands is more than 11,700 km, she quickly found a small town feeling. An added bonus included the opportunity to continue her hockey sojourn. Despite no ice rink, Simmons found a unique niche, adapting to the inline version. 

Spending the last two inline seasons as a member of the Beasts, Simmons has  contributed an exceptional 23 points in 17 games played. Worth noting, the Beasts qualified for the finals of the 2023 Russel Smith Memorial Trophy. Among her teammates have included Sam Cockwell, who helped organize a fundraiser with Simmons known as The Big Skate, plus Esther Bertram, also the CEO of Falklands Conservation. 

“Because I had (what ended up being seven and a half years of experiences teaching in the UK) there were quite a few doors open to me to teaching abroad. A job in the Falklands came up and I applied, interviewed and accepted … and then I figured out where it was in the world.

I came for a job but what I found was a community and one that is not too dissimilar from the one I grew up. I was not looking where I was going (meaning I did not do too much research into the Falklands before I left); the plan was to find my feet once I got here. And, I did. I found my feet back inside a pair of skates – roller blade albeit but skates nonetheless.”

All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated

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