How Kenya’s only ice hockey team became the star of a Canadian ad campaign

Benard Azegere, captain of the Kenya Ice Lions meets NHL star Sidney Cosby in the Tim Hortons commercial
Benard Azegere, captain of the Kenya Ice Lions meets NHL star Sidney Cosby in the Tim Hortons commercial
Image: Screengrab/Tim Hortons
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A few years ago, a Canadian living in Nairobi took advantage of the East Africa’s only ice rink venue at the Panari Hotel in Nairobi and helped establish a hockey program. That program eventually led to the creation of the Kenya’s first ice hockey team called Kenya Ice Lions.

The team, led by Benard Azegere, 33, was made of young men trying out the game for the first time. But while they were enthusiastic and learned quickly, there was one major problem: they had no one else to play.

Tim Hortons, the Canadian coffee and donuts chain, learned about the team and decided to try and fix that problem over the North American summer by flying the team out to Canada, the home of ice hockey so the players could experience the NHL experience. “We are so inspired by the story of the Lions, said Jorge Zaidan, Tim Hortons Canada head of marketing. “Despite having no other teams to play against, the players on the Kenya Ice Lions’ passion for the game is unwavering.”

Not only did the team get fully kitted out in their first ever jerseys but most importantly they got to play against another team, made up players from various teams. And then, much to their surprise, they also got to play alongside two of the league’s current biggest names: Sidney Crosby, captain of the Pittsburgh Penguins captain and Colorado Avalanche’s Nathan MacKinnon one of the league’s rising stars.

The whole experience got turned into a three minute-long tear-jerker of a commercial for Tim Hortons by Toronto agency Zulu Alpha Kilo.

“It is a dream to not only have the chance to play in Canada, but to play—for the first time—in full gear alongside two of the greatest players of the game,” said Azegere in a statement about the event.

“When we first started playing in Kenya, we didn’t even have full equipment, but now not only do we have that, we can say we’ve played a real game with some All-Star teammates.”

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