Below you’ll see information about a selection of the Friendship League events that we’ve organized over the years. We’ll likely be returning to many of these destinations soon, but don’t hesitate to let us know if you’d like to see any of them added to our Bucket List . We also offer Private Tours to all of these destinations and more.
Pyongyang Ice Hockey Experience (PIHE)
Location: Pyongyang, DPR (North) Korea
Host Team: DPRK Men’s and Women’s National Teams
Year(s) Held: 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019
Overview: Initially known as the Pyongyang International Friendship Ice Hockey Exhibition, the PIHE is the most well-known Friendship League event. In just a few years, the PIHE has generated over 70 million media impressions through coverage by NPR, Reuters, The Globe and Mail, The Athletic and more. Trips start in Beijing with a warm-up game with a local expat squad, before players hop aboard the train to Pyongyang. Once in the capital, we play a series of games with the DPRK men’s national team and have practices with both the men’s and women’s teams. After the trip is over, we head to the resort city of Wonsan for some skiing, snowboarding and relaxation. Over the years, the PIHE has led to some pretty spectacular memories. It was at a PIHE event that the coach of the Unified Korean Hockey Team from the PyeongChang Olympics was first reunited with the North Korean players and coaches. The PIHE also saw 6X Olympian and hockey G.O.A.T. Hayley Wickenheiser coach Friendship-Leaguers as they battled the DPRK side. Every event is different, but it’s safe to say that if you’re looking for the experience of a lifetime, a future PIHE is a good bet!
Turkmen Ice Hockey Experience (TIHE)
Location: Ashgabat, Turkmenistan
Host Team: Galkan HC
Year(s) Held: 2018
Overview: One of the most isolated nations in the world, Turkmenistan receives fewer tourists than both Afghanistan and North Korea. It’s also notoriously isolated, with the average outsider knowing very little about what goes on inside. Interestingly, Turkmenistan does have a thriving professional hockey league comprised of teams owned by various government ministries. One of those teams – Galkan HC – is owned by the Ministry of Internal Security and has never lost a game on home ice. We are proud to say that while we didn’t win, we did put on an incredible show for the fans with one game going down to the final seconds (4-2 loss, empty net goal).
The Galkan HC players were some of the most welcoming we have come across, and the city of Ashgabat was a truly unique place to visit. We visited grand monuments and mosques, world-class horse-farms, an underground lake, a remote mountain village and more. But the off-ice trip highlight was undoubtedly camping beside the world’s greatest campfire – the Darvaza Gas Crater.
Kenya Ice Hockey Experience (KIHE)
Location: Nairobi, Kenya
Host Team: Kenya Ice Lions
Year(s) Held: 2019
Overview: The Ice Lions burst onto the international hockey scene following the Tim Hortons “Away Game” commercial where they played alongside Sydney Crosby and Nathan MacKinnon in Toronto. After seeing the commercial we got very excited and wasted no time and started planning for our first African Friendship League adventure. With only one rink in all of East Africa, the Ice Lions don’t get too many visiting teams, so they made the most of the opportunity brought their A game…..and so did their fans! The intimate 3 on 3 rink at the Panari Sky Centre was jam-packed with Ice Lions fans singing, dancing and chanting for their team. Local media came out in full force as well, with the final game being broadcast live on national TV!
Away from the rink we took full advantage of everything the beautiful country of Kenya has to offer. We learned warrior training skills from Masai warriors in Maji Moto, went on Safari in both Nairobi National Park and Masai Mara, ate endless quantities of exotic meet at the world-famous Carnivore restaurant and so much more!
Fumble in the Jungle (FITJ)
Location: Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica
Host Team: Puerto Viejo Youth Group
Year(s) Held: 2017
Overview: FITJ kicked off in the capital San Jose, where players met up for a few introductory drinks before getting an early nights rest. The next morning we woke up early to make our way to the coast, stopping to white water raft along the way. Once in the coastal paradise of Puerto Viejo, Friendship-Leaguers blended into the local community for a truly memorable experience. Participants partnered with a local youth group and elementary school to run flag-football workshops for an eager group of students. The balls initially looked funny, and the rules took some explaining as many of the kids had never heard of football before. But by the end of the week, they were a force to be reckoned with!
Off the pitch, the town of Peurto Viejo had no shortage of excitement. During the days, Friendship-Leaguers learned to surf, did some sunrise beach yoga, went on scenic bike rides and more. At night we spend our time beachside, listening to vibrant live music while sipping exotic cocktails!
Pyongyang Soccer League (PSL)
Location: Pyongyang, DPR (North) Korea
Host Team: Korea International Youth Travel Company (KIYCTC)
Year(s) Held: 2018
Overview: Our first ever soccer event, the PSL coincided with the 70th anniversary of the founding of the DPRK – a major event in the nation’s history. Pyongyang was buzzing with activity as local residents prepared for military parades and torchlight demonstrations to mark the occasion. Our opponents on the pitch were from the Korea International Youth Travel Company, who joined us for some soccer at the Hwaebul FC training facility in Pyongyang, as well as for some beach soccer in the port city of Nampo.
Off the pitch, we were able to visit some of the North Korean countryside as well as the northern city of Sinuiju, but attending the Mass Games in the world’s biggest stadium was but definitely the trip highlight. Sitting just down and to our left was DPRK Supreme Leader Marshal Kim Jong Un, who entered the 150 000+ capacity stadium to a lengthy standing ovation!
While they were unavailable at the time, North Korean pro side Hwaebul FC has since issued a friendly challenge/invitation to the Friendship League. Think you have what it takes to play a world-class team inside a Pyongyang stadium? Get in touch!