When Tim Hortons Canada decided to support Kenya’s only ice hockey team and give them the experience of a lifetime, their agency, Zulu Alpha Kilo, turned to long-time collaborators filmmaker David Grabias and Artifact Nonfiction to tell the story.

The Nairobi-based “Ice Lions” play with makeshift gear on the sole skating rink in all of East Africa. They learned the sport by watching videos on YouTube. Inspired by the team’s incredible passion for the game, Tim Horton’s decided to help the team and flew 12 players to Toronto so they could play their first “real game” against an opponent besides themselves. For many players, it was their first time on a plane, let alone outside of Kenya. The Ice Lions were outfitted in brand new gear and personalized jerseys, and matched up with a local Canadian team in a regulation-sized hockey arena. As the Kenyans were about to take the ice, they were brought to tears as NHL superstars Sidney Crosby and Nathan MacKinnon showed up in the locker room to join the their line-up.

Director David Grabias, whose award-winning films have shown on PBS and HBO and been supported by the Sundance Institute, approached the project as he would any traditional documentary. He and his veteran documentary crew got to know the Ice Lions and focused on three individual players’ stories, filming with them in their homes and on the ice in Nairobi. Building relationships with these players, David was able to really explore the roots of their passion and dedication before accompanying them on their journey in Canada.

The resulting 3-minute documentary, which tells the Ice Lions’ unforgettable story, rose above the typical “surprise and delight” activation video audiences have grown familiar with, and went viral in Canada, the United States and around the world. And this week, due to the tremendous response from news outlets and fans on social media, Tim Hortons partnered with Sportsnet to broadcast a longer 20-minute version of the film, called THE AWAY GAME, after the Pittsburgh Penguins vs the Washington Capitals game.

“There’s an old saying that sports doesn’t build character, it reveals it, and this film was a tremendous opportunity to explore that.” said Grabias. “When we met the Ice Lions, we were struck by the incredible depth of their passion and drive to learn this sport. And more importantly, how they’ve used their shared love for a game to build a very special community--kids and adults from all over Nairobi, from different ethnic groups and different economic backgrounds, find real joy playing a sport that originated across the globe. Meeting Sid and Nate was an unforgettable experience for the Ice Lions, and it was pretty clear Sid and Nate were inspired by them.”

Now, thanks to Tim Hortons, the Ice Lions are also inspiring hockey fans everywhere, and garnering world-wide support for hockey in Kenya, including a campaign to help the Ice Lions’ youth league so that the next generation of Kenyans will have the opportunity to play.