Month: November 2016 (page 1 of 5)

Marion Allemoz feels at home in Montreal

Marion Allemoz, center, with Les Canadiennes teammates Sophie Brault, left, and Cassandra Poudrier, right

By Michaela Schreids – The Ice Garden

Moving far away from home is never easy. Living in a new country, away from family and friends, can be overwhelming. But when you move to a hockey-loving city to play hockey, it’s easier to feel like you made the right choice. And that’s probably why Marion Allemoz has fit in so well in Montreal.

The 27-year-old forward for Les Canadiennes moved to Canada from France in 2013 to play for the University of Montreal. It was with the Carabins that Allemoz won two CIS national championships in 2013 and 2016. She was even named team captain in 2015, leading them to their second championship in three years. It was exactly the challenge that Allemoz was looking for.

“I’d been looking to play abroad for a little while because I wanted to experience something new and I wanted to play in a tougher women’s championship,” said Allemoz. “I had the opportunity to come and play for the Université de Montréal’s Carabins so I seized that chance.”

After her university hockey career ended, Allemoz joined Les Canadiennes de Montreal for the 2016-17 season. So far this season, she has helped Les Canadiennes to a 7-2 record, giving them second place in the CWHL. With plenty of expectations on Montreal this season, it remains to be seen whether or not she’ll help them to a Clarkson Cup championship.

 Allemoz was the first player from the French national program to move to Canada in order to play hockey. She won a bronze medal with Team France at the 2015 IIHF Division I Women’s World Championships. So far, she feels well adjusted to the Canadian style of hockey.

“Obviously it took some time to adapt because the North American game is different from the one in Europe. It’s more robust and physical because the referees let you play a bit more. The game is also faster.”

A self-described defensively aware player, Allemoz wants to face the best of the best. In joining the CWHL, her goal is to play with and against some of the best in the world. With teammates like Marie-Philip Poulin and opponents like Toronto’s Natalie Spooner, she’s achieved her goal so far.

 Being far away from home can make one question the initial decision to leave, but it seems like Allemoz has fit right in with Montreal. She loves the city; it’s safe to say the city – and its hockey team – feel the same way.

Italy looking forward to comeback in Cologne

By Szabolcs Zavodszky

After starting this initiative at the start of the 2014/15 season, Italy has won promotion back to the top division after a second-place finish at the 2016 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group A in Katowice, Poland.

“We are such a close group of guys. We have a lot of fun when we are in national team camps and when we go to tournaments. To fight for each other is the most important thing on the ice. We can get a lot of energy out of this,” says national team captain Anton Bernard, who has been through the changes and has played in two top-level World Championships in 2012 and 2014.

For the Bolzano native, whose brother Andreas is one of the national team goalies, the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship in Cologne and Paris could be the sixth consecutive World Championship tournament including Division I.

“We have a young team but it is still a process. We struggle to score goals but we have good goaltending. We just need to be more patient,” he continues.

With the national team concentrating on home-grown talent there is an influx of younger players as well as new players who are happy to play for their home nation. “We are a pretty young team, we have players now that want to be here and want to earn a spot on the team,” says Tommaso Traversa. “To me it doesn’t matter where they are from, whether they were born in Italy or not, as long as they know the identity that we have. They play for the team and the jersey that they are wearing. This is how it was last year. We gave everything no matter what and we got promoted.“

This is process and a lot has happened in the past two seasons under coach Stefan Mair. Not only was the ice hockey community surprised by this but so were the players.

“It was a surprise for us that we made it to the top division especially after we had lost to both Austria and Slovenia. We didn’t think we could still make it. We had some help from other teams towards the end,” Bernard remembers the tournament last spring in Katowice.

However, it looks like they embrace the underdog role that they have been cast in according to the team captain.

“We will be going to the World Championships with an underdog mentality and we know there is a lot of work still to do,” Bernard says. “We still have a camp in February and probably a long one before the World Championship begins. There are lot of new guys who will be playing in the top division for the first time and they’ll be very excited. We are still the underdogs for sure.”

The youth movement looks to be here to stay. Coach Mair again used a rather young roster during the international break in November at the Euro Ice Hockey Challenge in Budapest.

“There are some young players that will get a real chance heading into the World Championship,” he says and expects a mix of young players and some with experience in the top division. Bernard is a player that Mair can expect to be a leader both on and off the ice.

“There are some responsibilities that come with being the captain. You just need to step up with some of the other guys. In the past we have always had older players with international experience. They are not here anymore so it is now up to us to step up and move on,” the 27-year-old says.

It will be interesting to see how Italy will perform at the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship as the underdog. Italy has played in the top division without interruption between 1992 and 2002 and from 2006 until 2008. Since 2008 the national team was relegated each time it played including 2010, 2012 and 2014. But don’t be surprised if they pull off a couple of upsets.

In the preliminary round the squadra azzurra will play in Cologne in a group with Russia, the United States, Sweden, Slovakia, host Germany, Latvia and Denmark.


Q & A With Mauricio Xavier

By George Da Silva – National Teams of Ice Hockey

This is an interview I have been wanted to do for a very long time since my background is Portuguese.
Mauricio Xavier is the President of Federação Portuguesa de Desportos no Gelo and is a member of the International Ice Hockey Federation since 1999.

Mauricio Xavier has a real passion for the game and over the last 8-10 years he has been trying to bring and ice rink to Lisbon, Portugal with no success, now he is taken to social media to gather support.

Portugal is the only country in Western Europe not have an ice rink.

We got a change to talk to Mauricio about the history of the game in Portugal and his struggles to get an ice rink built in Lisbon, Portugal.

Can you introduce yourself to our audience and give us a brief history about Ice hockey in Portugal?

My name is Mauricio Xavier, born in Lisbon, 50 years old and currently the President of the Portuguese Ice Sports Federation. I spent 13 years of my youth in Montreal, Canada, where I nurtured my love for Hockey, where I learned how to skate and played a couple of years in an organization called Sun Youth. I just loved the game ever since, and has always been my favorite sport.

Ice Hockey was first played in Portugal around 1996, when an Ice Rink opened in a town called Viseu, which is around 270kms away from Lisbon where I live.

Like me, a lot of players would drive up from Lisbon and other parts of the country, once or twice a month to practice and sometimes play. The season would then usually end with a long weekend trip to Madrid to play on an official sized rink, as the one in Viseu was far from regular sized. Since we were a group of newcomers, Inline hockey and ex-emigrants Ice hockey players that had played abroad, this was an opportunity for us to play as one against a local Spanish team, which is something we still do every once in a while.

Ice hockey ended in Viseu in 2004 when they closed down the mall the rink was in, for renovations, and Ice Hockey has not been played there ever since. The reason for this is because the rink is now in the middle of the mall’s food court and offers no way of protecting spectators from flying pucks.

Can you talk about Ice hockey league in the country in the the early 2000s?

The players that would regularly attend practices on weekends in Viseu, created a team called the Viseu Lobos and decided to invite Inline Hockey players from around the country to form another team called the Inline Stars, and started playing against each other about once a month. One or two seasons after, a whole Inline team called the Vikings also joined in, and for about three years we had a 3 team championship. Because of the small rink size, we would play 4 on 4 and I believe the Lobos and Stars each won some championships.

2001 Champions Viseu Lobos

In the last 8-10 years you have been trying to get and ice rink built in the Capital of Lisbon. What has been the main obstacles to getting this done?

There are a few, but the main one is financial. First of all, Portugal has been in a serious economic crisis for most of that time, where we even had to borrow money from the IMF, and investment dropped drastically. It seems nobody wants to invest in an unknown project, because it has never been tried and there is a notion that it would be very expensive to maintain in a warm climate like we have here in Portugal. Leaders also want to promote a country that is sunny all year around and in their view, having an ice arena contradicts that notion. Then, one of the biggest obstacles is soccer. Portuguese are crazy about it. Everyone is a fan, and that’s basically all they care about, especially in this Cristiano Ronaldo and Euro Cup winners era. All other sports get very little attention.

Roller Hockey is very popular in the country and there is some inline hockey too, how have you tried to get the hockey community to come together to help your cause?

That’s real difficult to happen George. Out of the secondary sports, and here it is regulated by another Federation that is a FIRS affiliate. We don’t get along. They don’t want their player playing either Inline or Ice Hockey, and really they are kind of afraid we grow and steal players from them, like they see happening in countries where roller Hockey used to be played more intensely like Italy, Argentina, Brazil and even Spain.

Even for Inline Hockey it is very difficult to get playing and practice time, because the indoor pavilions are all occupied for roller Hockey. Right now, there are no more than three Inline teams, two of them being in the Lisbon Suburbs. One in Sintra, and another in Cascais.

Have you reached out to the Portuguese communities in Canada mainly in Toronto and Montreal for help?

Not directly, no. I do know and talk to some Portuguese people that are into hockey, living in Montreal, Toronto and New Jersey and some are ready and eager to help, but not to extent what we need, which is an ice rink in Lisbon. Your question however has given me some ideas which I will pursue in the near future.

As there been any interest by Portuguese NHLers John Tavares, Mike Ribeiro and Adam Henrique in helping your cause to get an ice rink built?

Well, no. Not yet. I do want to. I don’t think they even know we play here in Portugal. I have thought of getting their help, but I believe we need to have the rink first. I don’t expect them to just come over and build a rink for us. We have to show we deserve their help by first building the rink. That will show our will and interest.

I know from conversations with NHLPA people hockey players like to help, and I will love seeing these players you mentioned on ice with a whole bunch of Portuguese youngsters. That’s how I see them helping, as well as maybe donated some equipments for the kids to start playing.

John Tavares, New York Islands

The last two years the Portugal has played against the Czech Republic. How did is come about?

We were lucky to get a great Czech ambassador here in Portugal, who found out we played Ice Hockey here in Portugal, and was fascinated by the idea of bringing over a group of his friends that get together in Prague for a weekly outdoor game. They came over two years ago, where we played a game in a temporary ice rink installed in a Bullring. we usually use every year in Elvas, also around 250kms from Lisbon. Last year the same group met for the second edition, in that outdoor rink in Prague used by the ambassadors friends, and this season we will get together again on the 14 of January in Elvas.

The sad thing about that, is that, last year we had the biggest ice rink ever installed in Lisbon. Even though it was temporary, and it had flimsy boards, it was installed in one of Lisbon main squares. It was promised to return this year, but it has been cancelled in the meantime.

Portugal National team played there first ever game in 2000 against The First Portuguese Canadian Cultural Center. Is their any future plans to have games against Canadian teams?

Unfortunately, there are no plans. George, without a rink there can’t be any plans. We’d love to have them over, but we never know soon enough if we’re going to have a decent rink! Even this year we were hoping and had been promised we would have the big Ice rink for the games with our Czech friends, only to see the sponsor cut that rink from their plans.

We welcomed any Canadian Inline Hockey team that would like to come over and play with us.

I’m hoping the trade deal between Canada and the European Union helps us out in the future.

1st Ice Hockey Game in Portugal (Portugal-Canada)

Portugal Jersey hangs at the Hockey Hall of Fame

What would an Ice rink do for winter sports in Portugal?

It would do wonders. Right now, in Winter Sports there are only skiers, snowboarders and a few speed skaters. Most of them have to go abroad to develop their sports. With an ice rink here in Lisbon, we would have a place to do it here. The temporary ice rinks don’t stay around long enough to help develop any of the ice sports, so an ice rink would obviously help create hockey, figure and speed skating champions. I’m positive on that George. Portuguese have excellent capabilities in skating sports. We have kids becoming World and European champions in Roller Figure skating, we have very talented roller hockey players that I’m sure would make great hockey players. I’m a firm believer they just don’t do it on ice because there is no rink. It would also be a great alternative for the people that don’t like soccer.

You also do NHL Hockey commentary for Sports TV in Portugal, How are you received in the sports community and who is your favorite players or teams?

Well, I know we don’t attract much attention as the the soccer games. We have the inconvenience of being
Premium Sports Channel where people have to pay extra to watch, and it isn’t cheap because of all the soccer they get. Another Inconvenience is that the games are live around midnight, local time. We did however do Blackhawks – Ducks game, the have a pretty big fan base, this American Thanksgiving game that we broadcasted at 9pm. We had a huge following on our facebook page, even though the other 4 sports channels were all showing soccer games.

You see, The Portuguese people love roller hockey when it’s well played and if they get to see snd follow ice hockey they’ll soon get addicted to it. Unfortunately I don’t think it’ll get the same fan base as soccer, but I believe there is room for ice sports in the country. All we need is a little push with a ice rink, so we can offer lessons and training during the winter months. I’m sure interest will start growing exponentially afterwards.

As for my favorite team, this is the easiest question to answer. I’m a true die hard Montreal Canadiens fan.
I grew up in Montreal during the 1970s, so there was no reason not to like them. 

Guy Lafleur was my favorite player, and the reason I always wore #10. Nowadays some of my favorite players are guys like Connor McDavid, Austin Matthews, Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin and Brett Burns.
From the Canadiens I Like Radulov, Galchenyuk, Price, and I am also rooting for the teams where Tavares, Ribeiro and Henriques play for if the Canadiens are not in the mix.

Skate On Barbados

By Michron Robinson – Nation News

ON A DAY WHEN THE TEMPERATURE in Barbados topped 88 degrees Fahrenheit (31 degrees Celsius), an Italian and a Canadian were putting the finishing touches on an ice-skating rink that should open here in just over a week.

But the proposed attraction, an anomaly in the tropics, will not feature the customary frozen ice or coolant made smooth by a Zamboni machine gliding over its surface, rather plastic laid down to give the feel and appearance of the slippery floor usually associated with figure skating and ice hockey.

Italian artist Paolo Carraro and his business partner Tim Oldfield, CEO and owner of the Canadian- based SmartRink company, will be opening the island’s first skating rink in Wildey, St Michael come September 30.

Carraro said on Monday during a tour of the facility, branded Icetopia, that he had a dream of seeing a 2022 Barbadian Winter Olympics team in Beijing, China while Oldfield hinted at the possibility of inter-school figure skating and ice hockey competitions right here in the near future.

You can also check out Ice Skating Aruba

Kyiv’s historic ice hockey school slides into decay

By Olena Goncharova – Kyiv Post

Oleksiy Zhytnyk looks sadly at what used to be his ice hockey training venue, the Avangard Ice Rink Arena. It’s where he started his path to professional hockey with the Sokil (Falcon) Kyiv Youth Ice Hockey School.

The arena stands dark and abandoned, its floor covered in dust and building materials piled chaotically all around. Not a single puck has hit the ice here for many years – and there’s not even any ice.

For Zhytnyk, a Ukrainian former professional defenseman, who has played 1,085 games in the National Hockey League, including two Stanley Cup finals — with the Los Angeles Kings in 1992-93 and the Buffalo Sabres in the 1998-99, it’s a depressing picture.

“At least there was ice here before,” he says as the winter dusk begins to settle on this gray, unwelcoming building.

Canadian Ambassador to Ukraine Roman Waschuk (C) together with the representatives of the National Hockey Federation and Avangard Ice Rink Arena
look at what used to be a training ice rink for Sokil Youth Ice Hockey School.

Dim future

Every year Zhytnyk returns from his home in the United States to Kyiv to visit family. He stays connected with Ukraine’s hockey scene, although he’s not hopeful that it will recover quickly.
“We can compare (hockey) to a destroyed house – you can’t fix it with cosmetic changes,” he says, adding that its future is dim.

But things used to be different.

Sokil Kyiv Youth Ice Hockey School opened its doors to children in 1982. Sokil coaches raised a number of homegrown stars on their home rink at Avangard, including Zhytnyk, Dmitri Khristich and Nikolai Zherdev, the highest drafted player in Kyiv’s history.

But after Ukraine gained independence in 1991, many hockey rinks became less used than in Soviet times, when the nation’s clubs starred in the Soviet league. Some have been closed and turned into shopping malls or rented for office space since then.

Ukraine ended up having just 25 professional ice rinks.

In 2014, when the EuroMaidan Revolution forced disgraced former president Viktor Yanukovych out of the country, the 8,422 square meter building of the Avangard Ice Arena was returned to the government, after having been managed by trade unions.

A year later, a former Sokil player, Kostyantyn Simchuk, was appointed a head of Avangard, and it was granted the status of the Olympic training base. But in 2016, Avangard still lacks an actual ice rink.

Past glory

Despite the tough conditions, the Sokil School still exists. They train around 250 kids, compared to nearly 500 in recent years when they had a rink in Avangard. Now the children train in Obolon district, where there’s a small rink under a bright yellow tent. According to the National Federation of Hockey, the rink does not meet the requirements to be a proper training venue because of its small size and lack of utilities.

Simchuk has been working side by side with Sports Ministry, National Federation and donors trying to restore the Avangard rink for Sokil Youth Hockey School.

The process is tough, he confessed, as they had to undergo a number of court hearings regarding ownership, and work out reconstruction plans that will help to access how much money they will need to bring hockey back to the Avangard.

The past achievements of Sokil School and its professional team, which won the 1985 bronze medal in the Soviet championship, are of little help when it comes to the school’s survival.

“I’m not a businessman, I’m a hockey player,” Simchuk says. “I can’t even talk about the money Avangard will need, because there’s no plan yet.” He estimates that the skating rink reconstruction could be completed in some five months and it would cost at least $500,000 – but those figures are preliminary ones.

On Nov. 9, Canadian Ambassador Roman Waschuk visited the Avangard facilities.

“We can help to spread the word on potential of (Ukrainian hockey) in Canada,” Waschuk told the Kyiv Post. “But it’s up to Ukrainians to work on the nation’s hockey.”

Hockey hub

Pavlo Bulgak, an advisor to the sports minister told the Kyiv Post that the Avangard Ice Arena is undergoing a facility audit to establish how much equipment it will need to resume work: “Lots of it was stolen before Avangard was returned to the government. We need to find the equipment, so Avangard can become a real hockey hub for the city’s team.”

However, Simchuk is not alone campaigning for Ukrainian hockey. His biggest support, he says, are mostly parents of young Sokil players and hockey enthusiasts.

A couple of years ago, Taras Dumych, a partner with law firm Wolf Theiss, began to help raising awareness about school’s conditions.

Dumych, a native of Lviv, says he’s always been a fan of the Kyiv team. “I believe that Sokil could have a rebirth, like a phoenix,” Dumych said, adding that this could happen if there are joint efforts by the authorities and the hockey fan community.

Future hopes

There are only three rinks in the capital, including one at central Palats Sportu, which will host the World Hockey Championship in Division 1A for the first time in April 2017. In comparison, there are at least seven rinks in Minsk, the capital of neighboring Belarus.

Olga Drobotko, whose 11-year-old son is a goaltender with Sokil, is frustrated by the country’s inability to sustain its ice rinks. She still hopes, however, that Avangard will become a place for her son to train in the future.

Now she regularly drives her son Illiya to a private hockey school so he can master his skills, as well as to Sokil.

Parents walk the children near Avangard Ice Rink Arena in Kyiv.

Drobotko says she’s happy for her son’s passion, but concerned about his future in professional hockey.
Drobotko sets an alarm for early morning: her son’s daily training routine starts at 5:45 a.m. in the unheated tent where Sokil Youth Hockey School plays for now.

And the Sokil School still is still going, even though Sokil’s professional team was forced to forfeit games in 2013 due to the lack of funding.

“In fact, there’s no hockey in Ukraine,” Drobotko says. “But my son often tells me that hockey is the only thing he excels at.”

That’s what has kept her motivated to wake up early to take her son to training sessions.

Austria goes with Bader

Roger Bader led Austria to promotion at the recent 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group A in Ukraine

By Martin Merk –

Roger Bader will coach the Austrian men’s national team for the remainder of the season it was confirmed after a board meeting of the Austrian Ice Hockey Association. He will also continue to serve as head coach of the U20 national team.

Bader is already the third head coach for the men’s national team this year. After Dan Ratushny left Austria to coach Lausanne HC of the Swiss NLA, sport director and veteran coach Alpo Suhonen was leading the team in the Final Olympic Qualification in Riga, Latvia, in September but after the unsatisfactory results Roger Bader was chosen to coach the team at least for the recent Euro Ice Hockey Challenge tournament in Budapest, Hungary. Now his assignment has been extended for the remainder of the season.

The 52-year-old Swiss spent his coaching career in Switzerland until 2013 where he was coaching senior hockey club teams but also several junior national teams including being head coach at three U18 World Championships.

Since 2014 he has been working for the Austrian Ice Hockey Association as U20 national team coach, development coach and mentor for club coaches – duties that he will continue. He has also been the assistant coach of the men’s national team since last season and at the Olympic Qualification in September.

Last year he led Austria to a silver medal at the 2016 IIHF Ice Hockey U20 World Championship Division I Group A. The U20 team will be his next task as it battles for promotion to the top division at the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey U20 World Championship Division I Group A in Bremerhaven, Germany, from 11 to 17 December against Belarus, Kazakhstan, Norway, Germany and France.

“Roger Bader has already had some success as U20 national team coach and successfully led a very young [men’s national] team at the Euro Ice Hockey Challenge. We become convinced that we want to continue working with him. We expect a continuous development of the Austrian national team and the assignment of young players as it has been the case in Budapest,” President Gernot Mittendorfer said.

“I feel honoured and glad to get the confidence to continue working as head coach of the Austrian national team,” said Bader. “I’m very proud and will pursue the assignment with due respect.”

The Austrian men’s national team will host another tournament of the Euro Ice Hockey Challenge, the Osterreich Cup, from 6-12 February in Graz with France, Norway and Slovakia.

From 22 to 28 April the Austrians will battle for promotion at the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group A in Kyiv with Hungary, Kazakhstan, Poland, Korea and host Ukraine.

Edmonton’s Shannon Szabados returns to Canadian women’s hockey team, but keeps a toe in men’s game

By Donna Spencer – Edmonton Journal

Shannon Szabados says she could write a book about her departure from the Peoria Rivermen, but the goaltender would rather discuss her return to the Canadian women’s hockey team.

The 30-year-old from Edmonton was among the 22 women named to Canada’s roster Wednesday for a two-game series against the United States in December. The archrivals meet in Plymouth, Mich., on Dec. 17 and again in Sarnia, Ont., on Dec. 19.

Szabados hasn’t been on the ice with the Canadian women since Feb. 20, 2014, when her 27 saves helped Canada win the Olympic women’s hockey final in Sochi, Russia.

 She’s played men’s pro hockey in Southern Professional Hockey League since then and most recently with the Rivermen.

The two-time Olympic gold medallist has spent the majority of her hockey career playing with and against men. Szabados knows the adjustments she must make upon her return to women’s hockey.

“They’re pretty different games for a goalie,” she said Wednesday on a conference call.

“For the girls, I find they hold onto the puck a little bit more. It’s a little more puck possession. The guys never like it when I say this, but the girls play a little bit more of a smarter game. The men, it’s a little more run and gun. Where they would take a shot, maybe the girls would take a pass, so as a goalie, it’s a little bit more patience.

“One of the big things is tracking. The puck comes off the stick a little bit differently for a girl than it does the guys.”

She spent the last two seasons with the SPHL’s Columbus Cottonmouths. Her overall record was 20-20-6 and she carried a save percentage over .900 each year.

Szabados started this season with the Rivermen. She and another goaltender were released after Peoria’s opening weekend in October.

She played parts of two games with a goals-against average of 6.10 and a save percentage of .792.

Rivermen coach Jean-Guy Trudel told CBC Sports after releasing her that he signed Szabados in a “package deal” to get defenceman Chris Neilson to sign as well. Trudel called the two players’ relationship “cancerous” on the team.

“They’re pretty different games for a goalie,” she said Wednesday on a conference call.

“For the girls, I find they hold onto the puck a little bit more. It’s a little more puck possession. The guys never like it when I say this, but the girls play a little bit more of a smarter game. The men, it’s a little more run and gun. Where they would take a shot, maybe the girls would take a pass, so as a goalie, it’s a little bit more patience.

“One of the big things is tracking. The puck comes off the stick a little bit differently for a girl than it does the guys.”

She spent the last two seasons with the SPHL’s Columbus Cottonmouths. Her overall record was 20-20-6 and she carried a save percentage over .900 each year.

Szabados started this season with the Rivermen. She and another goaltender were released after Peoria’s opening weekend in October.

She played parts of two games with a goals-against average of 6.10 and a save percentage of .792.

Rivermen coach Jean-Guy Trudel told CBC Sports after releasing her that he signed Szabados in a “package deal” to get defenceman Chris Neilson to sign as well. Trudel called the two players’ relationship “cancerous” on the team.

Szabados expects to split her time between Calgary and Edmonton. She’ll supplement ice time with the Chiefs by skating with her former men’s college team in Edmonton.

The Chiefs are in the five-team Chinook League, which includes several former pro and university players.

“They had an opening, asked me if I wanted to come out skate,” Szabados said. “I figured it would be a good opportunity for me to get back on the ice, get into some game action and get prepared for the December series.”

Canada’s roster for the December series includes 14 players who won Olympic gold in Sochi. The Americans have won six of the last seven world titles.

Pan American Movement

By National Teams of Ice Hockey

Their is a Ice Hockey movement afoot in the Pan American region, that includes North America, Central America, South America and the Caribbean to form a American Ice Hockey Confederation in two or three years.

This project is being lead by Mr. Hector Iannicelli is the Argentinian Ice Hockey Association’s President and
The Mexicans Ice hockey federation’s President

The first step is to start conversations and to invite to countries the next Pan American Ice Hockey Tournament in 2017, this process has already begun. Canada and The United states are welcome to join the tournament with with amateurs’ teams.
There is also been conversation to to bring back the Pan American Winter Games (4 years). The Mexicans federation’s President has already started conversations with ODEPA and the ideas was very well received.

Here is some History on the Winter Pan American games:

There have been attempts to hold Winter Pan American Games throughout the history of the games, but these have had little success. An initial attempt to hold winter events was made by the organizers of the 1951 Pan American Games in Buenos Aires, who planned to stage winter events later in the year but dropped the idea due to lack of interest. Reliable winter snow in the Americas is limited to two countries, the United States and Canada.
Andean winter weather is often fickle, and higher elevation areas in South America with annual snow often lack the infrastructure to host major sporting events. Another difficulty is that the Americas cover two hemispheres, which creates scheduling issues related to reverse seasons.

Lake Placid, New York tried to organize Winter Games in 1959 but, again, not enough countries expressed interest. The plans were eventually cancelled.

In 1988, members of PASO voted to hold the first Pan American Winter Games at Las Leñas, Argentina in September 1989. It was further agreed that Winter Games would be held every four years. Lack of snow however, forced the postponement of the games until September 16–22, 1990  when only eight countries sent 97 athletes to Las Leñas. Of that total, 76 were from just three countries of Argentina, Canada, and the United States. Weather was unseasonably warm and again there was little snow, so only three Alpine Skiing events – the Slalom, Giant Slalom, and Super G were staged. The United States and Canada won all 18 medals.

PASO awarded the second Pan American Winter Games to Santiago, Chile for 1993. The United States warned that it would not take part unless a full schedule of events was held. The Santiago organizing committee eventually gave up on planning the Games after the United States Olympic Committee declined to participate, and the idea has not been revived since.

China Wants to Be the Next Hockey Heavyweight

china ice hockey

By Vice Sports

There is no Chinese word for “puck.” In fact, the most literal translation for “bingqiu”—Chinese for hockey—is “ice ball.” The Chinese are about as familiar with hockey as Wayne Gretzky is with badminton.

Yet off the West 4th Ring of Beijing on Sept. 5, 2016, the Kunlun Red Star were taking the ice for their home debut at LeSports Center. The Red Star are the newest franchise of the Russian-based KHL, thought to be the second-best league in the world after the NHL. In other words, what were they doing here?

All the signs that this is a major sporting event were evident: Throbbing light show. A red carpet. Pledging allegiance to a jumbotron.

There were also PA announcers who jumped from Chinese, Russian, to occasionally, English. Screaming red and yellow—surprise!—Kunlun jerseys. Pregame hullabaloo capped off with remarks from Xi Jinping, China’s president.

China wants to flex again, as it did during the 2008 Summer Olympics. This time, the country is training to be a hockey heavyweight. Like Russia, the United States, or Canada. Really.

China has the capital. And right now, it has the motivation: In just six short years, all eyes will once again be on Beijing for the 2022 Winter Olympics.

China, as host country, will have a chance to field squads for both the men’s and women’s ice hockey tournaments. In arguably the Games’ most prestigious event, the hunger to be able to stand toe-to-toe with the best in the world is naturally greater. Not that far behind, also, is the specter of the “sick man of Asia”, which has dogged the Middle Kingdom’s last century.

But how can China transform its IIHF 37th-ranked men’s national team, which plays literally three rungs below the elite, into a unit with even a puncher’s chance in 2022?

If anybody can help China up the ladder quickly, it might be Russia. After all, it was the Soviets who, less than a decade after seriously taking up the sport, knocked Canada off 7-2 to win the 1954 World Championships, ushering in over three decades of international ice hockey domination.

At Kunlun, both the general manager and head coach are Russians. Their first “pupils” are four Chinese skaters and one goalie on the Red Star roster. Between Tianxiang Xia, Guanhua Wang, and Shengrong Xia, they’ve seen about four minutes of ice time a game through 31 regular-season contests. Game-ready, they’re not.

“You’re almost taking two or three steps up coming from where they played to this league,” observed ex-Washington Capital Sean Collins, who’s enjoying his first season in the KHL.

Even the head of that class, Rudi Ying and Zach Yuen, have averaged just three and 12 minutes, respectively, of ice time per game. They’re among the squad’s least-used regulars.

“They didn’t see the kind of hockey we have in the KHL and NHL,” explained GM Vladimir Krechin. “When they play against good hockey, they’re going to grow up.”

For now, that means more practice than game time.

Kunlun team media officer Oleg Vinokurov cautioned, however, that the Chinese wouldn’t be subjected to Soviet-style training, “We understand that the Soviet hockey school, Soviet principles, will not work completely today.

“We have a coach who worked a long time in Finland. So he combines Soviet and European schools.”

That would be Vladimir Yurzinov, Jr., son of the Soviet hockey great, who stressed, “The Chinese players have to transform from just liking hockey to professional hockey.

“For the immature player, hockey is enjoyment. For the professional, it’s real work. It’s a job.”

So for the 18-year-old Ying, who skated in a mid-level Canadian junior league last year, he’s gone from the playground to the coal mine. He gets it, though.

“Just skill isn’t enough. You have to compete.”

Ying believes most of the gap between the Chinese and the best of the world is mental. “The lack of skill is not the problem—the problem is in the way they see the game, the way they play the game, the way the game comes to them.” He thinks his brethren approach hockey as a skill sport, and not a contact one.

Guess what’s not going to work for a hockey lifer like Krechin? “When they start to play and have more experience and they have more contact, they’ll see the contact won’t kill them,” predicted the former Philadelphia Flyers draft pick. “If they’re not going to play contact, they’re not going to play.”

Clashing Russian and Chinese hockey ideals may have resulted in the recent dismissal of assistant coach Guofeng Wu. While nobody will speak on the record about what happened to the former national team member, hired by the Red Star to work with the club’s Chinese skaters, it’s clear that Wu wasn’t up to the Russian standard.

Vancouver-born Yuen knows something about that high standard. The former Winnipeg Jets draft pick has appeared in the AHL, essentially the NHL’s Triple-A level. He also once played with Edmonton Oliers forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, the first-overall pick of the 2011 NHL draft. He put it succinctly when asked what the Chinese could learn from the Russians, “I think everything.”

Both Ying and Yuen, difficult as it is to project the 2022 Chinese Olympic team this far out, look like sure things. One is Kunlun’s youngest player, the other’s career was floundering in North America. In principle, they’re going to be the trailblazing graduates of China’s first contact with high-level hockey.

But frankly, six years isn’t enough time, even if more North Americans like Yuen represent Team China.

Krechin expects it will take at least 10-15 years for China to reach even top-15 IIHF status, with the likes of competitive, but far from intimidating national teams like Austria and Germany.

But as Krechin reminds us, “they do everything fast.”

Ten to fifteen years will certainly be too long to catch the 2022 wave. But as we speak, there is a hockey mini-boom in China.

There are over 400 full-sized rinks scheduled to be built by 2020. These surfaces will help house the rapidly-growing number of children from affluent families getting into the sport. In 2008, there were around 300 hockey players at the elementary level, a number that has climbed to roughly 3,000 today, according to Longmou Li, last year’s general manager of China’s Under-18 national team.

“I heard that in some districts every kid is going to [be required to] learn skiing or skating,” revealed IOC member Yang Yang.

That’s a far cry from 2005, when Chris Collins landed in China. “[Hockey] suffered a terrible vacuum,” observed the former San Jose Sharks color commentator. “In a country of 1.4 billion people, having a 1,000 or less play a sport, it’s not really a sport.”

Collins was laying the groundwork for San Jose’s pioneering investment in Chinese professional hockey, the China Sharks. They competed in the relatively low-level Asia League Ice Hockey for two seasons, from 2007-09.

“Maybe three rinks in Beijing [back then], and now there’s what, 15?” he recalled. “In Shanghai, there was one rink. I think it was a mall rink.”

There were 200 kids registered to play hockey in Shanghai three years ago, according to Yang, but that number has at least tripled now.

Some of these kids will fit right into the hockey academy that the Red Star are opening. China has also enlisted the aid of the Czech Republic. “In this way, we used to teach Russians in the 1950s. You know the outcome,” Czech Olympic Committee President Jiri Kejval told Mladá fronta Dnes.

The NHL has taken notice once again, too. Last summer, three NHL teams (the Toronto Maple Leafs, Vancouver Canucks, and New York Islanders) held youth hockey camps in China. This year, the Boston Bruins, Los Angeles Kings, and Montreal Canadiens joined the fray.

The league also hired former King Kevin Westgarth as vice president of business development and international affairs, specifically to grow the sport overseas. He told The Hockey News, “Last year, we had our first Chinese player drafted into the NHL in Andong Song. That will hopefully be a little bit of a catalyst in igniting some passion.

“Especially with the Winter Olympics coming along, it’s an investment. I think that would be in the league’s best interests and I think it would be in their best interests, as well.”

For the last three seasons, state channel CCTV has broadcasted NHL games. According to Li, who is also the station’s director of hockey programming, regular-season ratings have increased 150 percent over that time span, from about 400,000 to 1 million. For Game 4 of the 2016 Stanley Cup Final, about 6 million viewers tuned in; in the United States, 5.407 million viewers was the series high.

While the viewership numbers represent only a fraction of the country’s 1.3 billion population, those mushrooming numbers will help President Xi live up to his promise.

When Beijing was still campaigning for the 2022 Games, Xi asserted, “It will inspire over 300 million Chinese to participate in winter sports if we win.”

That’s a lofty figure for a nation which has traditionally emphasized summer sports over winter. China didn’t even win its first Winter Olympics gold until 2002, courtesy of Yang Yang, and its highest medal count in the Winter Games is just 11—set in Vancouver in 2010. Meanwhile, China pocketed 100 alone in the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing.

Of course, I doubt anybody is really tracking Xi’s “300 million.” But there’s also no doubt that the Chinese men’s ice hockey program has the full support of the state.

Case in point: Both Xi and Vladimir Putin were on hand to witness the official signing of Kunlun into the KHL last June. When was the first time Barack Obama and Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau attended a hockey-related event together?

And while Xi and Putin were just a little preoccupied during the Red Star’s home opener with the G20 summit, the presence of both was felt during the pregame ceremony.

“Every road started from the first small step,” declared Russia’s deputy prime minister Arkady Dvorkovich, perhaps referencing Xi’s One Belt, One Road engagement policy. “This is a starting point for a whole new development model to grow Chinese hockey.”

Following Dvorkovich, Xi issued this statement through director of sports Liu Peng: “Ice hockey exchanges between the two countries will help China raise the standard of the game and better prepare for the 2022 Winter Olympics.”

Speaking of preparation, or a lack of, it was a minor miracle the Kunlun Red Star’s first home game was played at all.

While the KHL’s expansion into China was announced last December, it wasn’t made official until late June. Kunlun’s first practice, held weeks later, consisted of only five skaters. They weren’t even sure where they were playing their home debut until about a week before the game, as LeSports Center had already scheduled a concert for Sept. 5. Rumours were rampant that the Red Star would be forced to premiere in Shanghai.

As for the game itself, official attendance was 7,832 for an arena which seats 14,000 for hockey. To their credit, it was an enthusiastic mob. Just a couple minutes in, speedy Kunlun winger Oleg Yashin rushed the puck through the neutral zone, backing off the Admiral Vladivostok defenders, creating a surge in the crowd… and he dumped it in, which was exactly the right thing to do because the Red Star were on the penalty kill. They’re still picking up the beats of the sport here.

Shortly thereafter, ex-New Jersey Devils blueliner Anssi Salmela rang up the Red Star’s first-ever home goal. A goal is a goal in any language, and the crowd roared.

Cries of “jiayou,” which literally means “fill up with gas,” punctuated the action. Behind me, a vociferous fan shrilled “Motherfucker” with bloodcurdling zeal and, most importantly, did it at the appropriate time. He really had me at “Icing!” though, which he shouted at his friend, Fisher Yu, who wore a “Kiss Me I’m Irish & I Play Hockey” T-shirt. As it turns out, Zhong Cong Wu and Yu were among Beijing’s earliest recreational ice hockey players.

Not even halfway in, Kunlun had raced out to a 5-1 lead. If anything, the Red Star were actually spoiling their supporters.

The stands had already emptied out when Salmela potted another goal in the final frame. The tepid applause indicated that they were pretty tired of this whole scoring thing.

My attention was wandering, too, and I saw what seemed like a mirage at first: It was a little girl wearing a Sidney Crosby jersey in Beijing. Her father, Song Dai, proudly declared that Demi was one of about 20 girls who play hockey in the capital. They had been in Canada for a youth tournament during the Stanley Cup Final, which explains the Crosby love.

After Kunlun’s 6-3 triumph, former Maple Leafs forward Alexei Ponikarovsky echoed a popular postgame sentiment, “I hope as we win more games, more people will show up.”

But clearly, there was something in the air here. There is a small but passionate hockey fan base. More kids than ever are playing the game. That said, it’s a leap of faith. China, the KHL, and the Red Star are hoping, “if you build it, they will come.”

“You can see the air is a little bit different here,” joked Kunlun captain Janne Jalasvaara. Of course, he was talking about something else.

But what’s also different about China? It can afford an expensive leap of faith. It can afford money-losing crowds. For a nation not famous for it, though, it’s hard to say if China will have the necessary patience.

The infrastructure which China is investing in can foster a world-class national team, but it probably won’t happen soon. After 2022, will the government still care? Or will the dream of a Chinese hockey power be forgotten, just another deserted Olympic edifice?

“Government money is big right now. But after 2022, it may not be as much,” admitted Li. “China needs a self-sustaining hockey system, so government money doesn’t matter.”

Yang concurred. “In China, the sports system has been changing. Before, it was more government funding which drives the sport. In the future, from my point of view, it’s going to be more market-driven.”

The two-time gold medalist is a believer, though. “After 2022, the sport can grow by itself. Hockey has the potential.

“It’s popular with the kids.”

But not popular enough, at least not yet. After their Beijing opening, the Red Star migrated to Feiyang Skating Center in Shanghai for home games. LeSports Center, which was pre-booked, will welcome them back in mid-December.

Since the move, Kunlun has averaged just 1,103 over 14 appearances in Shanghai, amidst rumors that the KHL is looking to contract some teams.

A mere 721 witnessed history on Oct. 27 at Feiyang, when Yuen became the first Chinese player to score in KHL history, re-directing a Tomas Marcinko pass through Amur Khabarovsk goaltender Juha Metsola en route to a 1-0 triumph.

To score a goal like that, it’s not only something for me,” said Yuen, whose parents were born in China, “it means a lot more than that for Chinese hockey in the future.”

It’ll take more than the occasional goal to grow hockey in China, though. The kids could use a role model. In Yuen, Kunlun may have just unearthed one. After averaging under six minutes a game in his first 10 contests, his playing time has increased significantly, to about 15 minutes a game over his last 21. He hasn’t been a star, but being a regular on a playoff-calibre KHL team is certainly something to look up to.

The blueliner attributed much of his progress to the Russian and European-trained coaching staff, “They’ve really helped me adjust to the different of game,” he said. “In European hockey, there’s a lot less leeway with stickwork and holding and that kind of stuff [than North American hockey]. Defending is very different. Especially on such big ice.

“Our team has a lot of high-end skill players, few guys who have played in the NHL. Getting to practice and play with them has really got me ready.”

When you’re trying to pull off the seemingly impossible and compete with the world’s greatest hockey superpowers, every possible hope matters. For Team China, a Chinese hockey player’s rapid improvement because of the KHL is no small feat.

Or as Yuen himself offered, “Every country has to start somewhere.”

Kerbouche is on a mission to build on Algeria’s success in their first ice hockey competition

While growing up in Islington, Karim Kerbouche discovered a passion for ice hockey after a friend gave him a Sega Mega Drive game – and, after watching his first live match at the age of 12, he was totally hooked.

More than two decades later, Kerbouche has gone on to become head of Hockey Algeria, leading the country’s first ever representative team to a creditable third-place finish in the inaugural African Club Cup this year.

To achieve that, the 34-year-old had to return to the computer for an extensive internet search to locate fellow players of Algerian origin in Europe and North America.

Kerbouche, who attended Central Foundation School, recalled: “I love football but I wasn’t that good at it and, once I found ice hockey, I left all the other sports behind.

“On my 12th birthday my mum took me to see Lee Valley Lions and I fell in love with the sport straight away – the speed, the physicality and the toughness of it.

“I went on to play for Haringey Wolves’ junior side and studied sport and leisure at college, but I always wondered if there could be an ice hockey team in Algeria.

“I started searching for other players of Algerian origin, going through stats on French websites and emailing teams to contact people who had Algerian-sounding names.

“It turned out that there were quite a few players in France as well as Canada and it seemed many of them felt the same, but no-one had taken the initiative.”

In 2008, Kerbouche managed to obtain funding for his newly-formed team to represent Algeria at an Arab Cup tournament in Abu Dhabi and scored their first ever goal, against Morocco.

He went on to play as a forward for Lee Valley Lions and Streatham Redskins in the English National Ice Hockey League – as well as working for leisure provider GLL at Streatham ice rink.

At that same time, Kerbouche continued his determined efforts to spread the growth of the sport in his parents’ homeland – quite a challenge with only one permanent ice rink and minimal government backing.

“The rink is in a mall and it’s not Olympic size – it’s only really suitable for ice skating and kids’ games,” explained Kerbouche, who now works in Poplar. “To be honest, some people in Algeria think it’s a bit of a joke.

“It’s difficult to get sponsorship – we do usually find it but it’s usually a last-minute thing. For the recent African Club Cup in Morocco we had someone sponsor our uniforms about three or four weeks beforehand.

“There is money in Algerian sport but it goes mostly towards football – especially as we’ve been in the last two World Cups and have quite a few players in the Premier League, like Riyad Mahrez.

“With that said, we do get support from the public – on Facebook we’ve got 120,000 followers and more than 6,000 on Twitter.

“Kids in Algeria are skating on roller blades so I think the potential is there and I’d love to bring in a new activity for them. When I was a kid, the biggest issues were the cost of equipment and ice time and those will be the same issues we have to deal with in Algeria.”

Kerbouche and his team-mates, who competed under the label of Algiers Corsaires for their third-place finish at the African Club Cup, are aiming to build on that by winning next year’s tournament.

He added: “It was all a bit rushed in terms of getting players together, with people booking their tickets the week before the tournament, but we learned a lot from it.

“Next summer it’ll be a big improvement and our objective is to win it.

“We’ve managed to get a $15,000 grant from the NHL for ice hockey in Algeria and that also should help us to get better facilities for the sport.”

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