By Martin Merk – IIHF.com
A new season begins for the IIHF Ice Hockey Challenge Cup of Asia with two tournaments being held in the Thai capital of Bangkok during the next two-and-a-half weeks.
Nine days after the end of the Asian Winter Games that involved 24 national teams in four tournaments more international tournaments await Asia. The Challenge Cup of Asia is mainly aimed at countries that do not, or not yet, participate in the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship program or do not fulfil the criteria to do so, and gives them the opportunity to compete against each other on an annual basis on their continent.
On Tuesday the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s Challenge Cup of Asia begins in Bangkok. For most teams it will be the first tournament of the season as only Thailand participated in the Asian Winter Games’ women’s ice hockey tournament. The hosts enter the tournament as the top-seeded team. Singapore, Malaysia and Malaysia also return from last year’s event.
The United Arab Emirates are back in the competition after a break last year while the Philippine women’s national team will have its international debut. For the first time New Zealand will participate with the U18 women’s national team. It will be their debut in an official event after having previously played exhibition games against Australia and against club teams.
The women’s tournament will be held as a seven-team round-robin tournament from 7 to 15 March and once it’s over, the rink will be busy with men’s hockey for the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey Challenge Cup of Asia from 17 to 23 March.
The men’s top-division tournament includes the United Arab Emirates, Mongolia, Thailand, Singapore, Kyrgyzstan and Malaysia who will play a six-team round robin. All teams recently participated in the Asian Winter Games where Thailand had most success of these teams winning the men’s Division I tournament ahead of Chinese Taipei, the United Arab Emirates and Mongolia.
Both tournaments will be held at international-size The Rink Ice Arena, which is located on the seventh floor of the CentralPlaza Grand Rama 9 shopping mall in the Ratchadapisek area of Bangkok.
The third tournament will be the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey Challenge Cup of Asia Division I to be held 22-30 April in Kuwait City. Seven teams will battle for promotion to the top division here. Macau, Qatar and India return from last year’s event, host Kuwait and Oman stage their comeback after missing last year’s event and Turkmenistan and the Philippines will play their first IIHF-sanctioned games. Both teams will travel to Kuwait with high hopes after their international debut in February in the men’s Division II tournament of the Asian Winter Games that was won by Turkmenistan while the Philippines reached third place.