Year: 2018 (page 1 of 23)

World Juniors: Israel Junior Hockey News

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By Kerry Jackson – JuniorHockey,com

After winning the Gold in Division III of the 2018 International Ice Hockey Federation’s U20 World Championship with a 5-0 record, Israel will play this year in Division IIB. IIHF reporter Ivan Tchechankov called Israel’s Gold “a historic day for Israeli ice hockey.”

No doubt the U20 national team would like to make history again in 2019. Head coach Derek Eisler will surely rely heavily on the core of his 2018 squad, which was anchored by top scorer, captain Mark Revniaga, a 1998 who’s eligible for the upcoming tournament. In the 2018 WJC played in Bulgaria, he scored 11 goals — nearly half of the team’s entire 25-goal output — and assisted on four in five games. His 15 points led all WJC scorers, so it was no surprise the center/right wing was selected as the top forward in the tournament.

Revniaga is now in his third season playing in North America. He is currently with the Northern Colorado Eagles of the Western States Hockey League, where he has three goals and a pair of assists in five games. He’s also played with the Point Mallard Ducks of the North American 3 Hockey League, and the New York Apple Core of the Eastern Hockey League.

Finishing eighth in scoring, and second on his team, at the 2018 WJC was Israeli defenseman Tomer Aharonovich, a 1999 with two years of U20 eligibility remaining. He recorded three goals and seven assists, and was named the tournament’s top defenseman. Aharonovich played 36 games in the EHL last year with the Philadelphia Revolution and tallied five goals and 17 assists.

The next three most prolific scorers were either full-time or part-time defenseman. Itay Mostovoy, a full-time blueliner, had two goals and five assists; 1999 winger-defenseman Marom Avraham, recorded a pair of goals and four assists; and Dan Hoffman, a defenseman-left winger born in 1999, had for assists in the tournament. Mostovoy, it should be noted, is only a 2001 who will continue to develop.

Center Tom Ignatovich, who finished sixth on the team with two goals and an assist, plays a tough game. He racked up 31 penalty minutes in five games in the 2018 WJC. This year he’s playing with Revniaga in Northern Colorado and is hoping to find a NCAA team after wrapping up his junior eligibility at the end of this season.

It’s no surprise that Israel was solid in goal at the 2018 WJC. Both netminders were in the top three in save percentage and both had outstanding goals-against averages.

“Our two goalies were really, really good. Without those two guys we wouldn’t be here,” Eisler told Tchechankov after Israel had wrapped up the 2018 title.

“Without good quality goaltending you can’t win gold medals. I have the luxury to alternate good goalies every game.”

Raz Werner, a 1999, played in three games and put up a 2.00 GAA, a .934 save percentage, and one shutout. Yonatan Reisinger, played in two games, allowing only five goals for a 2.50 GAA. The 2000-born goalie, who is in the net this year for the Hartford Jr. Wolfpack in the United States Premier Hockey League’s Premier Division, recorded a .904 save percentage. Werner is playing his junior hockey this season in Sweden in the J20 Elit division.

The 2018 gold these players helped win might be the spark Israel hockey needed to move the sport to the next level.

“I think with the success this U20 team just had here, the kids back home are watching it, everybody in Israel is seeing this,” Eisler said in the interview with Tchechankov. “There are more and more projects for ice rinks and there will be more people playing hockey. So I think just the sheer volume of interest will go up.”

The 2019 Division III WJC will be played in Croatia in January. Israel will be in a field of six that includes Mexico, the Netherlands, Croatia, Belgium, and Serbia.

From Kenya to Canada: The Story of Kenya’s Only Ice Hockey Team

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News provided by Tim Hortons

In Kenya, there is only one ice hockey team, and they have nobody to play against. Every Wednesday and Sunday, the Kenya Ice Lions take to the first-ever ice rink in East and Central Africa: a 1,400-square-metre rink at the Panari Sky Center Hotel in Nairobi, Kenya. Located next to Nairobi National Park, is where the Ice Lions take to the rink and play the game they love.

n Canada, it is sometimes taken for granted that Canadians can always find someone to grab a stick, find some ice and play a game. Tim Hortons heard the story about the Kenya Ice Lions and decided to share our love of the game by bringing them to the birthplace of hockey.

“In Canada – and as a company – Hockey is part of our DNA,” says Jorge Zaidan, Head of Marketing, Tim Hortons Canada. “We are so inspired by the story of the Lions. Despite having no other teams to play against, the players on the Kenya Ice Lions’ passion for the game is unwavering. Their shared passion and love of the game knows no borders.”

Moved by their love for Canada’s favorite sport, Tim Hortons flew 12 members of the senior Ice Lions team to Canada to have the opportunity to finally play their first game ever against another team. After dressing in brand new CCM hockey equipment and personalized jerseys, they discovered they were in for an even bigger surprise: Sidney Crosby and Nathan MacKinnon were joining them on the ice as teammates.

“I was honoured to be able to join the Ice Lions as they played their first game against another team,” said Sidney Crosby, captain of the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins. “One of the things I love about hockey is how it’s able to reach so many people from so many countries around the world and bring them together.”

“While we played alongside the Ice Lions for their first game, we know it won’t be their last,” said Colorado Avalanche star, Nathan MacKinnon. “The team’s genuine passion and excitement for hockey is contagious – they were amazing teammates and it was great to play with them.”

“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,” says Benard Azegere, captain of the Kenya Ice Lions.” 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.”

Tim Hortons made a donation to Kenya’s Youth Hockey League to help ensure that the Ice Lions’ passion for the sport lives on for the next generation. Check out full video of the Kenya Ice Lions hockey game with Sidney Crosby and Nathan MacKinnon,

Chinese ice hockey star Zachary Yuen feels weight of a nation as he forges his path in Russia’s KHL

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By Patrick Blennerhassett – South China Morning Post

China-born youngster talks about adapting to life playing hockey in Russia and his hopes for representing his motherland at the 2022 Olympics

Zachary Yuen did not get to choose his heritage, but as one of ice hockey’s budding Chinese prospects the National Hockey League (NHL) is hoping will help grow the game in the Far East, he has embraced the added attention and duty to the motherland.

Yuen, 25, whose father is from Hong Kong and mother is from the Guangdong Province, was born in Vancouver (which is 43 per cent ethnically Chinese) and now plays for the Beijing-based Kunlun Red Stars, the only Chinese team in Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League.

Yuen, who was drafted by the Winnipeg Jets in 2011, chose the KHL over the typical American Hockey League route (which houses the NHL’s feeder teams) to help grow the game in China.

This, of course, has placed a particularly bright spot on Yuen as the NHL tries desperately to bring forth a Chinese superstar to reach a new audience overseas.

Yuen has featured in multiple media outlets since heading overseas including GQ China twice, the Financial Times and recently walked the catwalk at a fashion show in Shenzhen.

“I definitely feel like there is a lot more responsibility and pressure being a Chinese player because I feel I have a responsibility to be a good role model for all the kids in China who have interest in hockey,” he said.

The NHL is hoping all the games it has hosted in China and the cash it spent flying in marquee draws like Wayne Gretzky and Phil Esposito will be able to piggyback off the country’s commitment to winter sports ahead of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.

State broadcaster CCTV has also televised a number of NHL regular season games and the play-offs hoping to entice more Chinese people to either play or take interest in the game.

China has literally built hundreds of ice rinks across the country and the International Ice Hockey Federation reports the game has grown from about 1,000 local players in 2017 to 12,000 today.

Yuen, who is in his third year in the KHL and is a much-coveted left-handed defenceman, is a pitch-perfect spokesperson given he is trilingual. He said even though he was born and raised in Vancouver, he was raised in a fairly traditional Chinese family.

“For me being able to also speak Mandarin and Cantonese, I’m able to really keep in touch and communicate with all the Chinese fans, and I feel like it’s a very important part to growing the sport in China.”

Yuen added his first season (2016-17) in the KHL was tough, noting it was like having “continuous jetlag”, but now he feels much more at home and knows all the Russian cities. Right now the Red Stars have five Canada-born players and eight China-born players on their roster. The team is currently 10th in the East Division of the KHL with five wins and nine losses in 14 games. Yuen has only played six games this season due to injury.

One of the points of upcoming contention between the NHL and China ahead of 2022 will be whether the league sends its players. The NHL bucked the trend in 2018 by announcing its players would stay put which boiled down to a money issue with the International Olympic Committee.

Yuen said it is “still too early to say” whether the NHL will allow its players to go to Beijing in 2022. If Yuen is still playing in the KHL it will be a no-brainer as he will definitely suit up, but if he is playing for an NHL team, the decision will be out of his hands.

“For me, I would love to be a part of Team China for the Olympics. I want to represent my mother country, and it’s definitely something I look forward to. So with regards to NHL participation in the Olympics I guess only time will tell.”

 

From the WJAC to the NHL

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By Jason La Rose – Hockey Canada

The puck dropped Wednesday night to kick off the 2018-19 National Hockey League season, and it did so with 70 alumni of the World Junior A Challenge earning spots on rosters across the league.

The United States led the way with 19 alumni in the NHL, followed by Russia (12), Canada West (12), Canada East (11), Sweden (eight), the Czech Republic (five), Denmark (two) and Switzerland (one).

The Canada West and United States contingents both included players who won gold at the World Junior A Challenge; 25 players in all – eight Canadians and 17 Americans – stood atop the podium, with U.S. forwards Craig Smith (2007 and 2008) and Kyle Connor (2013 and 2014) to only players to hoist the trophy twice.

The list of alumni also included eight players who earned MVP honours – Kyle Turris (2006), Scott Mayfield (2010), Devin Shore (2011), Vinnie Hinostroza (2012), Nick Schmaltz (2013), Nikolaj Ehlers (2014), Tyson Jost (2015) and Andrei Svechnikov (2016) – and 14 WJAC all-stars.

Twenty-eight of the NHL’s 31 teams had at least one alumnus on their 23-man roster, led by the Colorado Avalanche with five; Boston, Columbus, Detroit, the New York Rangers, Pittsburgh, St. Louis and Washington had four each.

In addition to the 70 who cracked the rosters, five alumni started the season on the injured list with the respective teams, and may or may not join the NHL roster once they’re deemed healthy.

WORLD JUNIOR A CHALLENGE ALUMNI ON SEASON-OPENING NHL ROSTERS

Oliver Bjorkstrand – Columbus Blue Jackets (Denmark, 2014)
Brock Boeser – Vancouver Canucks (United States, 2014)
Drake Caggiula – Edmonton Oilers (Canada East, 2011)
Dennis Cholowski – Detroit Red Wings (Canada West, 2015)
Kyle Connor – Winnipeg Jets (United States – 2013-2014)
Austin Czarnik – Calgary Flames (United States, 2010)
Evgeni Dadonov – Florida Panthers (Russia, 2006)
Jacob de la Rose (injured) – Montreal Canadiens (Sweden, 2011)
Casey DeSmith – Pittsburgh Penguins (United States, 2010)
Nic Dowd – Washington Capitals (United States, 2009)
Sheldon Dries – Colorado Avalanche (United States, 2012)
Ryan Dzingel – Ottawa Senators (United States, 2010)
Nikolaj Ehlers – Winnipeg Jets (Denmark, 2014)
Jesper Fast – New York Rangers (Sweden, 2009)
Tanner Fritz – New York Islanders (Canada West, 2008-2009)
Derek Grant – Pittsburgh Penguins (Canada West, 2008)
Vinnie Hinostroza – Arizona Coyotes (United States, 2011-2012)
Ben Hutton – Vancouver Canucks (Canada East, 2011)
Zach Hyman – Toronto Maple Leafs (Canada East, 2010)
Calle Jarnkrok – Nashville Predators (Sweden, 2009)     
Nick Jensen – Detroit Red Wings (United States, 2009)
Luke Johnson – Chicago Blackhawks (United States, 2012)
Tyson Jost – Colorado Avalanche (Canada West, 2014-2015)
Vladislav Kamenev (injured) – Colorado Avalanche (Russia, 2013)
David Kampf – Chicago Blackhawks (Czech Republic, 2012)
Ondrej Kase (injured) – Anaheim Ducks (Czech Republic, 2012)
Alexander Kerfoot – Colorado Avalanche (Canada West, 2011-2012)
Jujhar Khaira – Edmonton Oilers (Canada West, 2011)
Nikita Kucherov – Tampa Bay Lightning (Russia, 2010)
Dean Kukan – Columbus Blue Jackets (Switzerland, 2010-2012)
Dmitry Kulikov – Buffalo Sabres (Russia, 2007)
Sean Kuraly – Boston Bruins (United States, 2011)
Evgeny Kuznetsov – Washington Capitals (Russia, 2008)
Johan Larsson (injured) – Buffalo Sabres (Sweden, 2009)
Elias Lindholm – Calgary Flames (Sweden, 2011)
Hampus Lindholm – Anaheim Ducks (Sweden, 2011)
Scott Mayfield – New York Islanders (United States, 2010)
John Moore – Boston Bruins (United States, 2008)
Vladislav Namestnikov – New York Rangers (Russia, 2009)
Riley Nash – Columbus Blue Jackets (Canada West, 2006)
Patrik Nemeth – Colorado Avalanche (Sweden, 2009)
Valeri Nichushkin – Dallas Stars (Russia, 2011)
Joakim Nordström – Boston Bruins (Sweden, 2009-2010)
Dmitry Orlov – Washington Capitals (Russia, 2008)
Colton Parayko – St. Louis Blues (Canada West, 2011)
David Pastrnak – Boston Bruins (Czech Republic, 2012)
Matthew Peca – Montreal Canadiens (Canada East, 2010)
Neal Pionk – New York Rangers (United States, 2013)
Mike Reilly – Montreal Canadiens (United States, 2011)
Evan Rodrigues – Buffalo Sabres (Canada East, 2010)
Joakim Ryan – San Jose Sharks (Sweden, 2010)
Justin Schultz – Pittsburgh Penguins (Canada West, 2008)
Jordan Schmaltz – St. Louis Blues (United States, 2010-2011)
Nick Schmaltz – Chicago Blackhawks (United States, 2013)
Jaden Schwartz – St. Louis Blues (Canada West, 2008)
Devin Shore – Dallas Stars (Canada East, 2011)
Dominik Simon – Pittsburgh Penguins (Czech Republic, 2011)
Jaccob Slavin – Carolina Hurricanes (United States, 2012)
Brendan Smith – New York Rangers (Canada East, 2006)
Craig Smith – Nashville Predators (United States, 2007-2008)
Reilly Smith – Vegas Golden Knights (Canada East, 2008)
Libor Sulak – Detroit Red Wings (Czech Republic, 2011)
Troy Stecher – Vancouver Canucks (Canada West, 2011-2012)
Andrei Svechnikov – Carolina Hurricanes (Russia, 2016)
Evgeny Svechnikov (injured) – Detroit Red Wings (Russia, 2013)
Cam Talbot – Edmonton Oilers (Canada East, 2006)
Vladimir Tarasenko – St. Louis Blues (Russia, 2008)
Kyle Turris – Nashville Predators (Canada West, 2006)
Andrei Vasilevskiy – Tampa Bay Lightning (Russia, 2011)
Mikhail Vorobyov – Philadelphia Flyers (Russia, 2014)
Jakub Vrana – Washington Capitals (Czech Republic, 2012)
MacKenzie Weegar – Florida Panthers (Canada East, 2011)
Alexander Wennberg – Columbus Blue Jackets (Sweden, 2011)
Scott Wilson – Buffalo Sabres (Canada East, 2010)
Valentin Zykov – Carolina Hurricanes (Russia, 2011)

World Juniors: Mexico Junior Hockey News

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By: Kerry Jackson – JuniorHockey.com

In 1998, Mexico beat Turkey 28-0. Eleven years later, Hungary beat Mexico by the same score. No, they weren’t playing football. These were scores from International Ice Hockey Federation U20 World Junior Championship tournaments.

Mexico, which experienced both extremes in those four-touchdown shutouts, has been competing in international junior play since 1996, in what was then Pool D of the IIHF world junior championship. The team went 0-3 that year, scoring only five goals while allowing 40.

By 2005, though, Mexico won the Division III title, and then won it again in 2011.

The Mexican national team, will play in the 2019 tournament in Zagreb, Croatia, in Group B of Division II this January. The squad is likely to be led by Jorge Perez, a big 1998 center who was the top scorer for Mexico in the 2018 tournament, tallying three goals and three assists in five games. Perez has played in the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League (where he was the first Latin American player to reach Junior A in Canada), and in the Heritage Hockey League in Canada in Alberta; and for The Hill Academy in Ontario, and the Banff Hockey Academy in Alberta.

Maybe Mexico’s most interesting player is Luis Cruz, a 2000 winger who is still developing. He tied for second in team scoring in the 2018 WJC with one goal and two assists. But he truly shined in the 2018 U18 Division IIIA WJC, tying for the tournament scoring lead with 10 points on eight goals (by far the highest total in the tournament) and two assists.

Forward Carlos Ramirez, a 1999, also finished with three points in the 2018 U20 tournament, as did Luis Gil, a 1998 who plays both defense and wing. Gil played one game last year for Purdue’s American Collegiate Hockey Association Division III team, recording one assist.

Defenseman Gonzalo Hagerman, a 1999 playing for Lake Forest Academy in Illinois, paced Mexico’s blueliners with a goal and an assist in the 2018 U20 WJC. As captain of the U18 team, he scored one goal and set up six. He was the second-leading scorer on the team, behind only Cruz, and was ninth in overall scoring for the U18 tournament.

Also attending Lake Forest Academy is 2001 defenseman Jorge Ortiz. He had one assist last year’s U20 WJC and one goal and one assist in the U18 WJC. Only Hagerman put up better offensive numbers from the blueline for the Mexican U18 tournament team than Ortiz.

Mexico’s best option in goal could be Santiago Gomez, a 2000 who had a 3.00 goals-against average and .921 save percentage in one game in the U20 tournament, and a 2.14 GAA and .889 save percentage in the U18 WJC.

Other Mexican junior players to keep an eye on include Brandon Linares, a 2000 forward, who had two goals and four assists, and was a plus-2 in five 2018 U18 WJC games, and is now at the Ontario Hockey Academy; and 2001 goalie Marcello de Antunano, who played two games in that same tournament and came away with sterling numbers — a 1.32 GAA and .923 save percentage.

World Juniors: New Zealand Junior Hockey News

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By: Kerry Jackson – JuniorHockey.com

We recently featured the national junior team from a country where many would think hockey doesn’t even exist, only to follow up with a post on another nation that seems even less likely to support hockey.

Yet New Zealand has had a national U20 junior team competing in the International Ice Hockey Federation’s world championship play since 2004, and has twice been promoted to the next level.

Few New Zealand players have made it to the U.S. and Canada to play junior hockey, though. The short list of current players in North America includes 1998 forward Alex Egan, and defensemen John Lilly (2000) and George Hopkins (1998), all of whom are playing this season for the Bradford Bulls of the Greater Metropolitan Hockey League; and Max Hurring, a 2001 defensmen with the St. George Ravens of the GMHL.

Every player from last year’s IIHF U20 World Junior Championship team is eligible to return for this year’s tournament in Reykjavik, Iceland, in January, including top scorers Luke Hill, a 1999 center and team MVP who scored three goals and recorded two assists in five games, and 2001 forward Ryan Martinoli, who had a pair of goals and three assists in five games (and has already put up strong numbers — three goals, two assists — in five Swiss Elite Junior B games this season).

Egan finished the tournament with a pair of goals in five games while forward Felipe Aguirre, a 1998, had a goal and assist in five games. The defenseman with the best numbers was 1998-born William Morley-Hall. In five contests, he had one assist and was a only a minus-1 on a team that had several players whose plus-minus stats were in negative double figures.

New Zealand finished last out of six teams last year, putting up no wins and losing all five games in regulation. It was outscored 40-11, so goalies, defensemen, and forwards are all going to have to be more committed to playing defense in the upcoming tournament. Both the penalty kill and the power play, each of which was at the bottom in last year’s tournament, will also need tremendous improvement.

The good news, though, is last year’s team was rather young, with one 2002 (goalie Finley Forbes); three 2001s (Hurring, Martinoli, and forward Max Vesper); one 2000 (forward Matheson Graham); and seven 1999s (Hill, forwards Liam Kinraid, Mak Rawiri, and Zac Vince, defensemen Ryan Fraser and Moses Bygate-Smith, and goalie Taylor Goodall). If most of that team returns for the 2019 tournament (the roster won’t be announced for probably a month), another year of experience should allow them to be more competitive under head coach Justin Daigle.

World Juniors: Australia Junior Hockey News

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By: Kerry Jackson – JuniorHockey.com

Even the most devoted hockey fans might not know that Australia has a national junior team that competes in international play. It plays in the International Ice Hockey Federation’s Division III, along with a few other teams from countries that aren’t usually associated with hockey.

According to Wikipedia, there are only 22 ice rinks in Australia, which about the number one would expect to find in any suburban Toronto town.

Still, the Australians have produced one American Hockey League player, Nathan Walker of the American Hockey League’s Hershey Bears. Walker played in nine National Hockey League games last year, seven for the Washington Capitals, two with the Edmonton Oilers. The country has also placed quite a few junior hockey players in North America, including 1999-born Tyrone Bronte, a forward who’s scored three goals in four games this season for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights in his first season in the North American Hockey League; Findlay Wood, a 1999 forward with the NAHL’s Kenai River Brown Bears; and Bayley Kubara, 1998 defenseman playing the Eastern Hockey League for the North Carolina Golden Bears.

Other Australian players sprinkled across the U.S. and Canadian junior and youth hockey footprint are:

Alexander Wardlaw, 1999, defenseman, Boston Jr. Rangers, EHL

Jeremy Vasquez, 2000, forward, Seahawks Hockey, EHL

James Downie, 1999, goalie, Meijer AAA, North American Prospects Hockey League

Julian Fodor, 2000, forward, Kamloops Storm, Kootenay International Junior Hockey League

Sean McLean, 1998, forward, Great Falls Americans, North American 3 Hockey League

Declan Bronte, 2002, defenseman, New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs, Tier 1 Elite Hockey League

Arthur Wang, 2002, defenseman, Schomberg Cougars, Provincial Junior Hockey League

Brayden Martin, 1998, forward, Lake Tahoe Icemen, Western States Hockey League

Connor Lee, 2001, forward, Steele County Blades, United States Premier Hockey League-Premier

Connor Schultz, forward, 2002, Delta Hockey Academy

Ethan Hawes, 2002, defenseman, Everett Jr. Silvertips, North American Prospects Hockey League

Lachlan Fahmy, 1999, defenseman, South Shore Kings, USPHL-Premier

Aaron Grubb, 1998, forward, Seaforth Generals, Canadian Premier Junior Hockey League

Australia’s national junior team will play in the 2019 IIHF Division III U20 Junior World Championship in Reykjavik, Iceland, in January. Tryouts and training camp for the tournament will be held from Nov. 6 through Dec. 11.

David Ruck, who previously coached the Perth Thunder of the Australian Ice Hockey League, will be behind the bench. It’s his first year as head coach of the national team. Ruck, who grew up in Australia but was born in British Columbia, where he played in the late 1980s, will be looking for a vast improvement over last year’s team. That squad won one game in regulation, one in overtime, and lost three in regulation to finish in fifth place out of six teams.

Kuwait ice hockey players gears up for winter sports

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By Ramona Crasto – Kuwait Times

As the news of the Falcons winning an amateur Hong Kong tournament reached Kuwait, Fuhaid Al-Ajmi, a former ice hockey player and current President of the Kuwait Winter Games Club, reminisced about the first international tournament where Kuwait left an international imprint – a tournament in Glasgow in 1993.

Since then, it has been a journey filled with trophies and lessons on how to do better in the next game. After rejoining the International Ice Hockey Federation in 1999, the national ice hockey team of Kuwait made their international debut at the Asian Winter Games, where although they lost, they did not lose hope. Kuwait was the first Arab country to raise its flag at the Asian Winter Games.

“All the members of the Winter Sports Club are former ice hockey players, so we understand the needs of players and do our best to provide them with all the equipment and training necessary. I retired in 2000. When we played back in the 90s, we lacked support, although we do not blame our losses on anyone but ourselves. We wish we had more support, so we hope to provide the players with as much assistance as possible,” Ajmi told Kuwait Times.

“After the win at the Hong Kong invitational amateur ice hockey tournament, we will try to use this title to improve and establish new winter games in Kuwait. The club has already started five such games, namely, ice hockey for both men and women, figure skating, curling, skiing and speed skating,” Ajmi added.

After recently acquiring full membership at the IIHF, Kuwait will be able to vote in the elections of the governing body and the selection of the countries that bid to host world championships. “We’ve pledged to make things easier and better for the upcoming generations participating in these sports. We recently opened a school for ice hockey for kids aged from 4 to 14, who were sent to Sweden for training,” said Vice President Khaled Al-Mutairi.

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In 1992, Kuwait was expelled from the IIHF due to lack of activity. Since then, Kuwait has hosted the Arab Cup as well as the Challenge Cup of Asia, where Kuwait came in 2nd and 4th place respectively. “When we first started playing after the invasion, we didn’t have proper uniforms, gear or equipment to play in. Surely, the sports scene was different back then compared to how it is now. We now have a completely equipped club with a rink to practice, gym to maintain fitness, which is very important in sports, and the latest gear ready to use according to age and size,” Mutairi added.

Russia to host 2023 ice hockey world championship:

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By  Tass Russian News Agency

Russia will host the IIHF World Championship in 2023, the first vice-president of the Russian Ice Hockey Federation, Roman Rotenberg, has told TASS.

“Everything has been decided. The three federations have come to an agreement. Russia’s St. Petersburg will host the World Championship in 2023, the Czech Republic, in 2024 and Sweden, in 2025,” Rotenberg said.

The decision was made at the IIHF’s semiannual congress in Malta. The official announcement St. Petersburg will host the World Championship will be made at the annual IIHF Congress in Bratislava during next year’s world tournament.

Earlier, the president of St. Petersburg’s club of the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) SKA, Gennady Timchenko, said that the world’s largest ice hockey stadium would be built in St. Petersburg by 2023. He estimated the project’s costs at no less than 20 billion.

Also in 2023 Russia will host the IIHF Ice Hockey World Junior Championship (WJC, or World Juniors) for national under-20 teams. It will be held in Novosibirsk. In 2000 St. Petersburg hosted the world championship for the first time and in 2016 it shared that honor with Moscow. It will be an eighth world championship to be held in Russia. The previous ones were in Moscow in 1957, 1973, 1979, 1886 and 2007.

How one Georgian family built a national ice hockey league

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By Bradley Jardine, Neil Hauer – Eurasianet

Despite material disadvantages, Georgia’s hockey team is moving up the charts.

“That’s where we broke the window,” says Mikheil Davitashvili, a defenseman and general manager of Georgia’s national ice hockey team, pointing to a puck-shaped hole 7 meters above. “As you can probably tell, this isn’t a convenient place to train professionally.”

The team currently practices at an old Soviet figure-skating school. The rink is smaller than a standard hockey rink, with no boards along the side – so limited checking – and the team has to bring its own net, a self-assembly version normally reserved for pond hockey matches. Hockey rinks should have safety barriers on the side, but this facility doesn’t, so during one slap-shot practice an errant puck flew out of the rink.

Despite these material disadvantages, Georgia’s hockey team is on the rise.

This past April, at the 2018 International Ice-hockey Federation (IIHF) Division III World Championship in South Africa, Georgia delivered convincing victories over Turkey, Bulgaria, Hong Kong and Chinese Taipei, falling only to the hosts. The performance won Georgia gold and earned the team a promotion to Division II for the next season – an impressive result for a team that played its first IIHF match only five years ago.

“We’ve achieved so much with so little,” Davitashvili says. “And now the government is finally starting to take notice.” The authorities have promised a new professional-standard ice hockey stadium in Tbilisi this year, he says – a change he thinks will revolutionize the sport. “At the moment we’re stuck with this place.” 

Much of Georgia’s hockey success is due to Davitashvili and his uncle, Denis Davidov, an amateur ice hockey player in Soviet Georgia who introduced his nephew to the sport at an early age. Now, at just 26, Davitashvili is unusually young to be the team’s general manager – a role usually reserved for people twice his age.

The substandard rink is only one of the obstacles the team is overcoming. Attracting sponsors has also proved difficult, with the players often working unpaid.

“We have returned from the World Cup as champions, but still, unfortunately, I have not paid any money to the boys yet,” says Ilia Davidov (no relation to Denis), president of the Georgian Ice Hockey Federation. “I am very ashamed.”

Ice hockey stadiums were relatively widespread in the USSR, and though it was never a major sport in Georgia, Tbilisi at least had a stadium and a local league. Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, however, Tbilisi’s stadium fell into disrepair and was eventually torn down.

Despite this, Denis Davidov and Lasha Tsagareishvili, two amateur enthusiasts, started playing hockey again in the late ‘90s. In 2004, they founded the Georgian Ice Hockey Federation – the governing body of ice hockey in the country – laying the groundwork for Georgia’s accession to the IIHF five years later.

“My interest in the sport began because of my uncle,” Davitashvili says. “He was so passionate about it and got me started back in 2004. I’ll always be grateful to him for that.”

But disaster struck. Weeks after getting Georgia accepted into the IIHF, Tsagareishvili and Denis Davidov were killed in a road accident. The sport would have to wait.

It wasn’t until 2014 that Davitashvili would take his uncle’s mantle and Georgia’s national team would mark its international debut in the third division. Their first opponent: North Korea.

They didn’t expect victory, but the scale of the beat-down was disheartening. Pyongyang scored six times in the first period en route to a 22-1 victory. It was an inauspicious start.

That same year, Georgia was defeated by three of the four lowest-rated teams in the world rankings, but Davitashvili puts this down to growing pains.

“We had barely practiced as we were all working full-time jobs,” he recalls. “Obviously, we lost all the matches.”

But Georgian hockey is growing. Today, there are over 500 players registered in the country, although all are amateurs and they include chefs, accountants and CEOs. The national league now includes four teams across the country: Fiery Crusaders, Grey Wolves, Ice Knights and Mimino.

The country also will send its first player abroad to train this fall: 18-year-old Temuri Vedyapin recently signed with the Maniwaki Mustangs of the Canadian Premier Junior Hockey League (CPJHL). While the CPJHL is a new and untested junior league, it aims to train players for collegiate programs in the United States, from where professional players are regularly drafted, and so represents a significant milestone for Georgian hockey.

Funding is still an issue. In 2015, the Georgian league began receiving its first government financial support – it had been supporting itself for nearly 11 years. But players complain that their team gets only 80,000 Georgian lari ($32,720) a year, compared to the national volleyball federation’s 500,000 lari ($204,500). (Georgia’s Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs declined to comment.)

That money doesn’t go far. “We paid 63,000 lari on flights alone for the championships in South Africa,” Ilia Davidov, the president, says.

The lack of training venues also presents difficulties, with professional training only possible in Batumi, Kutaisi and the ski resort town of Bakuriani.

“The stadium in Bakuriani is standard size, but as an outdoor stadium it’s only active for a few months a year,” Davitashvili explains. “Batumi has the best rink, but it’s 400 kilometers away.” Some members of the team practice abroad, in Finland, Germany and other countries, but this isn’t financially viable for everyone.

Although ice hockey is beginning to reach Georgian youth, the price to enter the sport is still prohibitively high for a country with an average monthly income of about $400.

“The cost to equip one player is about $1,500, and a goalkeeper costs $3,700,” Davitashvili says. “Bad equipment can be dangerous. When we played in Abu Dhabi our equipment was such bad quality that when a puck hit our goalkeeper’s hand, it broke his fingers.”

Challenges aside, Davitashvili is confident the sport’s popularity in Georgia will only grow from here: “It’s like my uncle used to say: Either you like ice hockey, or you are wrong.”

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