Year: 2018 (page 1 of 20)

Jeglic suspended 8 months

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By IIHF.com

Slovenian national team player Ziga Jeglic receives an eight-month suspension due to his anti-doping violation at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games following the final decision of the Court of Arbitration for Sport Anti-doping Division (CAS ADD).

Jeglic was initially suspended on 20th February 2018 during the 2018 Olympic Winter Games by the CAS ADD. He was tested positive after a game with fenoterol, a beta-2 agonist and specified substance prohibited under section S3 of the 2018 WADA Prohibited List.

The athlete accepted an anti-doping rule violation and left the Olympic Winter Games. At a hearing he stated that he ingested the prohibited substance during the warm-up leading to the game against the Olympic Athletes from Russia on 16 February, after which he was tested positive and that it was an ingredient in an asthma inhaler prescribed to him by the team doctor. However, no Therapeutic Use Exemption had been requested, which would have avoided the doping case, and the use of the inhalator was not indicated on the doping control form.

The athlete voluntarily accepted a provisional suspension as of 20th February 2018 up to the date of the final decision on his sanction and has not played and practiced since.

The IIHF filed its request to the CAS ADD seeking a period of ineligibility of eight months. It cannot be established that the athlete intentionally committed the anti-doping rule violation and the IIHF follows the opinion expressed by the IOC during the procedure that there was no significant fault or negligence. The athlete requested a period of ineligibility of no more than four months.

According to the so-called Cilic guidelines established by the CAS in earlier cases, the degree of fault on the athlete’s part falls into the light degree of fault.

In the final award the Sole Arbitrator of the CAS ADD agrees that it was a case of light degree of fault or negligence but that it is to note that athletes may not “hide” behind mistakes of their doctors or other members of their entourage and that the medical staff must have known that the asthma inhaler contained a prohibited substance and should have sought a Therapeutic Use Exemption.

The Sole Arbitrator accepts that the period of eight month is reasonable and therefore a period ineligibility of eight months is imposed upon the athlete served since 20th February 2018.

Valentine Maka: Growing Women’s Hockey in Belgium

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Valentine Maka plays for the Belgium National Team and endeavors
to grow the game of women’s hockey in her homeland

By Nathaniel Oliver – The Hockey Writers

Belgium has never been known as a hockey hotbed. For women and girls especially, it is incredibly difficult to even obtain opportunities to play the game. Great strides have certainly been made in the North American leagues, the NWHL and CWHL – we still have a ways to go, but “Grow the Game” is as strong as it has ever been.

But, with the possible exceptions of Sweden, Finland and Russia, you have to recognize too that there is a level of disparity between those aforementioned leagues and countries, when compared to a smaller nation such as Belgium. An immense passion – one that is often encompassed by some hardship as well – needs to be had in order to play the sport regularly and to stick with it. For the Belgian players who love the game, they make due. Thanks to a young player – Valentine (Val) Maka – there is at least a strong flame to keep the passion burning for players in her country.

“It’s gonna sound really cliché,” Maka told THW, “but on a school night the movie The Mighty Ducks was on TV and it held my attention. Furthermore, my mom used to play hockey, so she took me to watch some games. And right after the first game that I saw I told her, ‘That’s it mom – I wanna do it too!’ And that’s pretty much how my hockey journey all started.”

THW spoke with Maka at length so that we could get a better sense of what women’s hockey in Belgium is all about, and so that we could spotlight a player who is certainly turning some heads in her own region. Perhaps she may even catch the attention of one of the professional leagues.

Starting the Game Later Than Most

What is rather impressive to note is that Maka has not be playing hockey for very long. At the time of this interview, she is all of 23 years old and has many years left to play. In most instances though, perhaps especially in North America, a hockey player might start skating before they are even in kindergarten, and then eventually begin playing organized hockey once they reach grade school ages. In the case of Maka though, she did not begin playing until much later.

“I actually wanted to start playing when I was seven,” she explained, “but I couldn’t.  So, I started to play hockey around the age of 15. I guess it’s never too late to start when you really wanna do something.”

Since that time hockey has carried her quite far. Consider if you will that even though she began playing at 15, Maka has already played for the Belgian national team in six different IIHF Women’s World Championship tournaments. Not only is that a testament to how she has progressed as a player, but it confirms her aforementioned statement of how badly she wanted to play. It is rather profound to go from being a novice teenager to representing your country.

Like many hockey lovers, Maka finds inspiration from today’s contemporary stars from both the men’s and the women’s sides. Particularly in women’s hockey, she recognizes that the premier faces in the game are able to cross borders and encourage young players from a wide variety of nations.

Asked which players she admires, Maka responded with the following:

“Ovi for sure. Ovechkin will always be my favorite player because of how talented he is but also because he brings so much to his team as a teammate. But also, I would want to talk about Hilary Knight. This woman is incredible! First, I like the way she spreads her love for hockey. Then, for the fact that she is the first female skater practicing with NHL players – wow! What inspires me the most is how she sees women in sport, in general. She fights for the equality of women in hockey. And I think this is amazing. I wish I could have as much impact on the hockey world here in Belgium than she does in the hockey world in general. She is just amazing!”

From Belgium to Canada and Back Again

Belgium is a nation with a population of over 11 million people. Many will know the names of the larger cities in the country, such as Brussels or Antwerp. Outside of the larger cities though, other areas of Belgium are not well known in North America. Maka hails from one of those smaller parts of her country. For any hockey players who may have grown up in small towns among the Canadian plains, you might be able to feel some common ground with her.

“I lived in a small village called Fraire all of my childhood,” Maka recalled. “Not much to do around there. But as it’s a small town, people are close to each other and caring. I used to just go to school, hang with my friends from school, play in the backyard with them. It was a quiet and nice childhood. I used to see my friends a lot. It was the childhood where kids still went and played outside, and didn’t go on their smartphone or on their tablets. It used to be the ‘we are going to take our bike to go to the farm and pet the cows’ sort of childhood. It was just great. I also used to do karate, ballet and horseback riding. So I had never been involved in any team sport before hockey.”

Shortly after Maka began playing hockey, she had the opportunity to travel and play the game in one of the most hockey-passionate cities in Canada. If nothing else, it only fueled her love for hockey even more. Her commitment to the game in her own country was accentuated tenfold.

“After graduating from high school in Belgium,” Maka recalled, “I went to Winnipeg, Manitoba for a year where I was in an exchange program. I went to high school there and graduated again. I had the opportunity to play hockey there. I played for the school, Oak Park High School. I was a member of the Oak Park Raiders for an entire season. Then when I came back to Belgium, my mom moved to another city, where I still live, called Liège .”

Playing the Game in Belgium

Follow closely to what Maka says about the rather limited opportunities she has to play the sport she loves in her homeland. Her own commitment to a sport with very limited opportunities at home seems to echo her own sentiments about what Knight has been able to achieve. It may also make you feel thankful for your own hockey opportunities.

“It’s actually not that easy to play hockey in Belgium when you are a girl because you don’t have too many options,” Maka explained. “Back when I was 15, to be able to play hockey I had to go to Charleroi. This is the closest city from the town, which is maybe a 30-minute drive. I had to play with guys because there weren’t any girls hockey teams. When I joined the team there were four girls, including me. Two years later I was the only one left.”

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Valentine Maka cherishes every opportunity she has had to
represent her country on the international hockey stage

While she still plays on boys teams from time to time, Maka has been playing with a women’s team – Grizzlys Liège – since she returned from Canada. For many years it was the lone Belgian women’s team, and the squad competes in a German women’s league in order to participate in league play and compete for a championship. You make do with what opportunities you have.

Maka explained, “The thing is now in 2018 we have two girls hockey teams in Belgium. Only two. And those two teams have to play in a German league to be able to have a championship. That’s the reality. Otherwise you have to play with the boys – something I’ve done all my hockey career, and that I’m still doing. So no, there aren’t a lot of opportunities to play in Belgium for girls. Because you need to know that ice hockey is not famous here. Just a few people know about ice hockey in Belgium.”

A Look at Grizzly Liège

For the 2017-18 season, Maka led the Grizzlys Liège in goal scoring, and finished second on the team in points. Her 24 goals in 15 games were the second most in the entire league behind the Hannover Indians’ Bettina Evers’ 26 tallies. Maka’s 37 points tied her for the fourth highest total across the league. The compositions of both the Grizzly Liège team and this lower-tiered German league as a whole are rather interesting.

“We’re a team with a lot of new girls who recently started to play hockey, mixed with some girls who have played for more than 10 or 15 years now. We have two girls from the Belgium national team, and one girl who used to play for France’s national U18 team. So you can either have a high school girl or a woman who works and has kids. I think the fact that all the girls are so much different makes the team even stronger. This team is actually a family – a family that I’m proud being a member of.”

The Grizzly Liège has played in the Germany-3 League for two years straight. In each of those years, Maka and her teammates were runners up for the championship. Likewise, The Grizzly Liège is the only non-German team in their division, named the Landesliga NRW division. The level that Maka and her team are presently playing at is something that she hopes to see improve as time goes on.

“It’s not the worst, but not the best,” she said when asked about the Germany-3 League. “To be honest, I would want to play in a higher division. To be more challenging and to use more hockey sense in order to ask more of everything you currently know. I want the team to be better, to push harder. But as we all grow together, it will demand time and passion.”

Playing for the Belgian National Team

Separate from Grizzly Liège, Maka has represented Belgium on the women’s national team at six different IIHF tournaments. Her first four were at the Women’s Worlds Division IIB championships from 2012 through 2015. While Maka would go scoreless playing in all five games at each tournament, Belgium would stave off relegation until the 2015 tournament. Having the opportunity to play for her country is something Maka is understandably quite proud of:

“First of all, it’s an honor! But really, there are no words. It is just the best feeling. It is incredible to be able to wear the Belgium colors. It is something that I am proud of, and that I will always be proud of.”

Since those first tournaments, Maka has since competed in two Division II qualification tournaments. Individually she has played quite well too. At the 2017 qualification tournament in Chinese Tapei (Taiwan), she scored her first two goals in international play. Belgium would finish in second place at the tournament, while Maka was one of six players to score at least two goals for Belgium in their four qualifying games. In the most recent 2018 qualification tournament, she scored three goals in four games and finished as a plus-5. Two of Maka’s goals came during a 9-0 shellacking of Bulgaria in their first game of the tournament.

The only unfortunate aspect is that in neither instance did Belgium win the qualification tournaments and advance back into the Division IIB tourney. They narrowly missed out by finishing in second place in both 2017 and 2018. Outcomes aside, her international experiences are something Maka places the utmost value upon.

“I have two favorite moments that I will always cherish,” she said. “The first one was the first time I got to sing the national anthem at Worlds with my teammates and all of us lined up. What a great memory! And the second, is the feeling I had when I scored my very first goal at Worlds.”

That first international goal of Maka’s came during an 8-1 victory over the Republic of South Africa at the 2017 qualifiers.

Possibility of Playing Professionally

Along with her ability to score and generate offense, Maka’s best attributes are her work ethic and her character. She plays at her best while under pressure and when confronted with adversity. This has a lot to do with how she has stuck with the sport she loves, despite any difficulties that could have potentially dissuaded her.

“I am hard worker who loves challenges,” Maka shared. “I will never give up – no matter what. And I think that’s what makes me a strong player. Because when it gets hard, that’s when you need to keep on trying, pushing and believing!”

Perhaps there is a CWHL team or an NWHL team who would be willing to give Maka a shot? She is in her early-20s and has completed her studies. What better way to grow and support the women’s game than by providing opportunities to players overseas. Heading into the 2018-19 NWHL season, there have already been a couple European signings with the first Czech (Katerina Mrázová, Connecticut Whale) and first Swedish player (Michelle Löwenhielm, Connecticut Whale) to join the league. Given the right set of circumstances, perhaps an offer should be extended to Maka. It’s certainly something that she has thought about.

“I have,” she said when asked about the possibility of playing pro hockey. “The thing is that I’ve never had the opportunity to do so… yet. I was always focused on my studies, but I have a psychology degree now. I guess being able to play pro would be my biggest goal and also my biggest dream.”

Teams ought to take note and consider contacting this young lady. She would not disappoint.

Israeli-born Levin pursuing NHL dream

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By Dhiren Mahiban – IIHF.com

David Levin was playing more inline than ice hockey at home in Israel until he moved to Canada as a 13-year-old. Despite a setback at the NHL Entry Draft the 18-year-old from Tel Aviv has big dreams.

Levin will be the first to tell you his third season with the Ontario Hockey League’s Sudbury Wolves didn’t go as planned.

Levin was limited to 46 games where he scored 14 goals and 15 assists down from the 53 points he produced in 66 games the previous season and his Wolves missed the playoffs for the fourth time in five seasons.

Levin was also passed over at the recent NHL draft.

“That wasn’t my best season, you guys can see the results,” Levin said. “I didn’t want that to happen, I’m only 18-years-old and I have a lot ahead of me so I’m going to keep working hard and see where I’m going to get.”

Born in Tel Aviv, Israel, Levin’s first foray into hockey was inline hockey near his home town.

“It was really hard (to find ice time), especially because it’s really hot outside back home so you’ve got to play outside on the roller rink,” Levin explained. “My dad was my coach for the first 12 years and he took care of me.”

Levin’s father, Pavel, was a professional football player in his home country of Latvia while his mother, Lena, hails from Russia.

“My dad was a soccer player back in Latvia, Riga,” Levin said. “Back in Latvia, in the winter, they play ice hockey so he knew about (the game). When he moved to Israel, he needed a job so he opened a roller rink and that’s where everything started for me.”

Levin discovered NHL highlights of Sidney Crosby on YouTube and began asking his parents to move to Canada as a nine-year-old so he could pursue his own NHL dream. His parents finally relented when Levin was 13 allowing him to move to the Toronto suburb of Richmond Hill, Ontario with is aunt and uncle Alla and Yafim Tovberg.

“When I was nine, I asked my parents if I can move, they said I’m too young (still), I still had to grow up a bit,” Levin recalled. “Three years later, I asked them again and my dad said, ‘Yeah, you can try’ and my mom said that too. I moved here and everything started at the Hill Academy.”

A private high school in Concord, Ontario, the Hill Academy focuses on student-athletes. That’s where Levin first met Lindsay Hofford. Now a scout with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Hofford helped Levin translate his roller hockey skills to the ice.

“He was a lot for me, he helped me a lot, he took care of me, he was like my second dad,” Levin said. “He was my coach for two years too so he improved me a lot.”

Levin’s showed enough improvement in his game over the following three years that the Sudbury Wolves used the first overall pick to select him at the 2015 OHL Priority Selection.

However, since making the jump to the OHL, Levin’s skating has failed to make the necessary strides to see him selected in the NHL draft.

“To me, his skating stalled in his second year in the OHL, there wasn’t as much jump,” said ISS Hockey scout Ben Gallant. “It was pretty poor as a 16-year-old and then got better, but it didn’t get explosive or anything in his 18-year-old season, this past season. It hasn’t gotten better.

“It’s definitely more like a roller hockey stride where he’s very wide-legged, especially when he’s carrying the puck over the line because he comes from the history. He doesn’t have any quick cuts on his turns or anything like that.”

As a native of Israel it is a requirement for Levin to serve in the military upon turning 18. The 5-foot-10, 180-pound winger has already received a deferment on his military duties previously, but is currently seeking another deferment so he can continue his hockey career.

“Going to try to get it right now, but right now I’m trying focus on hockey, not on the army,” Levin said. “I think it’s better to be here than in the army.

“When you’re 18, you’ve got to join until 21 so if I go back, my (hockey) career is over so I’m going to stay here.”

Levin’s agency is currently working on keeping their client on the ice.

“It’s a process,” said agent Ryan Barnes. “There’s still some things to happen, but obviously it’s kind of in a holding pattern right now, and going through the proper process with the people at the Israeli consulate and we’ll go from there.”

Avoiding his military service would be helped by having his Canadian citizenship, a process Barnes is also working on. Although not having the passport with the maple leaf yet, Levin had it on one time on his jersey when he participated in the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge for Canada Black.

“It’s something that would probably make things a lot easier for him,” Barnes said. “Obviously there’s a process to go through with the Canadian government as well.

“It’s been on-going here for almost two years now with us trying to get that for him. We’re working hard at it, but these things take time.”

Despite the issues with his skating, Levin showed enough in his three OHL seasons to earn multiple invites to NHL development camps following the draft and agreed to join the Maple Leafs.

“He’s training in the offseason in Toronto, and it’s kind of an adopted hometown team for David,” said Barnes. “When we made him aware of his opportunities, he immediately picked the Leafs to attend development camp.”

Levin’s connection with Hofford also helped his decision.

During his time at Leafs development camp Levin has spent extended time working with skating development consultant Barb Underhill and player development consultant Darryl Belfry.

“(Belfry) just tried to help me on my skating,” said Levin. “They know that’s my weakness and he’s a really good coach on skating so he helped me a lot.”

If things don’t workout with the Leafs, Levin already has other options.

“He could sign a free agent contract,” Barnes said. “There’s a window that opens up in September for free agents, but right now, David is at the Leafs development camp and then it’s expected in September that he will be attending the Traverse City NHL prospects tournament with the Carolina Hurricanes.”

While pursing his own NHL dream, Levin is also trying to get his younger brother Michael to join him in Canada. The 13-year-old has already received offers from the Vaughan Kings and Toronto Junior Canadiens of the Greater Toronto Hockey League.

“Obviously when you’re making the decision, Michael, I believe he’s an ‘05, it’s still pretty young for a 13-year-old boy,” said Barnes. “It’s kind of the same year David did come over, but it’s still awfully young to send a 13-year-old child anywhere in the world so that’s still up in the air whether he’s going to follow in his brother’s footsteps this year or a little bit further down the road.”

Team Canada prepares for World Junior Showcase in Kamloops

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By Adam Donnelly – CFJC Today

They say death and taxes are the only two certainties in life, but when you live in Canada, there’s a third: hockey. This week in Kamloops the third is on display, with some of the best under-20 hockey players in the world in town. It’s the world junior showcase. The first step in Team Canada’s journey to the 2019 World Junior Tournament in Vancouver and Victoria.

It’s been almost eight months since Alex Formenton last donned the Maple Leaf. He was on the ice in the dying seconds as Team Canada captured the 2018 World Junior Hockey Championship, defeating Sweden by a 2-1 score.

“I just remember getting the opportunity to pick up the puck in the neutral zone,” Formenton said with a big smile. “The whole tournament was memorable, just being with a great group of guys.”

As one of the few returning players from that team, Formenton will be looked at to lead this young team heading into 2018 World Junior Showcase, set to kick off tonight at the Sandman Centre.

“I just try and model my game after the leaders who lead by example,” Formenton said. “I’m not a real vocal guy, but I want to lead by example on the ice and try and help out my teammates as much as I can.”

One of those young players getting his first look at the national U20 program is Vancouver Canucks 2018 2nd round draft pick Jett Woo, who says he’s coming to the event ready to learn.

“For myself, being such a young player and young prospect, the biggest thing for me is to keep my eyes open,” Woo said. “If I think that I’m good now, there’s so much more I can do.”

For Woo, the transition to the National program from his major junior club should be a little easier, as his head coach with Moose Jaw Warriors, Tim Hunter is at the helm of the Team Canada for the showcase and the 2019 World Junior championships.

“He was a pretty gritty player and a hard-working player,” Woo said. “Those are the things I’ve been able to pick up from him: hard work and compete level.”

Hunter played 16 seasons in the NHL, and was known for his grit and toughness on the ice; he knows he’s got to let his team find their own identity in this event.

“The team is going to have its own identity, Hunter told media. “It’s us making sure the players buy into writing our own story, writing our own identity and being who we are.”

With only three returning players at to the summer showcase event, he’s embraced the possibility he could have a young team heading into the 2019 World Junior Championships.

“Some of the best players here are 2000 [born players]. Always, an older team is a better team, but there’s a lot of good 2000’s in Canada, and we have quite a few here, especially on defence,” Hunter said. “At the end of the day, we’re going to take our best players. The players that can play the style we want, and whether they’re [born in] ’99 or 2000, it doesn’t matter.”

Hughes, projected No. 1 pick at 2019 NHL Draft, happy with USA Hockey

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By Mike G. Morreale – NHL.com

Jack Hughes, projected by many as the No. 1 pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, never wavered in his decision to continue his playing career at USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program this season.

Hughes (5-foot-10, 166 pounds), a center, had 116 points (40 goals, 76 assists) with the U-17 and U-18 NTDP teams last season, one point shy of tying Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews for the single-season point record (117) set during his U-18 season in 2014-15. Hughes had 68 points (27 goals, 41 assists) in 36 games for the U-18.

“I just felt like the NTDP was the best spot for my development,” Hughes said. “I love my teammates, my coaches, the resources and love being able to put on the USA jersey. I tell everyone no one trains as hard as us at the NTDP. We’re working out in-season, skating four times a week, and playing games on top of that.”

Hughes, 17, had the option of joining his brother, defenseman Quintin Hughes, at the University of Michigan. Quintin Hughes, 18, selected by the Vancouver Canucks in the first round (No. 7) of the 2018 NHL Draft, decided Saturday to return to Michigan for his sophomore season.

“I knew the NTDP was a great spot, and Michigan was a great spot as well,” Jack Hughes said. “Quinn had really good success there and anytime I have a chance to play with Quinn it’s really appealing. I took that into consideration, but I think the NTDP was the best spot.”

Jack and Quintin are representing the United States at the World Junior Summer Showcase this week at Sandman Centre. The first round of cuts by USA Hockey is scheduled for Wednesday.

“I talked to him a bit before I made my decision to go back [to Michigan],” Quintin Hughes said. “Michigan worked for me, but that doesn’t mean it would ultimately work for him. If you’re a good enough player, no matter where you go, you’ll find your way.”

United States general manager John Vanbiesbrouck wasn’t surprised by Jack’s decision.

“He saw his bother go through a process and is content working on his game and developing as a player,” Vanbiesbrouck said. “There’s a great opportunity for him moving forward wearing the red, white and blue. We hope we keep him into it for a long time.”

NHL’s first full-Chinese draft Zachary Yuen eyes 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics

By Andrew McNicol – South China Post

The Vancouver-born trailblazer wants to play for China’s national men’s team when the mainland hosts the next Winter Olympics in four years’ time

China’s ice hockey team will get a huge boost for Beijing 2022 – the nation’s first-ever Winter Olympics – after Vancouver-born trailblazer Zachary Yuen announced his intentions to vie for a spot.

The 25-year-old defenceman, whose father is from Hong Kong and mother from Guangdong Province, made history seven years ago by becoming the first player of Chinese descent to be drafted into the National Hockey League (NHL).

“To play for Team China at the Winter Olympics is one of my main goals,” said Yuen, who was drafted by the Winnipeg Jets in 2011 before ending up in Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League with Chinese outfit HC Kunlun Red Star.

“It’s still a few years down the road but a lot of people are excited for it – China is a huge market and there has been a lot of interest in the sport and a lot of help from the government to promote it.”

The International Ice Hockey Federation confirmed in May it would allow home nation China to enter a men’s and women’s ice hockey team for 2022 without prior qualification, similar to South Korea’s participation in the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.

China is currently ranked 33rd in the world for men’s, and 20th for women’s. Chinese women’s team Shenzhen Kunlun Red Star recently finished second in the Canadian Women’s Ice Hockey League, a national best in an international top-tier league.

Yuen and his Kunlun teammates are currently spending pre-season in Czech Republic before they welcome the new season in Russia. Playing in the world’s second best league has its drawbacks, however.

“It’s the biggest league in the world in terms of area that you need to cover – 20-something teams over seven countries and eight time-zones,” said Yuen. “Usually our schedule is we play three or four games at home, then three or four games and back on the road again … it’s like having continuous jetlag.”

But having already made a name for himself in North America, Yuen felt signing with the Red Stars perfectly aligned with his desire to develop the sport in the Far East.

“Having Chinese descent and being the first to get drafted into the NHL, I thought it would be a good opportunity to grow the sport in Asia. Hockey is fairly undeveloped in China,” said Yuen, who also became the first Chinese player to score in the KHL in 2016 and the league Play-offs in 2017.

“After I was drafted there were a lot of fans on the message boards in China congratulating me. At the time I didn’t know there were so many people following hockey over there, but now I’ve come to China to play, the fan base has grown and now they can see me play in person – that’s pretty cool.”

With a population approaching 1.4 billion – and a mainland government hungry to improve their one gold, nine medal tally from Pyeongchang this year – China’s ice hockey potential is endless.

Yet Kunlun Red Star is the only active professional Chinese team and there is just a handful of male talent in Andong Song (the first Chinese-born player to be drafted into the NHL), Rudi Ying (the first Chinese-born KHL player), Joshua Ho-Sang (the highest NHL draft pick of Chinese descent) and highly-touted teen Jett Wu, a fresh 2018 NHL Draft pick by Vancouver Canucks.

Yuen added that there are a two Chinese teams playing in the Russian second-tier, a junior team based out of Harbin, and “tonnes in the recreational leagues”.

“Not looking at the records, it’s just cool to see what’s happening with hockey in China, especially among the kids. Whenever I go back to Vancouver I see a lot of Chinese kids at the rink – when I was growing up I was the only one.

“There were no idols for me growing up because there was no Chinese player at that level. Some of them now look up to me and it’s good to set an example, whether it’s sport, school or personality,” Yuen added.

As NHL chief Steve Mayer said at a Shenzhen press conference ahead of the Boston Bruins v Calgary Flames exhibition game earlier this week: “We understand [hockey in China is] a gradual growth and not something that will happen overnight. The key is the youth … if you start developing a kid now, our scouts will have their eyes open wherever 14 to 17-year-olds are playing.”

Rebrand for Czech Ice Hockey reflects national identity

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By Dariya Subkhanberdina – Transform Magazine

 

Ice hockey, the Czech Republic’s national sport, has been embedded in Czech culture for over 100 years. In preparation for the upcoming season, the governing body of ice hockey in the Czech Republic and one of the founding members of the International Ice Hockey Federation, Czech Ice Hockey, has partnered with Prague-based design agency Go4Gold to unveil a new name as well as introduce a dynamic visual identity.

As a hallmark of Czech modern national identity, Czech Ice Hockey, formerly known as the Czech Ice Hockey Association, represents and regulates both the men’s and women’s national ice hockey teams. After 110 years of representing the Czech Republic in international competitions, the redesign has been long overdue.

The former logo employed the flag of the Czech Republic as the focal point of its design, but the new logo, designed by Czech logo designer Tomas Vachuda, uses the country’s official symbol – the lion – for inspiration. Based on the colours of the Czech national flag, the logo sports red, white and blue and features grey shading to resemble the colour of ice. Mirroring the Czech coat of arms, the lion wears a crown, and the six tips in the lion’s mane embody the six hockey players on the ice. The lion’s mouth hides a tiny hockey puck, while the shape of its eye pays tribute to the Štvanice Island in Prague, where Czechoslovakia won its first world title in 1947.

In contrast to the former logo, an image of a hockey stick reflecting a Czech flag on the ice, the redesign is a more distinct and straightforward visual as well as conceptual expression of the Czech Republic’s relationship with ice hockey. As the Americanization of European sports logos grows more popular, European organizations are following suit and testing what works and what doesn’t. By redesigning its brand, Czech Ice Hockey triumphs in maintaining a sense of national heritage while adopting a bright and modern visual identity.

As a self-contained unit, the lion head functions as an adaptable icon that can be featured across a variety of mediums. The new logo has already been unveiled through marketing tools  such as merchandise that hockey fans can wear in support of the team and eye-catching advertisements that feature duotone gradient action photos.

Kannok Leipert excited about making history at NHL draft

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By Greg Harder – Regina Leader-Post

Alex Kannok Leipert, who was born in Thailand but lives in Regina, is the latest player from the Regina area to be drafted by the Washington Capitals.

It’s believed that the 17-year-old defenceman became the first Thai-born player to be selected in the NHL draft when he was chosen by the Washington Capitals, who traded up to pick him in the sixth round (161st overall).

It’s quite an accomplishment for the youngster, who gravitated to hockey after he moved to Regina at age five.

“I saw something (online) saying I was the first one,” said Kannok Leipert, a member of the WHL’s Vancouver Giants. “I’ve asked around a little bit but I haven’t heard anything (suggesting otherwise). It’s pretty cool. If I didn’t move to Canada it wouldn’t be this way.

“The outpouring of support has been unreal. I just want to thank everyone who has helped get me to this position.”

Although Thailand is not a traditional hockey market, the sport has grown in popularity over the past few years. It now features at least two competitive leagues as well as a national men’s team and women’s team that compete in lower level international competitions like the Asian Games.

“They’re starting to pick up hockey a lot so it’s pretty cool,” said Kannok Leipert, who visits family in Thailand every couple of years. “I went and practised with their international team last summer. It’s getting pretty big there now. They’re starting to put up rinks and things like that.”

Kannok Leipert has built an impressive resume of his own.

He served as captain of the midget AAA Regina Pat Canadians when they won a provincial title in 2017 and finished fourth at the Telus Cup national championship. That same year, Kannok Leipert was named the top defenceman in the Saskatchewan midget AAA league and a first team all-star.

He joined the WHL’s Giants last season and enjoyed a strong rookie campaign, recording five goals and 21 points in 60 games.

“I thought the season went well and I was hoping for the best,” said Kannok Leipert, who noted that the Capitals showed “the most interest by far” prior to the draft. “I came to the realization that if it didn’t happen it would be Ok but if it happened it would be awesome. I just waited to see and it was a nice surprise.”

It wasn’t a surprise to Pat Canadians head coach Darrin McKechnie, who had been approached about Kannok Leipert by Capitals assistant GM Ross Mahoney and scout Darrell Baumgartner. Both men are based in Regina and have a history of drafting local players, including Garrett Mitchell, Connor Hobbs, Colby Williams and Chandler Stephenson.

“They got a good one (in Kannok Leipert),” noted McKechnie. “I talked to them a couple of times. They liked him early in the year so I was so excited that he could be a Washington draft pick.”

McKechnie can’t say enough good things about Kannok Leipert, calling him a natural leader and “a terrific young man.” He also believes there’s potential for him to enjoy a long pro career.

“He really works hard at his game,” said McKechnie, a former coach and player with the WHL’s Regina Pats. “He treats everybody so well and he leads by example. All the great qualities that you want in a young man and a hockey player, he’s got it. I think before his junior career is done he’ll be a captain. He’s just that type of kid. If he wants to put in the work, I think the NHL is there for him.”

Q & A With Zoranco Griovski

George Da Silva – National Teams of Ice Hockey

We had the great pleasure to talk to Zoranco Griovski the chief of Macedonia inline hockey, but also helps promoted, sell and grow the game of ice hockey in his native country.

Can you give us a brief history about ice hockey and inline hockey in Macedonia?

Macedonia, especially the capitol Skopje, had a long hockey tradition but was interrupted about three decades after Yugoslavia broke apart. The “new” history starts in fact in 2010 when the Hockey Federation of Macedonia started with activities and sending out a call for players. Just one year later, in 2011, we started with Inline hockey and our national team took part at IIHF Inline hockey qualifications, since then we were a regular member of the Inline hockey family. Hockey is played in Macedonia officially since the 1950s.

Can you tell us bit about yourself and how you became the chief of inline hockey?

I was raised in Germany, near the Alps where hockey is popular, but I came late into hockey and started playing inline hockey just for fun. But after a time we as recreation players made a team and participated in the first Inline hockey season of the DIHL league ever played in Germany (1996). After this adventure I organized a regional league in southern Bavaria and tournaments. In 2004 I decided to move to Macedonia, my parents country of origin, and as I mentioned above, in 2010 I read the announcement of the MHF where they did a call for players.

In 2011 already we took part at the IIHF Inline Hockey Qualifications, since then we played every qualification. But as it looks like now, Inline under the IIHF is gone. No inline qualifications or World Championship this year, that is a disaster for us. The last qualification in 2016 was a historic one for Macedonia with the first wins and best placement so far and we started to dream to make the World Championships some day.

The “chief” is only a title, to make it formal. But I have experience from the past and has long as I can help or a enthusiastic guys like me is needed, I am ready anytime  to go.

With no IIHF inline hockey is Macedonia thinking about joining International Federation of Roller Sports (FIRS)?

In fact we thought about FIRS in earlier times already, we had the idea to play both competitions. But FIRS tournaments are also played outside Europe i.e. Argentina. We also had in mind that competing in IIHF Inline is the better place for us as a country who want’s to push forward in the ice hockey championships. But If the say tomorrow “FIRS Inline will be a Olympic discipline”, as discussed in the past, we will make also the way into the FIRS organizations

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Macedonia won first inline hockey game.

How popular is NHL Hockey and can you watch it on TV In Macedonia?

It is popular, but the media coverage is not good, in fact non existent. NHL,hockey, you can watch only on foreign broadcasters, gladly some sports stations from the Balkan region who are broadcasting hockey (not only NHL, also KHL and Champions League (CHL) are available in Macedonia. Macedonian Radio Television, the state broadcaster, did in earlier times some coverage of the World Championships, but later on they started to broadcast only the semi-finals and final games. This and last year – nothing of it all. But Macedonian media is interested in domestic hockey, they did good job broadcasting when we made our first steps.

How many inline and Ice hockey clubs are there in the country and what league or leagues do they play in?

There are four clubs in total in Macedonia. No leagues are functioning at the moment, sadly the Balkan Ice Hockey League in cooperation with the neighbouring federations did not continued. MHF tried beside the BIHL several times to start a regional league, we also participated in the Balkan Amateur Hockey League two years, and won it one time. The only continuous play in Macedonia so far is the Skopje Ice Festival, a international ice hockey tournament we organize every year with teams from Europe. We had already guests from Russia, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Greece, Bosnia, Romania, Germany, Finland, Serbia and US soldier team located in Germany.

The National Ice Hockey Team has played handful of games, but this November Macedonia will play in it’s first international Tournament at the Development Cup 2018. How will the team prepare?

We are really happy for this opportunity to mesh with other nations on the ice. The preparing of the national team will be outside of Macedonia, I don’t think we will have ice in the arena so early to make preparations in Skopje. The DC2018 will be played near my home town in Germany and maybe I can fix something for us friendly games or some practice with a team from the region to make it a great adventure we can pickup experience for further challenges.

Macedonia vs Bosnia Herzegovina in January 2018.

Will the national team seek help from the outside?

The coaching staff will maybe different as in the past years, our coach Jure Vnuk now is occupied with coaching Olimpija Ljubljana. But this should not be the main question, as Jure introduced a system of play we use to play now 4-5 years. We just need to follow this system. For players I can not say nothing at the moment, as the date for the DC2018 is not 100% determined has of yet. We are no pros, and everyone has his life duties.

What are the future goals for hockey in general in Macedonia?

We have to focus a bit more on kids and infrastructure. Macedonia has only one ice rink (now closed, it opens from December to April), and still NO! inline hockey rink so far. Eight years have passed since MHF started and I think we have had good progress if you remember that we had a 30 year gap in Macedonia. But I would like a clear and long term strategy, this is a bit Balkan mentality, things or decisions once made change very quickly.

Has Macedonia Ice Hockey every got any help from Steven Stamkos or Chris Tanev of the NHL?

I think no one requested their help so far, and I personally think it is too early. We have to make the foundation first, when a solid base is established then we should think about options for requesting their help.

Who are your favorite ice hockey or inline players and why?

Jeremy Roenick, Tony Amonte and Joe Murphy with this line i rocked the whole Sega Mega Drive NHL 94 world, and still, if there is a running Mega Drive out there…

 

Interview With Danielle Imperial


Danielle Imperial Captain of the Philippines.

(Photo by: Tadamasa Nagayama)

By George Da Silva – National Teams of Ice Hockey

We had the great pleasure of interviewing Danielle Imperial the Captain of the Philippines Women’s National Team and how she grew up playing hockey on the driveway and in the garage, “Wow! does that sound familiar to us in North America and around the world”.

Danielle started late playing the game, but never gave up the dream of one day representing her country at an international event.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

My name is Danielle Imperial, I am twenty-one years old and I play for the Philippine
women’s national ice hockey team. I started playing ice hockey when I was fourteen years old, I’ve only trained here in Manila since I started. Currently I am a university student on my fifth year, majoring in Economics with a minor in English Literature.

How did you get involved in the game ice hockey?

My cousins grew up in California, USA and introduced us to hockey with the Mighty
Ducks movies as soon as they moved back. My brother and I grew up routinely re-watching the movies then playing outside every afternoon during summer vacations. We started in our garage with plastic sticks, moved to our driveway when we got older with wooden sticks, I brought those to the ice rink later unaware they were outdated and that we needed composite sticks that were much lighter, haha. We stuck with those moving forward.

A photo of us on our driveway at home with our cousin who introduced
us to the sport through the Mighty Ducks movies (left) and our mom who
taught us how to skate. (right)

Outside from yourself who do you credit for helping you learn the game of ice hockey?

I’ll have to name quite a few actually but if I had to mention only one, it would be Carl Montano. I was lucky to have started playing ice hockey at the time Coach Carl had just moved back to Manila from Vancouver. He inspired a different kind of passion for hockey in so many of us youth players who all looked up to him. He was my coach for six out of the eight years that I’ve been playing, and has just recently been named head coach of the women’s national team.

He knows me best and has always pushed me to be the player he believes I can be. Though other coaches I’ve played under have also inspired me in several ways to, getting to play for Coach Carl again is something special. This brings me to mentioning another person who has had so much to do with my development- my younger brother, Bj Imperial, who is actually an assistant coach for the women’s national team. He is multiple times the player I am and I’m lucky to have him coach me on the ice and off, even when I’m working out or shooting pucks at home. Watching him play on the men’s and u20 national teams is always special, and having him as my coach means as much.

There are so many more people I would mention who have made me the player I am today— my cousins who introduced me to the sport, my hockey mom and dad who have supported us so much, the older boys who made me work harder every time they would yell at me on the ice when I made mistakes starting out, the expats in our local league who made sure I stepped up in every game, several close friends from more seasoned national teams who I continue to learn so much from (Lim Wenlin, Tracy Wong, Jana Kivell, Linda Liu, etc…), and of course my own teammates who inspire me to work to become the best I can be.

When you found out you were going to be on the Philippines Women’s Ice Hockey
Team. What was your reaction?

When I found out I was going to be on the women’s national team, I was so excited for all the opportunities ahead of me. There weren’t many girls playing together in the Philippines but three others and I had already been dreaming of playing for our national team and competing in official tournaments before Hockey Philippines was even organized and recognized by the IIHF. I was eighteen years old when I was told I would be playing on the very first Philippine women’s ice hockey team and, on top of that privilege, being named captain.

Playing for the women’s national team changed my drive, commitment and passion entirely. Today, three years later, I can say for sure that I had no idea how much of an impact this would make in my life. It has only been three years but I am very thankful for all the opportunities and experiences that have come my way, as well as those that have yet to come.

Action shot from game against Thailand. (Photo by: Tadamasa Nagayama)

What are some of your training methods?

I try to get as much ice time as I can.
I go on-ice with the women’s team for training twice a week, I am currently also
part of the men’s u20 development camp that runs twice a week on ice, I play in
two divisions of our local league that runs games two to three times a week
through October to May, and every Tuesday our federation has a hockey
academy development program that I try to make has much as I can.

When I’m at home, I workout and do dry land training on my own or with my brother.
My brother and I get to workout in our gym at home, stick handling, shooting pucks,
etc… I live an hour away from the rink but it sometimes takes almost two hours
because of traffic, so there are times I can’t make on-ice sessions. I get to do
more dryland training and workouts than I do on-ice sessions for training.

I watch a lot of hockey online, women’s hockey in particular, I watch a lot of women’s hockey, and make it a point to take notes. Whether it’s of past Olympic or World Championship games, archived or livestream game videos from different divisions of the World Championships, I follow a lot of women’s hockey. I’ve recently been re-watching this year’s Olympic women’s hockey games and some of my own old game videos to see how I might apply what I learn to change my positioning or visualize what I could’ve done better.

This year I hope to stay tuned to the CWHL and maybe NWHL games more as
well. I haven’t checked if I can find NCAA streams too but I would certainly want
to with so many great players I’m a fan of too, not to mention Alina Mueller
playing for Northeastern. So many leagues and players to follow and learn from!
I’ve been reading a couple of books to develop the mental aspect of my game.
I think the mental aspect of the game is a very important part of our development that is quite overlooked. As captain of the national team, it was easy for me to realize that my mental game was something I needed to develop as much the physical, not only for myself but also for my teammates who look to me to lead by example. After we competed in our second IIHF Women’s Challenge Cup of Asia last March, I started reading several books to develop my mental game.

 

What would you say is the talent level of the women’s team and can any of them play
pro in North America?

There are very wide gaps in age and skill among the few female players we have here in the Philippines, even within the national team, and this makes our development a bit tricky. But no, I don’t think any of us can play pro in North America just yet.

Unlike in most other countries, specially those in the higher levels, none of us girls started skating at early ages. I started when I was fourteen and it’s the same story for most. Two players started at around the age of eight but that would be the earliest any of us started. At that time, they didn’t have the opportunities and training programs that players have now thanks to Hockey Philippines getting everyone organized and on the same page to really grow the game.

There aren’t many young girls under the age of fifteen but most of the active players are within the ages of fifteen to twenty-five, with a few in their thirty’s and our goalie who is fifty years old. All our players right now are home-grown, with a few training overseas because they move for university. Given the ages and late introductions to the game, no one was really able to commit to the sport and dream big until four years ago when Hockey Philippines was founded and recognized by the IIHF. When that happened, everyone got on the same page and had a direction to work towards, we had goals and a more serious purpose to keep playing. Now that Hockey Philippines is around and recognized by the IIHF, everyone has more to look forward to and work for in their hockey careers. I think that we’re only starting to realize and develop the potential of Philippine hockey. Even home-grown players have stood out well in international tournaments so I think that it will be exciting to see how we all continue taking strides moving forward.

Do you have any interesting stories from International tournaments that you have
played In?

The IIHF Women’s Challenge Cup of Asia in 2017 has been the most memorable
tournament yet. I did not expect anything like the experience that it turned out to be,
considering both the good and bad moments. There is way too much to tell but I’ll try to be brief: We lost our very first international game by a landslide, 21-1 against Thailand, but I scored my first ever IIHF goal; I played in, but lost, against one of my closest friends who was on the Singapore team; after a game played with so much heart from both sides, I was inspired by the India team who won their first ever international game against us; we won our first ever game against Malaysia, before which some of us sang our anthem already in tears eager for another win; we lost to a young New Zealand team who went on to win gold, and we won our last game
against the UAE team we had played against, and lost to twice, in a recreational tournament three years prior.

I saw the team come together and find our stride as we took our baby steps as the first ever Philippine women’s national team. Half the players on the team were playing their first ever hockey games that week, while the rest of us were learning our first few lessons on being on an entirely different stage of hockey as national team players.

Action shot (from our game against Singapore in the CCOA 2017
(Photo by: BOYPHOTO)

Can you describe the feeling watching the Philippines men winning the Gold Medal at
the South East Asian Games?

Unlike the Asian Winter Games, where they won a bronze medal earlier that year, the Southeast Asian Games is a big deal in the Philippines as it gets a lot more media coverage and public following. All of us knew that winning the tournament would mean making a name for ice hockey within the country and on the international stage as well. We got a lot of publicity and support from friends and family back home who stayed tuned to the games. It was also a surprise to see a couple of Filipinos working in Malaysia come out to watch and show their support. It was definitely a big win, and we were all very proud of the men’s team.

My brother was on that team so there was no way my parents and I were going to miss it! We flew to Kuala Lumpur and watched them get through every game to win the gold. I was behind the live updates on the Hockey Philippines Facebook page throughout the tournament. It was a challenge to keep up especially when the games got too intense that I just had to cheer first or yell as I was typing, haha. I had my phone attached to a gorilla pod as I was also video recording all the events to make this video for Hockey Philippines:

I think one of the most exciting games they played was the one against host team
Malaysia, the team that went on to win bronze. Our game against them ended in a shootout after they caught up to tie the game in the last few minutes. To add to the intensity of the game itself, the stadium was jam packed with Malaysian supporters on all three floors with maybe around fifty Philippine supporters in one corner cheering our heads off to compete with their crowd as soon as they’d tone down.

What does the future hold for Danielle Imperial?

I myself am honestly not too sure but it will definitely involve hockey for as long
possible. Outside of hockey, I am not too fixed on anything yet but will soon be working that out. I know that there is so much still ahead of us on the national team and I don’t plan on missing out. I will be playing with as much passion and commitment, if not more, for as long as the team will have me in the coming years. When time comes that I cannot be part of the national team anymore, I would definitely like to get into coaching. Hockey has made a big impact in my life and I hope that whatever the future holds for me allows me to keep growing
and working with as much passion as I have been through the sport.

Who are some of your favorite ice hockey players?

I have way too many, I’m not sure that you can still call the many of them “favorites” but I’ll try to narrow the list down. From Team USA women’s hockey I’ll have to go with Kendall Coyne. She’s a great player and we’re about the same height, it’s just crazy and inspiring to watch her play. I’m a fan of a lot of the USA girls like Gigi Marvin, Amanda Kessel and Megan Keller, to name a few. Among Canadian players some favorites are Meghan Agosta, Mélodie Daoust, Jill Saulnier and Marie-Philip Poulin. From other national teams maybe Alina Mueller and Lara Stalder. I’m sure there are a lot more I can mention but those are some off the top of
my head.

Family picture with both my brother and I in our jerseys.
Photo taken after the CCOA 2018 Men’s top division where they won bronze.

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