Month: July 2018

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moved to our driveway when we got older with wooden sticks, I brought those to the ice rink later unaware they were outdated and that we needed composite sticks that were much lighter, haha.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.

Mirziyoyev visits Humo Arena ice rink project

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By Tashkent Times

President Shavkat Mirziyoyev today visited several ongoing projects in Tashkent, among which multifunctional ice complex Humo Arena, which is being built at the intersection of Afrosiyob and Beshyogoch streets.

Construction of the complex began in February last year. The ice rink is designed as a multifunctional stadium where various ice sports games will be held such as ice hockey, short track, figure skating as well as boxing, basketball, futsal, kurash, volleyball, entertainment, performance events and others.

The complex is expected to be completed on the eve of the New Year.

The President noted that the facility is of great social importance, and it is necessary to make the complex function all year round. He gave instructions to form ice-hockey teams to be based in the complex.

Tashkent-based hockey club Binokor is expected to be stationed in the Humo Arena and will be hoping to enter the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) within the next two seasons.

Khumo Arena ice rink project 1

New Format for Women’s Euro Hockey Tour

By Svenska Ishockeyforbundet

WOMEN’S EURO HOCKEY TOUR

Six countries will play in Euro Hockey Tour season 2018/2019: Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Russia, Sweden and Switzerland.

Euro Hockey Tour season 2018/2019 will be played in four tournaments:
A 4 Nations Tournament in Hodonin, Czech Republic, in August 23-25 2018. Countries: Czech Republic, Finland, Russia, Sweden.

A 4 Nations Tournament in Switzerland in November 2018. Countries: Czech Republic, Germany, Russia, Switzerland.

A 4 Nations Tournament in Vierumäki, Finland, in December 13-15 2018. Countries: Finland, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland.

Additional games between Finland-Sweden, Czech Republic-Russia and Germany-Switzerland will also be counted in Euro Hockey Tour 2018/2019.

The final tournament will be a 6 Nations Tournament in Dmitrov, Moscow Region, Russia, in February 7-10 2019. Countries: Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Russia, Sweden and Switzerland. These six teams will play in two groups followed by placement games.

Read more about Euro Hockey Tour

New women’s hockey nations in development programs

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From the desert country of Kuwait to the Sport Institute of
Finland in the forests north of Helsinki:
Laila Alkhbaz is one of two participants from the Gulf state to
take part in the development programs of the 2018 IIHF
Women’s High-Performance Camp.

By Martin Merk – IIHF.com

The 2018 IIHF Women’s High-Performance Camp does not only include top junior players working on becoming world-class players but also development programs for countries that are not that far yet.

Among the countries that sent participants to the camp programs are some that are working on launching women’s hockey or already have female players and want to establish a national team in IIHF events in the future such as Estonia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Ireland, Kyrgyzstan, Kuwait, Lithuania, Serbia and Ukraine. They work in the Leadership Development Program and the World Girls’ Ice Hockey Weekend program together with colleagues from current or former top-level nations such as the United States, Finland, Russia, the Czech Republic, Germany, Slovakia and Kazakhstan.

Two of these countries work on their IIHF debut on the ice next season. Ukraine has established a women’s program within the last few years and will for the first time play in the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship Division II Group B Qualification in Cape Town, South Africa. Also next spring, the Kuwaiti women’s national team will enter the stage in the IIHF Ice Hockey Challenge Cup of Asia program.

While Ukraine has prepared for this moment with the IIHF’s recruitment campaigns such as the World Girls’ Ice Hockey Weekend and the Global Girls’ Game to help build a five-team league, Kuwait is the lesser known debutant.

Laila Alkhbaz in the Leadership Development Program and Rawan AlBahouh in the World Girls’ Ice Hockey Weekend hope to change that in the upcoming season.

“I’ve been a supervisor for the women’s national team for one year and am looking for leadership role,” Alkhbaz said after watching presentations from mentor Steve Norris and some of the countries.

Currently there are over 50 female players in Kuwait in three teams.

“We have a hockey school for girls between 4 and 14 years, then a team for players older than that and the national team,” she said. The teams usually practise and play internal games while last season the national team also went abroad to gain more experience.

“We had a camp in the Czech Republic in August 2017, played a tournament in Bangkok in November, and later in Abu Dhabi with Gulf teams where we took third place,” Alkhbaz said. After losing the games in Bangkok, the first win in history came against the Dubai Gazelles in Abu Dhabi. “In October we will play again in Bangkok and next year we will have a camp in Slovenia before the Challenge Cup of Asia.”

The debut in an IIHF-sanctioned event will be in the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s Challenge Cup of Asia Division I. Both divisions are planned be staged not far from home in Abu Dhabi next spring. The venues, dates and participants of the Challenge Cup of Asia program will be decided next month.

How did Alkhbaz land into ice hockey?

“Last year my friend joined the team and liked it and I went to the ice rink in Kuwait and watched the hockey. Before I didn’t know what hockey is because hockey is not popular in Arab countries, it’s not like football or basketball. I asked the Winter Sports Club in Kuwait. I played but hurt my elbow, I was afraid to continue but stayed with the girls to help them,” she said.

She did a government course to become a supervisor and is happy to be at the Leadership Development Program that is taking place as part of the current women’s camp in Finland.

“I’m looking forward to be a good leader for the team. I’m so excited to be here and I’m looking forward to develop my skills so I can help them to be better,” she said. “I hope I’ll get better in everything to make my team better.”

For that she had to take time off from her job as a computer teacher for kids and her IT study. Beside her job and study, there’s not much time left. Ice hockey has become her biggest hobby since last year. “I’m with the hockey girls. I like to make our relationship stronger. It’s better to be one family,” said Alkhbaz.

Currently there’s just one ice rink in Kuwait. One that’s international size and has hosted IIHF events in men’s hockey before. In the winter months the Winter Sports Club also has a small ice sheet to practise shooting.

After the first camps, the Kuwaiti is thinking about the next steps after the upcoming debut of Kuwaiti women’s ice hockey on the international stage.

“Now we focus on the Challenge Cup of Asia and after that we will work on entering the World Championship but maybe it will take time,” she said.

To reach that level and fulfil the minimum participation standards, they will need more female players in the country and a national championship with enough teams and games. “I hope it will happen, inshallah [if God wills]. We are trying to develop the team and the skill of the team. We had girls who didn’t skate before but some are good players and we hope we will develop them and make them better.”

She hopes a league for women can be established, maybe already in September. And she thinks about games against boys. And her colleague AlBahouh learns more about recruitment and teaching small kids to play with the goal of running such events in Kuwait.

When the women’s team started first time in 2007 there was no support and the project died. This has obviously changed with the relaunch 11 months ago. “Now it’s good and now we are looking to have our own ice rink for ice hockey and figure skating,” she said. Having two Kuwaiti at the camp is also a strong signal for the development of women’s hockey and to raise the level back home.

Coming to the Sport Institute of Finland in Vierumaki also means a big change of scenery. Away from the desert country with guaranteed sunshine and temperatures of currently up to 49°C to the changeable and mild Finnish summer at the institute surrounded by green forests and lakes.

“It’s my first time in the north. I didn’t have time to see much yet. I really like the place and the facilities here. In my country it’s very hot right now,” she said. “It’s a pleasure for me to participate in the program and I hope I will learn much this week.”

Status report from the other countries

The program started with lectures from the mentors and from the represented countries at very different levels. On the upper end there are countries like Russia, the Czech Republic and Slovakia that have top-level experience and a full league program but are fighting for awareness and against stereotypes about women’s hockey. Germany is another top-level country represented where numbers for young girls have gone up since joining programs like the World Girls’ Ice Hockey Weekend. During the last year there have been 10 per cent more female players.

Great Britain with two nationwide leagues and an English league in two geographical groups is also among the bigger programs represented but wants to improve in terms of retention.

In Kazakhstan and Ukraine the championship games are played in a couple of tournaments and they are among the countries where not all communities and junior coaches are interested in girls playing hockey with boys, same in other central and eastern European countries such as the Czech Republic or Latvia.

Turkey has now 300 female players of which half play in the women’s and U18 leagues with teams from three cities but money is a problem for women in club hockey as they have to pay for equipment and travel that can be far as the distance between Istanbul and Erzurum is over 1,200 kilometres. There like in Romania the public perception of hockey as a men’s sport and trust from parents is a problem. It’s not always easy to convince parents that ice hockey is a safe sport for girls and women until they see it themselves.

South Africa is another country in the lower divisions present here and has 130 players from four regions, most of them (88) from Gauteng where two women’s teams play in the boys’ U18 and U16 leagues in addition to a small-ice development league with four women’s teams. But with only 60-90 minutes of ice time available for a women’s hockey team per week they want to work on an off-ice program.

In Croatia players need to give sacrifice to keep women’s hockey alive as there’s no financial support and no sponsors and practices are usually late night at 16:00. Also Bulgaria with currently 44 female players hopes to learn more and find a strategy to grow hockey.

Ukraine has profited from the recent recruitment offence in international ice hockey and has gone up from virtually no female players to 193 players and a league with five teams that may get a sixth team next season. Similar in Estonia where the league restarted with four teams from four cities after many years without women’s hockey after using the World Girls’ Ice Hockey Weekend as starting point.

Latvia and Lithuania with a new women’s hockey program work together with a Lithuanian team that joined the Latvian league last season. The Lithuanians hope to one day have a women’s league too and a national team that can join the Women’s World Championship program in 2021.

Serbia could be another team to try that step with currently 63 female players but right now most play in boys’ teams until U16 and there’s just one women’s team. The Serbs hope to get more education on female hockey and coaching.

Other countries have even bigger challenges. Women’s hockey in Ireland suffers since the closure of the country’s only ice rink in 2010. The few remaining female players have to play in men’s teams and cross the Irish-UK border to play games in Belfast. In FYR Macedonia there is just one female player, who is in the World Girls’ Ice Hockey Program to learn about organizing recruitment events and learn-to-play events. Kyrgyzstan reported to have no female players at all and is thinking how to launch a program.

Despite the very different levels and places the women and men in the Leadership Development Program come from, they all have the same goal: to improve women’s hockey in their countries, networking and learning from each other.

Canada’s National Junior Team staff unveiled for 2018-19 season

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By Hockey Canada

A familiar name returns behind the bench to lead Canada’s National Junior Team through the 2018-19 season and the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship this December in Vancouver and Victoria, B.C.

Tim Hunter (Calgary/Moose Jaw, WHL) will be part of the coaching staff for the third-straight year, taking the reins as head coach after previously serving as assistant coach the past two years. Completing the coaching staff are assistants Marc-André Dumont (Montreal/Cape Breton, QMJHL), Jim Hulton (Kingston, Ont./Charlottetown, QMJHL) and Brent Kisio (Calgary/Lethbridge, WHL).

“To be in a position to have familiarity in our coaching staff with Tim Hunter gives us the opportunity to again compete for a gold medal,” said Scott Salmond, senior vice-president of national teams with Hockey Canada. “All three assistant coaches have also had prior experience working within our Program of Excellence at various levels. Their experience and knowledge will help our players succeed in this prestigious international tournament.”

Hunter won back-to-back medals as an assistant coach with Canada’s National Junior Team, earning gold in 2018 and silver in 2017. He also won a bronze medal as head coach of Canada’s National Men’s Under-18 Team at the 2015 IIHF U18 World Championship. Hunter is coming off his fourth season as head coach of the Moose Jaw Warriors of the Western Hockey League, guiding the franchise to its first Scotty Munro Memorial Trophy as regular-season champion. Prior to joining the Warriors, he was an NHL assistant coach with the Toronto Maple Leafs, San Jose Sharks and Washington Capitals. As a player, he suited up in 815 NHL games over 16 seasons with the Calgary Flames, Colorado Avalanche, San Jose and Vancouver Canucks, capturing the Stanley Cup in 1989 with Calgary.

Dumont was named head coach and general manager of the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League in 2012. He previously coached the Val-d’Or Foreurs (QMJHL), and was an assistant coach for two seasons with the Gatineau Olympiques (QMJHL). Dumont was also head coach of Team Quebec at the 2009 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge.

Hulton has served as head coach of the Charlottetown Islanders of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League for the past three seasons, and has also been general manager for the past two. Prior to joining the Islanders, he spent two seasons as general manager and head coach of the Tri-City Storm of the USHL. His international experience includes serving as associate coach of Canada’s under-16 team at the 2012 Winter Youth Olympic Games, and as an assistant coach with Canada’s National Junior Team at the IIHF World Junior Championship in 2004 and 2005, winning silver and gold. Hulton also spent two seasons as an assistant coach with the NHL’s Florida Panthers.

Kisio coached Canada’s National Men’s Summer Under-18 Team to a gold medal at the 2017 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup. He was also head coach of Team Canada White at the 2016 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, and added a silver medal as an assistant coach with Team Pacific at the 2014 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge. Kisio just completed his third season as head coach of the WHL’s Lethbridge Hurricanes, guiding them to the league final. Prior to joining the Hurricanes, he spent eight seasons as an assistant coach with the Calgary Hitmen, reaching the semifinal at the Memorial Cup in 2010.