Month: July 2018 (page 1 of 2)

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.

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.

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