Month: August 2018

Finland wins 4-nations tournament in Hodonin

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By Henrik Lundqvist – Eurohockey.com

Finland played three close games in Hodonin, Czech Republic and managed to win all three. In the opening game on Thursday Sweden was beaten in overtime. Minnamarie Tuominen scored the game-winning 2-1 goal. Sweden took an early lead and Finland tied it only two minutes from the end on a goal by Susanna Tapani.

In the second game finland beat the home team Czech Republic 3-2 with goals from Linda Välimäki, Elisa Holopainen and Riikka Välilä. Today Finland beat Russia 3-1. All goals were scored in the middle period. Jenni Hiirikoski scored twice and Riikka Välilä also got a goal in this game.

Sweden finished second after today’s 4-2 win over the Czechs. Czech Republic finished third and Russia 4th – both with three points.

Top scorer of the tournament was Katerina Mrazova of the home team with three goals and three assists. Team-mate Aneta Ledlova also got three goals and so did Swedish 16-year-old talent Lina Ljungblom.

Women’s Euro Hockey Tour Scores & Stats

Denmark Canadian Junior Hockey News

By: Kerry Jackson – JuniorHockey.ca

It took a 3-2 shootout win over Belarus in the 2018 International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship relegation round, but it was enough to return Denmark to the elite division for 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship. The Danes scored only 10 goals in six games in the 2018 tournament, so they’ll have to find some offense if they are to compete in the next one. Relying only on 1998-born Joachim Blichfeld (three goals, three assists, and 1999-born Jonas Rondbjerg (two goals, five assists) won’t be enough.

Increased offensive production should be expected from forwards Andreas Grundtvig (born 1999, one goal and one assist at the 2018 World Championship), Nikolaj Krag Christensen (1999, one goal, one assist), and Jacob Schmidt-Svejstrup (1998, one goal, one assist, and the shootout winner against Belarus), if they are part of the 2019 team.

It’s the same for defensemen Jakob Jessen (1998, no goals, one assist), Jeppe Mogensen (1999, no goals, one assist), and 6”6” giant Malte Setkov (1999, no goals, two assists). Setkov had a strong showing last season for the Malmo Redhawks, scoring one goal and five assists in 14 games in Sweden’s top junior league, the SuperElit. All three will need to contribute offensively at the world championship.

In overall international junior play during the 2017-18 season, Rondbjerg led all Danish scorers with three goals and five assists in eight games. Blichfeld was second with four goals and three assists in nine games while Christensen and Grundtvig each scored three goals and earned one assist. Christensen put up his numbers in 10 games, Grundtvig in 13.

Another Dane to keep an eye on is center Phillip Schultz. The 2000-born center scored a pair in international play this past season, one of them in the World Junior Championship while playing as a 17-year-old. He is a skilled player who, at 6’0” and nearly 200 pounds, also brings a physical element to the game.

Kasper L. Krog (1998) led all Danish goalies in international junior play with a 3.96 goals-against average and an .899 save percentage in seven games. William Roerth (1999) played in one game and recorded a 1.85 GAA.

Whoever is on the Danish roster when the 2019 World Junior Championship begins this winter will have to be ready for a fast start. Denmark opens play on Dec. 26 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver against Canada, the defending champions.

 

Asian tournaments set

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By IIHF.com

Six tournaments are set for the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey Challenge Cup of Asia program that will be held in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur and in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

The program is aimed at the smaller IIHF members from Asia that do not participate in the World Championship program to allow them to compete in regional events.

Malaysia will host the men’s and U20 events at the Malaysia National Ice Skating Stadium close to Kuala Lumpur that opened one year ago for the Southeast Asian Games as the first full-size rink of the country.

Both the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey Challenge Cup of Asia and the Division I tournament for men will be held from 2 to 9 March 2019. Defending champion Mongolia, the Philippines, Singapore and Malaysia will play in the top division with a single-round robin followed by the final round. Macau, Indonesia and Oman will play the Division I tournament in a double round-robin format. The top-two teams will challenge the teams ranked third and fourth in the top division in a qualification playoff game before the semi-finals and medal games on 8-9 March.

Malaysia will also host the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey U20 Challenge Cup of Asia 3-8 December 2018. Eight teams will play split into two separate round-robin tournaments. Malaysia, Kyrgyzstan, the United Arab Emirates and the Philippines will play in the top division; Thailand, Kuwait, Mongolia and Indonesia in the Division I event. For these four teams it will be the first time they compete with an U20 national team.

Ten women’s teams will play at the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s Challenge Cup of Asia from 14 to 19 April 2019 in Abu Dhabi. It will be the first IIHF women’s tournament to be hosted in the United Arab Emirates. The other news is that Kuwait and Mongolia will have a women’s national team in an IIHF competition for the first time in history.

The teams will play a single round robin in two separate divisions. Chinese Taipei, the New Zealand U18 women’s team, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore will play in the top division; host United Arab Emirates, the Philippines, India, Mongolia and Kuwait in the Division I tournament.

2019 IIHF Ice Hockey Challenge Cup of Asia
In Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 2-9 March 2019
Participants: Mongolia, Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia

2019 IIHF Ice Hockey Challenge Cup of Asia Division I
In Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 2-9 March 2019
Participants: Macau, Indonesia, Oman

2019 IIHF Ice Hockey U20 Challenge Cup of Asia
In Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 3-8 December 2018
Participants: Malaysia, Kyrgyzstan, United Arab Emirates, Philippines

2019 IIHF Ice Hockey U20 Challenge Cup of Asia Division I
In Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 3-8 December 2018
Participants: Thailand, Kuwait, Mongolia, Indonesia

2019 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s Challenge Cup of Asia
In Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, 14-20 April 2019
Participants: Chinese Taipei, New Zealand U18, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore

2019 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s Challenge Cup of Asia Division I
In Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, 14-20 April 2019
Participants: United Arab Emirates, Philippines, India, Mongolia, Kuwait

GB Women To Take Part In EIHA U20 Cup Competition

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By IHUK Media

Great Britain Women will participate in a new EIHA Under-20s cup competition next season.

The games – against six men’s U20s sides – will form part of the national side’s preparations for the 2018 Women’s World Championship Division II Group A, being held in Dumfries in April 2019.

GB Women will be joined by Billingham Stars, Coventry Blaze, Deeside Dragons, Kingston, Nottingham and Whitley Bay in the cup competition and a full list of fixtures will be announced shortly.

Cheryl Smith, Great Britain Women head coach, said: “Playing games across the season ahead of the World Championship will be of massive benefit for us.

“Camps are always useful and we will still have those at times throughout the year, but getting game-time is invaluable.

“I would like to thank the EIHA – and in particular Geoff Hemmerman and Jackie Pye – for making this possible.

“It will really help our preparations for the World Championship in Dumfries and give us a great opportunity to see players in game situations throughout the season.”

EIHA JLMC (Junior League Management Committee) chair, Jackie Pye, added: “We are pleased to be able to help GB Women in the upcoming season.

“It is an important year for GB with a World Championship on home ice and we are glad to be able to provide the national side with games by playing in the cup competition.”

All matches in the U20 cup competition will be played under women’s non-checking rules.

A new home for hockey: North Van architect designs Mongolia’s first indoor rink

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After leading the design of the Delbrook Recreation Centre, Mark Hentze has
finished designs for Mongolia’s first ever indoor hockey rink.

By Brent Richter – North Shore News

All the elements are there: A climate akin to northern Saskatchewan, a tough and sports-loving people, and a love for the game. But if Mongolia ever wants to be a force in the hockey world, they’re going to have to come in from the cold.

Since 1999, the country has had membership in the International Ice Hockey Federation, and although they are not currently ranked in the top 50 teams, they did this year win their first ever Asian tournament. It was an impressive feat considering they’re the only team that doesn’t have the advantages that come with an indoor arena.

“They’re hardcore hockey fans over there,” said North Vancouver architect Mark Hentze. “But they play outdoors, which is the crazy thing.”

Hentze is now one of the principal architects working on final designs for the Steppe Arena – the country’s first indoor rink where the national team will play.

When Canadian consulate staff in Ulan Bator heard about the plans, they recommended the designers search out some Canadian expertise. The project leaders contacted Victoria-based VDA Architecture’s Kevin Klippenstein who reached out to Hentze’s firm HDR CRI to collaborate on the project that is now bringing together design, sport and national pride in the remote capital.

Old-time hockey

Mongolia’s love of the game stems from Cold War geopolitics. For much of its modern history, the country was a puppet state of the Soviet Union, relying on the USSR for trade and development.

In the early ’70s, young Mongolians idolized the Russian national team and their stars from the Summit Series with Canada – Alexander Yakushev, Valeri Kharlamov and Vladislav Tretiak.

Hentze was watching with his Grade 1 classmates when Paul Henderson scored his famous goal in ’72, but his clients on the Steppe Arena project were cheering “ferociously” for the Russian national team.

But, in speaking with his clients, Hentze learned there is something a little more behind the hockey love, tied to the rugged way of life on the steppe and perhaps an ancestry that used force to create the largest land empire in history.

“They said, ‘You know, it’s Mongolia. We love violent sports. That’s why we like hockey,’” Hentze said, noting Mongolia also has a reputation for producing competitive athletes in wrestling (both Greco-Roman and Sumo) and weightlifting.

When the Soviet Empire collapsed and the Russians pulled out in 1989, the love of hockey stayed.

One person who has witnessed Mongolia’s enduring love for the game is North Vancouver freelance videographer Pat Bell. Bell spent nine days in the winter of 2015 trudging around the country shooting a documentary about the sport. The film Rinks of Hope: Project Mongolia, followed brothers and former pros Boe and Nate Leslie who volunteered to bring their player development program to the country’s youth.

“Their winter has the most beautiful blue sky you’ve ever seen, but every rink is outdoors, including the one downtown,” Bell said. “Their passion for hockey is just incredible.”

https://images.glaciermedia.ca/polopoly_fs/1.23403394!/fileImage/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/original_size/mongolian-hockey.jpgA Mongolian hockey team takes to the ice on the frozen steppe town of Dzuunharaa.

As you might expect, the game lacks a lot of the polish Canadians have come to expect. Broken sticks are scabbed back together and when one shift on the ice ends, kids must share skates with the next line going on.

“We were off in the region where the hockey boards were literally pieces of fencing. There are no gates. At the end of the game, you take a warm bucket of water and rag and you wipe the ice down,” Bell said. “They ride their horses to the game in their hockey gear.”

On the ice though, they play an intense, old time hockey kind of game.

“They want to hit,” Bell said.

Hentze’s expertise doesn’t just stem from his training in architecture. As a younger man, he played high-level hockey. In 1987-88, he scored four goals and three assists and racked up 54 penalty minutes playing 24 games for the UBC Thunderbirds. And he spent two years as a pro for HC Zweibrucken in Germany’s 2nd Bundesliga.

It was Hentze’s experience playing in Europe that, in part, pushed him into architecture as a profession.

“I’m playing in all these arenas all over Germany and Czechoslovakia and Italy and Switzerland and places that were doing things that were not conventional in Canada,” he said.

Let there be light

Hockey may be religion in Canada, but there is a lot we could learn from others when it comes to the design of our temples, Hentze said.

“There’s a little bit of a mindset about arenas in Canada that they need to be these black boxes where people play hockey and that’s the only thing they do,” he said. “One of the things I’m looking for in arena design is to get natural light into the arena. It’s not as common in Canada as it is in other places in the world.”

https://images.glaciermedia.ca/polopoly_fs/1.23403321!/fileImage/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/original_size/steppe-arena-sketch-22web-jpg.jpgArtist’s renderings show how the Steppe Arena should look when construction
is completed.

Hentze has designed a number of public arenas and community centers around the country. The Mongolian project leads sent two delegations to tour’s B.C.’s facilities to get an idea of what was possible. One of the stops was the new Delbrook Rec Centre, which Hentze and his firm did the award-winning designs for.

“They were really quite taken by the transparency of the design at Delbrook with all the glass and the ability to see inside and outside the building – that indoor-outdoor connectivity,” he said. “That was very gratifying because the District of North Vancouver, and the rec commission and we as architects all had this mutual goal – transparency.”

Hentze applied the same thinking to the Ulan Bator rink, using glass strategically placed along the entire north side of the building.

“On the south side, you’ve got this nasty, glaring hot sun that sweeps across the Mongolian Steppes every summer and puts the temperature into the high 30s. We didn’t want that solar gain beating up our building and wreaking havoc with ice-making,” he said.

The building site is less than three kilometres from Chinggis Khaan International Airport (yes, it’s named after the man better known to Westerners as Genghis Khan), which the design draws inspiration from. The roof reflects the airfoil shape of a plane’s wing. It also slants to the south to maximize exposure for the solar heating cells that line the roof.

And much like Delbrook, the building uses the natural sloping topography to keep much of the structure underground.

While the West Coast style’s hallmarks of glass and blending in are clearly evident in the renderings, no one on the Mongolian design team wanted to draw on their own vernacular yurts and temples or Russian imperial influences.

“As we’ve worked together to develop this aesthetic, what’s really important to them is they don’t want something that is kitschy and has historical references,” Hentze said. “They want to use this building to be recognized as a forward-thinking, modern country.”

https://images.glaciermedia.ca/polopoly_fs/1.23403322!/fileImage/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/original_size/steppe-arena-sketch-23web-jpg.jpgArtist’s renderings show how the Steppe Arena should look when construction
is completed. 

When complete, it should be big enough for 2,600 screaming fans in bowl seating. And the facility will be adaptable for other sports, music and cultural events something akin to the Poirier Sports & Leisure Centre in Coquitlam, another of Hentze’s projects.

The firms have now nearly completed the design schematics for the Steppe Arena. The next step is one Hentze is all too familiar with.

“It’s interesting. Here we are in an exotic location and they have to deal with all the same funding issues that we do in Canada for this kind of project,” he said, noting it has federal funding but the developers are also seeking private contributions as well.

Next year’s prospects

If the arena achieves what the Mongolian national team and Hentze are hoping for, it will mean going from bush league to big league.

“This is why in so many ways, this project is such an important thing to them. It will actually give them the opportunity to take their hockey programs to a little bit more of a serious and organized level where they’re not so weather dependent,” he said.

Bell has already seen a glimmer of what the future of Mongolian hockey might look like. During filming of “hockey night in Mongolia” for the documentary, it was -37 C and pitch dark out when they arrived at 10 p.m. for a coaching session.

“All of a sudden 80 kids appear and they’re ready to play, most with no gloves and no hats,” Bell said. “If they learn the skills of the game, it will be incredible. Absolutely incredible … Talk about tough as nails.”

If all goes well, construction on the arena is set to begin in the spring of 2019 – just as soon as this season’s rinks have melted back into the steppe.

2018 CIBC Canada Russia Series Hosts

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By Chl Canada/Russia.ca

The six-game series features regional league teams of Canadian National Junior Team candidates competing against the Russian National Junior Team and is an integral part of the identification process for Team Canada prior to the IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship.  The 2018 event will open with two games in the WHL, followed by two OHL matchups, and ending with a pair of contests hosted by the QMJHL.

The season’s event begins in British Columbia with the WHL’s Kamloops Blazers and Vancouver Giants hosting Game’s 1 and 2 respectively on Monday November 5 and Tuesday November 6.  When the series shifts to Ontario it will be the OHL’s Sarnia Sting hosting Game 3 on Thursday November 8 followed by the Oshawa Generals hosting Game 4 on Monday November 12.  The series wraps up in Quebec with the QMJHL’s Sherbrooke Phoenix hosting Game 5 on Tuesday November 13 and the Drummondville Voltigeurs hosting Game 6 on Thursday November 15.

“Over the past 15 years we’ve seen the Canada and Russia rivalry ignite passion in CHL communities across our great country,” said CHL President David Branch. “This is truly a special event that showcases many of our league’s best players and future Canadian National Junior Team stars who will compete to defend gold on home soil at the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship in Vancouver and Victoria.”

Since the event first began in 2003, CHL teams have played to an overall record of 61-22-1-6 and have won 12 of the 15 series including three straight.  The competitiveness of the rivalry has grown in recent years with five of the last eight series decided in the final game including last season where a shootout was required to decide the overall winner for the first time in event history.  A total of 36 players from last season’s event competed in the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship in Buffalo including 17 CHL players who won gold for Canada.

“The Canada-Russia rivalry is legendary and Canadians from coast-to-coast-to-coast will be cheering on our Canadian teams as they take in the action for this iconic showdown,” said Stephen Forbes, Executive Vice President, Banking Centres, CIBC.  “We congratulate the six host cities of the 2018 CIBC Canada Russia Series and we look forward to celebrating with our clients and employees in these communities, as we support the next generation of hockey talent through our partnership with the CHL.”

All six cities selected for games in 2018 have previously hosted this event including Kamloops, Sarnia, and Drummondville who will tie Sudbury’s CHL record with their fourth game.  Kamloops first hosted in 2006 with Team WHL skating to an 8-1 win, then in 2010 with Russia earning a 7-6 shootout win, and most recently in 2015 with Team WHL winning Game 2 of the series by a 4-2 score.  Sarnia hosted a 4-0 win for Team OHL in 2003, a 5-0 OHL win in 2006, and a 2-1 OHL victory in 2012.  Drummondville’s past three games include 2005 where Team QMJHL defeated Russia 7-4, 2009 where the QMJHL won 3-1, and most recently in 2010 won 4-3 by Russia.  Oshawa has hosted twice before including 2006 where Team OHL won by a 4-3 score, and in 2013 with Team Russia skating to a 5-2 win.  The other two clubs have hosted once with Vancouver’s game resulting in a 1-0 shootout win for Team WHL in 2012, and Sherbrooke’s event featuring a 4-3 win for Team QMJHL in 2013.

The 2018 CIBC Canada Russia series is supported by CHL associate sponsors Cooper Tires and Sherwin-Williams.  All games will be broadcast nationally on Sportsnet and TVA Sports.

2018 CIBC Canada Russia Series Schedule:
Game 1 – Monday November 5 at Kamloops, BC
Game 2 – Tuesday November 6 at Vancouver, BC
Game 3 – Thursday November 8 at Sarnia, ON
Game 4 – Monday November 12 at Oshawa, ON
Game 5 – Tuesday November 13 at Sherbrooke, QC
Game 6 – Thursday November 15 at Drummondville, QC

China’s hockey teams turn to B.C. talent to create Olympic women’s team

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Emily Costales currently plays hockey for the UBC Thunderbirds
and is setting her sights on the Winter Olympics with an eye to
Team China.

By Clare Hennig  – CBC News

Team China could be made up of Canadian women hockey players for the 2022 Winter Olympics

The hockey craze in China is growing ahead of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics and recruiters are not just scouting talent at home — North American players of Chinese descent are in high demand.

And one of those recruitment camps is being held in Vancouver this week.

“With [China] hosting the Olympics in 2022 in Beijing, they’ve realized that there is a bit of a talent gap,” said Coach Rob Morgan, who manages the Kunlun Red Star women’s team in Shenzhen, China.

Morgan, who used to coach the Yale women’s ice hockey team before moving to China, is hoping to scout female players and entice B.C. talent.

He’s visiting Vancouver for a Red Star development camp.

“One of the initiatives now is to identify North Americans with Chinese descent who can help China medal and that’s truly the goal of the government, the Chinese Ice Hockey Association and Kunlun Red Star,” Morgan said.

Interest in hockey spiking

Team China has performed well in women’s hockey in previous decades — coming fourth in the 1998 Olympics — but Morgan says as other countries have continued to develop their teams, women’s hockey in China fell behind.

“In southern China, where our professional team is hosted … they’d never seen hockey before we arrived last year,” he told Stephen Quinn, the host of CBC’s The Early Edition.

Emily Costales, a student at the University of British Columbia who plays hockey for the UBC Thunderbirds, is keen to join Team China’s Olympic team for both professional and personal reasons.

“It’s a great opportunity to represent your past, represent your roots,” she said. “I’m half Filipino and half Chinese so just telling my grandparents about the opportunity, they are really excited.”

She says she’s not concerned about divided loyalties if she makes the team.

“I know a few of the girls that could potentially be playing on Team Canada too so it could potentially be a bit of a rivalry I think, but it would be all good fun,” Costales said.

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.”