Day: November 12, 2019

Georgian hockey player now plays for Canadian team

By Mikhail Simonov – Vestnik Kavkaza

Temur Vedyapin went down in history. The twenty-year-old striker of the Georgian ice hockey team became the first native of this country to sign a professional contract in Canada’s homeland of hockey. Now Temur is a Foward of the Maniwaki Mustangs club, which serves in one of the youth leagues – CPJHL (Canadian Premier Junior Hockey League). This is one of hundreds of hockey leagues in North America, and the tournament in its format can be considered as the championship of the province of Ontario.

Vedyapin successfully started – in his debut match, he scored a goal for his new club. The other day will be another debut – after a short field trip, the Mustangs return home and play on their home ice with their fans.

And this significant event occurs when the Georgian hockey players playing in group “B” of the second world division, in fact, have no ice. By and large there is nowhere to train. At their disposal are non-standard-sized ice rinks (one hockey zone in size, i.e. one third of the court) in Tbilisi, built for skaters back in 1950, and where they were very reluctantly and very irregularly allowed to go, an ice rink in Batumi, and in winter an open area in the winter resort of Bakuriani, built by local hockey players of the Mimino team – the most titled in Georgia. Tbilisi clubs Fiery Crusaders, Ice Knights, Gray Wolves are trying to stop her from winning the country’s champion year after year. By the way, Temur Vedyapin also played for the latter.

The conditions for Georgian hockey players who are a few steps away from knocking on the next division in the class, after which the elite already follows, the one where Canada and Russia, Czech Republic and Sweden, etc., Spartan fight for the world title. The authorities promise to start building a normal sports palace for winter sports in 2020. But there were many such promises, and so far the matter has not budged. Therefore, I don’t want to say that the problem is about to be solved. At least because of signs, such as not to jinx it, it will turn out like in one of the cities of Western Georgia.

There, a kindly businessman of good will suddenly became preoccupied with the state of affairs in winter sports and decided to build a small palace of his name for hockey players and figure skaters. But he hoped for something to build a kind of object for local builders, and he did not call foreign ones who had experience in building ice arenas. In the end, they say, it turned out to be something unsuitable for anything. And it was completely not intended for hockey, because the court turned out to be square, and ordinary glasses, although of extraordinary thickness, were used as protective glasses. In general, a platform for hockey players, fed up with life to the extreme. Perhaps the story is hyperbolized, but the fact is that hockey players still do not have their own arena.

Meanwhile, the history of hockey in Georgia is not so few years. The national team participated in the sports days of the USSR in the 1960s. Even without success. In the 1970s, during the years of the beginning of the battles of the Soviet national team with Canadian professionals, a fan boom was observed at all. Ice battles of the USSR national team at world championships, Olympics, in North American tours, people watched on television, of course, not totally, but with enthusiasm. The names of Maltsev and Kharlamov, Clark and Esposito were not an empty phrase in Georgia. And not in one Tbilisi or Kutaisi yard, the kids drove a puck or a small ball with their sticks on the asphalt, and sometimes the recessed but quickly melting snow. A group of fanatics gradually crystallized out of the mass, always playing, at any time of the year, selflessly, until the legs were numb. In summer – on asphalt, in winter – on compacted in very hard hypostasis snow, less often ice. But snow did not fall in Tbilisi every winter. But the team even managed to win some tournament. In those years, by order of Leonid Ilyich, who loved hockey, they began to develop this wonderful game throughout the immense USSR. So much so that even in Tashkent a hockey team of masters appeared.

In non-hockey areas it was … easier. For the report, several children’s matches and all the best were held in front of Moscow. A man from the district committee of the city committee came to these games and pretended to be involved in the organization of the match. Just after all. Matches were? There were. Was Raykom? It was. Hockey, then, is developing. Hello beloved Ilyich. Just in case – to the mausoleum too. However, the legendary Anatoly Tarasov, the former coach of the USSR and CSKA national teams, and Anatoly Firsov, one of the best strikers in the world of the 1960s and 70s, somehow arrived at one of the tournaments in Tbilisi. After observing the children, they issued a verdict: Georgians will be able to play well, but constant conditions are needed.

However, the “big” people who praised greetings and reports, additional expenses and troubles were useless. And hockey fans were not among them. Of course, they did not prohibit the ban on playing, but waved their hands so that hockey began to seem doomed. The only skating rink, the mentioned skater school in Tbilisi, was reluctant to let them in. And so that the ice does not really spoil, it was forbidden to play the puck. Instead of her – ordinary socks, twisted into a ball and secured in such a form with electrical tape.
Winter was easier. In Bakuriani, this time of year is always snowy and cold. The guys on their own filled the rink (by the way, many hours of exhausting work) and played. Few people knew about this …

So, in spite of everything, Georgian hockey players quietly “played out” before the World Championships in the fourth (lowest) division. Let’s go to Luxembourg. Expectedly lost all matches. Not all dry – which was a success. They piled not childishly a couple of rivals than me, a fan of the Philadelphia Flyers, enthralled. Came back home. And again, the same perennial problems. Although not really …

With ice it became a little easier. In Tbilisi, the city hall in the winter began to arrange artificial ice rinks, which hockey players sometimes managed to break through and arrange demonstration matches. Four clubs continued to play their championship in Bakuriani. About all this, Tbilisi Go Group Media made a wonderful watch film “Rare Breed”. In a word, hockey players began to pay attention. And they immediately paid off truly fantastic successes – they won their division, then the next one and, as they said, reached the group “B” of the second division, in which they took third place in April this year. In April 2020, in Iceland, Georgian hockey players will once again compete in this division for promotion – in rivals: Belgium, Bulgaria, Iceland, Mexico and New Zealand. With a successful performance at the next tournament, rival teams of Georgia, such as Poland, Kazakhstan, Japan, Slovenia, can become Georgian rivals.

“The team is carefully preparing for the tournament in Iceland, where there is a struggle with rivals who have much better conditions for regular training and matches than ours,” says Ilo Davydov, president of the Georgian Hockey Federation.

His brother – Denis, has a special colossal role in the fact that hockey survived in Georgia. It was Denis Davydov who headed the Federation, probably in the most difficult period for Georgian hockey. Then the country was absorbed by catastrophic problems, which put a question mark before the existence of statehood as a whole. And in those conditions, only an extraordinary person who wholeheartedly devoted to the idea could go to instances, achieve something for hockey. Denis Davydov retained hockey for Georgia. Alas, he himself does not see the success of the case to which he devoted himself entirely – ten years ago he died in a car accident in Turkey, where he went on hockey affairs.

In Iceland, the Georgian national team will probably have a harder time than other tournaments. The application with the names of the hockey players and the names of the clubs they represent will feature the Canadian team. And this is a guarantee of increased attention of rivals.

 

Cornell Sophomore Min Shin ’22 Shines as Member of Korean National Women’s Ice Hockey Team

Sophomore Min Shin’s dreams of playing for Korea’s National Women’s Ice Hockey team came to fruition as she prepares for the 2020 IIHF Championships in Poland

By Renee Hoh – The Cornell Daily Sun

At just 12 years old, Min Shin ’22 appeared on Korean national television declaring her dream to one day play for the Korean National Women’s Ice Hockey team. Now, seven years later, the Cornell sophomore can finally don the Korean jersey.

Shin’s determination to play college hockey and for Team Korea has jetted her across various states and countries. Most recently, Shin travelled to Ottawa, Ontario for a two-week training camp with her new teammates in preparation for the 2020 IIHF Championships in Poland. Balancing hockey and school work, Shin brought all of her studying materials and returned to Cornell from the camp a few days early –– just in time for her Introductory Oceanography prelim.

“Playing college hockey at Hamilton [College] before I came here really taught me to stay on top of my work, because as a college athlete, you’re always really busy,” said Shin, who transferred into Cornell this semester.

Shin was born in South Korea, but spent her childhood in Ithaca. Growing up, Shin’s parents used to drive her to ice rinks in Lansing, thinking that she would pick up figure skating. Shin, however, had other ideas.

“My brother was playing hockey, so obviously I wanted to also play hockey, not figure skate,” Shin said with a laugh.

Getting serious about ice hockey, Shin moved back to Korea, where she played alongside boys for club teams and was invited by the Korean national team to participate in training camps by fifth grade. However, the opportunity to play high school hockey prompted the goalie to return to the U.S. and attend the Groton School in Boston, where she captained the varsity ice hockey team during her senior year.

Still, every summer, Shin would lug her hockey gear back to Korea with her, dedicating her time to showcases, camps and tournaments. Shin tried out for Team Korea during her high school junior year, but narrowly missed out on playing in the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics and was the “last goalie cut in the final roster.”

“I was pretty bummed out about it,” Shin said. “I was planning on quitting hockey after that.

“And to end on a good note because, my senior year, I was voted captain and we beat our rival school in more than six years,” Shin continued. “It was such a great final game and I was good with ending my [hockey] career here.”

Shin had the option to attend University of California, Los Angeles, but still could not give up the prospects of playing college hockey. Instead, she walked onto the DIII hockey team for Hamilton College in the NESCAC league before transferring to Cornell, where she intends to major in anthropology and minor in law & society.

“No! I want to keep going,” Shin said, when asked if attending law school would end her hockey career. “Playing hockey, playing for Team Korea, that has been my dream for as long as I can remember.”

Next semester, Shin will have a few more stops to hit. She’ll be traveling to Korea for the Legacy Cup, the Czech Republic for a training camp, and Poland for the World Championships. If Team Korea plays well, Shin may have the opportunity to compete in the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, flying out to another country and fulfilling yet another dream of hers.

While Shin does not currently play for the Cornell women’s team, she skated with the team to prepare for her training camp. Despite her already busy schedule, Shin said she would love to play for the team she grew up watching.

“When I was younger, I’d go watch the college hockey games at Lynah [Rink],” Shin said. “So, coming back here it’s been like ‘oh my gosh, if I could play for this team that would be so cool.’ Cornell’s ice hockey is amazing.”

A stuck Russian team & amateur talent jumpstart Aces hockey in Anchorage

By Patrick Enslow  – KTUU.com

As the Aces Alumni prepare to return to the ice this week we take a look back at the franchise’s humble beginnings and rise to prominence in the professional ranks in three-part series leading up to Friday and Saturday’s charity games.

The Russians

Aces hockey can be traced all the way back to the 1930s when a seniors men’s hockey team took the ice and played on an outdoor rink on Fireweed Lane. An Aces program from 1993-94 had a history of the team and said the team made their own ice, and hot-mopped between periods.

The spirit of that team would live on years later when former UAA hockey player Dennis Sorenson brought the team back.

“We needed something to do here locally, and we thought there would be a good draw for it,” said Sorenson.

After previous failed attempts to put together a senior men’s amateur team a unique set of circumstances brought hockey back in December of 1990.

A Russian team got stuck here because of weather,” said Sorenson. “I got a phone call from the rink one night that said can you get a group together to play this club?”

Prominent local Anchorage hockey coach Dempsey Anderson suggested Sorenson call his new team the Aces, as a throwback to the 1930s Anchorage Men’s team. The newly-formed team would skate to a 3-3 tie, and lose in overtime to the Russians.

“We were all ex-UAA, and myself UAF college players like some local high school players,” said Keith Street, a member of that 1990-91 team.

Following that game Sorenson decided to secure ice time, a schedule and voilà!: the Anchorage Aces were in business.

“I was running it off my American Express Card and my sporting goods store,” said Sorenson. “It was difficult, we were making due, and nobody was getting paid we were just having a good time, putting on a pretty good brand of hockey of former college players

Playing and coaching Sorenson quickly found out the business of sports is expensive, and he didn’t have the deep pockets to keep the team on the ice.

“The big turning point for me is the first ownership group for me that helped me get it going, as the player-coach it was difficult to have friends on the team, and tell them who’s going to play when,” said Sorenson.

With financial backing, the team headed to the amateur national championships. The Aces took down in-state rival the Fairbanks Gold Kings on their home ice to win the team’s first-ever national title.

Building on momentum from their early success the Aces would make a name for themselves in the world of senior amateur hockey slowly creating a fan base in Anchorage.

“It was tough dealing with UAA (hockey) at the time because UAA was good, UAA was winning games in the early 90s, they were having great crowds, and were trying to build on their success just a different type of hockey,” said Sorenson.

The local hockey team would get another chance to face off with international talent when the Arctic Challenge came to Alaska in September of 1993 leading up to the 1994 Olympic Games in Lillehammer, Norway.

The pre-Olympic hockey tournament was made up of Teams USA, Russia and Canada. Along with some of the world’s best was Team Alaska, made up of many players from the Aces roster.

Building a resume against national and high-level senior amateur teams the Aces would soon eye a leap to the pro ranks in 1995.

“We were all young enough where we had that passion to play at higher level than a local men’s team,” said Street.

Aces get paid to play & transition to life on the road

In the fall of 1995, the Aces officially become a professional hockey franchise joining the West Coast Hockey League. Turning pro also meant the team would look a lot different than the senior men’s amateur team for which it was known from 1990-95.

“There was more on the line, guys getting traded, guys getting moved around, picked up, you kind of knew you had to perform or get traded,” said former Aces center Keith Street.

The former Univ. of Fairbanks standout, Street was one of a handful of players who would remain on the Aces as they made the transition to professional hockey.

“We had the two-week road trips,” said Street. “The longest one we had was 28-days that’s a long time to be away from your family, and it was tough for some of the local guys with jobs.”

Longtime Aces public address announcer Bob Lester recounts the ‘early days’ of Aces of hockey comparing it to the 1970’s hockey movie ‘Slap Shot’.

“It was great hockey,” said Lester. “College Hockey is a totally different animal, that’s fine, it’s not Aces hockey, and I think that’s what they (Aces) were able to market.”

Lester felt the quality of hockey – plus fighting and beer – fueled the early popularity of the team.

On the ice, the team was built around centers Keith Street and Dean Larson, from 1996-99 Street would register three straight 100-point seasons, and Larson would post similar stats records four 100 point seasons from 1996 to 2000.

Kelly Cups and the end of the Alaska Aces

From losing games to losing money, things were not looking good for the Aces in the early 2000s. Fresh off their worst season in franchise history in 2001-2002, it didn’t look promising for Anchorage’s professional hockey franchise.

In June of 2002 the team faced $2,000,000 in debt, and then owner Mike Cusack Junior put the team on eBay. The franchise would soon be saved by a seven-member group who bought the team in bankruptcy court.

“First season was really tough. We got in August, started playing in October,” said Aces owner and managing partner Terry Parks. “We didn’t have a coach, we didn’t have a team, and we didn’t have any employees. So it was a tough first year.”

2002-2003 would be considered a rebuilding season, and safe to say, times were changing from the team’s name, ownership to their head coach.

In any line of business, who you hire is key to success. Professional hockey was no different, and many consider the hiring of Davis Payne as a turning point for the franchise.

“Davis was the most prepared interview that I’ve ever done, and I’ve probably interviewed 500 people in my life,” said Parks. “By far the best-prepared and had a plan.”

When the team made the jump to the ECHL in 2003 they would change their name to the Alaska Aces, and their success on the ice would soon change as well.

“When Davis Payne came in things became much more businesslike and professional,” said public address announcer Bob Lester.

By 2004 the team had built a winning culture, and soon it would have Stanley Cup talent to match when they added East Anchorage’s Scotty Gomez during the 2004-2005 NHL lockout.

“They managed to keep it a pretty big secret, not a lot of people knew,” said Gomez Aces teammate Kimbi Daniels.

Not only did he help the Aces on the ice, but in the ticket sales department as well.

“I think it made a big difference in the philosophy of the team. I said it was the best recruiting I ever had,” said Parks. “I think Scotty was making about $4,500,000, and we paid him $500 a week.”

After the lockout Gomez would return to the NHL, but the best days were yet to come for the Glacier Blue as they won the Kelly Cup, ECHL’s version of the Stanley Cup, in 2006, 2011 and 2014.

But the end of the franchise was quickly approaching.

“I remember we were in the third round of the playoffs in 2014, and we weren’t selling out the games,” said Lester.

In February of 2017 the ownership group announced the franchise would fold for financial reasons.

The announcement took many by surprise, but Parks said it was declining ticket sales, the economy and keeping the players on the ice.

“What most people don’t understand the real risk with minor league hockey is not only do you have payroll and travel, but we also had workers comp, all the injuries, we had to take care of those financially,” said Parks.

Since 2017 many hockey fans have speculated when professional hockey will return to Anchorage.

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