Year: 2019 (page 3 of 13)

There is no ice in Azerbaijan,but there is a hockey federation: Laryukov on the chances of getting into the KHL

ByТеймур ТушиевSputnik
Translated to English.

Acting President of the Azerbaijan Ice Hockey Federation Valery Laryukov in a interview with Sputnik Azerbaijan shared his opinion on the possible creation of a hockey club in Azerbaijan.

Recently, the issue of creating a professional ice hockey club in Azerbaijan, which can represent the country in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL), has repeatedly been raised. The first to speak about this was the Minister of Youth and Sports of Azerbaijan, Azad Rahimov.

The legend of world hockey, two-time Olympic champion, UN Goodwill Ambassador to the Arctic and Antarctica Vyacheslav Fetisov visited Baku, he discussed the development of ice hockey in Azerbaijan with Rahimov., and the other day the famous Russian hockey player of the NHL club “Washington Capitals” Alexander Ovechkin said at a press conference in Moscow that he intends to help Azerbaijan develop this sport. He also noted that he was invited to visit Azerbaijan next year.

Few people know, but Azerbaijan has the Ice Hockey Federation, which has been a member of the International Federation since May 6, 1992. The federation has a secretary general Valery Laryukov, who acts as president of the organization. According to the data on the website of the IIHF the office of the Azerbaijan Federation is located in Moscow at Leninsky Prospekt, 116-1-150. At the same time, one of the numbers of the city of Baku is indicated in the contact telephone number.

In an interview with Sputnik Azerbaijan, Valery Laryukov talked about how the Azerbaijan Ice Hockey Federation was created, his attitude to the creation of a professional Azerbaijani hockey club, as well as about the Azerbaijani national team, which played in the amateur league of Moscow.

How was the Azerbaijan Hockey Federation created?

In 1991, Anatoly Vladimirovich Tarasov, at the request of the Azerbaijani sports committee, asked me to go to Baku to open a hockey school there and develop this sport. About two hundred local children attended the school that opened then. After the collapse of the USSR from Moscow, the head of the Hockey Department of the Sports Committee Yuri Korolev called me and suggested the Azerbaijan Hockey Federation, then we created it and join the International Hockey Federation (IIHF).

I prepared the documents, and in 1992 we took part in the IIHF congress  where Azerbaijan, like the other former Soviet Republics, were accepted into the IIHF. While we participated in the congress, power changed in Azerbaijan – instead of Ayaz Mutalibov, Abulfaz Elchibey came to leadership in the country. Upon returning to Baku, a new Minister of Sports called me, and thanked me for the work I done and said that hockey will not be develop in Azerbaijan, the attention will be paid to national sports.

As a result, I returned to Moscow where I became the general director of the Russian Hockey Federation. However since 1992 the Azerbaijan Ice Hockey Federation has been a full member of the International Federation. Throughout this time I annually pay membership fees in the amount of approximately one thousand euros In order to maintain Azerbaijan’s membership in the IIHF.

Have you tried again to appeal to the sports leadership of Azerbaijan?

I did it several times appealed to the Ministry of Youth and Sports and the National Olympic Committee.
In response I was informed that in connection with the European Games, Formula 1 races and other major competitions, there are no funds in Azerbaijan to development ice hockey.

Despite this, we gathered children from Russian sports schools and took part in the amateur league of Moscow as the Azerbaijani team. We played at an average level  and in order to attract strong players we acquire equipment, and rented ice.  “You need a lot of money to play this sport”.

By the way, it is known that two Azerbaijani hockey players played in this team…

Yes, two Azerbaijanis played on the team and if we have any funding, then they are ready to play.
One of them is Ilgiz Salmanov, and the other is Orkhan Kyazimov. I note that the participation of the Azerbaijani team for next season of the Moscow Amateur League is in question, because this requires funding.

For example, for each match in this league, we need to pay 18,000 rubles for the rental of the rink and the the Referees. Last season we played 26 matches and we spent 468 thousand rubles in total. Each time the players collected this money themselves, taking off one thousand rubles out of there pocket. We are in a deadlock now, as we still do not know whether we can play in the Moscow league.

What motivated you to pay annual membership fees for the national ice hockey federation of Azerbaijan, which actually does not function?

You know, I consider this my brainchild. Initially, I fought for Azerbaijan to become a member of the International Ice Hockey Federation, and this was not so simple. Unlike countries such as Ukraine, Belarus, where the hockey industry was already developed then, it was only emerging in Azerbaijan. We had to convince our foreign colleagues that an ice rink was built in Baku, there are prospects for the development of hockey.

Azerbaijan Team in the Moscow League

Recently Azerbaijan has begun actively discussing the creation of a professional Ice hockey club. This issue was discussed with Vyacheslav Fetisov in Baku and Alexander Ovechkin recently spoke about this at a press conference in Moscow …

As the general secretary of the Azerbaijan Ice Hockey Federation I note that the KHL rules are clearly spelled out – a club that plans to participate in the league should have an ice arena for 12-15 thousand spectators, which Azerbaijan does not have. Back in 1991, an arena was built in Baku on the same premises as the CSKA Arena in Moscow.

Nevertheless, I am all for the establishment of a ice hockey club in Azerbaijan, and if people are ready to cooperate with the federation, then I can provide any help.

By the way according to the regulations of the International Hockey Federation, a club wishing to play in the KHL must obtain permission from the national federation of the country that it will represent in the league. It is the local hockey federation that signs the agreement with the KHL on the club’s participation in this league. There is an agreement between the KHL and IIHF according to which the club in order to participate in the league must obtain a license from its national federation.

In your opinion, is it worth developing Ice hockey in Azerbaijan?

There are two main ways: either a powerful club are created, at which children and youth teams can play or open several hockey schools around the country in which young hockey players  develop.
In both cases, and especially in the second, it is necessary to build skating rinks on which several Olympic sports can be developed – hockey, figure skating, short track and so on. If there is a decision by the country’s leadership to popularize winter sports, then both approaches can become the basis for development.

Which way is suitable for Azerbaijan?

Most likely, this is the first option in which a club can be created to participate in the KHL. Under them, a farm club can operate that will play in the Higher Hockey League. Youth teams can also be created, and subsequently ice rinks in the regions are built. They are now being created quite quickly, in about six months. The question of the main ice arena is a priority.

By the way, recently in Uzbekistan actively took up ice hockey. They built an ice rink, created a hockey team that will play in the Higher Hockey League. But if such people as Vyacheslav Fetisov and Alexander Ovechkin are involved in the project in Azerbaijan, then this is really serious.

I add that the creation of a hockey club at the KHL level is quite an expensive exercise. The minimum annual budget of such a club, which can attract hockey players of a not the highest class, is $15 million,
and the team that claims to have the best players has an annual budget of $60 million .

Lionesses top of Europe

Petra Nieminen was the tournament’s scoring leader and scored twice in Finland’s win in the deciding game against Russia

By Martin Merk – IIHF.com

The Finnish women’s national team cemented its position as top European team when Finland hosted the first tournament of the Euro Hockey Tour in Vierumaki, Kerava and Mikkeli. All games ended with happy faces for the host nation.

“Overall, this was a good week for us,” captain Jenni Hiirikoski told leijonat.fi. “There were many games, there were new girls involved and every game turned out to be a win. It’s tough to achieve.”

The key win came on the last day against its closest follower Russia. Despite being outshot 28-18, Finland won 4-2 with two goals from Petra Nieminen. With five goals and two assists Nieminen was the scoring leader of the tournament. Defender Hiirikoski also had seven points.

“Both of our goaltenders played a really good week,” Hiirikoski said and also praised the fruitful power play. Meeri Raisanen had a 97.4% save percentage, her teammate Eveliina Suonpaa was third with 92.0%, with Japan’s Nana Fujimoto (94.9%) in between.

For Finland it was the first tournament on home ice since the successful hosting of the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship where the lionesses came to historic heights with a silver-medal finish. It’s also a season that will see new players making their Women’s Worlds debut at the 2020 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship in Halifax and Truro, Canada, since Venla Hovi, Riikka Sallinen and Linda Valimaki ended their careers.

Defenders Sini Karjalainen (20), Aino Karppinen (21), Sanni Rantala (17); and forwards Ida Kuoppala (19), Julia Liikala (18), Matilda Nilsson (22), Jenniina Nylund (20) and Emilia Vesa (18) were the eight rookies on the 24-player roster who have never played for the senior team at the Women’s Worlds or Olympics before.

Head coach Pasi Mustonen praised the young team while not hiding that there’s still work ahead as they are just at the beginning of their journey. This was shown in the tight game with Russia.

“We have young players who only know one direction – offence. It is understandable that they are not fully able to read the game yet. 5-on-5 Russia was clearly better than us. We won the game because [our goaltender] Eveliina Suonpaa kept us in the game and our power play, which has been excellent all week, was once again effective,” Mustonen said after the last game.

The tournament needed some reshuffling after Sweden cancelled its participation due to disagreements between the federation and the players about compensations and other issues that are now being discussed. Good news was announced on Friday with the Swedish Ice Hockey Association and the (men’s) Swedish Hockey League to invest SEK 400,000 (€43,000) a year for the compensation for loss of earnings when players join the national team camps with additional money for the development of elite women’s ice hockey coming from the association.

The tournament continued with host Finland, the Czech Republic and Russia as European teams as well as Japan with each team having four games counting to the standings. Finland played against its Russian neighbors twice and had earlier won the first game 3-0 while also beating the Czech Republic (9-2) and Japan (3-1).

Russia finished the tournament in second place. While they couldn’t overcome Finland, they beat both Japan (2-0) and the Czech Republic (6-1) in the other games.

Japan was third with its only two victories against winless Czech Republic, 2-0 and 6-3. Hanae Kubo became the best non-Finnish scorer of the tournament with two goals and two assists.

The Czechs finished the tournament in last place without points and a 6-23 goal record. It was an under performing week for them after the 6th-place finish at the recent Women’s Worlds where the Czechs had beaten Japan 3-1.

Finland’s Meeri Raisanen and Jenni Hiirikoski won the individual awards as best goaltender and defender respectively, Russia’s Olga Sosina was voted best forward.

The next tournaments will happen during the November international break where Sweden is scheduled to host Canada, Finland and the United States for a Four Nations Tournament in Lulea, 5-9 November. The same week Russia will host the Czech Republic, Germany and Switzerland in Dmitrov in the Moscow Region.

Swedish women’s hockey looking for relaunch

For the Future: Thea Johansson and the Swedish U18 women’s national team left the Czechs, Finland and Russia behind at a recent tournament while the senior women’s national team works with the Swedish Ice Hockey Association on better conditions

By Martin Merk – IIHF.com

Swedish women’s hockey has had mixed news recently in international ice hockey. While the senior women’s national team’s relegation last spring was one of the biggest upsets and ended up with a battle off the ice for better conditions, the U18 women’s national team surprised with a tournament win.

Never before had a Swedish national team been relegated in an IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship event before but in spring it happened after Sweden’s “Damkronorna” lost to the Czech Republic, Germany and Japan. Four months later there was no such thing as a fresh start on the ice when the senior women’s national team was supposed to meet for a camp back home followed by the Euro Hockey Tour in Finland where – opposed to their status in IIHF play – they would have met the top nations.

43 national team players joined a strike, many posted a message on social media on 14 August with the hashtag #FörFramtiden (“for the future”) where they declined the invitation to the camp. With heavy hearts but with reasons the players’ association SICO revealed two days later with ten demands.

One major one seems to be on the way to be solved when the Swedish Ice Hockey Association and the (men’s) Swedish Hockey League announced a financial solution for the women’s national team program including compensation for loss of earnings when players join the national team camps that will be paid through the clubs of the Swedish women’s hockey league SDHL.

With more discussions scheduled between the association and the players representatives, that could solve a major stumbling block as the lack of compensation for the players, who in most cases play their club hockey as amateur players, was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Since winning the historic silver medal at the 2006 Olympic Winter Games the results of the Swedish senior women’s national team have only known one way: down. 4th in Vancouver 2010, 4th in Sochi 2014, 7th in PyeongChang 2018 and 9th at the recent Women’s Worlds. The result at 2018’s Olympics also resulted in lost financial backing of the Swedish Olympic Committee for women’s ice hockey, which was the starting point of the financial issues for the funding of the program and financial support for the players.

“We have not seen any positive development in recent years. Compared to 2015, the programs are not stronger, the players are not physically better and the results are worse,” Swedish Olympic Committee CEO Peter Reinebo explained to Swedish broadcaster SVT. After the recent issues and negative press, they may be open to rethink the funding issue when meeting with the Swedish Ice Hockey Association in September.

“It has to do with whether you decide to invest in achieving international success. Our organization is not for a national team to function well, but to be able to win Swedish Olympic medals.

“Ice hockey is important in our country. After all, we got off because we were disappointed with the development. We want to turn it around, this is clear. I hope and believe that they can put the ambition together. But 2022 is a short-term perspective.”

Bad results caused funding from the Swedish Olympic Committee going away after the team hasn’t shown results. But this step is unlikely to improve those results as the relegation has indicated. It may even fuel the downward spiral. Next spring Sweden will have to travel to Angers but not to play the creme de la creme of women’s ice hockey but to play in the Division I Group A against host France, Norway, Austria, Slovakia and the Netherlands to be able to get back to the top level. That will also prevent them from earning enough world ranking points to be automatically qualified for the 2022 Olympics. The “lady crowns” will have to go through a qualification tournament in the 2020/2021 season.

Last Thursday there was a first meeting between the Swedish Ice Hockey Association and the players’ association SICO to solve the situation with the hope to end the strike soon.

“In general it was constructive and good. There were many good questions from them and I hope we were able to answer them. The representatives from SICO were satisfied with the answers for now but so far we have no final agreement,” General Secretary Tommy Boustedt told SVT after the meeting and mentioned that one major issue, the players income loss for playing on the national team, was solved. The players’ side will now work on a proposal for a three-year agreement. “I think we are close to each other in all the issues raised.”

The good news came the next day when the association found an agreement with the Swedish Hockey League that will contribute up to SEK 400,000 (€43,000) a year for the compensation of earning losses for women’s national team players through the clubs of the Swedish women’s hockey league SDHL during the next three years. A similar agreement had been set in place for 2018/2019 but expired. The Swedish Ice Hockey Association will also use SEK 450,000 for further investment in the development of Swedish elite women’s hockey.

“I’m pleased that we found a solution for the players of the women’s national team for compensation of lost earnings for the next three years but also that this is done with the agreements we have between us and the leagues. Some questions remain in our discussions with the players and SICO and that, thanks to the SHL, we can now solve one of the important parts about compensation also provides good conditions for our continuing discussions,” the Swedish Ice Hockey Association’s chairman Anders Larsson said in a statement after the announcement on Friday.

In a few weeks Sweden is scheduled to host Canada, Finland and the United States for a Four Nations Tournament in Lulea, 5-9 November. If everything turns out well, it will be the first tournament under the new agreement that will run until 2022.

Good news for the future

In the shadow of the conflict there was some good news for the future as well. The Swedish U18 national team has been medalling more regularly in IIHF competitions recently. It had to settle for 5th place last winter at the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 Women’s World Championship but now hit the headlines with a win of the Four Nations Tournament in Jihlava in the Czech Republic. There the Swedes left the hosts, Russia and Finland behind.

The team started with a 3-0 loss to Russia, which scored all three goals in the last six minutes of play including two from Varvara Boriskova, but then got two wins that were enough to move up to first place.

Malou Berggren and Linnea Johansson scored the goals in the 2-0 win over the hosts while goaltender Ebba Svensson Traff earned her shutout with 29 saves.

While Russia lost the other two games, the Swedish juniors had a big win on the last day. Amanda Ahlm and Thea Johansson opened the scoring against Finland late in the second frame and Hanna Thuvik made it 3-0 late in the game to beat the Finns for first place in the tournament. Ida Boman had 23 saves for her shutout.

The Czechs had the scoring leader with Tereza Mazancova (2+2=4), Boriskova was the best goal scorer with three markers while two goaltenders led the goalie stats ending their one game with a shutout, Svensson Traff and the Czech Republic’s Viktorie Svejdova.

While there are still some discussions to be done to bring Swedish women’s hockey back to track, that was already a good sign on the ice for the future of Swedish women’s hockey.

Lionesses top of Europe

Petra Nieminen was the tournament’s scoring leader and scored twice in Finland’s win in the deciding game against Russia

By Martin Merk – IIHF.com

The Finnish women’s national team cemented its position as top European team when Finland hosted the first tournament of the Euro Hockey Tour in Vierumaki, Kerava and Mikkeli. All games ended with happy faces for the host nation.

“Overall, this was a good week for us,” captain Jenni Hiirikoski told leijonat.fi. “There were many games, there were new girls involved and every game turned out to be a win. It’s tough to achieve.”

The key win came on the last day against its closest follower Russia. Despite being outshot 28-18, Finland won 4-2 with two goals from Petra Nieminen. With five goals and two assists Nieminen was the scoring leader of the tournament. Defender Hiirikoski also had seven points.

“Both of our goaltenders played a really good week,” Hiirikoski said and also praised the fruitful power play. Meeri Raisanen had a 97.4% save percentage, her teammate Eveliina Suonpaa was third with 92.0%, with Japan’s Nana Fujimoto (94.9%) in between.

For Finland it was the first tournament on home ice since the successful hosting of the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship where the lionesses came to historic heights with a silver-medal finish. It’s also a season that will see new players making their Women’s Worlds debut at the 2020 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship in Halifax and Truro, Canada, since Venla Hovi, Riikka Sallinen and Linda Valimaki ended their careers.

Defenders Sini Karjalainen (20), Aino Karppinen (21), Sanni Rantala (17); and forwards Ida Kuoppala (19), Julia Liikala (18), Matilda Nilsson (22), Jenniina Nylund (20) and Emilia Vesa (18) were the eight rookies on the 24-player roster who have never played for the senior team at the Women’s Worlds or Olympics before.

Head coach Pasi Mustonen praised the young team while not hiding that there’s still work ahead as they are just at the beginning of their journey. This was shown in the tight game with Russia.

“We have young players who only know one direction – offence. It is understandable that they are not fully able to read the game yet. 5-on-5 Russia was clearly better than us. We won the game because [our goaltender] Eveliina Suonpaa kept us in the game and our power play, which has been excellent all week, was once again effective,” Mustonen said after the last game.

The tournament needed some reshuffling after Sweden cancelled its participation due to disagreements between the federation and the players about compensations and other issues that are now being discussed. Good news was announced on Friday with the Swedish Ice Hockey Association and the (men’s) Swedish Hockey League to invest SEK 400,000 (€43,000) a year for the compensation for loss of earnings when players join the national team camps with additional money for the development of elite women’s ice hockey coming from the association.

The tournament continued with host Finland, the Czech Republic and Russia as European teams as well as Japan with each team having four games counting to the standings. Finland played against its Russian neighbors twice and had earlier won the first game 3-0 while also beating the Czech Republic (9-2) and Japan (3-1).

Russia finished the tournament in second place. While they couldn’t overcome Finland, they beat both Japan (2-0) and the Czech Republic (6-1) in the other games.

Japan was third with its only two victories against winless Czech Republic, 2-0 and 6-3. Hanae Kubo became the best non-Finnish scorer of the tournament with two goals and two assists.

The Czechs finished the tournament in last place without points and a 6-23 goal record. It was an under performing week for them after the 6th-place finish at the recent Women’s Worlds where the Czechs had beaten Japan 3-1.

Finland’s Meeri Raisanen and Jenni Hiirikoski won the individual awards as best goaltender and defender respectively, Russia’s Olga Sosina was voted best forward.

The next tournaments will happen during the November international break where Sweden is scheduled to host Canada, Finland and the United States for a Four Nations Tournament in Lulea, 5-9 November. The same week Russia will host the Czech Republic, Germany and Switzerland in Dmitrov in the Moscow Region.

Russia tops the charts in Perm

Grigori Denisenko (left), who was named best forward of the tournament, and Kirill Marchenko (right) helped Russia win the tournament on home ice in Perm

By Andy Potts – IIHF.com

Russia’s juniors came out on top in the first U20 Four Nations’ tournament of the season in Perm. The young Red Machine edged in front of the Czech Republic after both teams finished on six points. Russia topped the table by virtue of its opening 4-1 victory over the Czechs, who came second after wins against Finland and Sweden. The Finns secured third place with a 4-2 win against Russia on the last day, while Sweden’s solitary point arrived in an overtime loss against its Nordic neighbour.

The first game of the contest proved to be decisive. Russia’s win over the Czechs tipped the balance in the tie break. The victory owed much to the revived combination of Pavel Dorofeyev, Grigori Denisenko and Ivan Morozov, which had a hand in three of the goals. The trio represent different KHL organisations – Magnitogorsk, Yaroslavl and St. Petersburg respectively – but have often played together at different age groups within the national program in Russia.

“We played all three games on a single line,” Dorofeyev told FHR.ru. “I’ve played with them since we were kids so we can do a lot together. Of course, it’s good to get back to playing with them again after a bit of a break.”

Russia’s second game was a tight affair. Maxim Sorkin’s first-period goal was enough to beat Sweden 1-0 and the CSKA prospect admitted his team made hard work of seeing off the Swedes.

“In the first two periods we couldn’t wake up, our game didn’t flow, the puck wouldn’t go to the stick,” he said. “It was only in the third period that we played more or less OK. Luckily we got a goal in the first period, albeit a bit of a freakish one, and managed to close out the win.”

That result ensured that Russia would top the group regardless of the outcome against Finland and the final gameday saw the host nation defeated 2-4 by the Finnish lions. For head coach Valeri Bragin, who went into the tournament talking about the need for many emerging players to prove themselves at the start of the selection process for this season’s IIHF World Junior Championship in the Czech Republic, it was a somewhat frustrating finish to an encouraging competition.

“The most important thing is that we won [the tournament],” he said. “We played well, including against Finland where we had two very good periods. We tried to play aggressive, attacking hockey but our finishing let us down a little in the end, plus we allowed some soft goals at the other end.

“As far as the roster is concerned, we’ll need to analyse that more closely. Nobody dropped out of contention. Sure, some players were a bit brighter than others but, on the whole, the team was fairly even.”

The individual awards saw Daniel Dvorak (CZE) take the best goalie prize, Santeri Hatakka (FIN) claim best D-man and Grigori Denisenko (RUS) named best forward. Samuel Salonen (FIN) was the leading scorer in the competition. Dvorak, a 19-year-old from Hradec Kralove, was the Czech man-of-the-match against Russia, where his 27 saves kept his team in the game for long periods. He also played in the win over Sweden that secured second place and established himself as a serious challenger to Lukas Dostal for the #1 role on the Czech Junior roster.

Russia’s decision to stage the tournament in Perm, a city in the Northern Urals often described as the Easternmost in Europe, was a new departure. The local team, Molot-Prikamie, has not played in the Russian top league since 2005/06 and the 6,000-seater Molot Arena rarely sees international stars, past, present or future. The games were taken here as part of the Russian Hockey Federation’s efforts to broaden the geographical spread of hockey across the country, and the initiative got the thumbs up from the players.

“It was a good set-up for us here,” said Denisenko. “The fans really got behind us, it was like having a sixth skater on the ice. To be honest, I didn’t expect such an enthusiastic audience for hockey here.”

Head coach Bragin added: “The whole tournament was played in a great atmosphere. We made sure that people in this region could fall in love with hockey and I’m glad we came to play here. I hope we managed to entertain the fans. I’d like to say a big thank to everyone for the lively support we had in the arena. It was like a breath of fresh air, and it gave our players strength.”

The Falklands are coming: hockey’s smallest nation looking for big results

By Steven Ellis – The Hockey News

The small nation may be famous for a war, but through the work of a group of dedicated individuals, hockey is quickly picking up steam in one of the most unlikely destinations. This is the story of hockey on the Falkland Islands.

Roughly 3,000 inhabitants call the Falkland Islands home. Around 150 of them play hockey.

Located just south of Argentina and 5,600 miles from Miami, Fla., the Falklands are the smallest hockey nation on record, making up one of the 14 British Overseas Territories. The Falkland Islands have the 222nd largest economy out of 229 nations according to the GDP, and many of the Falklands’ culture traditions stem from British settlers.

So, naturally, it’s a perfect place for hockey.

In fact, when you visit the Hockey Hall of Fame, you’ll find Ryan Bahl’s jersey from the 2015 Copa Invernada Tournament in Punta Arenas, Chile, the first ice hockey tournament the Falklands took part in. It was a ceremonious introduction to the sport for the nation, which won all four games to take home gold. The kicker? There isn’t an ice rink on the Falkland Islands. Granted, a few of the players had experience on ice, but it was a new venture for some and the first time the group got to play on the ice together.

Winning gold in your first attempt is hard enough, especially when you have limited experience on the surface you’re playing on, but to follow that up with another medal? Good luck. But since 2015, the Falkland Islands have won bronze in Costa Rica at the inaugural International Ice Hockey Tournament, featuring club teams from Canada and the United States and gold at all four levels of the 2018 Mega Patagonian Cup in the Punta Arenas. They’ve never actually finished a tournament without winning a medal, which is almost unheard of.

Since there isn’t a local ice rink, players take part in dek (ball) and inline hockey, allowing them to develop basic footwork skills to get them up to speed for their annual adventures on the ice. Former British pro ice hockey player Grant Budd started dek hockey in a small gym back in 2006, with inline launching in 2017 – with player involvement growing rapidly. The gym is only just a tad bigger than a zone in an NHL-sized rink, but they make do with what they have.

Now, the Falkland Islands are ready for the big stage, relatively speaking.

In early September, the organization will make the jump to 5-on-5 hockey against other international teams at the Amerigol Latam Cup. The tournament, put on in partnership with the Florida Panthers in Coral Springs, Fla., features teams from North and South America in men’s, women’s and U-16 levels. It was previously known as the Pan-American Ice Hockey Games, with Colombia and Mexico being the teams to beat each year (Mexico is lone full IIHF member, allowing it to participate in IIHF tournaments). Canada even sent a team once, winning the inaugural tournament in 2014 back when the Mexican federation organized it. The goal is to help grow hockey in the in the Americas. but participation opened up to the Caribbean to allow further growth. Jamaica and Puerto Rico are among the other teams making tournament debuts.

The 2019 edition of the Latam Cup – the second in its current form – will mark the first time Falkland has participated against a tournament full of international teams, but with a catch: you won’t find a team called the Falkland Islands on the schedule. The second division men’s unit will be called ‘Rest of the World,’ with players also coming from Canada, the United States, Norway and the United Kingdom. The youth team, Stanley, will play against Argentina, Colombia and the United States in the U-16 division.

Ryan Bahl’s jersey in the Hockey Hall of Fame

Experience is not on the side of the Falkland Islands. Take team media coordinator and vice-chairman Sam Cockwell, for example. Cockwell didn’t play hockey growing up, but the sport’s speed and competitiveness hooked him almost immediately when he first tried it a few years ago.

“(Grant Budd) said, ‘You’ve got to try inline because you like playing dek hockey,’ ” Cockwell said. “I was the worst skater anyone has ever seen. But since then, it has taken over my house and my life. Through the friendships you make, and the people you know, it has been an amazing club to be part of.”

The Latam Cup is a small start, but baby steps are needed to help the team grow. The goal at first was to go to Chile and just have a good showing: medals at both iterations they played at helped. Cockwell hopes the local government will see the sport continue to grow in the Falkland Islands and eventually build a small rink to play ice hockey on regularly. The Falkland Islands are not close to playing in any IIHF tournaments, but the growth over the past few years is impressive: from ball hockey in the gym to travelling to other countries and continents to play on the ice, the team members have had to overcome challenges just to play the sport they love.

“There’s been incredible support here in terms of helping us get sponsorship to pay for flights because it is horrifyingly expensive for us to go to Miami,” Cockwell said. “We’ve had a few big sponsors every year that have helped us out with accommodation, and a lot of them help us buy equipment.”

The team takes pride in the youth program, developing kids early with hopes of building a solid foundation for the senior squad. It’s a long-term project but one with a true aboriginal feel.

“They’ve just developed so much,” Cockwell said. “They’re actually becoming very good hockey players. We went from there being one youth league – the elite league is what it’s called now – to there being four youth leagues and a strong senior league as well.”

In a sport as expensive as hockey, building a homegrown program without major government assistance is challenging. There’s no positive return on investment, and everything comes at the expense of missing work and leaving loved ones behind. A team this small has its share of obstacles – it’ll cost more than $2100 for each player to participate – but the love of the game makes it worth it.

“Just being on the cusp of this big kind of level change for us, going from regional to a national level, it’s an exciting time for us,” Cockwell said.

Members of the Falkland Islands dek hockey program

Интервью с Монхоо Болдбаатар

By Медведь Бурый – National Teams of Ice Hockey

Мы пообщались с защитником монгольского клуба “Багануур” Монхоо Болдбаатар и узнали где тренируется сборная, когда в Монголии будет новая арена и почему хоккей в стране был на спаде

– Здравствуйте, Монхоо, для начала расскажите о чемпионате Монголии, какие клубы принимают участие в чемпионате?

– В Монголии всего 4 клуба : “Улаанбаатар” , “Багануур” , “Шарын гол” , “Эрдэнэт”. Из-за отсутствия спонсоров в прошлом сезоне не смогли играть “Дархан” и “Жалам хар” .
Помимо основного чемпионата, есть ещё юношеский чемпионат, в котором участвуют 16 команд.
Чемпионат длится 2 месяца с ноября по декабрь, а после чемпионата начинается подготовка к азиатским играм.

– На мировых турнирах, сборная Монголии выступает на Challenge Cup of Asia. Скажите как проходит подготовка к турниру, и выступает ли сборная Монголии на других турнирах?

– Сборная Монголии тренируется в России в городе Чита. Сборы проводятся, как я уже говорил, после национальной лиги. На сегодняшний день сборная участвует только в Challenge Cup of Asia.

– Есть ли интерес у болельщика и вообще у людей к хоккею в стране?

– Интереса, как хотелось бы нет, но я надеюсь, что после строительства арены ситуация в стране изменится. Открытие арены планируют к маю 2020.

– Я так понял, отсутствие арены мешает Монголии принимать участие в квалификации Чемпионата мира IIHF?

– Да, хоккей в Монголии очень любили до 90-го года, в Монголии хоккей развивался очень хорошо. Но когда после распада СССР русские начали уезжать из Монголии, развитие хоккея в стране остановилось. Сегодня популяризация хоккея в Монголии идёт значительно вверх – после того как монгольская сборная начала играть в Сhalenge Cup юношеских команд становитсч больше.

– Скажите, если бы Монголия выступала на Чемпионате мира, то в какой по уровню группе она играла?

– Думаю в дивизионе «Е», так как у нас был опыт игры в этой группе, в сезоне 07/08.

Q&A With Sam Cockwell

By George Da Silva – National Teams of Ice Hockey

With a total population of just 3,198 people, Falkland Islands is the smallest hockey nation to play organized ice hockey. We had a change to talk to Sam Cockwell PR and Media Coordinator and also the Vice Chairman of the Falkland Islands Hockey Association.

How does an Island of about 3000 people have an Ice Hockey Team?

It’s taken a few years to get to where we are, and while we compete in ice hockey our normal leagues are all inline. Our success comes from a strong youth development through the club, the head coach is brilliant and takes the youth development really seriously which then encourages parents, brothers and sisters and friends to give it a try. The interest has grown every year, and as an indoor sport Hockey doesn’t rely on the whims of the weather like many other team sports. Apart from that those that try it just love it, what can I say, hockey has just grabbed the imagination of our little nation!

When was The Falklands Island Hockey Association form and how many different programs and teams are there?

We started out playing deck hockey in 2006 with a light street hockey style puck; this was started by a few people here including our head coach Grant Budd. This was all there was until 2015 when Grant started up a youth inline part of the club, they went away with a few adults to Punta Arenas to compete in a competition there and did really well. It then grew each following year and we have had 5 leagues of inline across 5 age ranges for the last couple of years now with around 20 teams in total and approximately 150 players (some play in multiple leagues).

The basic structure is all about youth development with it starting at Peewee, then Junior, Rookie, Elite, and finally the Senior league which includes the adult inline players. We also have training throughout the off season for all different abilities and ages to keep their skills tight and introduce new people to the sport.

Falkland Islands Team at Punta Arenas

Where does funding come from to keep exciting programs going?

We receive a lot of funding for equipment and team livery from a few local businesses, Seafish Chandlery, Fortuna, Energise, Tonedog Designs and Sure a are a couple of the long standing ones, along with some very generous individuals who donate every year, and a huge number of other businesses which support us. We also fund raise ourselves throughout the year by having special games and events, and recently had a whole day of games which raised well over £1000. Everything helps with supporting the club, and we also have some merchandise for sale in stores which gives a good trickle of funds especially in the summer when the tourists are in town. We also rely a lot of the committee to dedicate time and effort to the club, and have been really lucky to have such passionate and dedicated people to run it.

The team in Red are the U16s team for Miami, and the Black are the best team from our 2019 league with a few extra senior players from the ROTW team going to LATAM Cup also

The final match of the recent all day playing event we held to raise funds for the LATAM Cup

The Falkland has taking part in international competitions in the past, but this September you will be at the Latam Cup which will the biggest competition that the Island has taken part in with Men and a U16 team. How are you preparing the teams for this event?

We have been training together for this event over the last 4 months with a lot of time at the rink. It is tricky as our whole playing space is only a tiny bit bigger than the end zone of a normal rink so we have to try and devise special drills to get better in the small space we have. We are also going to be going away a week before the tournament to get some ice time and convert from inline to ice. All of us have done that before in the regional tournaments so we hope that it will not be too bad, but all you can do is give it everything you’ve got and put your best into it.
We are also doing a lot of video sessions watching and critiquing the recent games in the IIHF world cup, which is helping our team look at strategy, set plays, and player development.

I don’t want to spend too much time on this but I do have to ask. Politics and Sport don’t mix and there has been some friction between Argentina and the Falklands Islands over your participation’s at the Latam Cup. Do see way that two sides can come to some kind of an agreement for future events?
After all everyone has the right to play.

It’s impossible not to mention it, and we don’t want to dwell on it either. I can’t say what motivates the issues from the sporting bodies in Argentina, but our experience of playing with teams from Argentina has always been positive. I am confident that the Argentine team our U16s will play against in Miami will be exactly the same, and I hope that both sides get a positive experience from it. I have a good feeling that all the players and coaches love for the sport will eclipse any political issues or tensions. I hope that we can arrange some friendly training together or maybe a friendly game or two for after the tournament with our Argentine neighbours as well as the other teams in the contest; really we are all just people who want to play hockey. In our view that’s all that matters.

With regard to the future, I hope that the organizers and bodies from countries that attend will see that the more that attend the better the contest and the better for the sport. So I hope once we have met and broken through the barriers to communication we will be able to work on a productive and positive future for the sport in the region.

Penguins and Nires (Ushuaia) congratulate each other after the game at Puerto Williams, Chile

The Falklands Islands has no ice rinks, are there any future plans to have one built?

We really hope so! There is a plan for a new sporting arena that is currently being designed, we have lobbied hard and got a lot of community support for the design to include the pipework in the floor for an ice rink. It will already have the boards and floor markings etc. for inline hockey, but we hope that if we can get the pipework included in the start then we can fund raise and look for support for the associated plant to go in another phase of the development. At the moment its watch and wait, but we are hopeful that there should be some news on this soon, especially as the sport continues to grow. Currently inline hockey is the most popular sport in the Islands, and with ice we think it could become even more popular.

The Falkland Islands takes part in the Islands Games but there is no hockey at this event. Is there a push to have Inline or ball hockey in future games?

We recently learned that Bermuda have an inline and ball hockey league, which is great news, and we are part of the Falkland Islands Overseas Games Association (FIOGA) which is the body for the islands games here, and they are interested in the potential for hockey in the future either inline or ice if possible, however we haven’t yet put a plan to the Island Games, but it is definitely on our to-do list.

With the game of ice hockey growing on the Island do see other British territories picking up the game in the future?

We hope so, although many of the other Overseas Territories do already have other sports which they focus on. There is the example of Bermuda which has a strong hockey in place already so we are hopeful that there are links there. We have a good relationship with the Foreign Office, and they are very supportive of international sport events, so there is a good chance that through that relationship we could look at an overseas territories kind of game or development of the sport. Of course we would be delighted to help any new clubs anywhere and overseas territories even more so.

What would you say is unique about playing hockey in the Falklands Islands?

There are several things; probably the main one is exclusivity. As we play a very low contact inline hockey we are able to have a totally mixed gender league, and with a mix of ages. For example if there is a young player which has a dedicated and mature approach to the sport and a high level of skill, when we will often allow them to also play in the league above as well as their primary age group. This helps individuals develop and also gives each tier something to aim for and drive them to push themselves. In a similar way we also have a total mix of abilities which we spread out through the teams in each year when they are picked which helps everyone develop and grow, and keeps the leagues competitive.

We fundamentally believe that everyone should have the chance to play and enjoy sports, and that’s really the basis for our club.

Fort Garry player suiting up for Chile

Nicholas Opazo-Ceicko to play in LatAm Cup

By Danielle Da Silva – Winnipeg free Press

An injection of Canadian talent direct from Fort Garry will boost the Chilean national ice hockey team’s bench this fall in the Amerigol LatAm Cup.  

Nicholas Opazo-Ceicko, 19, will suit up for Team Chile as the newly minted squad takes on teams from seven neighbouring South American and Caribbean countries at the Florida Panthers IceDen, Sept. 6 to 8.

“I just feel like I’m lucky to be in this position,” Opazo-Ceicko said. “I never thought I would be playing for any national team, so I’m just lucky to be a part of one.”

The second annual tournament is organized by the Amerigol Miami International Hockey Association which promotes ice hockey in Latin America through tournaments and showcases, with a goal of developing future players and expanding the market for the game in those countries.

In its first year, the tournament hosted teams from Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico and Venezuela, with Colombia ultimately securing the championship title.

Opazo-Ceicko, who is a dual Canadian-Chilean citizen, reached out to the Chilean team in late 2018. He sent videos of his time as a defenceman with the AA Winnipeg Twins to team captain Cristobal Vega and manager Monica Arias, and after some email exchanges and providing proof of Chilean citizenship (his mother is of Chilean descent), was invited to join the team at the LatAm Cup.

“Growing up, I was always proud to say I am half-Chilean,” he said. “To be able to play for a team that’s newer to hockey, and if even one or two kids who live in Chile watch the tournament and get interested, and they start to develop their skills, and hopefully become better than me, then they can start playing for the national team.

“I’m taking this opportunity to show Chile hockey, and I think that’s the same for everyone else on the team.”

Chile has been a member of the International Ice Hockey Federation since 2000 and won its first game in 2017 against Brazil in the Pan-American Ice Hockey Tournament. The national team, which has previously focused its attention on inline hockey and has just two indoor ice facilities at its disposal (according to the IIHF), is now looking beyond its borders for players, a strategy similarly employed by Colombia in its LatAm Cup debut.      

Opazo-Ceicko, who has been skating since he was a toddler, played hockey out of the Fort Garry Community Centre, and with the Twins until 2018, hopes to contribute to the team as best he can and expects to be a strong presence on the blueline.    

“I’m bringing some Canadian grit,” Opazo-Ceicko said, adding he and a few other imported players are coming with experience in the physical aspects of the game. “They are taking a chance on me so whatever (ice time) I get I will be happy with, and I will be proud to do it.

“I think this tournament is more to get an idea of how we work together and if it’s a team they’d like to keep together for a while,” he added. “This will be a learning experience for the team.”

This year’s tournament also features teams from Jamaica, Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Mexico, and Puerto Rico. For more information go to amerigolhockey.com

Q & A With Hector Iannicelli

By George Da Silva – National Teams of Ice Hockey

Argentina is not well know for winter sports but Hector Iannicelli president of Asociación Argentina de Hockey sobre Hielo y en Línea (AAHHL) is trying to change that.

Currently there 1,060 Total ice hockey players in the country according to IIHF but there are many more that play the game on Wheels. We caught up with Hector Iannicelli and asked him a few question about the game In Argentina

Can you provide our viewers a brief history of ice hockey in Argentina?

During the 1980s, in the city of Buenos Aires and in several cities in the interior of Argentina, there were many ice rinks, the vast majority were private enterprises, but very few were being used by clubs.

There was no sports spirit, they were only economic projects, which only interested them to have as many people skating at one time.

The economic crises of the country at the end of the 1980s, ended with the vast majority of the rinks closed, there were a couple of small ice rinks in Buenos Aires and only one was consider keeping ice hockey alive.

In the 1990s, without ice rinks, hockey lovers, discovered in inline hockey, and took it as an alternative sport, waiting for the return of the ice rinks.

In 1997 a group of players advised by the IIHF, founded the Argentina Ice Hockey Association and inline hockey, with the objective of developing ice hockey through inline hockey.

Thanks to the wheels, the sport remained alive and today we have a very large number of ice hockey players across the country.

When did you become president of Asociación Argentina de Hockey sobre Hielo y en Línea (AAHHL) and what are your goals for the ice hockey Program?

I have been president of the AAHHL for 10 years, having been treasurer and vice president.

All these years we have achieved many goals, we organize national, international tournaments, development camps, and we participate in the IIHF inline world championships, Pan American Tournaments in Mexico, Winter Youth Olympic Games and in the Latam  Cup in Miami.

Argentina National team

What is the current situation when it comes to domestic ice hockey in the country?

At this time, we are working on the qualifying for the 2020 Youth Olympic Games in Lausanne Switzerland, on the only regular size ice rink we have in the city of Ushuaia in Tierra del Fuego, more than 3000 km away from Buenos Aires.

We are also making  preparation for the LATAM CUP this September in Florida.

Future players for youth Olympics

How hard is it to get players to convert from inline to Ice hockey and play for the national ice hockey team?

Our work was successful, the vast majority of our players began to skate on wheels, we have a league in which we play every weekend, in which about 600 players participate, between men and women.

The switch from wheels to the ice is not complicated, it only needs many hours of training,

Unlike the countries that have ice rinks, we are obliged to skate on wheels and on the ice rinks we train the ice skating technique.

Argentina celbrates a goal at the IIHF Inline World Cup.

Last year Argentina Men’s team took part in the Latam Cup but this year event is bigger with Men, Women and U16 teams taking part, What steps are you taking to prepare the teams for 2019 Latam cup?

In September we will be participating in LATAM CUP, with a category A team and another Category B in men division, A women team and a Under 16 team, we hope next year we will have more categories.

It is a very big effort that the organization makes for this tournament to grow and I am sure that next year we will have more categories.

I would like Mexico to re-organize the Pan American Tournament, which was very important for us and developing hockey countries in South America, an exclusive tournament for the national teams.

Argentina goalie at last years Latam Cup

Are there any players playing outside of the country that will be playing for Argentina at the 2019 Latam Cup?

As the LATAM CUP becomes better known, Argentina players appear everywhere, some born in our country, others are children of Argentina parents that moved away, there are players in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Italy, Great Britain and I am sure that more will continue to appear.
These Children are determined to play for us.

What would you say is the talent level of the Argentina ice hockey players and can any them play minor or pro in North America?

The Argentinians are always well positioned in many sports, football, rugby, field hockey, basketball, tennis, boxing, judo, etc., I have no doubt that one day we will have the necessary infrastructure to develop Argentina hockey and we will have good hockey players on ice, but it will take a long time.

We currently have no players, who have the level to play in the professional leagues in the North America.

Currently Argentina does not take part in IIHF World Championships program. Do see this changing in the future?

The IIHF has a rule that does not allow any members to participate in the world championships, as long as it does not have a covered ice rink.

There is a project going on to put a roof on the ice rink of Ushuaia, which has the regulatory measures, which would give us the opportunity to participate in the programs of the IIHF world championships.

For this reason, it is important that the IIHF support the DEVELOPMENT CUP and other such tournaments, it gives us the possibility and countries that do not have an ice rink, to participate in an international tournaments endorsed by the International Ice hockey Federation Federation.

Argentina Women’s National Team

What is the one thing that is unique about playing ice hockey in Argentina?

I do not know if it is unique, but the passion that the players put to overcome and reach a competitive level, is what characterizes our athletes.

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