Month: April 2020

Kenya Ice Lions ready to roar

By William Douglas – NHL.com

Program working toward IIHF membership, chance to play in Olympics.

The Kenya Ice Lions are ready to roar.

Almost two years after becoming social media sensations when the video of their game in Canada with Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby and Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon went viral, the Ice Lions feel they are ready to conquer the hockey world.

The next step for the Nairobi-based team with Olympic dreams is seeking membership in the International Ice Hockey Federation.

Ice Lions officials are in the process of forming the Kenya Federation of Ice Sports, a body that would be recognized by the Kenyan government to develop hockey, speedskating and figure skating. The federation would have the authority to apply for IIHF affiliate status for Kenya.

“We are very, very close to becoming a federation now,” said Tim Colby, a Canadian expat who is the Ice Lions’ general manager and coach. “We’re almost there. It’s a lot of bureaucratic hurdles. I’d say in a couple of months we’ll put in the application. We’ve already been in touch with the IIHF and they’re very eager to have us join as affiliates.”

If approved, Kenya would join Algeria, Morocco and South Africa as the only IIHF members on the continent. Egypt and Tunisia are also trying to join the 81-nation federation.

Kenya’s effort has been buoyed by the media attention from the Crosby-MacKinnon event, which was arranged by Tim Hortons, and by an ad from the China-based Alibaba Group that ran during the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics and featured the Ice Lions.

“I think the turning point is the Tim Hortons thing about two years ago, when they came back with full sets of gear,” said Jon Saunders, a former Miami University defenseman who shuttles between London and Nairobi and helps coach the Ice Lions. “With the coaching that had been done and some of the notoriety, things just picked up from there. The skill level, on a scale of one to 10, went from a two to about six or seven. Now it’s quite competitive; they’ve gotten really good.”

The spotlight bought the team fame — some Ice Lions traveled to PyeongChang for the 2018 Olympics — and some good fortune. Tim Hortons donated some much-needed new equipment to the Ice Lions along with about $22,500 that Colby said recently arrived in Nairobi.

North Park Hockey, a nonprofit youth team in New York, was so fascinated by the Ice Lions’ story after watching the Crosby-MacKinnon video that they adopted the team and donated about $10,000. The team is using the funds to renovate its locker room and pay for ice time at their small rink inside Nairobi’s Panari Hotel. The rink is the only indoor ice surface in Central and East Africa. Colby admits it’s not perfect — but it’s home.

“There’s an ice resurfacing machine, about half the size of a Volkswagen, and you can’t flood and scrape at the same time,” he said. “But the ice quality is good. We’re stuck with square corners, though.”

The rink and the hotel are near a national park where tourists can catch glimpses of leopards, cheetahs, and rhinos. But a growing number of hockey aficionados are coming to the region to see the Ice Lions. Hockey Hall of Famer Viacheslav Fetisov made the journey to play with the Kenyans in March 2019 as part of his project in partnership with the United Nations to highlight climate change.

Fetisov visit to Kenya

The contest, with Fetisov’s Last Game team, was the first international hockey game played in Kenya.

Bernie Saunders, who became the NHL’s fifth black player when he played 10 games for the Quebec Nordiques in 1979-80 and 1980-81, skated with the Ice Lions last year and watched his son coach.

“I think it was pretty cool for him,” said Jon Saunders, whose late uncle, John Saunders, was a hockey analyst and sportscaster for ABC and ESPN. “I don’t know what he was expecting to see going into it, but I think it meant a lot to him.”

Rick Lipsey, a North Park Hockey team manager and parent-coach, made the trek to Nairobi with his two sons to skate with the Kenyans and present them with an oversized check and bags full of hockey items donated by Pure Hockey, Howies Hockey Tape and Renfrew Pro, a maker of hockey tape.

“It was a great time and life-changing,” Lipsey, a former Sports Illustrated writer, said of the 4 1/2 days in Nairobi. “They actually are pretty good. They are not NHL or junior hockey level, but the kids can wheel and deal over there. Some of them could be really good hockey players given the opportunity.”

When Kirika Mugo, a resident of Washington, D.C., learned that his homeland had a hockey team, he couldn’t wait to take his son Austin to Nairobi in February 2019 to play with a team comprised of black players. The two enjoyed it so much that they made a return trip this February; Austin practiced with the team in one session that ran from 8 p.m. until nearly midnight.

“I felt proud because I don’t get to see that in the States,” said Austin, who played for Washington’s Alice Deal Middle School last season. “The majority of my teammates are white, so this was an experience.”

So how did hockey come to Kenya? Colby said some University of Manitoba students were in Nairobi on a research project in 2006 when they discovered that the city had an ice rink.

“They saw the ice and, being Canadian, they said, ‘Whoa!'” Colby said. “The next time they came back, they bought their equipment and started playing. And some guys, including one who is our team captain now, saw it and said, ‘Wow, this is crazy, I’ve got to try it. And it snowballed from there.”

The captain, Bernard Azegere, approached Colby and asked him if he’d like to coach the novice players. Colby was reluctant but eventually agreed.

“I said, ‘Guys, let’s play shinny and have fun — it’s one (heck) of a difficult sport to take to the next level,'” he said. “They’re, like, ‘Aw, come on!’ They’re watching the NHL, they’re watching the Olympics. They’re, like, ‘We want a national team to compete in the Olympics.’ They were so into it, I finally gave in and started helping out.”

Colby said the Kenyan hockey program has about 24 adults — including one woman — and 25 youth players. Lipsey said those numbers could grow if players from a vibrant roller hockey community in Nairobi make the transition to ice.

“There’s this big parking lot in downtown Nairobi where every Saturday and Sunday they skate for 4-8 hours and they get a few hundred people,” he said. “They just play roller hockey, rollerblading, they have races. That’s where their farm system is for the ice hockey. They take the kids who are able to get to the rink.”

Colby’s players pride themselves for their growth on the ice. Their coach takes satisfaction in what hockey has done for their growth as individuals.

“I’m watching kids who were so shy before, didn’t speak, do television interviews, international media,” Colby said. “Our one female player, Faith, she’s gone from nothing to everything as far as confidence goes. Sports is a great tool for that.”

Tony Hand set to add vast experience to GB Women’s program

GB Women’s head coach Cheryl Smith has welcomed the addition of Tony Hand to the program

By Phil Harrison – Yorkshire Post

Former GB international Hand, a legend of the British game, has seen his role as the national development head coach expanded from overseeing the men’s Under-20s, Under-18s and Under-16s to now work with coaches and players’ from across the women’s national set-up.

The Edinburgh-born former NHL draft pick, who as head coach took the GB men’s team to the final qualifying stages for the Olympic Games in Sochi in 2014, took up his national development role in August 2016.

“We have a great women’s program and some amazing young talent mixed in with a core of experienced senior players,” said Sheffield-born Smith,.

Tony Hand, pictured above right with former GB forward Colin Shields

“Tony’s experience will only enhance that and I look forward to working with him in the future. I am sure the coaches and players will learn a lot from Tony’s many years of experience.

Hand, who played for Sheffield Steelers between 1995-99, coached Manchester Phoenix from 2006-17 and is also currently head coach at Murrayfield Racers in the Scottish National league, said: “We have some fantastic talent in the women’s programme, with some very exciting young prospects.

“I’m also looking forward to working alongside the great set of coaches we have in the women’s set-up when next season gets underway.”

Ice Hockey UK chairman, Richard Grieveson, added: “Tony will be a massive asset to the women’s programme. He has done fantastic work with our juniors since 2016 and it seemed natural to expand this to the women too.”

U.S., Canada in same group for 2022 Olympic men’s hockey tournament

By Yahoo Sports

The U.S. and Canada drew the same Olympic men’s hockey group for the first time since 2010, guaranteeing the North American rivals will face each other at the 2022 Beijing Winter Games.

The International Ice Hockey Federation announced the Olympic seedings and groups Friday, using the world rankings. There was no change in the men’s top 12 from 2019 to 2020, given the world championship tournament, scheduled for May, was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The 2022 Olympic men’s hockey groups:

Group A: Canada (1), USA (6), Germany (7), China (12)
Group B: Russia (2), Czech Republic (5), Switzerland (8), Qualifier 3 (11)
Group C: Finland (3), Sweden (4), Qualifier 1 (9), Qualifier 2 (10)

The Olympic tournament format will remain the same. The group winners, plus the highest-ranked group runner-up, advance directly to the quarterfinals. The other eight teams go to a playoff round to determine the other four quarterfinalists.

The U.S. lost in the quarterfinals to the Czech Republic at the 2018 Olympics, where there was no NHL participation for the first time since 1994. It last earned a medal in 2010, taking silver behind Canada. Its last gold was the Miracle on Ice in 1980.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman repeated in the last two years that he doubts the league takes a midseason break for the 2022 Winter Games, even with a more favorable host market for hockey growth in China than in South Korea in 2018.

“There is no news to report,” Bettman said in November after meetings with the IIHF. “I don’t want to sound like a broken record on the subject, but I think going to the Olympics is a challenge for us. I know the players love representing their countries. I know that the players like going. I know that the players that don’t go like having a break in the middle of the season. But from our standpoint, we have found going to the Olympics to be incredibly disruptive to our season.

“For us, at best, it’s a mixed bag. And, again, it has some pretty material downsides in terms of what happens to our season.”

In the women’s tournament, the U.S. and Canada drew the same group for a third straight Olympics. That was a formality, given the women’s group structure places the world’s top five nations in the same group. Beijing will be the first Olympics with 10 women’s teams, up from eight in 2018.

In the past, the top two teams from the top-ranked group advanced directly to the semifinals, and the bottom two into the playoff round.

The Olympic women’s hockey groups:

Group A: USA (1), Canada (2), Finland (3), Russia (4), Switzerland (5)
Group B: Japan (6), Qualifier 1 (7), Qualifier 2 (8), Qualifier 3 (9), China (10)

IIHF World Rankings

The number of ice hockey players in Denmark is rising for the fifth consecutive year

By Denmark Ice Hockey Union

In the 2018/19 season, Danish ice hockey passed 5,000 active players for the first time, and the number of players after the early 2019/20 season tells of further progress in the number of ice hockey players at home.

Denmark’s Ice Hockey Union now has 5504 ice hockey players, an increase of 357 players – or 6.9 percent – compared to last season.

It is the fifth consecutive year that the number of ice hockey players in Denmark is increasing, and 134 of the new ice hockey players are aged 0-12. Recruiting the very young players is one of the major focus areas of the Danish Ice Hockey Union.

It is also noteworthy that 51 new girls and women have entered the sport in the just concluded the current season.

Development Consultant at the Danish Ice Hockey Union, Christina Benn, is pleased with the rises to the of ice hockey players to the clubs.

First and foremost, we welcome the fine numbers and we have established a central recruitment committee at DIU which will start in earnest when the society opens again. In everyday life, try to set the framework for the clubs so that they can recruit more easily. We have two national recruiting days – Ice Hockey, but in addition our member clubs are also making great efforts to bring in new teammates for current players.

Christina Benn also welcomes the fact that many clubs work with recruitment committees, great creativity and new initiatives in recruiting members.

It’s so inspiring to see, and we hope the clubs will also be inspired by colleagues around the country, says DIU’s development consultant.

As soon as ice hockey  starts up again, Denmark’s Ice Hockey Union has a new projects ready, which will hopefully end up with an increase in the recruitment of girl players and another increase in membership.

Trailblazing Grkovic

Since making her debut at the at the U18 Women’s Championships in 2014, Jelena Grkovic has played an integral part in Hungary´s spectacular rise to top of the women’s game

By Henrik Manninen – IIHF.com

Growing up as the lone female player in an entire country is a daunting challenge in a team sport. But Jelena Grkovic has proved her critics wrong on her way to the pinnacle of the women’s game.

If things would have gone as planned, Hungary’s women’s national team would just have completed their baptism of fire at the 2020 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship in Canada this month. The Central European debutants were scheduled to take on the Czech Republic, Denmark, Japan and Germany in Group B contested in Truro, Novia Scotia.

The ongoing spread of COVID-19 pushed ahead Hungary’s entry to the big stage until next year. As the news of the postponement broke through on 7 March, Grkovic temporarily downed tools in her recovery work from a knee injury sustained while skating for her club team, KMH Budapest.

“I am sad about not going to Canada, but I think everything happens for a reason. We had a lot of injuries this year, but now instead we have to fully prepare mentally, make even further progress as a team and then be completely ready when the moment arrives,” said Grkovic.

Hungarian women’s hockey is currently on a roll. This season, Grkovic’s club KMH Budapest successfully defended their title in Central European cross-border league EWHL while also lifting the EWHL Supercup and winning the domestic championship.

The success came in the wake of last April’s top place finish at the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship Division I Group A on home ice in Budapest. Winning gold in front of 1,944 jubilant supporters, Pat Cortina’s team deservedly booked a place to compete against the top-ten nations of the world.

“It’s an amazing accomplishment and something you only dream of. I’m born in a country where women’s hockey didn’t even exist when I started so now to be playing in the top division feels unreal,” said Grkovic, who made her debut for Hungary’s senior national team as an 18-year-old at the 2016 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championships Division I Group B in Asiago, Italy.

300 kilometers further south from her current home in Budapest, Grkovic spent her formative years in Novi Sad in neighbouring Serbia. Monica Seles had started her journey towards becoming a future world number one in tennis in the same city. For Grkovic, who also dabbled briefly with tennis, it was hockey that won her over at the age of six.

“We were five girls who started at the same time, but shortly after they had all stopped. Being the only girl continuing to play for years, one of the coaches once told my mum that I was only taking a pair of skates from another boy,” said Grkovic, who had no plans to throw in the towel.

“Hockey fits my personality 100 per cent. It’s a challenging, fast and aggressive sport and a great way to handle my huge energy. But I didn’t have a future in Serbia being the only female hockey player. So we as a family decided that I should move and Hungary was a good opportunity for me,” she said.

Hungary’s capital Budapest had back then become a popular destination for Serbian hockey youngsters on the boys’ side. Aged 14, Grkovic arrived north of the border as the first female hockey player enrolling in the Serbian school in Budapest. Out on the ice, the conditions in her new surroundings were in stark contrast to what had been on offer in Serbia.

“The investments in Hungary are far bigger in ice hockey, or actually in any other sport if I am honest,” she said. “At first I continued to play on boys’ teams until the age of 16. After that only with girls.”

Her younger brother Dusan soon followed suit to Budapest. But when he was able to skate for Serbia’s national team program, Jelena made her debut for the Hungarian U18 national team in 2014.

She has since been ever-present in the Hungarian national team set-up. Now in her ninth year in Hungary, Grkovic combines university studies with hockey and has become the live wire inside the national team locker room.

“For me, it was never hard to go away from home and I have always been curious about the world. When moving to a new country you need to accept the culture and learn the language. I now have lived in Hungary for years and thanks to my social skills I am totally fluent in Hungarian. I am the one who speaks up for the team, constantly makes jokes and never shuts up,” she said.

With Grkovic reaping rewards in Hungarian hockey, across its southern border, the women’s program in Serbia is starting to make progress. Participating numbers show a growing trend with currently 75 female hockey players around the country and Serbia participates in international initiatives such as the World Girls’ Ice Hockey Weekend.

“I sometimes go to see my family, but my hockey schedule keeps me pretty busy. Even though I am not effectively there and physically doing something, I hope I do give them motivation. I would like to help if I can and there are more girls playing hockey now in Serbia. I was also happy to see that there recently was a girls’ day in the rink where I made my first steps,” said Grkovic.

Currently working hard to recover to full fitness for next season, Grkovic believes Hungary only needs a bit of fine-tuning to be able to spring a surprise one year on when the team will have its top-level debut at the 2021 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship that could – formal approval by the IIHF Congress pending – take place in Halifax and Truro, the cities that have been scheduled for this year.

“Ahead of this season half of our players from KMH Budapest joined a new women’s team MAC Budapest so we need to work pretty hard on our team building. As a national team, we are not that big physically, but we are good, fast skaters and playing fair while being aggressive. But I’m a very optimistic kind of person and I think it will be a great challenge and of course. I think we could stay up,” she said.

Dordrecht Lady Lions, The Netherlands

By Vitali Nesterov – National Teams of Ice Hockey

Today we will tell you about an interesting women’s team from the country of tulips, bicycles and, of course, cupcakes with a specific filling.

The new season, which will begin after the coronavirus epidemic, will be the third in the history of this team. The club was founded before the season 2018 \ 2019 by the head coach of the team Stefan Collard. Almost all hockey players playing on this team have extensive experience playing on men’s teams. Some combine the game on Lady Lions and on teams with men.

We talked with three local hockey players who, one might say, are legendary in some respects. The interview was agreed by 25-year-old forward Zoe Barbier, 21-year-old defender Fleur Verhaar, veteran of the Dutch women’s hockey team, Lieke Boelhouwers as well as team coach Stefan Collard

Zoe Barbier, 25, Forward

Zoe kindly agreed to give an interview, and also addressed our subscribers with wishes.

About yourself?

“At 8 years old before hockey, I practiced judo. To be honest, I did not enjoy this sport, it was very boring. Mom advised me to choose another sport and I went to three free hockey classes in Dordrecht. From the first minutes I fell in love with hockey and decided to practice it.

At 10, my parents and I moved to Delft to another club called Zoetermeer Panters, where my whole childhood career passed. Here I just played with the boys (now men) and still play. When you play in a men’s team, you become stronger and faster. It helps a lot.

I’m 25% Indonesian, my grandmother is from there. But I consider myself more Dutch than Indonesian. ”

Zoe Barbier and Team Members

About the Swedish stage of your life?

“At 16, I went to Sweden to play with SDE club (Sweden’s strongest women’s league club). My friend played there and after graduating from school I wrote to her that I wanted to try my hand there. I arrived there for the training camp and they took me on the team. There I played for 2 seasons.

Naturally, the difference between women’s hockey in these two countries is enormous. In Sweden there are no joint training for boys and girls. On “Lady Lions” we do not train, so we play with guys. Girls play with men and boys in the leagues, starting from the second and ending with completely children’s teams. In Sweden, we trained four days a week and then we have two games in a row on the weekend. This is an unrealistic difference, but we are trying to raise the level of our hockey as much as we can. ”

Zoe Barbier in action against Poland

About the women’s championship of the Netherlands?

“Our women’s championship consists of 6 teams – Tillburg Trappers, East Side Devils, UNIS Flyers Dames, GIJS Racoons, Smoke Eaters and our team. 6 clubs – 6 cities. We have no playoff games, only a two-circle system. For a victory you get 2 points and for a draw – 1 point. There is no overtime in the championship, nor a series of shootouts.

Not so many people go to the women’s league games. The average amount of people is 50. But this is normal given the fact that hockey in the Netherlands is not popular.

We won our first championship and had every chance to take the second one, but in connection with the coronavirus the tournament had to be canceled. We are waiting for the start of a new season. In the Netherlands, shops, schools, and fitness rooms are now closed. But we still have coffee shops with “branded” muffins. It’s funny to watch a queue in a coffee shop where people keep their distance. The line stretches for 100 meters, it’s fun to watch. As for the use of marijuana by hockey players, I do not think that athletes use it. It’s clear that this is legal with us, but I can’t say that every resident of the country is indulging in this. ”

About Netherlands?

“My debut for the national team took place at the 2010 World Championships in Australia. At that time I was 15 years old. The situation turned out to be funny – in general, this championship was supposed to begin in April, when I was about to turn 16 years old. According to the rules, players under 16 cannot be declared. But since the championship was postponed from April to February, two days before my birthday (February 11), they made an exception and I was allowed to play. But on that team there was one hockey player who was 1.5 months younger than me. She was also allowed to play at that World Championships. Three weeks before the start of this year World Championships, the coach said that he was taking me to the national team, I was very happy.

We are allowed to go out on the condition that there will be a distance of one and a half meters between people. There is no panic as such, not all borders are closed. We go out only as needed. “

Netherlands national team – IB division champion in 2019

Fleur Verhaar, 21, Defender

“I started playing very late. I was almost 18 years old when I joined the Dordrecht Lions men’s team in Beer league. This league is amateur, it is for those who want to learn how to play. Our team has several girls who play there. And so I went. Before coming to Beer league, I just skated every winter and sometimes just played hockey for myself, but when I found out that it was possible to start playing hockey in the Netherlands, I decided to try it. On this team I learned the basics of hockey. Before that, I had not heard about the women’s team. And when it began to be created, I decided to go there too. I was glad to get there. From the first seasons, the women’s team set itself the highest goals and achieved them. I’ve been on the women’s team from the very beginning and now it will be my third season both on this team and in hockey in general ”

Fleur Verhaar with the champion cup

Lieke Boelhouwers 42, striker

About yourself

“I started skating in the early 80s, since I started walking. I watched the training of my two older brothers and was delighted with the process itself. I told my mother, “I also want to skate,” and she began to teach me how to skate. When I was 3 years old, my parents brought me a pair of skates from Russia and at 4 years old I went to hockey classes.

It so happened that already in 1989 I started training with the national team. And at that time I was only 12 years old. At 14 I already made my debut in the tournaments for the Netherlands – it was the European Championship in Denmark in 1991. From that moment I played at absolutely all world championships until 2013. 

The difference between hockey in the 80s and modern day hockey in the Netherlands?

“First of all, the difference in speed. Every year, hockey players became more and more faster. The second is, of course, the  technique. Modern hockey players are much more technical than hockey players of that time. Every year, IIHF organizes hold training camps where we train our skills. Third – the number of hockey players. In those days, there were very few girls playing hockey. “Other people said to me that girls shouldn’t play ice hockey. When I was a teenager everyone else including my teammates from the men’s team told me that I should play ice hockey and I needed to ice skate.”

Best career year?

“ I think the 2008 World Championships in Finland is my best tournament. I was really ready for this tournament physically and mentally. And even if the team played did not play in the best way (one victory over the Australians and four defeats.) At that time I was at my peak ”

Lieke Boelhouwers playing for Lady Lions

Stefan Collard, 45 years old, head coach

The founder of the Dordrecht Lady Lions team and its head coach Stefan Collard has extensive hockey experience. Stefan gave Netherlands hockey 20 years of his life, playing for teams from his native Utrecht, as well as taking part in junior and youth world championships in the 90s. In 2015, Stefan became the head coach of the Dordrecht men’s team, and three years later decided to create a women’s team.

About yourself?

“I devoted myself to playing hockey from the age of 3  to 41 years old. Now I play only for myself. I also played inline hockey at the highest level. The whole family plays hockey – three brothers and two children (the daughter of Stefan Kimberly Collard plays on “Lady Lions”) I also coached the
Netherlands U14 team for 8 years ”

Stefan collard give 20 years of his life to Dutch Hockey

Why did you create a women’s team?

“I decided to create a women’s team at a time when I coached the men’s Dordrecht. I did this so that the girls from the city together with the girls and women would study together and get more experience. I managed to conceive, because five of our young hockey players were called up to the junior team “

Interest in hockey in the Netherlands?

“Hockey is far from a popular sport in the country. There are two or three teams that get full areans. 20 years ago we had a lot more teams in our country than now. ”

Who is the best team in women’s hockey?

Heerenveen is strong. But our team in the first season became the champion. In the second season for ourselves, we also had every chance of winning, but the tournament had to be canceled due to coronavirus. In general, in two years we lost only one game, and that was only because we played nine players plus one goalkeeper. Without the coaching staff, without players from the national team. ”

Heerenveen women’s ice hockey club

Bringing game to Egypt

By William Douglas – NHL.com

Organizers aiming to join IIHF, build program that can compete in Winter Olympics

The NHL brought hockey to the desert by putting teams in Las Vegas and Phoenix.

Sameh Ramadan is on a crusade to bring the game to the sands of Egypt.

Ramadan is general manager and co-captain of Egypt Ice Hockey, a national club team appropriately named the Pharaohs. With the same kind of patience that it took to erect the pyramids stone by stone, he and the Pharaohs are building an Egyptian hockey program in hopes of joining the International Ice Hockey Federation and, some day, competing in the Winter Olympics.

Why Egypt?

Why not?

“I believe you never know where your next all-star is going to come from,” said Ramadan, an Egyptian who grew up and lives in New Jersey. “[Toronto Maple Leafs center] Auston Matthews is from the desert in Arizona, right? It’s not necessarily a hockey powerhouse.”

Hockey is growing gradually in the Middle East and Africa. South Africa has been an IIHF member since 1937, Israel joined the federation in 1991, the United Arab Emirates in 2001, Kuwait in 2009 and Morocco in 2010 as an associate member. Iran and Lebanon became associate IIHF members in September 2019.

Egypt, Kenya, and Tunisia are now knocking on the IIHF’s door.

“We don’t want to be left behind because we’ve been doing this for longer, but we’ve never organized it to the standpoint that we can move it to the next level,” Ramadan said. “That’s why we now have a good team in place, based in the U.S. and based in Cairo.”

For Egypt Ice Hockey’s IIHF dream to become reality, it must first gain the endorsement of the country’s athletic governing bodies.

“Ultimately to become an affiliate member of the IIHF all we need is a letter from either the Olympic committee or youth sport ministry basically saying that we’re the only group developing ice hockey in Egypt and we’re supported,” Ramadan said. “Can we be an aggressive Division III World Championship team? Absolutely, and that’s what our realistic goal is in the next 10 years.”

The Pharaohs have competed in tournaments in the Middle East and North Africa in recent years to help them gain exposure. In February, they played in the Arab Clubs Championship in Kuwait against teams from the host country, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates.

“It’s just to show that we can play the game,” said Mohamed Aref, a tournament organizer who represents the UAE in the IIHF and is a member of the federation’s Asian Strategic Planning Group. “It doesn’t matter what’s the climate outside. I know people who say, ‘You are in the desert’ and ‘How can you play the game?’ It’s a different sport, it’s different from your culture, but you’re building the sport and you’re competing in that sport. For me, this is a big achievement.”

The Pharaohs finished fourth in the tournament with a 2-3 record, losing to Lebanon in the bronze medal game.

But the team’s efforts on and off the ice are beginning to pay off. Egypt’s Ministry of Youth and Sports asked Egypt Ice Hockey for a proposal “not just for ice hockey but for other winter sports: speed skating, curling, figure skating, alpine skiing and cross-country skiing,” Ramadan said. “Obviously ice hockey was the largest portion of that because we’ve had the most international exposure.”

Egypt Ice Hockey representatives were scheduled to meet with Youth and Sports Ministry officials, but Ramadan said the meeting has been postponed because of travel restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic.

For now, Ramadan is doing what he can from New Jersey. He first got involved in Egyptian hockey in 2016 after Yasser Ahmed, a longtime friend who was living in Cairo, discovered through an online search that Egypt had a club team.

“He reached out to them, started skating with them,” Ramadan said. “They mentioned that they’re doing this tournament in Morocco. They said, ‘Do you want to join, and do you know any Egyptians who would want to play?’ I’ve been playing since I was a kid, so he reached out to me and two of his cousins. We all agreed to buy tickets and start training, and we hopped on a plane four weeks later.”

It’s not easy playing hockey in Egypt. Equipment is expensive and hard to come by for the nearly 120 men’s and women’s players in the country. The three rinks in Cairo where they play are only about 40 feet long — about 20 percent the size of an NHL rink.

German Coach Aims to Establish World Top Four Hockey Team

Toni Söderholm has been coaching the German national ice hockey team since 2019

By United News of India

Germany Ice Hockey coach Toni Soderholm seeks to permanently establish his team, led by NHL superstar Leon Draisaitl to world top four finishes at big events.

Germany were surprise ice hockey silver medallists  at the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics but last reached the semifinals at a world championships in 2010 , finishing no better then sixth since then.

Soderholm to the Sportbuzzer portal in an Interview publish on last Monday “It is important that the lads understand that everything is possible. they should always aim for top four placings.” With this year’s world championships cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, Soderholm’s next big events with the team are the 2021 world championships and 2022 Olympic Games.

Germany’s star player is forward Leon Draisaitl of the Edmonton Oilers, Soderholm naminghim “our best offensive player and among the top three offensive players in the world.”

Leon Draisaitl ofthe Edmonton Oilers

Q & A With Armin Helfer

By Vitali Nesterov – National Teams of Ice Hockey

The legendary Italian national team Armin Helfer gave an interview as an ex-hockey player, in which he talked about how he spent 20 years on the national team.

When did you decide to end your career?

 I was thinking about it already last summer: I was thinking about my future, and I had the opportunity to become a coach at Brunico, so I decided that this would be the last season as a player.

It turned out that the coronavirus ended your career earlier than you wanted …

It is very sad that it happened. It’s sad that it’s annoying, but the cancellation of the competition was the right decision, and now we all just need to sit and wait out the pandemic and return to hockey again.

For the last 4 years, you have devoted yourself to training players at Brunico. What does this mean for you and what, in your opinion, can you teach hockey players?

I really like working with young hockey players. I feel that they respect me, they see me as an example. I try to convey to them my passion for this sport, I try to improve their skills and come up with interesting exercises,  but it was difficult as I was a player and coach. Now I can fully concentrate only on coaching.

You had a wonderful 20-year career. How has hockey changed over the past twenty years?

I will say briefly: you play more – you leave less.

How has the national team changed during this time?

In 2000, there was a completely different team. Now we have more Italians in the squad, but it would be interesting to have a match between Italy 2000 and Italy 2020. 2000s players would make modern Italy look good. (lol)

What would be the fate of the national team at the World Championships in Switzerland?

Our team is close-knit and we could compete. Last year we were able to defeat Austria, and this year we could have beaten Kazakhstan.

Despite the fact that Italy is far from a hockey country, it is competitive every year and often plays in the elite and takes medals in IA. How do you explain this?

Each player who plays for the national team gives 100%. No matter where you came from, you are part of the team. We have incredible unity and all the same – you came to the national team from the local championship or from the top leagues of Europe. This is our advantage. We are working to be more united, we train harder, thereby improving our skills. We will never lose team spirit.

Armin Helfer played 20 years on the Italian National Team

The most pleasant memory during the games for the national team?

My goal against Hungary in overtime at the 2011 World Cup IA. Thanks to him, we entered the TOP division next year.

What about in the 2006 Olympics in Turin?

The participation in the Olympics is incredible. During the opening ceremonies, I saw my teammates cry, and I had goosebumps. I will never forget how I felt at that moment. I looked at the Olympic flame and recalled how I dreamed of being in it has a child.

You have been called up to the national team 20 years in a row. How could you stay at that level all this time?

When you play for the national team against the best players in the world, you yourself become better. You get a tremendous experience. Every year I got better. And when I left to play in Europe, I was already prepared to play. I grew up as a player and as a person.

Will we ever see you in another Italian form? (hint at the national team coach)

I wish I could.

Q & A With Dino Pasovic

By Vitali Nesterov – National Teams of Ice Hockey

Bosnia and Herzegovina goalkeeper Dino Pasovic gladly answered questions from our subscribers

How did you get into sports, and why did you choose hockey rather than bandy?

As a child, I loved sports. I loved football, hockey and more. After the war in Bosnia, several guys organized a hockey team. These guys were my neighbors, so I joined them. I immediately fell in love with hockey. Bandy is not in our country, so the choice.

When did Bosnia start playing ice hockey?

We started playing hockey in the summer of 2002. and a few months later we started the BiH Hockey League. We promoted hockey in the country through amateur tournaments.

Which club do you play for? Tell us about the championship of Bosnia & Herzegovina.

I am currently playing for the hockey club Medvjedi Sarajevo. In general, only four teams take part in the championship. But this is enough to obtain official status.

Are there indoor ice rinks in the country, is there a school for the development of hockey for children?

We need indoor skating rinks in every big city in the country. Also, the government does not provide enough support toward the game.

Dino Pasovic with a great save

How do hockey players prepare for the season?

Usually hockey players attend summer hockey camps throughout Europe, but now everything is closed due to the coronavirus. We are in self-isolation, doing it at home.
Before the World Championships, we are going abroad to play amateur tournaments. About 3-5 times a year we play in another country. This was a great way to prepare for the tournament.

Are there any professional hockey players?

All our players play at an amateur level, so there are no professional contracts, but we have a passion for hockey, and all our free time is spent on games and the development of hockey.

Which year was the best for you?

In 2003, at the World Championships, I became the best goalkeeper of the tournament. It was a great championship, we took bronze at that tournament. Another championship in 2015, I became the best player on the team. I had 85% save percentage,  in 6 games. I made 266 saves if I remember correctly.
The best game was probably in 2016 against Hong Kong. We won it, I made 32 saves out of 36 shots.

Express your opinion on the situation with the national team of Kyrgyzstan, which occurred in Abu Dhabi in 2019?

I do not support this way of selecting players. The team had only 4 domestic players, and all the other players were Russians. I do not see how the registration of foreign players contributes to the development of domestic hockey. In addition, the refs are not at the professional level that their foreign colleagues are, who Ref in Russia professionally, and they are not able to assess a particular situation objectively, they cannot adapt to the pace of the game. Thus, In Abu Dhabi there were many penalties and stoppage of play the games were hard and there was no way to play at full strength, had to exercise caution.
In no way do I support Foreign players on the national team, small hockey countries must develop their own youth programs, and over time the quality will come. (I Recall that there was a scandal at the 2019 World Championships in division 4 – the Kyrgyz national team was disqualified before the last match of the tournament Alexei Titov, who according to IIHF did not have the right to play in the tournament. The national team lost their victory at that World Championship because all 5 games were forfeit. The IIHF provided Kyrgyzstan with the opportunity to host Div IV in 2020, but the tournament was postponed due to the coronavirus epidemic.

Dino Pasovic watches is defender up end the opponent

What would you choose: to become an NHL player or for Bosnia & Herzegovina to join the IIHF elite?

If Bosnia & Herzegovina joins the IIHF elite, it will mean that I play for some NHL club.

What Russian hockey players do you know?

Andrei Vasilevskiy, Yevgeni Nabokov, Nikolai Khabibulin, Sergei Bobrovsky.

Do you watch the KHL?

Oh sure. When I have time, I always watch the KHL. I prefer the SKA team.

The first part of your surname in Russian means “Pass”, that is, “Assist.” Why are you  a goalie with such a name?

(lol) Our languages ​​are similar. In Bosnian, the word “pas” also means “assist,” but that’s no reason to play Forward,  But this is a funny remark.

Do you like McDonald’s?

McDonald’s is delicious, but as an athlete I eat fast food only in the off-season. And in general in all McDonald’s are very tasty.

Bosnia & Herzegovina National Ice Hockey Team