Category: Asia (page 1 of 16)

Okinawa warms up to ice hockey

By Shoji Kudaka – Stripes Okinawa

It may sound odd to say Okinawa is a good place to start playing ice hockey, but there are a bunch of stick-wielding, puck-slapping players on the island who would disagree.

“People are always surprised to find out hockey is played on the island,” said Neil Reid, club president and a player on Okinawa SniperZ. “Sometimes, they are surprised to find out that there is even an ice rink in Okinawa.”

Although Neil grew up in Canada, he only played field hockey as a youth. The first place he laced up his skates to play hockey was on this subtropical island. Neil and other members play regularly at the Sports World Southern Hill in Haebaru Town.

The team roster is diverse, featuring Americans, Okinawans, men and women, military and non-military. “We welcome everybody,” said Neil. “We are trying to build community relations through hockey. A large part of that is due to the military being here. I am not a military person. I am from Canada, so it’s kind of an international thing. The service members have been a huge part of the SniperZ.”

The relationship reaches well beyond international borders.
Just recently, the inaugural Ryukyu International Ice Hockey Tournament was held at the rink, bringing five teams from Okinawa, South Korea and Thailand together for a weekend of competition. The SniperZ was a driving force to launch the tournament.

“I have been down to Bangkok, played in Thailand. I started talking to these guys, and I went on Facebook,” said Kevin Mingoia, a member of SniperZ. “I put it out there, and Korea came along, saying ‘hey. we are interested in playing.”

“A lot of our players have friends in Korea and Bangkok,” Neil chimed in. “They played in tournaments before, so connecting through social media, and through long-lasting relationships . . . we’ve had pretty good success so far.”

The tournament literally brought people from remote corners of the world to the island.

Joe DeBlois from Portland, Oregon, was at the rink to root for his son who was playing for the Korean team.

“I have been reading about the SniperZ, and they got quite a program here,” said the seasoned ice hockey fan. “It’s very interesting to see hockey on a tropical island.”

And if the players on SniperZ had their way, there will be more to watch in the near future.

“We have an interesting mix of people and are going to go bigger next year,” Mingoia stressed. “I am looking at trying to do a Memorial Day classic next year.”

Although the tournament was meant to be a friendship game, heated competitions were often played out on the rink. But once the tapped their sticks on the ice to end a game, they had big smiles on their faces.

Neil, who is expecting more people to join the club, says it’s all about getting on the rink and enjoying yourself.

“All levels are welcome,” he said. “If you like hockey or want to learn about hockey, come on out. We welcome everybody.”

For more info, contact Marvin Floer at or Mark Cooley at



Kuwait’s ice hockey team wins Hong Kong’s int’l amateur tourney


Kuwait’s ice-hockey team won HKAHC Invitational Amateur Ice-Hockey Tournament on Saturday night by defeating the HKAHC Giants counterparts by 6-3 scoreline in the final match.

Fuhaid Al-Ajmi, the Head of Kuwait’s national ice-hockey federation, said in a press release obtained by KUNA that the Kuwaiti team earned this victory due to their extreme effort.

He mentioned that the tournament was a beneficial experience to the team playing against many strong squads, adding that the players scored 21 goals, while receiving only six goals only during four games.

Asian tournaments set


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A new home for hockey: North Van architect designs Mongolia’s first indoor rink!/fileImage/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_804/mongolian-hockey.jpg
After leading the design of the Delbrook Recreation Centre, Mark Hentze has
finished designs for Mongolia’s first ever indoor hockey rink.

By Brent Richter – North Shore News

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

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

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

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

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

Old-time hockey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Their winter has the most beautiful blue sky you’ve ever seen, but every rink is outdoors, including the one downtown,” Bell said. “Their passion for hockey is just incredible.”!/fileImage/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/original_size/mongolian-hockey.jpgA Mongolian hockey team takes to the ice on the frozen steppe town of Dzuunharaa.

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

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

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

“They want to hit,” Bell said.

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

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

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

Let there be light

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

“There’s a little bit of a mindset about arenas in Canada that they need to be these black boxes where people play hockey and that’s the only thing they do,” he said. “One of the things I’m looking for in arena design is to get natural light into the arena. It’s not as common in Canada as it is in other places in the world.”!/fileImage/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/original_size/steppe-arena-sketch-22web-jpg.jpgArtist’s renderings show how the Steppe Arena should look when construction
is completed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“As we’ve worked together to develop this aesthetic, what’s really important to them is they don’t want something that is kitschy and has historical references,” Hentze said. “They want to use this building to be recognized as a forward-thinking, modern country.”!/fileImage/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/original_size/steppe-arena-sketch-23web-jpg.jpgArtist’s renderings show how the Steppe Arena should look when construction
is completed. 

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

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

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

Next year’s prospects

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

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

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

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

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

China’s hockey teams turn to B.C. talent to create Olympic women’s team!/fileImage/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/16x9_780/emily-costales.jpg
Emily Costales currently plays hockey for the UBC Thunderbirds
and is setting her sights on the Winter Olympics with an eye to
Team China.

By Clare Hennig  – CBC News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interest in hockey spiking

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

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

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

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

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

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

NHL’s first full-Chinese draft Zachary Yuen eyes 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics

By Andrew McNicol – South China Post

The Vancouver-born trailblazer wants to play for China’s national men’s team when the mainland hosts the next Winter Olympics in four years’ time

China’s ice hockey team will get a huge boost for Beijing 2022 – the nation’s first-ever Winter Olympics – after Vancouver-born trailblazer Zachary Yuen announced his intentions to vie for a spot.

The 25-year-old defenceman, whose father is from Hong Kong and mother from Guangdong Province, made history seven years ago by becoming the first player of Chinese descent to be drafted into the National Hockey League (NHL).

“To play for Team China at the Winter Olympics is one of my main goals,” said Yuen, who was drafted by the Winnipeg Jets in 2011 before ending up in Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League with Chinese outfit HC Kunlun Red Star.

“It’s still a few years down the road but a lot of people are excited for it – China is a huge market and there has been a lot of interest in the sport and a lot of help from the government to promote it.”

The International Ice Hockey Federation confirmed in May it would allow home nation China to enter a men’s and women’s ice hockey team for 2022 without prior qualification, similar to South Korea’s participation in the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.

China is currently ranked 33rd in the world for men’s, and 20th for women’s. Chinese women’s team Shenzhen Kunlun Red Star recently finished second in the Canadian Women’s Ice Hockey League, a national best in an international top-tier league.

Yuen and his Kunlun teammates are currently spending pre-season in Czech Republic before they welcome the new season in Russia. Playing in the world’s second best league has its drawbacks, however.

“It’s the biggest league in the world in terms of area that you need to cover – 20-something teams over seven countries and eight time-zones,” said Yuen. “Usually our schedule is we play three or four games at home, then three or four games and back on the road again … it’s like having continuous jetlag.”

But having already made a name for himself in North America, Yuen felt signing with the Red Stars perfectly aligned with his desire to develop the sport in the Far East.

“Having Chinese descent and being the first to get drafted into the NHL, I thought it would be a good opportunity to grow the sport in Asia. Hockey is fairly undeveloped in China,” said Yuen, who also became the first Chinese player to score in the KHL in 2016 and the league Play-offs in 2017.

“After I was drafted there were a lot of fans on the message boards in China congratulating me. At the time I didn’t know there were so many people following hockey over there, but now I’ve come to China to play, the fan base has grown and now they can see me play in person – that’s pretty cool.”

With a population approaching 1.4 billion – and a mainland government hungry to improve their one gold, nine medal tally from Pyeongchang this year – China’s ice hockey potential is endless.

Yet Kunlun Red Star is the only active professional Chinese team and there is just a handful of male talent in Andong Song (the first Chinese-born player to be drafted into the NHL), Rudi Ying (the first Chinese-born KHL player), Joshua Ho-Sang (the highest NHL draft pick of Chinese descent) and highly-touted teen Jett Wu, a fresh 2018 NHL Draft pick by Vancouver Canucks.

Yuen added that there are a two Chinese teams playing in the Russian second-tier, a junior team based out of Harbin, and “tonnes in the recreational leagues”.

“Not looking at the records, it’s just cool to see what’s happening with hockey in China, especially among the kids. Whenever I go back to Vancouver I see a lot of Chinese kids at the rink – when I was growing up I was the only one.

“There were no idols for me growing up because there was no Chinese player at that level. Some of them now look up to me and it’s good to set an example, whether it’s sport, school or personality,” Yuen added.

As NHL chief Steve Mayer said at a Shenzhen press conference ahead of the Boston Bruins v Calgary Flames exhibition game earlier this week: “We understand [hockey in China is] a gradual growth and not something that will happen overnight. The key is the youth … if you start developing a kid now, our scouts will have their eyes open wherever 14 to 17-year-olds are playing.”

Mirziyoyev visits Humo Arena ice rink project

By Tashkent Times

President Shavkat Mirziyoyev today visited several ongoing projects in Tashkent, among which multifunctional ice complex Humo Arena, which is being built at the intersection of Afrosiyob and Beshyogoch streets.

Construction of the complex began in February last year. The ice rink is designed as a multifunctional stadium where various ice sports games will be held such as ice hockey, short track, figure skating as well as boxing, basketball, futsal, kurash, volleyball, entertainment, performance events and others.

The complex is expected to be completed on the eve of the New Year.

The President noted that the facility is of great social importance, and it is necessary to make the complex function all year round. He gave instructions to form ice-hockey teams to be based in the complex.

Tashkent-based hockey club Binokor is expected to be stationed in the Humo Arena and will be hoping to enter the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) within the next two seasons.

Khumo Arena ice rink project 1

Nepal Ice Hockey – Legacy in the Making

By Nepal Ansar

Taking quick glides across an ice rink, buckled in skates, carefully shuttling the puck across the rink, players are focused on just one thing… The goal!

Nepal’s dedication towards sport is not unknown to the world but when it comes to ice hockey, the rush is different!

NIHA for Nepal Ice Hockey
Nepal Ice Hockey AssociationNepal saw new hope for Ice hockey when the Nepal Ice Hockey Association (NIHA) was established in 2014. The federation was formed with the following goals in mind:

  • Preparing Ice Hockey players for international level
  • Conduct ice hockey tournaments and other games across the country
  • Preparing and creating ice hockey teams to represent Nepal for different categories and participation in international tournaments
  • Making contributions to the society and the world with Ice Hockey

The first national team was formed in the capital of Nepal, Kathmandu in the same year. Currently, the country has no indoor ice rinks but makes use of Lake Tilicho, which is frozen for about half a year, for skating and playing hockey. Kathmandu, Pokhara, Ilam and Kavree have four outdoor inline hockey rinks that serve the purpose, additionally.

Things took a higher turn for Nepal Ice Hockey when NIHA became an associate member of the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) in 2016. It was a historic moment for Nepal!

Nepal Ice Hockey President Lok Bahadur Shahi handed over a Khukuri knife to IIHF President Rene Fasel as a symbolic present.

During his visit to the IIHF headquarters at Zurich, the NIHA President told, “With the support of the government and the IIHF, we are looking to build a new chapter in Nepalese sports with ice hockey”. Adding further he said that he hoped the first ice rink could be soon built in the capital Kathmandu for which the land had already been acquired. At the time, ice hockey could be played on natural ice only in winter months.

NIHA continues to strive for higher standards of the sport and in its bid to do so, it takes up conducts a number of activities in terms of competitions and matches but more importantly takes up some serious initiatives.

NIHA Initiatives in 2016-17

  • In the beginning of the term, NIHA President Shahi put forth what the federation planned to do
  • March 10, 2016: NIHA member Keshav Kumar Bist travelled to the headquarters of the IIHF and held serious talks with a team of experts regarding the making of an ice hockey rink in Nepal
  • October 22, 2016: Post Bist’s visit, IIHF Treasurer and Ice Hockey France member visited Nepal to study the two suggested sites for the ice hockey rink in Dhulike and Pokhara
  • 2017: NIHA focused on preparing the design for the hockey rink, preparing the technical manpower for a training to Finland in July 2017, organizing programs to receive wide financial support from Nepali hockey fans abroad, asking for financial cooperation from various organizations to prepare the hockey rink and making the management effective

Inline Vs Ice Hockey

  • Inline hockey is similar to ice hockey in most aspects except that it uses a plastic tile floor, wooden floor or smooth cement instead of ice and is played at room temperature
  • Equipment for inline hockey players and goalies include inline skates and ‘no’ shoulder blades whereas ice hockey requires padding for both shoulders and legs
  • Inline hockey is played by four players and one goalie whereas ice hockey uses five players
  • The puck in inline skating is made of a much lighter plastic and rests on small nylon nubs to curb friction with the inline rink. The puck for ice hockey is made of vulcanized rubber.
  • The FIRS inline hockey cage is six inches smaller than ice cages
  • The inline rink for FIRS Continental and World Championships measures 60×30 m while the ice rink is rectangular and measures about 180 to 1200 ft in length and 85 to 100 ft in width

While the rest of the game remains almost the same in both types!

Playing Ice Hockey
Ice HockeyThe game is divided into three 20 min periods, where a face-off between two players initiates the game. Followed by this, the match gets diverted to the teams who have to strive to get the puck to each of their goals.

Each team consists of 6 players including the goalie, two defensemen, center and two forwards.

In this fast sport, the puck can travel up to 100 mph and since this game is body-bruising players use protective gear. Moreover, there are no substitutions!

Countries that Love to Play Ice Hockey
The national winter sport in Canada, ice hockey is the most popular sport in the country and in other countries like Europe, Nordic countries- Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, Russia and the United States. Like Canada, for countries such as Belarus, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Finland, Latvia, Russia, Slovakia and Switzerland, ice hockey is the most popular winter sport.

NIHA’s Map for the Future
NIHA is working hard to make Nepal a prominent entity in terms of ice hockey and in this regard,  it has outlined a few plans for the future:

  • Organize inline hockey campaigns as the first step to promote the sport in Nepal
  • Mark ideal locations for the sport and build the required infrastructure
  • Hold different sports programs and events in schools to develop ice hockey and create a youth team
  • Bridge junior youth teams with international championships
  • Identify and prepare coaches, technicians and referees
  • Build associations with international ice hockey associations for the enhancement of the sport in Nepal

Hope for the Future
With many initiatives in the pipeline, ice hockey in Nepal will soon bear fruition and if things continue in the same pace, the day will not be very far when the country will have its own Ice Hockey Rink!

Eyeing 2022 Winter Olympic glory, China hockey flirts with overseas talent

By Joanna Chiu, Ye Qian – Hong Kong Free Press

The women from China’s far northeast, who spent childhood winters whipping around on frozen lakes and rivers, towered menacingly over the other team as they faced off for puck drop.

At China’s national ice hockey championships last month, the Harbin squad vanquished contenders from China’s sultry southern city of Guangzhou with a lopsided score of 51-0, with goal-scoring MVP Kong Minghui slapping shot after shot into the net.

China women's hockey

Harbin women’s ice hockey team taking part in China’s national ice hockey championships in Beijing.
Photo: Fred Dufour/AFP.

Despite their dominance, Kong and her skillful team-mates may not be enough to power China’s national team to medal glory when the country hosts the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.

Eager to move up in the medals table, the national hockey team may bend the nation’s rigid single-citizenship rules to recruit overseas talent and beef up their squad.

“What we have to do going forward is play in more international tournaments and get more practice playing with top teams,” Kong told AFP.

The highly unusual move to seek foreign talent is a sign of how far China is willing to go for success at its home Winter Olympics, a tournament at which it has enjoyed only fleeting success.

With a population of nearly 1.4 billion, China is pushing hard to promote ice hockey and other winter sports ahead of the Games after winning just nine medals, including a lone gold, at this year’s edition in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

Both China’s men and women hockey teams will compete in the Games, since host countries traditionally earn a spot in the competition regardless of world ranking.

Pucks and passports

The national and local governments have been pouring money into new facilities, equipment and training for players and coaches in the past few years, with the majority of the new ice rinks being built in shopping malls.

But it remains to be seen whether Beijing will grant citizenship to foreigners to strengthen their rosters, following in the footsteps of Seoul for the Pyeongchang Olympics.

Out of 25 players on the South Korean men’s ice hockey team during the Games, seven were foreign nationals with six coming from Canada, including goalie Matt Dalton.

Mark Dreyer, editor of China Sports Insider, said China will likely recruit only foreign players with Chinese roots.

“There’s been no official policy saying this, but recruiting policy has been clear throughout tryouts in North America. New recruits must have at least some Chinese ancestry,” Dreyer told AFP.

Such a move would allow China to expand its player pool, while encouraging engagement with the Chinese diaspora — something Beijing has been keen to do at all levels.

However, China does not currently recognize dual citizenship. To become a naturalized Chinese citizen, a foreigner would have to give up his or her previous citizenship, making the option undesirable to many foreign hockey players.

“Would the players be able to keep their other passports? If this does somehow happen in ice hockey– which now seems possible — we would likely see other sports following suit,” Dreyer said.

Kunlun Super Team

In March, at the Canadian Women’s Hockey League final, China burst onto the international hockey scene with a new squad that was a special mix of Chinese nationals and overseas Chinese.

Kunlun Red Star, one of two private teams formed this year to prepare Chinese talent for the 2022 Olympics, has a special mix of Chinese nationals and overseas Chinese for its male and female teams.

The Kunlun women shocked hockey observers by making it all the way to the Clarkson Cup finals in Toronto, narrowly losing to Ontario’s Markham Thunder after an overtime goal — but proving that Chinese teams can compete with world-class clubs

In May, the Kunlun teams went through a grueling official Olympics training camp alongside foreign players and coaches in the Chinese city of Shenzhen.

Participation in Kunlun is optional for China’s national team players, and provides them with more opportunities to play in top world tournaments.

“(We) are now choosing the best Chinese and overseas players to cultivate talents for the Chinese women’s hockey team for 2022,” Kunlun manager Zhou Song told AFP.

“We assembled 22 outstanding overseas Chinese-origin players. They will have a chance to fight for their country in the future,” Zhou said, notably calling China”their country” despite them being foreigners.

Kunlun provides a competitive salary plus bonuses for players, with the help of private sponsors such as Chinese real estate developer Vanke.

However well or poorly the Chinese hockey teams perform at the 2022 Games, they are already setting new precedents for sports policy in the country.

Supportive family members say the promising performance of female players in particular will also help to improve women’s overall status as professional athletes.

“I didn’t want my daughter to play hockey at first. I wanted her to focus on school. But within 30 minutes of being on the ice for the first time, she seemed like she was at home,” said Yang Dong, father of Harbin player Yang Kai Qi.

“We are very proud of her.”

Ice Hockey Classic will be key to NZ’s development

Back in April I spent a few days with Ice Hockey Classic organizer Kerry Goulet while he was in New Zealand to meet with local hockey communities and explain in-depth what it takes to bring an event like this to our shores.

The big takeaway I got from those information evenings in Auckland and Wellington was Goulet’s desire to create a legacy component with this tour. In other words, he wants to help push the development of New Zealand ice hockey.

“I see a tremendous opportunity not only to highlight the great league already present here but to have new people come out and fall in love with fastest game on the planet,” states Kerry Goulet, co-founder of the Ice Hockey Classic and Global Director of StopConcussions Foundation. And he’s putting his money where his mouth is, so to speak, as a percentage of ticket sales go back to growing the game here with the use of promo codes ‘IHCAdmirals’ or ‘IHCSwarm’ upon purchase.

The country’s growth in the sport is currently at an interesting position that could be best described as a tipping point. The Ice Blacks are knocking on the door of the next tier in the IIHF’s World Championship program, the Ice Fernz impressed many during March’s training camp in Toronto, and there’s plenty of junior players looking to burst through the ranks both in the men’s and women’s game.

What will help get New Zealand to that next level is exposure, the kind that’s hard to come by in a rugby-dominated landscape for a niche sport that’s trying to break through and achieve the ultimate goal – becoming professional.

An event like the Ice Hockey Classic provides a unique opportunity for some of New Zealand’s best players to showcase themselves to an audience that may have never seen a game of hockey before. They have been given this stage at Spark Arena and Westpac Stadium, more commonly the site of the NZ Breakers or the All Blacks respectively, and now collectively NZ ice hockey needs to put its best foot forward.

Right now an army of volunteers are helping to build the temporary rinks, their efforts to make the grandest of stages for Kiwi ice hockey even possible is best described as monumental. And as they say in the ‘Field of Dreams’, build it and they will come – that’s where you come in. Without the full support of the country’s ice hockey community, there is always the danger that an event of this scale will never come back and it could be seen as a golden opportunity wasted.

Speaking more positively, both NZIHL teams are raring to show Kiwi sports fans what they’re made of. “You don’t want to miss out on an amazing opportunity to see the fastest game on the planet in your backyard, seeing some of the best athletes in the world compete, and also see how competitive and exciting the local league is,” said Botany Swarm head coach Ian Wannamaker.

West Auckland Admirals captain Justin Daigle, originally from Calgary, shares the passion of his opposition, “I’m yet to introduce the sport to a Kiwi who hasn’t fallen in love with it so hopefully this will serve as a catalyst towards new fans and players.”

The last time the Ice Hockey Classic came to the country was back in 2011. Then it was marketed as a game full of physicality – big hits with a few hockey fights thrown in. Many fans were under the impression that they might even see some of the biggest names in the game, a given I guess when it’s ‘Team Canada v Team USA’ and in the previous year we were treated to one hell of an Olympic gold medal game between the two nations.

Goulet admits that lessons have been learnt from then, explicitly describing this tour to be one that features speed and skill.

Come Saturday, Westpac Stadium will play host to an important day in New Zealand’s sporting history – it will be the home of the largest outdoor ice hockey game to be played in the Southern Hemisphere. For the curtain raiser, organisers have partnered up with the New Zealand Ice Hockey Federation to have the national men’s team, the Ice Blacks, take on a NZIHL All-Stars team that will include a few familiar faces making their return to the ice, including former Ice Blacks captain Corey Down.

Being one of only a few players of Maori descent to represent New Zealand in the sport, Down is hopeful that the pace at which the game is played will inspire Maori and Pacific Islander youth to take up the sport. “The fact that we’re playing the premier stadium in Wellington is awesome. I’m excited and I think it’s going to be a great spectacle for everyone,” said Down.

After returning from Spain with a silver medal placing at the recent IIHF World Championships, current Ice Blacks captain Nick Craig is thrilled by the prospect of his team playing an outdoor game for the first time, “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for us, especially to do so wearing the black jersey. It will be sensational and there’s going to be some strong competition playing against the NZIHL All-Stars team.”

Sadly, Craig broke his ankle in his last outing with the Admirals but here’s hoping he will still be on the bench soaking it all in with his teammates.

With Queenstown already sold out, proving that it really is New Zealand’s own Hockeytown, the NZIHF hopes that Auckland and Wellington will get behind the Ice Hockey Classic as excitedly as their South Island counterparts have.

“This is a great opportunity to showcase our game to old and new fans throughout New Zealand. I want to grow the game in New Zealand and through these types of events we can do that in a big way. It is truly about the kids and this tour will certainly engage our youth,” said former NZIHF President Gunther Birgel.

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Ice Hockey Classic 2018

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