Category: Asia (page 1 of 18)

‘Ice Palace’ construction starts

In August 2018 we had Article
A new home for hockey: North Van architect designs Mongolia’s first indoor rink.

Now comes word that the indoor ice rink is being built.

By News MN

Construction began started on (15 April) of Mongolia’s first ever winter sports palace. Mongolian President Kh.Battulga participated in the groundbreaking ceremony of the ‘Ice Palace’, which is located in the  VIII Khoroo of Khan-Uul District of Ulaanbaatar. At the ceremony, Steppe Arena LLC promised to complete construction of the ‘Ice Palace’ within 16 months. The 5700 square meter structure is expected to open in 2021.

The ‘Ice Palace’ will have an Olympic-size frozen arena with 2600 seats. The ice rink can be used for all ice sports, including figure skating, curling, short track speed skating. In addition to being available for year-round use, it will be an all-purpose facility, which means that the ice rink can be transformed into a ‘dry arena’ with special elastic covers which will make it possible to be used for basketball, volleyball, gymnastics, boxing, wrestling, and taekwondo competitions. It can even be used for cultural events and concerts.

Hockey under the Pacific sky in the Philippines

Hockey is moving slowly on one of the four existing rinks in the Philippines

By Jean-François Chabot Raido Canada
(google translate)

It is difficult, if not unthinkable, to associate ice hockey with a country bathed in the warm waters of the Pacific. And yet, our national sport has made its way into the sun under unlikely circumstances.

It’s 1992. The Mighty Ducks is coming to the screens around the world. At the same time, the owners of a chain of shopping centers set up the first two ice rinks on the Philippine territory.

In a country where basketball is king since the passage of the Americans during the Second World War, it remains a drop in the ocean.

For François Gautier, son of a French father and a Filipino mother, it is love at first sight. He absolutely wants to try this sport that seduces him as much by his speed as by the skills he requires.

He is then 6 years old. His older brother and a group of friends are practicing the basics of hockey with all the equipment of skates and used gloves, sticks and pucks that their mother brought back from a trip to the United States.

They meet once or twice a week to play hockey, a sport that is not available on all budgets, let alone in the archipelago of 7600 islands.

“Even today, it’s impossible to find a pro-shop to stock up on hockey equipment. The appearance of online orders is a blessing, even if it takes sometimes to wait a few months to clear the precious goods. A program of the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) has recently delivered 60 complete equipment that will be made available to less well-off young people wishing to practice hockey,” says Francois Gautier, contacted by phone when he came from leave the rink after a training session.

It was almost 11 pm in the Philippines, proof that ice time is rare there too.

With the impetus of passion

After a stay in France for higher education, François Gautier returns home. It is 2006 and he finds that hockey stagnates in the Philippines. He decides to take things into is own hands.

In the space of a few years, the number of players has increased from 30 to more than 330 boys and girls combined (70% boys), according to the most recent census conducted by the Philippine Ice Hockey Federation. of which Gautier is a founding member.

On the national scene, a four-team league brings together the best men in a championship open to foreign nationals living in this island state. Most of them live in the Manila area. Competitions also take place in the other categories, for both men and women.

This federation was created in 2015. It is associated with the International Federation (IIHF). Thanks to the presence of a handful of players with dual nationality, the progress made was quickly encouraging.

Some players were born to Filipino parents, but grew up far from their ancestral lands. One of them, Carl Montano, who  is from Vancouver and since 2011 has directed the minor hockey program.

François Gautier in his role as an attacker on the Philippine national team

On the international scene, François Gautier and his small band of enthusiasts begin to reap the benefits of their hard work.

In 2017, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, the national team signed the biggest victory in its short history. the National team won the gold medal at the South East Asian Games (SEA Games) with victories against Indonesia, Singapore, and especially a 5-4 win against Thailand in the final.

In this part of the world, Thais represent the great power of hockey.

According to François Gautier, this victory for the Philippine team was their own version of the “Miracle on Ice” produced by this group of American academics against the machine of the Soviet Union at the Lake Placid Olympics in 1980.

Filipinos will host the same tournament next November. The team will have the opportunity to defend their title in front of their fans, an important prospect in the eyes of Gautier.

Foreign input

In addition to the fact that the coach of the national team is Czech, Filipino hockey still relies heavily on external influences to ensure its progress.

Like all the other leaders of the national team, Daniel Brodan acts as a volunteer. He works full time with a credit company based in the capital, Manila.

When he does not act as a broker in his father’s insurance business, François Gautier lives, breathes and eats hockey.

Honestly, we are only four to work to make our federation live. I have a lot of hats. I am both vice-president, chief referee, I am a player on the national team, I am a junior coach, I am an organizer of tournaments and events. All I need is driving the Zamboni … (laughs)

François Gautier

We are a young federation. We have everything to learn. There is still a lot to do. Every year, I go to the IIHF congress. I speak with everyone, with all major federations. I discover what works or what works less well. Their opinion is important to us. 

It is in this spirit that François Gautier met Michel Brind’Amour, Chairman of the Board and Director of Development at Hockey Canada, at the recent World Championships in Bratislava, Slovakia.

We discussed a possible collaboration to organize the preparation of our national team for the defense of the gold medal at the South East Asian Games in November. Options are being studied for more intense training. Nothing is confirmed yet, but discussions are ongoing. It remains a matter of budget and availability on the Canadian side.

François Gautier

Asked to ensure his back, he also began talks with the Finnish Federation.

“That’s great because they just won the World Championship against Canada. We also have a few players from our women’s team who live and play in Australia, which facilitates contacts between our federations” , he adds to demonstrate the means implemented to raise the level of play.

The Philippines team, silver medalist at the Challenge Cup of Asia last April

Ambitious goals

Beyond defending the title at the Southeast Asian Games, Francois Gautier believes that the Philippines will soon compete with countries like Kuwait, Malaysia and Kyrgyzstan to carve out a place in Group IV at the World level.

He sees even further and bigger.

“I hope that in three to five years we will be in division 2B. I think it’s feasible. I know the teams playing in 3A and 3B and I think we are at the same level, ” says the one at age 35 is the oldest player in his national team. The youngest is 16 years old.

The IIHF Division 2B is composed of Israel, which will become 2A by 2020, Iceland, New Zealand, Georgia, Mexico and North Korea.

“At the same time, I hope that our women’s team will also be involved in a world championship. I hope to recruit more girls to achieve this. It is true that he still has a sacred level.”

Note that the Philippine women’s team has not yet reached the lowest division in the world.

Gautier aims above all for more stability within the Philippine national program.

“We are still at the trial and error stage, he says. We do for the best with what we have. We hope for a little more support. Our government is helping us through the National Sport Commission. The president of our federation, Christopher Sy, contributes significantly, especially because he has the means. But it would be nice to have more commitments from the private sector.

Mr. Sy owns and / or runs numerous businesses in areas as diverse as internet security, catering, the coffee trade and gas distribution stations.

Philippines Women’s Hockey Team

Well connected

In the meantime, François Gautier and many of his hockey fans are very interested in the activities of the NHL.

Wednesday night, June 12 (Thursday morning there), National Independence Day in the Philippines, Gautier had lunch watching the seventh game of the Stanley Cup final between the Boston Bruins and the St. Louis Blues, won by the Blues .

Subscriber to the NHL application, Gautier vibrated at the same time as us, on his side of the planet hockey.

He did not take either of the two teams. He is still a fan of the Anaheim Ducks, a team he saw on the big screen in 1992 when his name was Mighty Ducks and aroused his passion for hockey.

Conquering new heights

National women’s ice hockey goalie Wasunun Angkulpattanasuk

By Yvonne Bohwongprasert – Bangkok Post

Thailand’s national women’s ice hockey team recently won the Challenge Cup of Asia tournament while the men’s team continues to gain in popularity.

Wasunun Angkulpattanasuk’s life as Thailand’s top national women’s ice hockey goalie has been marked with two pivotal accomplishments that have built her into one of the most competent athletes in the squad.

She played a crucial role in helping Thailand clinch a gold medal at the 2019 IIHF Challenge Cup of Asia tournament held last month in Abu Dhabi, which gave her a huge confidence boost.

“I believe the gold medal is significant in that it will draw the attention of Thai youth towards the minority sport. This is so important to the future of this sport because we are in dire need of fresh local talent,” said Wasunun, 25.

A tropical country like Thailand doesn’t sound like a good place for ice hockey. So winning last month’s tournament is indeed a significant milestone for the sport. Wasunun says she looks forward to promoting ice hockey in the country.

“The Challenge Cup Of Asia is the only meet we get to compete in each year, so despite it being a relatively small tournament, it holds great importance when it comes to becoming a team that has a world Championships,” added Wasunun, who has a degree in nutrition.

One of the biggest barriers to developing ice hockey in Thailand, according to her, is the team not having an ice rink of its own. For the most part, the association rents a rink, and if players decide to train on their own, they have to pay from their pockets.

And ice hockey equipment tends to be pricey.

“Having our own rink will surely develop the sport faster. Despite being national players, we could easily end up paying a minimum of 500 baht to train on a weekday. To keep in shape year round, players have to train three times a week,” said Wasunun, who hopes sponsors will eventually help fund the national squad.

The Bangkok-born athlete said it would be great if ice hockey was highlighted in sport programmes in order receive the exposure it needs to attract raw talent.

Wasunun also is a part-time coach and works for an event company that focuses on ice hockey.

“We have a large group of students from international school that have shown a keen interest in ice hockey. However, while we are happy to have them, I would really like to go and introduce the sport to Thai schools. What we need right now is to build interest,” she said.

“When it comes to shouldering the expense of playing ice hockey, I feel that if we have our rink, the rest of the costs don’t necessarily have to be high. I come from a middle-class background, and have managed to come so far. So I believe there is hope for the rest. What one needs is dedication and a fighting spirit to reach one’s goals.”

Spearheading Thai national ice hockey team’s success

The men’s national ice hockey team captain Hideki Nagayama lead by example to clinch a historic third place for the country at 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division III Qualification, in Abu Dhabi, UAE last month.

That’s a huge feat for the minority sport that rents an ice-skating rink to train.

Making history is even sweeter when it is accomplished with an emerging team, still wet behind the ears with a lack of match experience.

“What this victory proved is that we have what it takes to become successful in the future,” said the 22-year-old Thai-Japanese athlete who turned semi-professional two years ago. “However, each player has to step up their game even more to reach greater heights.”

National men’s ice hockey team captain Hideki Nagayama’s perseverance and dedication towards the sport has been a beacon of light for his teammates

By playing against countries like Kyrgyzstan, a team where half of its players have experience playing in both Russian junior and pro leagues, Nagayama said the Thai team was able to test its skills.

“It is in matches such as these that one gets to brush up on skills, because that is when you can tangibly see areas you need to work on to beat the best in the business.”

While ice hockey is still considered a minority sport, Nagayama hopes to make it more mainstream through the help of social media.

“I think the easiest way is to use social media to get as much attention. I also just started my own hockey clinic called HN Hockey Clinic. This is one way for me to introduce ice hockey to the youth. If this turns out to be a success, my plan is to create a non-profit ‘Learn To Play’ foundation for all Thai kids that otherwise would never have an opportunity to experience this sport up close as it’s not a cheap sport to play.

“Once we are able to develop this foundation, I’m sure that businesses and even individuals would see the benefits of supporting it with their sponsorship. This would help develop the sport that we love.”

Despite being in his early 20s, Nagayama is an old soul. Besides his decade-long years of experience playing ice hockey, both as a national player and semi-professional in Europe and Canada, he comes across as a young man with a good head on his shoulders.

For as long as he can recall, Nagayama saw a future for himself in ice hockey after being introduced to it as a young boy. It was at age 17 that he decided to leave home in the hopes of playing junior hockey in Canada. The entire experience was a learning curve for him. The constant pressure to show results, and the uncertainty of being traded at any time complicated the experience.

“I once got a call from my team in the middle of the night, asking I pack my stuff and leave to be with my new team the very next morning. This gave me no chance to say goodbye to my teammates. This experience made me realise just what it meant to play professionally. Mentally it made me a stronger person, because for one, I knew that if I desired to play seriously I would need to work harder on my performance.”

Nagayama’s goal was to get a full scholarship, and be able to play in NCAA Division I hockey, but it wasn’t as easy as he expected. After just a year of playing in Canada’s Junior A Hockey, he decided to give the US a shot.

“I went for tryouts to a couple of US teams, and also spoke with a handful of schools. I was even invited back to the main camp of one of the NAHL (Tier II) Junior A team. Unfortunately, I broke my wrist during spring training camp in Canada and that very much closed any opportunity I had to play in the US.”

The Bangkok-born athlete had a year left of playing junior hockey in Canada, and so was looking for future options. On his return to Thailand, he received an offer to play for a high-ranking junior league in Sweden. After consulting with a friend that played for a Swedish junior league team, Nagayama felt his calling to play in Europe. “Playing European hockey, where more skills and skating is required due to a bigger ice surface, meant a lot more hard work. I struggled a little bit at the beginning but European hockey really suited me more than North American hockey,” he said.

“After the last year of playing junior hockey, I got an offer from a semi-pro team in Denmark. Here I was fortunate enough to be able to train in the Metal Ligaen, Denmark’s top ice hockey league, pretty much every day.

“Prior to returning home after the season, I got a tryout contract offer from the Denmark top league. Unfortunately, it did not work out, so I returned to play semi-pro.” After two years in Denmark, he pursued a career in a German semi-pro league but was met with disappointment.

Today Nagayama is focused on developing ice hockey in Thailand, and with the amount of perseverance he puts in, it will surely not be long before he sees the fruits of his hard work.

Overseas Chinese Hockey Players Could Save China from Flopping in the Upcoming Winter Olympics

By Chauncey Jung – Pandaily.com

Many high-profile NHL players might disagree, but for the majority of athletes, making it to the Olympics is definitely a once in a lifetime opportunity. As the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics are approaching, some hockey players are doing their best to get into the tournament. As the host of the upcoming event, China will get its first opportunity to send a male hockey team to compete against some of the best sportsmen in the world. South Korean national team learnt a lot from their experience at the 2018 Olympics held in PyeongChang, and now China gets a similar opportunity, that it’d better not blow.

Despite having the biggest population in the world, China is far from the biggest hockey country. While local athletes have demonstrated their excellent abilities on ice winning Olympic gold medals in short track speed skating and figure skating, China has yet to show significant improvements in hockey. The two-time Asian Winter Games champion now merely ranks 33rd out of the 50 teams in International Ice Hockey Federation(IIHF). China currently plays in Division II, Group A league in the IIHF Championship, a tier-four tournament in the competition.

In the Chinese national team 2018 IIHF World Championship roster, the majority of players came from the China-based KHL hockey club Kunlun Red Star. However, these players were not even competitive enough to play actual KHL games. The lack of high-level competitions explains why China has been failing to progress in recent international tournaments.

With the Winter Olympics in just three years, uplifting the skills of Chinese hockey players seems like a mission impossible. The lack of high-level competitions and good training environment, and potentially the lack of financing are all contributing negatively to the competitiveness of the Chinese players. In addition, China still has extremely strict rules on foreigners’ naturalization, making it essentially impossible for foreign talent to represent China on the international level. With limited resources, a handful of good athletes and inflexible immigration policies, Chinese hockey professionals found their last resort in the overseas Chinese community.

Beijing Daily reported earlier that several overseas Chinese players joined the developmental training camp hosted by Kunlun Red Star in May. The athletes, such as Alex Riche and Sam Hu, talked about their eagerness to become part of the 2022 Winter Olympics team. According to the publication, overseas Chinese players are dominating in training matches, beating the current national team with a score of 10-0.

While the overseas Chinese players are nowhere close to being the best hockey players in the world, the results of the training matches indicate that the current national team is hardly ready for the Olympics. The need to recruit more competitive players is urgent and paramount.

Among the overseas Chinese players who participated in the developmental program, some might have Chinese citizenship, which would make the process of joining the team easier. As for foreign-born players with Chinese heritage, they will need to put in more effort into making their Olympics journey come true.

Alex Riche, also known by his Chinese name Shen Jialei, is a Canadian-born hockey player with a Canadian citizenship. Riche formerly played for three different teams in the Ontario Junior Hockey League and joined Princeton to play for the NCAA. During the 2018-2019 season, Riche concluded his collegiate hockey career by scoring 11 goals and 15 assists for Princeton University. Speaking to Beijing Daily reporters, Riche admitted that he hoped to make the transition from university hockey to professional hockey, and he is currently seeking opportunities to play in the Russian hockey league KHL. Riche also spoke highly of the potential opportunity to be part of the Chinese national hockey team. Alex Riche’s mother was Chinese, making it possible for him to naturalize and play for China in future competitions.

Similar to Riche, Canadian hockey player Garet Hunt is also interested in playing for the Chinese national team. The 31-year-old Maple Ridge native now plays for Jacksonville IceMen, in the East Coast Hockey League(ECHL) team. East Coast Hockey League is a mid-level professional hockey league. ECHL is one level below AHL and two levels below the prominent North American hockey league NHL. Speaking little Chinese and looking very far from Asian, Hunt claims that he is proud to have Chinese roots.

It is hard for foreign nationals to naturalize in China. However, for those who have Chinese ancestry, the process could be easier. According to Chinese nationality laws, those who are born with a Chinese parent that does not have a permanent residency in any other country will automatically be granted Chinese nationality. Furthermore, those who have Chinese heritage could presumably naturalize via their parents or relatives.

The existing policies opened doors for foreign-born athletes with Chinese heritage. In football, two players successfully finished their naturalization process in China and are very likely to play for the Chinese national team in future competitions. Former England U19 team member Nico Yennaris and Norway U-18 player John Hou Sæter both joined Beijing Guoan, and are now naturalized Chinese citizens eligible for playing in future Asian Cups and FIFA World Cup Tournaments. For Chinese officials who are desperately looking for fresh talent to improve the national team records, naturalizing foreign-raised competitive players with Chinese heritage seems to be an easy way to make things happen.

The 2018 South Korean Olympics team may be a good reference for the Chinese national team in 2022. South Koreans finished last out of the 12 teams that played in the Olympics finals. Losing all four games in the tournament, the Korean team scored 3 goals but conceded 19 in group stages and placement playoffs. It is, however, worth to mention that the South Korean national team naturalized several foreign players who have no Korean ancestry, including former Boston Bruins goaltender Matt Dalton, former Anaheim Duck defenseman Eric Regan, and former New Jersey Devils Centre Michael Swift. The South Koreans have the highest IIHF ranking among all participating Asian teams. They showed significant improvements thanks to foreign talent, better training and professional guidance from a Stanley Cup Winner Jim Paek.

It is worth to note that unlike the South Korean model, the Chinese naturalization model remains limited and may not be efficient. While having a significant advantage over the native Chinese players, the overseas Chinese players may not be as competitive as expected on the international level. With no clear signs of changes in the country’s naturalization law, the Chinese hockey team is likely to face great challenges and potential embarrassment in its first-ever Olympics in 2022.

Hockey night in Oman

By Lookout

It was April 27, a Saturday night, when HMCS Regina was alongside in Muscat, Oman, for a port visit during Operation Artemis.

While many Canadians were watching playoff hockey on Hockey Night in Canada back at home, HMCS Regina had their own version going on: Hockey Night in Oman.

Oman is known for its beautiful beaches and hot weather. But ice hockey? Not so much. Yet to our surprise, ice hockey not only exists in Oman, but is alive and well.

In over 30 degree heat, HMCS Regina’s hockey team made their way to an ice hockey rink called “Fun Zone” in Muscat to play against an expat team called the Wadi Dogs, and the Oman national ice hockey team, the Khanjars.

The game was organized by PO2 Tom Orlowski, a Marine Technician onboard Regina, and Aaron Grimley, a member of the expat team in Muscat. It was thanks to Mr. Grimley that Regina had the privilege to play against the Oman national team.

The Oman national hockey team was founded in 2014, but it originally started because of the Canadian expat community in Oman.

“Back in 2008, we saw a group of Canadians playing here once a week,” said Ibrahim Galadiri, a player on the Oman national team. “We bought some hockey equipment and decided to join them, and day by day we got more players. We decided to make our own team, and then the government decided to support us in 2014.”

The team is an associate member of the International Ice Hockey Federation, plays against other Gulf countries, and participates annually in the Challenge Cup of Asia.

“It’s fantastic to see how hockey has grown around the world,” said LS Eric Johnston during intermission. “To play in Oman in the Middle East, it’s amazing.”

“I never imagined in my life that I would be playing hockey anywhere else but Canada,” added LS Evan Lawrence. “Playing hockey while on operation in Oman, I think that’s pretty cool.”

Regina lost 5-3 against the Oman national team, and 7-2 against the Wadi Dogs expat team.

Regina’s hockey team looks forward to returning to Oman one day to continue building upon the newly formed relationships between the Wadi Dogs and the Khanjars. At a time when the world seems to want to create a further divide between people, cultures, and religions – that was not the case during Hockey Night in Oman.

“We can use sports to bridge relations between two different nations,” said PO2 Orlowski. “Sports bring people together.”

Regina is currently on Operation Artemis, the Canadian Armed Forces’ ongoing contribution to counter-terrorism and maritime security operations in the Middle Eastern and East African waters. 

Gold-medal celebration on ice for Israel hockey

THE ISRAEL MEN’S national team poses on the ice following its gold-medal winning performance this week in Mexico City at the IIHF World Championship Division II Group B tournament

By Johua Halickman – The Jerusalem Post

Union with North American foundation leads to blue-and-white international success.

Israel isn’t normally thought of as a ice hockey hotbed, but this past week the Israel national team won the gold medal in the IIHF World Championship Division II Group B tournament held in Mexico City.

The accomplishment made headlines around the world as the blue-and-white flag was raised with pride to the rafters and Hatikvah was sung at full strength.

The Israel Ice Hockey Federation has been around for years, but just this January it joined with the Israel Hockey Foundation of North America, led by Executive Director Stacey Pressman.

“The official launch was at the World Championship with the goal of providing leadership, strategic direction, fund development and organizational resources for hockey in Israel and provide the momentum to create positive change through the sport of hockey,” explained an upbeat Pressman.

“As a Jewish Canadian I have always had a love for both hockey and Israel,” said the Montreal native now residing in Pittsburgh. “When my middle daughter was looking for a mitzvah project to celebrate her bat mitzvah, we decided to sponsor a group of young hockey players from Metula and the Canada-Israel hockey school to visit and train in Pittsburgh for 10 days in 2014.

“This was the beginning of my exposure to Israeli hockey and I have been involved as a spectator and friend ever since. Through a series of events it became clear that a foundation could be created to help and support the federation to grow its programs and help the Israel national team with North American donations and fundraising events.”

The foundation strives to provide opportunities for Israeli youth to travel to North America for hockey training, international competition and player development, while also providing critical resources to the Israel national teams to foster and promote positive hockey role models and national pride for youth in both Israel and North America, in partnership with the Israel Hockey Federation.

“With roughly 1,800 players registered in Israel, winning gold was very important,” noted Pressman. “This medal gives the children training in Israel and abroad hope that they, too, can one day be World Champions! It also brings recognition and exposure for those who may not even know that Israel has a hockey program. We have had a spike in interest in our clubs since the recent success of the men’s team and the U18 team which this year won a silver medal in the Division 3A competition in Sofia, Bulgaria.”

There are 12 native-born Israeli players on the team that participated in New Mexico, while another 10 are from various countries in North America and Europe.

The star of the team was Eliezer Sherbatov, who was born in Rehovot and plays in the Slovakian professional league.

But as Pressman explained, “For the team to be successful we must be great AS A TEAM, and that’s where our focus is, on the team as a whole. We are extremely proud of all of our players who gave everything they had while representing Israel, a tremendous honor.”

New dawn for Japan

Japan head coach Yuji Iwamoto (left) and defenceman Seiya Hayata aiming for gold in Division IB this spring

By Henrik Manninen – IIHF.com

Buoyed by a strong finish at last year’s World Championship, a hardened Japan aims to come out of the traps flying in their quest for a return to Division IA.

Japan will face Estonia, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania and Ukraine at the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championships Division I Group B played in Tallinn, Estonia between 28 April to 4 May. Following relegation in 2016, Japan now gets ready to improve on their two consecutive silver medals at Division IB level.

With speed and skating being the hallmark of the Japanese game, standing up to be counted against bigger and bulkier opponents has previously held back their rise to prominence.

When taking over the reins as Japan’s new head coach in the summer of 2017, Yuji Iwamoto introduced a significant shake-up in their style of play. Influenced by working together with Willie Desjardins at Snow Brand Sapporo at the turn of this century, Iwamoto is ambitious in his long-term strategy to change the mindset of Japanese hockey.

Advocating a playing style fueled by aggression at both ends with confident players willing to give their all for the Japanese cause, Iwamoto’s baptism of fire saw a new-look Japan finish second at the 2018 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championships Division I Group B in Kaunas, Lithuania. Derailing their hopes for an instant return to Division IA was a 6-1 loss against a fired-up Lithuanian team with Japan being severely outmuscled during the early stages of that game.

“Looking back at that game now, the guys were a bit nervous. Lithuania came hard on us right from the start with their forecheck and we didn’t fight back. We didn’t hold back and weren’t as strong mentally, that is why we lost,” said Iwamoto on what proved to be a valuable lesson for his players.

We need to start believing that we can play at a higher level and start to have more confidence.
Yuji Iwamoto
Japanese head coach

“We showed it at the last World Championships in Kaunas when the guys picked it up in the last game against Ukraine,” Iwamoto said of a 7-1 demolition by Japan who got fully up to speed during the final day.

“It will take three-four years for our new style of play to work in full. In order to do that we also need to even up the level of the Asia League and get more exhibition matches against opponents like for example Lithuania and Hungary as we need more experience,” he said.

Last November saw Japan return to Lithuania. At the Baltic Challenge Cup in Vilnius, they once again locked horns with the Baltic hosts but also got severely tested by Belarus’s representative Metallurg Zhlobin and a Latvian league select. Another important test for Japan came in February when they took part in the Olympic Legacy Cup against Latvia, Kazakhstan and Korea. Vital match-ups against three higher-ranked national teams played in Korea’s Gangneung, a fitting venue for Iwamoto as his long-term aspiration for Japanese hockey is revealed.

“While playing at the next Olympic Winter Games will not be very realistic, instead we are looking more at competing for a place at the Winter Games in 2026 and 2030,” he said.

One player hoping to play an integral part in Iwamoto’s lofty ambitions for years to come is Seiya Hayata. The 23-year-old defenceman played his first senior World Championship in Lithuania last season and admits it took him a while to settle into international hockey.

“The players were bigger and stronger, but the games were slower than Asia League games. Then we came up against Lithuania and I was panicking a little bit. Now I know what the teams are like at this level,” said the Hiroshima-born blueliner, who is clearly relishing playing for Japan under Iwamoto.

“I like it, playing his style is lots of fun. I like going aggressive, even on defence,” said Hayata, who despite the rugged style advocated by Iwamoto, is far from reciprocated by his coaching style on the bench.

“When I make a mistake he is not yelling, but instead he tries to teach me what I should have done instead. That is a little bit different to the coaches I have in Asia League, so I have fun playing for him,” Hayata said.

Hayata, who previously played junior hockey in North America, has just completed his third consecutive season with the Tohoku Free Blades. One of four Japanese teams competing in the Asia League where strong ties are being honed with Korean hockey at all levels.

“We have good cooperation with Korea,” said head coach Iwamoto. “We had a training camp there and in June we have our under-20 team doing the same,” he continued.

Three years have passed since Japan and Korea last locked horns at the 2016 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championships Division I Group A in Katowice, Poland. An optimistic Hayata hopes it might not take too long before they once again face off against each other in a higher division.

“Even if we didn’t win gold at last year’s World Championship, in my opinion, we were the best-skilled team in the tournament. Lithuania had two-three very good players, but not everyone, so I think we have a chance and now I know what to expect,” said Hayata as the final preparations are honed ahead of the World Championships contested in Tallinn´s Tondiraba Ice Hall.

While Ukraine awaits for Japan in their opener, it will be newly-relegated Poland who enters the contest as favourites for promotion. A challenge Japan will relish as they will be inspired by their neighbor Korea, who during the 2012 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group B in Krynica derailed Poland’s promotion campaign which simultaneously kick-started Korea´s ascent upwards.

Winter Sports Schools Inaugurated At Chitral, Swat

Winter Sports Federation Pakistan (WSFP) inaugurated two winter sports training schools at Madaklasht, Chitral and Malam Jabba, Swat with an aim to hone talent of local athletes

By

Winter Sports Federation Pakistan (WSFP) on Tuesday April 23rd inaugurated two winter sports training schools at Madaklasht, Chitral and Malam Jabba, Swat with an aim to hone talent of local athletes. Air Marshal Aasim Zaheer Vice Chief of the Air Staff, who is also president WSFP, was the chief guest at the ceremonies, said a press release issued here by Directorate of Public Relations of Pakistan Air Force.

Speaking on the occasion, he said training schools would provide an opportunity to the local promising athletes to train in different disciplines like alpine skiing, snowboarding, ice skating and ice hockey.

He said WSFP would initially build makeshift infrastructures for these schools, which would be funded by the federation.

He said Madklasht and Arungkel, Azad Jammu and Kashmir would be developed as proper ski resorts, on the pattern of Naltar.

He said WSFP would hire foreign coaches to polish the skills of athletes in different disciplines of winter sports. He expressed hope that these schools would one day produce athletes of national and international repute.

A similar school was also inaugurated at Arungkel by WSFP on April 14, thus making a total of five winter sports schools in northern parts of Pakistan. These schools have been established to promote ice and snow sports in the country.

PH Hockey Team moves on, preps for SEA Games

Steven Fuglister of the PH Hockey team receiving his MVP award at the 2019 International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) Challenge Cup of Asia held recently in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

By Brian Yalung – Manila Bulletin

After bagging the silver medal at the 2019 International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) Challenge Cup of Asia held from Mar. 1 to 9 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, the Philippine Hockey team diverts its focus on the upcoming SEA Games.

According to team captain and tournament Most Valuable Player Steven Fuglister, they will be playing in a couple of tournaments aside from holding their regular team practices.

“We will play in two amateur tournaments as preparation for the 2019 SEA Games. One will be in June here in Manila, the Philippine Ice Hockey Tournament and in October we will go to Bangkok to compete in the Land of Smiles Tournament,” said Fuglister in an exclusive interview with Manila Bulletin Sports.

“Those will be our two major preparation events that we have for the SEA Games in November besides our regular team practices,” he added.

Falling short of winning it all, Fuglister bared how he told the team to charge their performance to experience.

“After the game, I think everyone was devastated in the locker room. We certainly aspired for more but I told the team that we should write this off as a learning experience, especially that we brought in a lot of players for the first time. I am confident that our players will learn from this game and come out stronger moving forward,” said Fuglister.

Prior to the unfortunate ending, the team captain revealed their game plan and how the Philippines had what it takes to take down the defending champion.

“We went undefeated during the preliminary round and went into the gold medal match confident and with a positive feeling especially after beating Mongolia in our first matchup (We also beat them in the 2018 CCOA in Manila). Our game plan was to score first and control the game from there on out, Fuglister said.

Unfortunately, Mongolia had other plans. They were able to figure out the Filipino puzzle and costly mistakes did the PH Hockey team in.

“Those plans got thrown out as Mongolia went ahead 3:0 in the first period. That might have thrown us off a bit but we believed in our strength, regrouped and came back to tie the game 3:3 later in the game. Then some individual mistakes happened and the experienced players from Mongolia took advantage of that,” Fuglister shared.

As to being adjudged the MVP of the tournament, Fuglister admits he is honored by the recognition but would trade it for the gold medal anytime.

“Personal awards, in general, are a nice recognition for all the work put in as an individual. But there’s a reason why I play a team sport. I want to succeed with my team and I would have traded the MVP Award any time of the day for the gold medal. Since the MVP gets chosen by representatives of the other teams, of course, it’s an honor being recognized for your efforts,” he said.

Korean Ice Hockey team not afraid of world championship: Jim Paek

By Korea JoogAng Daily

Ask Korea head coach Jim Paek about the upcoming men’s hockey world championship, and he’ll readily admit his team will face an uphill battle.

Yet Paek insisted on Monday that doesn’t mean he or his players should be afraid of the challenge ahead.

Paek, former Stanley Cup-winning defenseman for the Pittsburgh Penguins in the National Hockey League (NHL), will lead Korea to the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) World Championship Division I Group A, starting on April 29 in Astana, Kazakhstan.

It’s the second-highest level of IIHF world championships, and the top two nations after the round robin play will be promoted to the elite division for 2020. Korea was relegated from the top competition last year, losing all seven matches by a combined 48-4.

At No. 16, Korea is the third-highest ranked team in the field of six nations. It will go up against Belarus (No. 14), Slovenia (No. 15), Kazakhstan (No. 18), Hungary (No. 20) and Lithuania (No. 25).

To get past these opponents, Paek said his team will look to rely on its past experience.

“We’ve experienced the top division and the Olympics [in 2018]. We’ve experienced playing against NHL players. That is very valuable,” Paek said before a practice at Jincheon National Training Center in Jincheon, North Chungcheong. “The fear of the unknown is not there anymore. We know what to expect. We know it’s going to be hard. We believe that we can do it because we already did it before.”

In 2017, Korea finished in second place in the Division I Group A tournament to earn its first-ever promotion to the elite division. And the following year, Korea made its Olympic debut, playing in the PyeongChang Winter Games as the host country and going up against NHL stars from the likes of Canada, the United States and Finland at the world championship.

Opponents at this year’s worlds may not be in the same league as those countries from the elite division. But Paek said he won’t make any drastic changes to his team’s approach.

“It all has to be the same. We have to execute and we have to play as a team,” he said. “I always say that the speed of reaction, the speed of execution and the precision of execution […] are three very important qualities we have to play against these teams.”

Korea is a team in transition. Some Canadian- or U.S.-born players were fast-tracked to Korean citizenship before PyeongChang, but most of them are not with the team for this year’s worlds. Only goalie Matt Dalton and defensemen Eric Regan and Alex Plante are still in the mix.

Missing forwards Michael Swift and Mike Testwuide will likely leave big holes on the offense, but Paek quipped that lack of scoring has always been a problem.

“It doesn’t matter who we have unless we bring Connor McDavid or Patrick Kane,” Paek said with a smile, referring to former NHL MVPs and high-scoring stars. “We’re working on that. That has been addressed. We’ve been doing analytics, [trying to identify] where we can score goals and where the high percentage chances are. Hopefully, with all this hard work, we can score some goals.”

The last-placed team from Division I Group A will be further relegated to Division I Group B next year.

Paek opened camp here last Monday. The players will go through on- and off-ice training here through today, and travel to Tomakomai, Japan, tomorrow for two exhibition matches against the Japanese national team on the weekend.

Korea will then return home for more training at Jincheon. The team will depart for Kazakhstan on April 23, six days before the start of the tournament.

Paek’s coaching staff received a reinforcement in the form of a former NHL forward Sergei Nemchinov, who will work with Korean players for the world championship.

Like Paek, Nemchinov is a two-time Stanley Cup champion, and he also represented Russia at the 1996 World Cup and 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics. He won two world championships with the old Soviet Union in 1989 and 1990.

“He has a wealth of knowledge and experience, and he’s passing it to our players,” Paek said of Nemchinov. “He’s been fantastic.”

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