Category: Asia (page 1 of 16)

Pakistan holds first ever Ice Hockey match

PAF won the match penalty shootouts

By Saman Siddiqui – OY! Oye Yeah

Another historic day for sports in Pakistan and a great initiative heralding the beginning of new era in Pakistan’s sports world.

History was made as the first ever ice hockey match was played at PAF Ski Resort,  Naltar Valley on December 29th.

This first ever ice hockey took place between the Ice Hockey teams of Pakistan Air Force (PAF) and Gilgit-Baltistan Scouts.

Pakistan Air Force (PAF) Vs Gilgit-Baltistan Scouts

There was a fine display of extraordinary ski and hockey skills from the players of both the teams.
Due to that none of the team was able to score a goal in the match duration. However, the winner of the match was decided through penalty shootouts.

Pakistan Air Force (PAF) and Gilgit-Baltistan Scouts Group Picture

PAF won the match with the only goal from Shah Siyar.

Though ice hockey sport is included in the list of the world’s modern games. The history of ice hockey in Gilgit Baltistan region can be related to a local game “Ghatal”, which is also played with two sticks and a ball.

Hope this sports will flourish in Pakistan in coming years and people will get to enjoy Ice Hockey sport on larger scale.

Team Lebanon ‘writing history’ from Canadian hockey hub

The team was built by Lebanese community members in Montreal

By Jillian Kestler-D’Amours – Middle East Eye

Dozens of players from across North America currently play for Lebanese national hockey team, a grassroots initiative with hopes set on Olympics

At first glance, Saturday night’s hockey game was like any of the thousands of others taking place across Canada.

But as the starting rosters were read out over the arena’s sound system – and fans wove red and white flags, emblazoned with a green cedar tree, enthusiastically in the stands – it was clear that something else was taking place.

The game was a chance to showcase Lebanese hockey talent – and give the close-knit community in Montreal something to cheer for.

Charles El-Mir, president of the Lebanese Ice Hockey Federation, said between 50 and 60 players – all of Lebanese descent, between ages 18 and 38 – currently play on the team.

They hail from across North America, but the majority are based in Canada, “the hub of ice hockey”, El-Mir said.

We say … that we are writing history, to be honest with you
– Charles El-Mir, Lebanese Ice Hockey Federation president

Last month, the Lebanese Ministry of Youth and Sport gave the federation official accredited status in Lebanon, making it the only official body representing Lebanese ice hockey players in the world.

That status also paves the way for the federation to apply to join the Lebanese Olympic Committee and the International Ice Hockey Federation, which would open the door to international matches, including at the Olympics.

The president of the Lebanese Olympic Committee, Jean Hammam, did the ceremonial puck drop at the start of the game in Montreal on 22 December, which saw the Lebanese side win 11-6 against a local team.

Ralph Melki, the team’s coach, moved to Canada from Lebanon at age six. He started to play hockey two years later, after he asked his father – by that time, a fan of the Montreal Canadiens, the city’s National Hockey League team – to sign him up.

“I grew up here and fell in love with the game,” Melki told Middle East Eye ahead of Saturday’s game.

The Lebanese men’s team played an exhibition game on 22 December in Montreal

When he moved onto coaching after his playing days ended in his later teenage years, Melki said he noticed the high number of talented players of Lebanese background in Montreal.

Melki said some of the players come from as far away as the US states of Ohio and Michigan, or the cities of Calgary and Edmonton in western Canada, to represent Lebanon.

“They’re all dedicated,” Melki told MEE. “We have talented players on the team.”

For El-Mir, the next major goal is to build an ice rink in Lebanon and begin training more players there. But until then, the base remains in Montreal. “We say … that we are writing history, to be honest with you,” he told Middle East Eye.

“There is a lot of work to go on the next two years. A lot a lot of work, but at least it’s a reality.”

Changing perceptions

This month also marked the first time the Lebanese Ice Hockey Federation helped get a women’s team on the ice.

Ranging in age from 15 to 38, the players came to Montreal from across North America to play an exhibition match of their own on 22 December.

“It’s surreal,” said Sally Tabarah, the women’s team’s manager, who hails from New Jersey. She told Middle East Eye she said she spent four months scanning the rosters of university teams and others, searching for last names that hinted at Lebanese ancestry.

“We want to make it to the Olympics one day. It’s a lofty goal – but why not?” she said.

The women had never played together before, but they bonded almost immediately, Tabarah said, revelling in their shared backgrounds and dreams of representing Lebanon.

“We all have this shared ancestry… All that matters is we’re playing for the cedar,” she told Middle East Eye. “This is history in the making.”

India’s national women’s hockey team comes to Airdrie

India’s national women’s hockey concluded its first ever trip to Canada

By Scott StrasserAirdrie City View

India’s national women’s hockey concluded its first ever trip to Canada with two exhibition games in Airdrie. The team defeated the AMHA bantam Rockies team 5-1 and lost to the Rockies midget team 3-1.

In a historic first trip to Canada, India’s national women’s hockey team spent a few days in Airdrie Nov. 19 and 20, when the team played a pair of exhibition games at the Ron Ebbesen Arena.

The team – comprised of players from the remote region of Ladakh, at the base of the Himalayas – was in Canada for the Hayley Wickenheiser Female World Hockey Festival. Known as Wickfest, the annual tournament and coaching seminar brings together women’s hockey teams from around the world for games, player development sessions and coaching clinics.

After the players enjoyed stops in Vancouver and Calgary, their trip to Canada concluded with further coaching at training sessions and the two exhibition games in Airdrie.

According to Airdrie Minor Hockey Association (AMHA) Director of Hockey Operations Darrin Harrold, the relationship with the Indian team started in January 2016, while he was working for the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF). He said he met the Indian players – some of whom were still very new to the sport, at the time – at an IIHF coaching clinic in Ladakh.

Fast forward two years, Harrold said, and he made a second trip to Ladakh, this time with Wickenheiser – the retired Team Canada captain and four-time Olympic gold-medal winner.

“The whole idea was to go there first and then bring the national team to Wickfest,” Harrold said. “Because I’d gone on the trip, they wanted to come to Airdrie and see what Airdrie is like.

“It’s cool to see it come full-circle. I went to their neck of the woods, and now they’re here in ours.”

While India has had a men’s national hockey team since 1989, the women’s team formed just two years ago, according to Harrold. Many of the players learned to skate and play with hand-me-down gear.

Though much of India’s climate is generally warm, winter temperatures in Ladakh drop enough to freeze the ponds, which is where the players got their start.

Diskit Angmo, who plays left defence for Team India, said the trip to Canada was a whirlwind. Along with Wickfest, the tour included attending Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers practices, and meeting Wayne Gretzky.

“Being an ice-hockey player, it’s always a dream to come to Canada,” she said.

Along with meeting a hockey legend and watching NHL players practise, Angmo added the hospitality the Indian team experienced in Canada was another highlight of the trip.

“Back in India, it’s very difficult for us to grow this sport,” the 22-year-old said. “But here in Canada, we are getting so much love from the people here. They’re supporting us so much, and it’s been really great.

“We have never been loved so much in our own country, where this sport is not so supported. But here, people are loving us so much, encouraging us and they are getting inspired by us – that’s the main thing we should take back home.”

Mayor Peter Brown was a keen spectator at the two exhibition games India played in Airdrie, and performed the ceremonial puck drop at both. Team India overcame the AMHA Rockies female bantam team 5-1 in its first win on Canadian soil, before losing 3-1 to the Rockies midget team the following night.

“I think it’s wonderful, and they’re so respectful and so thrilled to be here,” Brown said.

“When you look at where they practised and learned to play hockey, and all of a sudden, they become the national team for India for the ladies – it’s really amazing.”

How A Team Of Incredible Ladakhi Women Hockey Players Broke India’s Ice Ceiling

https://o.aolcdn.com/images/dims?quality=80&thumbnail=970%2C&image_uri=https%3A%2F%2Fs.yimg.com%2Fos%2Fcreatr-uploaded-images%2F2018-11%2Fb57a25d0-dfa1-11e8-bfdd-36cdc290485f&client=cbc79c14efcebee57402&signature=16af38b958fd5aa91a970564e3531730fa6dd285
Team India poses during the 2018 Challenge Cup of Asia in
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. (Photo:Ice Hockey Association of India)

By Sam Goldman – Huffpost

LADAKH, Jammu and Kashmir — Some nights in the winter of 2013, Rigzen Yangdol and a dozen of her peers at the Students’ Educational and Cultural Movement of Ladakh school would bundle up and trudge out of their hostel into the frigid Himalayan air. From the bathroom, a stone’s throw away from the main building, the students would fill buckets with water, haul them down a short slope, and empty them onto a dirt field.

Three hours later, at midnight, the women, in their late teens and early twenties, would return to their buckets and repeat the process, making sure to fill in the patches they had missed. Then again at 2 a.m., when the temperature would dip to –20°C.

Once the entire surface was under a thin sheet of water, they would finally go to bed. And when daylight rolled around, they would pick up their donated hockey sticks, put on their donated shoes and drag the small goals out across the rough ice of their own DIY rink. After Rigzen’s first winter at SECMOL, things got a little easier: a pipe now spurts out the water that will freeze over the field.

“It was quite tough,” Rigzen, now 23, recalled as she sat on a log next to the dirt field. In her hand was a little black notebook with Andrew Ference, a former Canadian ice hockey player, on the cover. Winter was over, and a pickup football match had just ended. Nowadays, she and her peers pass, steal and shoot the puck under the direction of a Canadian coach. Many of the players make up not just SECMOL’s ice hockey clubs, but also India’s national women’s ice hockey team.

In a country of 1.4 billion people, it is Ladakh—a region of fewer than half a million that is accessible only by plane during the year’s snowiest months—that has produced every member of the women’s national ice hockey team. That, too, with frozen ponds, borrowed equipment and a few lakhs in funding from the government—less than the Jump Rope Federation of India.

Not many internationally competing ice hockey players regularly practice outdoors; few do so at 12,000-feet elevation; even fewer on homemade ice. So when the team went on to win a pair of games in 2017 at Asia’s biggest ice hockey tournament, it was so unexpected that players, referees and spectators alike were in tears when the Indian national anthem was played.

Organized women’s ice hockey in Ladakh was only 15 years old at that point. The vast majority of the players’ practice occurs on natural ice, which lasts less than two months. But after the two wins, the team became an international sensation of sorts: They met Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in February, four-time Olympic ice hockey gold medallist Hayley Wickenheiser dropped by with equipment and coaching advice and numerous online news sites swooped in to make videos introducing India’s Cinderella team to the world.

“Because there’s so much talent despite everything—there’s so much energy in Indian sport at the grassroots level—that if anyone wants to turn it around, they can turn it around,” said sports journalist Sharda Ugra. “You’ve created this competitive ice hockey team out of nothing. We don’t even have a rink. But people just do it because they just love to play, they love to be out there.”

An uncertain investment

Like everywhere else, women’s sport in India has grown in the shadow of men’s sport. A handful of Anglo-Indian women competed in Wimbledon in the first half of the 20th century, and the first female Indian Olympians swam and ran in the 1952 Helsinki Games. Of the 28 medals the country has won at the Summer Olympics, five have gone to women. Athletes of either gender are dependent on the government and their own sports’ federations for funding and competition opportunities. But women have to fight their way through another thick layer of deeply ingrained social expectations.

“I think the paradigm for any girls growing up in much of the society is ultimately marriage,” said Madhumita Das, a gender and sports researcher in Delhi. “And that’s seen as, I think, the most important piece in any woman or girl’s life.”

Ladakhis enjoy a greater degree of gender equality than their compatriots elsewhere in India, but female role models combining sport, career, and family are few and far between.

“Knowing that maybe this is my first and last opportunity, you put your maybe 200% into it,” Das said of women in sports. For girls who want to continue a sporting career, “you have to prove at all times … that, yes, your investment is important, and your investment is a gainful investment.”

The Early Years

https://o.aolcdn.com/images/dims?quality=80&thumbnail=970%2C&image_uri=https%3A%2F%2Fs.yimg.com%2Fos%2Fcreatr-uploaded-images%2F2018-11%2Fb972dea0-df9e-11e8-bf9f-c23917133d51&client=cbc79c14efcebee57402&signature=d1089a25693aec70f19c79e66b5e7184ffd297bbLadakh’s original class of ice hockey players. (Photo: Mepham)

When winter arrives in Ladakh, the roads from the rest of the subcontinent close and ponds like Gupuks, just outside Leh, and Karzoo, in the heart of town, freeze over.

“You can’t play cricket, you can’t play football—ice hockey’s the only option,” said Jigmet Angchuk, general secretary of the Ladakh Winter Sports Club, which organizes and oversees most ice hockey play in the region.

How did the sport reach Ladakh, though? Around 1969, Tonzang, the last living army man from Ladakh’s original class of ice hockey players, told me over butter tea and biscuits that some soldiers discovered a curious bladed shoe in an army storage facility. The shopkeeper told them you could traverse the ice with it. But that was silly—the blade would cut through the surface and plunge the wearer into the frigid water.

“I told him that I think it’s some kind of a fancy door handle,” Tonzang recalled. But they came around after seeing a picture in a book of someone achieving the feat.

So Tonzang and company nailed what figure-skate blades they could find onto the bottom of their army boots and rounded up field hockey sticks and balls. In 1972, they introduced inter-brigade tournaments near the Chinese border. The sport saw its first civilian teams eight years later.

“We were not aware of the rules in those days,” Tonzang said. “Rules were made keeping in mind we had no equipment. After a point, the goalkeeper started using cricket pads for safety.” Proper pads and helmets were forced onto the players in 2006, the year Tonzang, now 67, retired from the sport.

The Ladakh Winter Sports Club estimates some 10,000–12,000 Ladakhi youth play ice hockey in one form or another. At the biggest championship game, held in January each year, thousands crowd around Karzoo pond, some climbing trees for a better view. Equipment, gear and coaches arrive each year from Canada. (The rumour goes that in the comparatively wealthy, ice hockey-obsessed country, athletes use their gear once before donating it to places like Ladakh.) The only full-scale ice rink in India—in Dehradun—has been closed for several years because the authorities claim it is too expensive to maintain. The ice there, smoothed by a ice-resurfacing machine, called a Zamboni, is different than that of a frozen pond, where the surface is harder, coarser and sounds roughly like tearing cardboard as skates carve scars into it.

Birthplace

The main campus of SECMOL—the boarding school that was the birthplace of organized Indian women’s ice hockey—is a 15-minute drive east out of Leh, down a winding road that tracks the Indus River, past the razor-wire-enclosed military facilities, the Gupuks pond shore, and a handful of houses topped by colourful lines of Buddhist prayer flags.

The alternative school was founded in 1988 for Ladakhi students who were struggling in regular government schools—especially those from poor, rural backgrounds. Between the hostel, dirt football field and student-run shop are wonders of sustainability: a bicycle pedalled to power a washing machine, a subterranean house domed by the shell of an old van, and giant concave mirrors that concentrate light and heat to boil water in an adjacent kitchen (If this sounds familiar, it’s because Aamir Khan’s character in 3 Idiots was loosely inspired by Sonam Wangchuk, SECMOL’s founder.) In the main hall, a soft-spoken student pointed out shelves of plaques and trophies commemorating the local and international successes of homegrown men and women ice hockey players.

In the early 2000s, women were already performing on the ice, but in the more traditionally “feminine” sport of figure skating. Women’s organized ice hockey was born on the dusty grounds of the campus in 2002, when Wangchuk, an engineer, brought in a Western instructor and bags of skates from abroad. Thin pieces of metal were fastened to long pieces of wood to make sticks. A patch of dirt turned into a skating surface, and a goal was made from wood scraps. The girls gingerly scooted around—”knees bent, ass out!” as the instructor called out—and fell repeatedly.

One of the girls urging on her peers was Stanzin Dolker, who began carving out her place in local sporting history in 2003, when the Ladakh Winter Sports Club barred women from competing.

“Like they said, ‘Women can’t play hockey—this hockey is only for the men,'” Stanzin, now 36, told me over tea in a quiet second-floor coffee shop near Leh’s main market. A physical education lecturer in Turtuk, near the Pakistan border, Stanzin speaks with a soft calmness a librarian would be jealous of.

So the women protested, right there on the ice. They sang protest songs about women being excluded while the men could continue to play. They made a banner and dashed around the rink with it.

“If I don’t do anything in sport, then my life will become half,” Stanzin would go on to tell a Swedish film crew, that chronicled her journey from a group figure-skating performer during the intermissions of men’s games to Ladakh’s foremost female ice hockey player in a documentary On Thin Ice. “That’s why I have to shout. That’s why I have to protest,” Stanzin said.

The “ban” on women’s games eventually petered out, and in 2005, Stanzin and her SECMOL classmates boarded a bus and caravanned through icy mountains to Kargil. An exhibition game was held, and they got the thumbs up to bring women from Kargil back to Leh for a championship tournament. They played in blue and grey tracksuits with beaten-up sticks, on hard, abraded ice that looked like the cratered surface of Saturn’s icy moon, Enceladus. Slipping and falling was common, and only the goaltenders wore helmets and pads.

Fast forward nine years to 2014, and female hockey players were still so rare that Stanzin could barely pull together enough skaters for two teams. She had to ask the Ladakhi Women’s Travel Company—an all-women’s travel agency in Leh—to spare players to even hold a competition.

“After the completed tournament, I called all the women and the captains, and told them there is no one to support us,” she said. “We have to do better. So we have to make an association.”

The following year, in 2015, after rounding up the requisite dozen founders necessary to submit the organisational paperwork, the Ladakh Women Ice Hockey Foundation was born.

Today, Winter Sports Club officials estimate bigger towns like Leh have eight to 10 men’s clubs alone, which play up to six tournaments, depending on available funds and the type of club. There are currently four teams on the women’s side—one more than the minimum needed to hold a tournament. The foundation and SECMOL acquire and distribute most of the women’s gear and raise funds. Men, said Stanzin, have had to adjust their attitudes.

“Before that, they were saying, ‘Women can’t play, no they can’t, men are the real players,'” she said. “But now, time has changed, and women are really very strong, and they are flying on the ice.”

On 21 January 2016, SECMOL took down its arch rival, Siachen, 4–3 in a local championship game held by the Sports Club and the Leh District government at Karzoo pond.

“The day is not far when they will make Ladakh proud at the international level,” Tashi Dolma, a Leh government official and chief guest that day, said after the match.

https://s.yimg.com/os/creatr-uploaded-images/2018-11/bb7b6df0-dfa0-11e8-bfcb-8008e3b59deeThe 2015 IHAI national women’s championship at Karzoo Pond in Leh.
(Photo:Ladakh Winter Sports Club)

Wanting more

For years, Disket Angmo was among Leh’s figure skating girls who performed during the intermissions of men’s games. The Delhi University literature student, one of the smallest athletes on the ice, originally put on skates at the insistence of her father, a policeman and Winter Sports Club member who passed away in 2014. He dragged his daughter and son to club events during their long winter breaks from school.

Disket initially skated just to appease him, but his initial encouragement laid the foundation for the 22-year-old’s international sporting career. “I think it’s all because of him,” she said.

Once Disket began skating, some women approached the soon-to-be left defender, looking for players to round out their ice hockey teams. Even though it was not uncommon for young Ladakhi women to take to figure skating, the costumes sometimes received an uncomfortable level of attention. It’s one reason why ice hockey, with its bulky, gender-neutral attire, became a compelling option. “I think there’s less criticism in hockey,” she said. “So that’s why I turned to hockey.”

Her older brother, Tsewang Gyaltson, was already a star on the men’s side. She went first to him for guidance.

“He’d be like, ‘no, no, it’s not for girls’,” Disket said. Later, when the women’s national team was formed in 2016, ‘even he was like, ‘Yeah, you should practice’.”

Some players learned to skate with older siblings, trekking out to the nearest frozen pond to turn their wobbling into confident strides. Others’ initial encounters with the sport were more akin to that of Tonzang, the army man. “I could never imagine a skate could look like this,” one woman recalled. Each went on to join clubs and compete in tournaments, but even with their limited knowledge of ice hockey’s official rulebook and even more limited competition experience, many wanted something more.

Team India

Seven years after the men’s team first played internationally, the Ice Hockey Association of India held try-outs for a women’s squad. They looked to Ladakh for players.

Tsetan Dolma was at SECMOL when she heard that she had been selected for the first national team.

“I was like, ‘No, don’t joke’.” Surely a 20-year-old with little experience hadn’t made the roster. Someone else approached her. Same news, same reply: “‘No, don’t joke’.” Finally, Tsetan, now 23, believed it: Two years after picking up the sport, the right defender was headed to the International Ice Hockey Federation’s (IIHF’s) 2016 Challenge Cup of Asia in Taipei.

But it wouldn’t be Indian women’s ice hockey without another hiccup. A number of players, born and raised in one of the country’s most remote regions, didn’t have passports. A few didn’t make it to Taipei.

Tsetan scrambled to acquire the documentation, receiving some help from her SECMOL mentors, and spending entire days in government offices. The team headed to Delhi for practice on a miniature rink, and Tsetan finally got her passport there. “I was able to get nine passports done in two days,” said Harjinder Singh, head of the ice hockey federation, “which is a record in the history of India.”

For many of the women, Taipei was their first foreign trip. The size of a full-scale rink awed them; Tsetan reckoned it was double the size of Delhi’s cramped rink. But there was another hitch. Tsetan and her teammates were used to the unofficial Ladakhi rules of play. “Yes, I know how to play ice hockey,” she clarified, “but I didn’t know the rules and regulations IIHF has that we must know as players of a national team.” Those had to be picked up over the course of India’s four matches.

Then there was the ice itself. The 21 seasoned skaters found themselves slipping and sliding on the slick artificial surface like they were new to the sport. “First of all, we just had to figure out how to be on the ice,” Disket said. “It was so slippery. The ice was so different that you couldn’t even manage to get the puck on the stick.” Then, goaltender Noor Jahan had to borrow a spare stick from her Taiwanese counterpart after hers broke. She’d later discover her thumb would stick out of a hole in her blocker.

India—its uniform alternating between blazing saffron and deep blue—kicked off the five-team Challenge Cup of Asia on 22 March 2016, 14 years after the first organised game in Ladakh. Disket, Tsetan and crew suffered an 8–1 drubbing at the hands of Singapore. The next day, Thailand hammered the young squad 12–1. Things got worse when Disket fractured her leg in a freak accident. “It was bad,” she said. “It was really bad.” That was when the tears started. “First of all, they’re losing games,” she said of her teammates. “And then they don’t know anything about this game … and then people are getting hurt. It was very emotional.”

The following day: Chinese Taipei piled on with a shutout, 13–0. Team India had its best showing on 25 March, but still lost to Malaysia 6–3. The squad left Taipei outscored 36–8.

After the fracture, “my mom literally told me to stop playing the game,” Disket said. “And I was so depressed—I was like, ‘Oh shit’ now, ‘this shouldn’t be happening’. I really tried to convince my mom: ‘Please, please don’t do this.'”

Goosebump moment

The players said they remained positive; they at least had to pay back those who supported them with money and equipment.

Over the following months, Disket pleaded with her mother to let her return once her leg healed. She even sent her videos from university of professional ice hockey players fighting, breaking noses and getting bloody. See all the more-horrific injuries suffered by others in the sport? As 2016 wore on, she gradually wore her mother down. “Finally, she was like, ‘Okay, let’s just see what happens.'”

After the Taipei drubbing, the team brushed up on the rules and learned the little things: how to tighten their skates, how to properly wear their pads and helmets, some of which they borrowed from their male counterparts. The Ice Hockey Association of India decided that the ponds of Leh and the tiny rink in Delhi were not enough. Frantic crowdfunding and out-of-pocket spending took the teams north to Kyrgyzstan for practice on a fully functional rink—the more slippery kind. The men spent a month prepping for Kuwait, the women half a month for Thailand.

The 2017 Challenge Cup of Asia was a seven-nation affair. The United Arab Emirates took the first game, 6–4. The following day, India headed into the third period against the Philippines up 1–0. Both squads traded goal after goal. When the clock ran out, the ladies from Ladakh had taken it 4–3. Disket’s stick went airborne.

“I couldn’t believe it was happening for real,” she said. “We were hoping we could at least get a win, and then when it happens, it’s like a dream come true, you know?”

Even a year later, the weight of the win left Disket repeatedly pausing mid-sentence in an effort to better articulate its meaning: “All the criticisms, all the hard work, suffering, the difficulty that we had gone through up until that time—it all poured out.”

This time, the tears were happy ones. Disket recalled the referees and judges crying too. The emotional peak came when the national anthem was played. “It was something out of this world,” Disket said.

“We were crying just looking at the flag,” Tsetan said. “That time, everyone was like, ‘Oh, these girls are amazing’.”

India had the next day off, but then hit the roughest stretch of its international record, falling to New Zealand, Thailand and Singapore by a combined 39–3. But the team broke through again on the final day of play in Bangkok, squeaking past Malaysia 5–4. It was a nail biter. India was up one goal with 11 seconds to go. Malaysia subbed out their goaltender for an extra attacker, but to no avail. When the final horn blew, they knew they’d hear the national anthem again. “That was a goosebump moment,” one player recalled.

Disket returned from the Challenge Cup named best player on Team India by the coach, sealing mom’s support for her playing. She gave her mother the award, which joined an increasingly decorated shelf at their home in Leh.

International attention

The celebrations started as soon as the team touched down at Leh’s Kushok Bakula Rimpochee Airport. Friends, families and fans mobbed the entrance to the one-story terminal. More celebrations awaited in many of their villages.

The success translated into a new fan base. The two international wins catapulted attendance at their local matches to levels starting to resemble that of the men. The story of how a squad of young women—lacking proper training facilities, borrowing some of their equipment from their neighbours and brothers, and operating on a tight budget—came to win those two international games was soon picked up by western media. Brief check-this-out pieces were written, and short videos were produced showing the players zipping across the scarred ice of Gupuks pond. Joining the annual contingent of Canadian coaches and equipment donations arriving in Ladakh were Wickenheiser, the four-time gold medallist, and recently retired National Hockey League (NHL) player Andrew Ference.

What international attention had been given to Indian ice hockey abruptly pivoted from the men’s team to the women—a shift that Singh, the head of the sport’s federation, doesn’t think helps the sport. The men struggle too, he pointed out. “Men are so disciplined, they have been spending money from their own pockets,” he said. “But women haven’t done that; they have always been given the thing on a platter.”

Try telling that to Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau, who capped off his February state visit to India by meeting with the women’s team on a tennis court in Delhi, where his son knocked around a ball with the players. “India’s national women’s ice hockey team is breaking barriers, taking on challengers, and showing girls that anything is possible,” Trudeau tweeted that day.

“None of us had ever imagined that we could have an NHL player in Leh,” Disket said. “Can you imagine—seriously—the people who you watch every day on the internet, and then they are coming to your place just to teach you, and you can see they’re real?”

But less than a month before their conga line of high fives with Trudeau, ice hockey had come to a relative standstill in Leh. Chief Executive Councilor Sonam Dawa Lonpo, head of the Leh District government, died suddenly of a heart attack. It happened during a local tournament, and all official events were called off. Practice stopped. There would be no second trip to Kyrgyzstan.

The team arrived in Kuala Lumpur for the 2018 Challenge Cup with virtually no training under its belt. The players had to get into form starting Game 1 against the UAE, which they lost 6–1. The next day, host Malaysia shut them out 5–0. Two days later, on the final day of play, India led the Philippines—the first country it had ever taken down—two goals to nothing after the first period. But the Philippines went on to score six unanswered. It was the division’s bronze medal match.

“The women, they need to improve their hockey now,” Sports Club secretary Noney Wangchok told me when we met in the lobby of Leh’s most upscale hotel. Sports officials no longer bark at women to get their sticks off the ice, but the bar still seems to be high for justifying their place in the sport. “They are improving, but I don’t know,” he said, his voice trailing off. “Women are women, after all.”

But the team lost no time wallowing in disappointment. In between school and writing poetry, between table tennis and mischievous WhatsApp messages, is a new “off ice” training regimen many players do on alternating days—practicing their technical skills, getting in some cardio at 11,500 feet. They figure if they can score two wins on only a couple months’ winter training, maybe winning the Challenge Cup of Asia isn’t out of reach.

“Chinese Taipei are good, Singapore are good,” said Stanzin, who had retired after the 2016 cup. “But it is not impossible that we can’t win from them. We can.”

Many challenges

According to the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, no funding has been allocated by the central government for ice hockey since fiscal year 2014–15. Between 2011 and 2015, the sport received just Rs 3.5 lakh. According to the most recently available numbers, for 2016–17, Hockey India (which governs field hockey, the much more popular and successful variety of hockey) received Rs 12.2 crore. The All India Football Federation got Rs 9.1 crore ($1.4 million) and Rs 74.7 lakh ($115,000) was allocated to the Taekwondo Federation of India. The Bridge Federation of India—which oversees the card game competition—got Rs 8.7 lakh ($13,400) of funding that year.

“Shoestring”, then, becomes a rather generous term for the national teams’ budgets. According to Singh, the women’s 2017 campaign—traveling to and training in Kyrgyzstan, traveling to Delhi and then to Bangkok—cost roughly Rs 35 lakh ($54,000). (The bill for the men’s team, which stayed twice as long in Kyrgyzstan and competed in Kuwait, was closer to Rs 49 lakh ($75,600).) “Player development” and sports conferences cost extra. SECMOL and the Ladakh Women Ice Hockey Foundation’s help with crowdsourcing the shortfall in government funds gave the women’s team a rare leg up.

But funding for trips to Kyrgyzstan could become even more important in the future as climate change seeps into India’s coldest region. Natural ice lasted only a month this past winter. One Ladakhi educator showed me the meticulous notes his father took daily on the weather. Temperatures in Leh today are some seven to 10 degrees warmer than the early and mid-1990s.

Construction on a proper ice hockey stadium in Leh has stalled pending funding.
Shade from the sun is expected to lengthen the life span of the eventual
ice surface, allowing a longer playing season. (Photo: Sam Goldman)

One solution is a gray concrete arena rising up from the ground near Leh’s dirt cricket stadium. Steel rods protrude from the columns and walls above the rough-cut seating and will eventually support the shade that officials expect would keep the ice frozen from October to March. Funding’s dried up, however—young cricketers currently use the floor of the stadium for batting and bowling practice. Sports Club president NA Gyapo put the completion of Ladakh’s first proper ice hockey stadium at around five years—though it could come down to one year if funding from the government or sponsors comes through.

But weather, fiscal concerns, gear acquisition and coaching opportunities are only half the story. Women in Ladakh still bring up pre- and post-sport struggles: less encouragement from parents to pursue certain paths, the pressure to get a sustainable job. Opinions among women vary whether and how much marriage, children and the attendant expectations hinder a career in sport.

“I married in 2012,” Stanzin said. “My baby’s five years old, and still I played hockey.”

What no one disputes, however, is the effect—or lack thereof—a career in ice hockey has on getting a government job, seen as virtually a lifetime of job security.

But the state of Jammu and Kashmir, the hub of Indian ice hockey, doesn’t officially recognize the sport. Lacking that recognition, for which Stanzin has lobbied unsuccessfully, is a deal breaker for the extra points athletes can earn on their merit-based civil service exams for sports-related government jobs. That means even someone with an illustrious international career—Disket, say—has no advantage when applying for a government job teaching, say, winter sports. Stanzin got her current job as a physical education lecturer after scoring well in an exam.

“I can’t give much importance to the women to say, ‘play hockey, play hockey, play hockey’,” Stanzin said. Once they get to job-application age, “they will face a lot.”

Eye on the future

Stanzin’s pragmatism hasn’t discouraged her former teammates yet. Some say they’re thinking of possibly refereeing in the future; others say their coaches give them the confidence to pursue a career in the sport. They already put on coaching camps in villages that draw as many as 70 kids each—prepping their replacements, as one player put it. Regardless, they want to hear the national anthem again—”to bring back the flag to the same position that it was before,” Tsetan said. But the most important thing, the players agree, is that folks outside Ladakh know ice hockey is played there—and that girls and women play it.

Have gender barriers been broken yet? Is this crew of unassuming athletes the role models young Ladakhi girls need? Stanzin stirred her tea in thought. “Yes, yes, it will come, it will come—change,” she said. “I’m sure it will come.”

“Sometimes in the back of your mind, it happens, like, ‘Okay, maybe it’s nothing; we’re just wasting our time’,” Disket said. But then an NHL player and a four-time Olympic gold medallist arrive in your remote corner of your country. And then you high-five the prime minister of Canada.

“I think ice hockey in the country is going to have a good future,” she said. “And I’m really positive about it, that it’s going to be great.”

World Juniors: Australia Junior Hockey News

By: Kerry Jackson – JuniorHockey.com

Even the most devoted hockey fans might not know that Australia has a national junior team that competes in international play. It plays in the International Ice Hockey Federation’s Division III, along with a few other teams from countries that aren’t usually associated with hockey.

According to Wikipedia, there are only 22 ice rinks in Australia, which about the number one would expect to find in any suburban Toronto town.

Still, the Australians have produced one American Hockey League player, Nathan Walker of the American Hockey League’s Hershey Bears. Walker played in nine National Hockey League games last year, seven for the Washington Capitals, two with the Edmonton Oilers. The country has also placed quite a few junior hockey players in North America, including 1999-born Tyrone Bronte, a forward who’s scored three goals in four games this season for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights in his first season in the North American Hockey League; Findlay Wood, a 1999 forward with the NAHL’s Kenai River Brown Bears; and Bayley Kubara, 1998 defenseman playing the Eastern Hockey League for the North Carolina Golden Bears.

Other Australian players sprinkled across the U.S. and Canadian junior and youth hockey footprint are:

Alexander Wardlaw, 1999, defenseman, Boston Jr. Rangers, EHL

Jeremy Vasquez, 2000, forward, Seahawks Hockey, EHL

James Downie, 1999, goalie, Meijer AAA, North American Prospects Hockey League

Julian Fodor, 2000, forward, Kamloops Storm, Kootenay International Junior Hockey League

Sean McLean, 1998, forward, Great Falls Americans, North American 3 Hockey League

Declan Bronte, 2002, defenseman, New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs, Tier 1 Elite Hockey League

Arthur Wang, 2002, defenseman, Schomberg Cougars, Provincial Junior Hockey League

Brayden Martin, 1998, forward, Lake Tahoe Icemen, Western States Hockey League

Connor Lee, 2001, forward, Steele County Blades, United States Premier Hockey League-Premier

Connor Schultz, forward, 2002, Delta Hockey Academy

Ethan Hawes, 2002, defenseman, Everett Jr. Silvertips, North American Prospects Hockey League

Lachlan Fahmy, 1999, defenseman, South Shore Kings, USPHL-Premier

Aaron Grubb, 1998, forward, Seaforth Generals, Canadian Premier Junior Hockey League

Australia’s national junior team will play in the 2019 IIHF Division III U20 Junior World Championship in Reykjavik, Iceland, in January. Tryouts and training camp for the tournament will be held from Nov. 6 through Dec. 11.

David Ruck, who previously coached the Perth Thunder of the Australian Ice Hockey League, will be behind the bench. It’s his first year as head coach of the national team. Ruck, who grew up in Australia but was born in British Columbia, where he played in the late 1980s, will be looking for a vast improvement over last year’s team. That squad won one game in regulation, one in overtime, and lost three in regulation to finish in fifth place out of six teams.

Kuwait ice hockey players gears up for winter sports

By Ramona Crasto – Kuwait Times

As the news of the Falcons winning an amateur Hong Kong tournament reached Kuwait, Fuhaid Al-Ajmi, a former ice hockey player and current President of the Kuwait Winter Games Club, reminisced about the first international tournament where Kuwait left an international imprint – a tournament in Glasgow in 1993.

Since then, it has been a journey filled with trophies and lessons on how to do better in the next game. After rejoining the International Ice Hockey Federation in 1999, the national ice hockey team of Kuwait made their international debut at the Asian Winter Games, where although they lost, they did not lose hope. Kuwait was the first Arab country to raise its flag at the Asian Winter Games.

“All the members of the Winter Sports Club are former ice hockey players, so we understand the needs of players and do our best to provide them with all the equipment and training necessary. I retired in 2000. When we played back in the 90s, we lacked support, although we do not blame our losses on anyone but ourselves. We wish we had more support, so we hope to provide the players with as much assistance as possible,” Ajmi told Kuwait Times.

“After the win at the Hong Kong invitational amateur ice hockey tournament, we will try to use this title to improve and establish new winter games in Kuwait. The club has already started five such games, namely, ice hockey for both men and women, figure skating, curling, skiing and speed skating,” Ajmi added.

After recently acquiring full membership at the IIHF, Kuwait will be able to vote in the elections of the governing body and the selection of the countries that bid to host world championships. “We’ve pledged to make things easier and better for the upcoming generations participating in these sports. We recently opened a school for ice hockey for kids aged from 4 to 14, who were sent to Sweden for training,” said Vice President Khaled Al-Mutairi.

http://news.kuwaittimes.net/website/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/winter-games-1.jpg

In 1992, Kuwait was expelled from the IIHF due to lack of activity. Since then, Kuwait has hosted the Arab Cup as well as the Challenge Cup of Asia, where Kuwait came in 2nd and 4th place respectively. “When we first started playing after the invasion, we didn’t have proper uniforms, gear or equipment to play in. Surely, the sports scene was different back then compared to how it is now. We now have a completely equipped club with a rink to practice, gym to maintain fitness, which is very important in sports, and the latest gear ready to use according to age and size,” Mutairi added.

Okinawa warms up to ice hockey

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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.

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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 docdetroitusn@yahoo.com or Mark Cooley at mark.d.cooley@gmail.com

 

 

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

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By menafn.com

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

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By IIHF.com

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

https://images.glaciermedia.ca/polopoly_fs/1.23403366.1534457401!/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.”

https://images.glaciermedia.ca/polopoly_fs/1.23403394!/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.”

https://images.glaciermedia.ca/polopoly_fs/1.23403321!/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.”

https://images.glaciermedia.ca/polopoly_fs/1.23403322!/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.

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