Category: Asia (page 1 of 15)

Mirziyoyev visits Humo Arena ice rink project

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By Tashkent Times

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

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

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

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

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

Khumo Arena ice rink project 1

Nepal Ice Hockey – Legacy in the Making

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By Nepal Ansar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NIHA Initiatives in 2016-17

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

Inline Vs Ice Hockey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Joanna Chiu, Ye Qian – Hong Kong Free Press

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

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

China women's hockey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pucks and passports

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kunlun Super Team

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“We are very proud of her.”

Ice Hockey Classic will be key to NZ’s development

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Ice Hockey Classic 2018

Forget golf, ice hockey is the new sport of China’s richest

Alongside sports such as horseback riding, polo and golf, ice hockey is one of the most expensive sports to play.

By Lee Wing Sze – South China Morning Post

At the closing ceremony of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics in February this year, the whole world was watching as the Olympic flag was passed to delegates from China: Beijing is to host the next Winter Olympics, in 2022.

Preparations for the 2022 Winter Olympics have already begun. New competition venues and infrastructure are springing up in the capital city, Yangqing district and Zhangjiakou, and winter sports are expected to become a point of focus for the entire country.

Out of all the winter sports there are, ice hockey – a fast-paced and action-packed team game – has always been one of the most popular spectator sports. The thrilling team game has also become one of the coolest sports for millennial’s to participate in, especially for those from privileged backgrounds.

Alongside sports such as horseback riding, polo and golf, ice hockey is one of the most expensive sports to play. As a full contact sport, players are required to wear protective gear, such as helmets, mouthguards, shoulder pads, elbow pads, girdle, hockey gloves and shin guards. In addition, uniforms and equipment such as hockey jerseys, ice skates and hockey sticks have to be maintained. All this requires HK$4,000 to HK$9,000 a year.

Chinese ice hockey player Andong Song of the Madison Capitols skates
in the game against the Central Illinois Flying Aces in the USHL Fall Classic
in September, 2017 in Cranberry, Pennsylvania.

In China, ice hockey used to be popular only in northern cities such as Harbin and Qiqihar in snowy Heilongjiang province. Back in the early 2000s, there were fewer than 200 registered junior ice hockey players in Beijing. But ever since China was chosen, back in 2015, to host the 2022 Winter Olympics , the sport has been gaining popularity among children and adults in Beijing.

“There are now a few thousand youngsters playing ice hockey in Beijing. People think playing ice hockey is hip and cool, and there are an increasing number of people taking up the sport,” says Thomas Wu, vice-president of the International Ice Hockey Federation and honorary president of the Hong Kong Ice Hockey Association.

Kunlun Red Star’s Rudi Ying after the Chinese team’s 2016/2017
KHL match
against CSKA Moscow at the CSKA Ice Palace.

Ice hockey originated in Canada in the mid-1800s and spread to Europe in the early 1900s. While Canada, the United States, Finland, Russia, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Sweden are still considered the Big Seven in today’s ice hockey world, Kazakhstan, Japan, Korea and China have become the top teams in Asia, followed by Hong Kong, United Arab Emirates, Mongolia, Chinese Taipei, Thailand and Singapore.

To improve their children’s skills, many Chinese parents hire instructors to give their children private lessons. Some even send their children to North America to receive better training so that they can go on to develop a career in ice hockey.

Having their children play ice hockey is a huge investment for parents. Typical examples are top-notch young Chinese players such as Song Andong – the first Chinese-born player drafted into the National Hockey League (NHL) in 2015 – and Rudi Ying, whose stories have inspired a lot of younger players in China.

Driven by his passion for the game, Song moved to Oakville, Toronto when he was 10, and trained under coaches in North America. Now the face of ice hockey in China, the 20-year-old is preparing to play at NCAA for Cornell University later this year. Ying, who moved to Chicago at the age of nine, returned to China in 2016, and is playing professionally in the Kontinental Hockey League in China. Both are former members of the China U18 national team and are expected to represent China in the 2022 Winter Olympics.

In Hong Kong, the sport is trying to expand its player base to children from local schools as well. Wu, who established Hong Kong Academy of Ice Hockey (HKAIH) in 2007 with the aim of promoting the sport in the city, says: “Before I got involved [in promoting ice hockey], players were mostly students from international schools, and about half of them were from families who came from major ice hockey nations, like the US, Canada, Sweden and Germany. When their parents moved to Hong Kong, they wanted their children to have the chance to play.”

The scene has been changing with the participation of more local
youngsters like Alex Wong Chin-ching.

The scene has been changing with the participation of more local youngsters like Alex Wong Chin-ching. The 17-year-old, one of 20 young players under the Five-year Enhancement Programme to prepare for the 2021 Asian Winter Games, learned to play ice hockey at age seven through HKAIH. “Ice hockey used to be a minor sport [here], but now it has become more popular, with more kids playing,” says the Po Leung Kuk No.1 W.H. Cheung College student.

“I watched my cousin play ice hockey when I was about four or five. I really wanted to try, but there were no channels for me to learn [through] back then, until HKAIH was set up,” says the forward of the Hong Kong U18 National Team.

Some, like Victor Yang Hou-yuan, a student from Harrow International School, switched to ice hockey from playing other winter sports.

“I started figure skating with my sister in Beijing,” says Yang, 17, who moved to Beijing with his family when he was seven. “I did that for a few months and I didn’t really like it. My skating coach’s brother was an ice hockey coach. One day after my skating lesson, there was an ice hockey practice session. I watched it and told my mother that I wanted to try. That’s how I got into ice hockey.”

Yang returned to Hong Kong when he was about 10 and kept playing. Yang represented the city at the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship held in Mexico City last year.

Former NHL player of New York Rangers, Barry Beck,who is now the general managing coach of HKAIH, thinks while giving the opportunity to everybody to skate is the way to continue developing the sport in Asia, he also hopes some of these young players will play professionally at the international level one day.

“You have to go overseas at some point to have the same level of skills,” he says. “It would be nice to see somebody becoming professional because that would open a lot of doors and really [push] the sport to the forefront, not just in Hong Kong but in China.”

International exposure benefits Kuwait

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By Henrik Manninen – IIHF.com

Having already crisscrossed through snow and sand, the humidity of Southeast Asia now awaits Kuwait in a milestone of a season.

Entering the final straight of a hectic second half of the 2017/18 season, sees the Gulf nation compete at the top division of the 2018 IIHF Ice Hockey Challenge Cup of Asia in Manila, Philippines. Contested between 3-8 April with Mongolia, Thailand, Singapore and hosts Philippines awaiting, the challenge comes in the wake of another significant first for Kuwait.

Barely a month has passed since taking the plunge and competing at the 2018 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division III Qualification. Debuting in wintry Sarajevo saw Kuwait suffer consecutive reversals against hosts Bosnia & Herzegovina, eventual runaway winner Turkmenistan before closing things off with a tight encounter against their regional rivals United Arab Emirates. Despite three straight defeats, it was to be one giant leap for Kuwaiti hockey.

“It was a big level, but it was a huge step for Kuwait to be there,” said Kuwait’s assistant coach Bojan Zidarevic on moving up to the World Championship qualification stage. “But for each game, we are learning more and our goal is set for the next Asian Winter Games. Last year it was held in Sapporo and now we have four years to prepare our young kids for that tournament,” he continued.

Zidarevic, a former World Championship player for Serbia, arrived in Kuwait three-and-a-half years ago. Apart from working with the senior national team, he is also developing teams from U15 to U10 level while also still playing for Kuwait Stars.

Being upended 1-44 against the might of Japan at the Asian Winter Games, Kuwait got a harsh introduction to international hockey back in January 1999. Followed by years of small but consistent steps forward, a considerable change took place when hosting the 2015 IIHF Ice Hockey Challenge Cup of Asia Division I. With hockey being showcased on in Kuwait City, three straight wins against India, Oman and Macau increased efforts almost overnight.

“Winning that tournament changed everything. We got good points from the IIHF and we started our development program,” said Zidarevic as Kuwait then continued their winning streak on home ice by retaining top spot at the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey Challenge Cup of Asia Division I in Kuwait City.

“We now have 160 kids, starting from the age of four to 15 all fully equipped. We now hope our U20 national team will soon play in international tournaments and we also have our women’s national team who are looking to play at the Challenge Cup of Asia,” said Zidarevic on the burgeoning interest for hockey in a country with a population of just over four million.

With interest spreading down the ages, the most pressing challenge facing Kuwaiti hockey is now to try and channel the youth into an aging senior national team.

“I have played for 25 years and many of those as the goalie for the national team. I’ve had to operate my shoulder, twice I had surgery on my right knee, another one of the left knee, so my body is collapsing,” said Jasem Al Sarraf, who played through the pain barrier as the first-choice goaltender clocking up 154:43 minutes in three games at the recent World Championship Division III Qualification in Sarajevo.

“We are changing many things at the moment. I am 40 and we have another six to eight other players finishing this year as we are 40 or older. There is a new team coming from juniors, so this year is going to be tough for us as we are changing everything. We need to give the youth more experience and leave them on the right path,” he continued.

Well aware of his playing days now entering its twilight days, Al Sarraf will cherish many memories from a career encompassing quarter of a century. One such took place during Kuwait’s regular visits for training camps in Sweden, where the unexpected presence of his hero gave the whole Kuwait team a lift in their preparations ahead of the 2015 IIHF Challenge Cup of Asia.

“We met Nicklas Lidstrom twice that year when we were in Hallstahammar in Sweden. First, he came to see us as he had heard about us and wanted to show his support. The second time we played against a team of his son and he was happy to see us moving up a level since he first saw us,” said Al Sarraf who was touched by the humility shown by one of the all-time greats representing Sweden and Detroit Red Wings.

“It was just like a dream. You have watched NHL on television, you are a fan of Red Wings and then you get to meet him. He was very happy to see us, so it was great to know that we have him to support us,” said Al Sarraf.

Despite now being on the verge of hanging up his skates at the national team level, Al Sarraf is set to continue playing in the domestic championship while sharing his know-how to the next generation of athletes. Relishing a challenge, Al Sarraf’s involvement will also include developing a wide range of winter sports such as speed- and figure skating, curling, and skiing, all eager to follow in the footsteps of the recent success of hockey.

“It is a country of sand and it is plus 50 degrees Celsius, but when it comes to hockey we have good management, a nice arena with two ice surfaces and players turning up for practice. In the end, our hard work will bring good results and I believe we have a good plan for the future,” said an optimistic Zidarevic.

Former Raider Ranson relishing Abu Dhabi trip

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By Ham & High

Jacob Ranson, 22, will be part of the Algerian team – Algiers Corsaires – that faces teams from Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Lebanon and the UAE at the event, due to be televised on the Abu Dhabi sports channel next month.

And the former Raiders forward, who has spent the last two seasons at Streatham, is excited by the opportunity as he looks to fulfil a dream of playing in multiple countries.

Ranson played in Canada for the Pursuit of Excellence Ice Hockey Academy and also spent a season playing for Mjolby IHC in Sweden.

He said: “I’m over the moon to have been given this opportunity to go play in Abu Dhabi and tick off another country that I’ve played in.

“I honestly can’t wait to get out there and enjoy the whole experience.”

The Corsaires will play four game in round robin tournament format.

And former Albany School pupil Ranson is hoping his side can do well and progress all the way to the final.

“The goal is always to go on the ice to win, so hopefully that’s what we can do, when we take to the ice,” he added.

“It would be an amazing feeling to win the whole thing and come back a champion.”

The fast-skating forward is also extremely excited to see the standard of hockey and see if there is anywhere he can help the Algerian promote the sport in their country.

“Former Lee Valley Lions player Karim Kerbouche, who is head of Algerian ice hockey, gave me the opportunity to come along and I want to not only enjoy the experience but help him promote the sport in his country,” added Ranson.

“He’s been working hard to build the sport up in his native country and it would be an amazing feeling to see it grow in the future.”

Ranson will be writing a blog while in Abu Dhabi and is also planning to take plenty of pictures and videos.

You will be able to follow his and the team’s progress in Abu Dhabi via his Twitter account @jacobranson27 and also on the Recorder website.

PH ice hockey team to compete in Challenge Cup of Asia

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By ABS-CBN News

The Philippine ice hockey team hopes to make the country proud when it competes in the 2018 Challenge Cup of Asia next week. 

The Philippines will host the Challenge Cup of Asia on April 3-8, with all games to be held at the SM Skating Rink at the Mall of Asia in Pasay City. 

 This is the first time that the country will sponsor the annual international ice hockey tournament that is sanctioned by the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF). 

“We are very proud and excited to host, for the first time, the IIHF Challenge Cup of Asia which has been held in different countries since it was founded in 2008,” said Chris Sy, the president of the Federation of Ice Hockey Philippines. 

This also marks the first time that the Philippines will compete in the men’s top division of the annual tournament, along with some of the best ice hockey teams in the region. 

Riding the momentum of its gold-medal finish in the 2017 Southeast Asian Games, the Philippine ice hockey team is eyeing a podium finish in the five-nation tournament.

They play Thailand on April 3, Kuwait on April 5, Mongolia on April 6, and Singapore on April 8. All of the Philippine team’s games are scheduled at 7 p.m.

Other Challenge Cup of Asia games will feature Singapore vs Mongolia on April 3 (3:30 p.m.), Mongolia vs Kuwait on April 4 (7 p.m.), Thailand vs Singapore on April 5 (3:30 p.m.), Mongolia vs Thailand on April 7 (3:30 p.m.), Kuwait vs Singapore on April 7 (7 p.m.), and Kuwait vs Thailand on Aril 8 (3:30 p.m.).

During the Challenge Cup, the Olympic-size ice skating rink at the SM Skating Mall of Asia will be the battleground of the competing ice hockey teams. It is equipped with complete facilities such as a digital scoreboard, players’ boxes, scorekeeper and penalty boxes, locker rooms, and a 200-seater stands located around the rink.

Driven New Zealand women’s team comes to train in ‘hockey heaven’

The Globe and Mail

By J.P. Moczulski – The Globe and Mail

New Zealand’s national women’s hockey team wanted an experience that would challenge, prepare and inspire them before they compete in the world championship.

So the team members chose to spend 10 days in Toronto, training in a Canadian university arena, playing in a big Toronto tournament, shopping in Canadian equipment stores and attending every pro hockey game they could get into.

There are only six arenas in all of New Zealand, and 250 registered female hockey players. It’s a country where rugby, cricket and soccer rule, and the word ‘hockey’ more commonly means field hockey. But yes, New Zealand has a national women’s ice-hockey team, better known there as the Ice Fernz.

This team of women, ranging in age from 16 to 27, doesn’t play in the same events as teams such as Canada, the United States and Finland, who just competed in the Pyeongchang Olympics. New Zealand plays a few levels down, and is heading to Valdemoro, Spain, to play in the Division II, Group B International Ice Hockey Federation’s women’s world championships.

Yet the passion these Ice Fernz exhibit for hockey is up there with any Olympic medalist. Every player on this 22-woman team spent 5,000 New Zealand dollars (about $4,700 Canadian) of her own money to get this intensive Canadian hockey experience and then go off to compete in Spain. It’s necessary for a squad that has such limited opportunities to train back home.

During this visit, they’ve held daily training sessions at York University, played exhibition games against local Toronto women’s teams and competed in one of the city’s largest female hockey showcases, the Leaside Wildcats March Break Madness Tournament. They watched the Toronto Maple Leafs and Marlies as well as the Calgary Inferno and Markham Thunder of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League. They visited the CN Tower and the Hockey Hall of Fame, and marvelled at the massive assortment of equipment at Pro Hockey Life.

“It’s like hockey heaven,” said Helen Murray, a 27-year-old neuroscientist who captains the Ice Fernz. “We don’t have enough competition back home.

“Coming over here to play teams who really challenge us is what we need before worlds. These teams are probably better than the ones we will play in Spain.”

The Ice Fernz competed in a women’s Senior A division at the Leaside tournament, but did not pick up a win against teams from Brampton and Durham.

Still, the New Zealand program has seen huge improvement since it formed in 2005.

It has benefited from a relationship forged over the past several years with the Leaside Girls Hockey Association, which has played host to 21 girls from New Zealand on hockey exchanges since 2012.

Those 21 girls have each come to Toronto for between six to eight weeks during a summer break from school (November to February) and are billeted by a Leaside family while they register and play a stint for a Leaside Wildcats team, an association of 1,600 players that touts itself as the world’s largest female hockey association. Nine members of this New Zealand team participated in that Leaside exchange at some point.

The idea to help other countries bolster their female hockey talent came to the Leaside association after the 2010 Vancouver Olympics when Canada and the United States outscored their opponents by a combined 88-4.

Jacques Rogge, the president of the International Olympic Committee, said at the time, “we cannot continue without improvement.”

“We wanted to do our part to help,” said Andrew Smyth, a board member for the Leaside Wildcats, who is himself a New Zealand ex-pat. “It’s a logical way to help other countries, by sharing the kind of hockey experience that our Canadian girls get here. If other Canadian girls hockey associations want to help another country, we’d love to share our playbook with them and show them how we’ve arranged it.”

In the most recent IIHF women’s rankings, New Zealand is No. 31. At the worlds, it will face nations including Spain, Iceland, Turkey, Romania and Taiwan. Yet, the players say like any other women’s hockey team in the world, they, too, were glued to the recent Olympic gold medal final where the United States beat Canada in a heart-stopping shootout.

“The goal some day is Olympic participation,” said the Ice Fernz general manager Jonathan Albright, a Montreal native who moved to New Zealand in 2002. “The skill level of this team has grown immensely.

“It’s hard to gauge our progress because other countries are getting better too. I know there’s not a lot of attention on teams outside of Canada and the U.S., but other nations are putting in a lot of effort and they’re definitely growing a lot.”

Last year, New Zealand earned a bronze medal at its DII, Group B world championships, and this year it is aiming for Gold.

“Every little girl that plays hockey dreams of the Olympics no matter where you live in the world,” Murray said. “If we win gold in our world championships, we would move up one more step. We’d still be a long way from competing in the top division with Canada and the U.S., but it would be a big step for us.”

Ramping up China’s puck luck

http://images.china.cn/site1007/2018-03/09/fab6c56e-3206-428e-9ebe-194600540d24.jpeg

By China Daily

Before the International Ice Hockey Federation considers offering China direct qualification to the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics tournament, the country first has to show it deserves it, a top IIHF official said in Beijing on Wednesday.

After watching host South Korea vie with world powers amid sensational support at last month’s Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, China’s hockey heavyweights are eager to see similar enthusiasm for the home team at the 2022 Beijing Games.

IIHF president Rene Fasel said in Pyeongchang the federation is exploring proposals to qualify both the Chinese men’s and women’s teams for the 2022 tournament as a way to popularize the sport in the world’s most populous country.

Thomas Wu, an IIHF vice-president, confirmed to China Daily that the proposal to qualify the Chinese teams will be officially decided either at the federation’s annual congress in May or at the semiannual congress in September.

A long-term commitment to transform the niche sport into a mainstream staple in the buildup to the 2022 Games and beyond is crucial to earn the nod from the world governing body, said Wu.

“The IIHF’s goal is to promote the sport globally and China has huge potential in the game,” Wu said on Wednesday.

“We’d love to see the Chinese teams at the 2022 tournament, but we also have to make sure the world-class quality of the Olympic competition won’t be compromised, which is always the priority.

“The gap between Team China and the world hockey powers is still quite big, so the most urgent need for China is to improve the competitiveness of its program as fast as possible,” said Wu, an entrepreneur and avid ice hockey promoter in Hong Kong.

“The South Korean team (although qualified as the host) proved itself by advancing to the world’s top grouping and we hope the Chinese team can rise dramatically as well by 2022,” he added.

Bolstered by one American and six Canadian players naturalized without Korean ancestry, South Korea placed second at last year’s IIHF Division 1 Group A world championships, the second-tier world title tournament.

South Korea’s dual citizenship policy opened the door to recruit foreign talent for the Pyeongchang Games, with the only stipulations being acquisition of a Korean passport and playing in the country two years before the Olympics.

The Chinese Ice Hockey Association has a more localized method of drafting players with Chinese ancestry through overseas tryouts.

Foreign-born players first have to be from families with Chinese roots and then must have at least two consecutive seasons representing a Chinese team after changing citizenship in order to be eligible to represent the country.

“From the IIHF’s point of view, this is better because the players have a bond with the country they represent,” said Wu.

“For China, we know we have a lot of work to do in a short time. But we also want to insist that our team is a Chinese team.

“It’s respectable. It’s something that will be supported by the international hockey family. We want to build hockey in China-not just do well in 2022, but as a longer-term project.”

Currently, Shanghai-based Kunlun Red Star plays in the professional Russia-based Kontinental Hockey League while its female affiliate plays in the seven-team Canadian Women’s Hockey League.

Other Chinese teams are playing in minor and junior leagues in Russia, and individual players are competing for college and university teams in Canada and the United States.

Organized by Beijing Municipal Sports Bureau and Beijing Hockey Association, the capital’s current youth league has attracted a record 2,554 children on 162 teams.

“We’ve seen many positive signs that the game is growing in popularity and public recognition in recent years,” said CIHA president Cao Weidong.

“Hopefully to qualify for and perform decently at the Beijing Olympics in 2022 will galvanize the momentum for sustainable development.”

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