Category: Asia (page 1 of 13)

Despite Our Utter Indifference, These Boys Will Battle for India in Malaysia

Under-20 Ice Hockey squad (Source: Ice Hockey Association of India)

With conversations on sports dominated by cricket, football, hockey or even kabaddi, ice hockey receives scant attention. Unsurprisingly, very few Indians are aware of the thriving ice hockey culture, a Winter Olympic sport, in this country.

You would be interested to know that India will participate in the men’s Under-20 International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) Challenge Cup of Asia (CCOA) in Malaysia from December 12 to 17.

In a passionate Facebook post, the Ice Hockey Association of India wrote about how the team made it to Malaysia, despite no dedicated ice rink in India, lack of equipment, institutional support and funds for airfare and accommodation, among other shortcomings.

Speaking to The Better India, Harjinder Singh Jindi, the general secretary of the Ice Hockey Association of India (IHAI), explained the situation. He said that financial support (practice and participation) for national teams across tournaments is dependent on crowdfunding campaigns, the odd donation from corporates, not-for-profit organisations, state governments, parents of participating athletes and well-wishers, besides funds available to the IHAI.

This constant hustle for funds by key stakeholders in the IHAI is symbolic of the inadequate institutional support it receives.

Although the IHAI is recognized by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports (MYAS), the only sort of financial support it received from them was the ₹2 lakh it got for a national championship in the cold climes of Leh. The organization has stopped seeking financial help from the ministry as the amount allocated isn’t nearly enough to even conduct such tournaments.

As for institutional support, Sarbananda Sonwal, former Union Minister for Sports & Youth Affairs, assured Parliament in May 2015 that the ministry will help restart the only international-sized ice rink in Dehradun. The establishment remains shut even today. With a functional international-sized rink, teams representing India need not travel abroad for training, which comes at a significant cost for the IHAI.

“When we trained on an international-sized facility (in Kyrgyzstan earlier this year), both the men and women’s team achieved better results,” says Harjinder. The men’s team finished second in the IIHF CCOA Division 1 tournament in Kuwait, while the women won two international matches for the first time ever, finishing fourth among seven nations.

For representational purposes (Source: Ice Hockey Association of India)

There is no shortage of talent, but a lack of practice facilities. In India, practice facilities are limited to the Ladakh region, and that too on natural ice that only holds for two-three months in the winter. “The quality of natural ice is bad for those who want to play,” says Harjinder.

These natural rinks do not have any dasher boards made of steel or aluminum, which form the fence around an ice rink. Dasher boards are a critical piece of infrastructure which teams use to clear the puck out of their zone or to help execute a pass.

Allied with the fact that regional championships take up most of those two months, the national team gets barely any time to practice. The only solution is training camps abroad. Four years ago, the Jammu and Kashmir government promised to set up international ice-rinks in Leh and Kargil. These projects remain incomplete to date.

“Kyrgyzstan and Malaysia are the two countries, where we can train at an economical cost. The Indian Embassy in Bishkek helped us greatly in 2016 and 2017; negotiating cheaper rink cost, accommodation and food for the men and women teams in Kyrgyzstan. Exemplary dedication and courtesy was extended to us by Indian Embassy in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan and now the Indian High Commission in Malaysia,” he added.

Before heading out to Malaysia, the Under-20 team practiced at Iskate, a small ice rink in Ambience Mall, Gurgaon, which is barely 1/4th the size of an international rink. The players were only able to hone their basic skills here.

For accommodation, Harjinder found help in his neighbour and friend, Prabhjot Singh, a sports aficionado who runs Jaguar Football Club, a small club side in New Delhi. “He voluntarily stepped in to offer his place in Manesar free of charge for our U-20 boys during their initial training camp in Gurgaon,” Harjinder said.

The gear and equipment for the Under-20 side were bought and delivered by Subrat Mahapatra, who happens to be a parent of one of the boys on the team. He bought all the gear in the United States, where he currently resides, and sent it to the team in India.

To the uninitiated, the squad is composed of 20 players from different corners of the country. It’s a unique blend of individuals from Ladakh, Maharashtra, Odisha and Himachal Pradesh. Boys from the cold climes of Ladakh dominate the composition of the squad with 14 players (13 from Leh and 1 from Kargil), and the rest split among the three states noted above.

Led by captain Tsewang Dorjey, who turns 20 after the tournament on December 29, and under the tutelage of coach Mushtaque Ahmad Giri, a former India player with coaching stints in the United States, the team feels up for the challenge. Competing with the likes of United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, Philippines and Kyrgyzstan, this tournament is modeled on the round robin format. Some of the squad members will miss exams with their respective schools and colleges, but will have the opportunity to write them after the tournament, says Harjinder.

In an earlier article on corporate social responsibility, we had noted that companies could invest more in sports. With state support non-existent, ice hockey in India could really do with an injection of corporate money. It has worked for football, badminton and even kabbadi.

The Indian Under-20 side will play their first match on December 12 against the United Arab Emirates at 1pm (IST). We wish them all the very best.

If you wish to support Ice Hockey in this country, you can donate here.

Ice in their veins

Image result for Javi Cadiz ice hockey player

By Tonichi C. Regalado & Toni M. Cortes – The Guidon

In a tropical country where temperatures can reach extreme heats, it comes as a surprise that the Philippines can make a name for itself on a playing field of ice. Although grass, water, and court sports have dotted the landscape of the nation’s sports scene, recent events have thrown winter sports into the spotlight, turning ice hockey into a new threshold of local talent and national pride.

Brought into prominence by success at several international tournaments, the Philippine Ice Hockey Team has skated its way onto local athletic fame. Dubbed the Philippines’ own “Mighty Ducks” after the ‘90s film of the same name, the team has emerged as the country’s latest sports heroes after victorious conquests on the ice at the 2017 Asian Winter Games (AWG) in February and the 2017 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in August. As Philippine sports reaches a new frontier, two Ateneans find themselves at the forefront of this athletic movement.

Origin stories

Meet Javi Cadiz and BJ Imperial, two Ateneans on the national ice hockey squad who have dedicated years perfecting their skills with a stick and a puck for both club and country. Cadiz plays as a defenseman, a position reserved for the first responders in front of the goalie, while Imperial operates as a forward on the frontline of attack.

Management junior Cadiz first put on a pair of skates when the sport piqued his interest as a three-year old at home under the influence of his father. Growing up in Germany, Cadiz’ father Deric played ice hockey recreationally and passed the passion to his sons, who acquired the same love for it as well. Javi and his older brothers, Ian and Nico, trained under their father’s supervision at an early age, with brotherhood fueling teamwork as all three siblings eventually joined forces on the national team.

“I loved the sport from the very first time I strapped on a pair of skates, and never looked back from then,” Cadiz shares.

Imperial, on the other hand, is newer to the sport, having begun his career in the rink six years ago. A member of the national team for nearly a year and a half, the management engineering sophomore made a lasting mark in Philippine hockey history, scoring the first goal of the 2017 SEA Games championship game. But despite playing at the the top level of international ice hockey, Imperial recalls his humble beginnings.

“I got into hockey when I first skated and a coach at the rink asked if I wanted to try playing,” shares Imperial. “I joined the training that night, and from then on I’ve been in love with the game.”

Shifting degrees

The Federation of Ice Hockey League (FIHL) is an associate member of the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF), and was established in 2015 as the organizing body for competition. Tasked with the formation of the national team, the FIHL leads an ongoing campaign to develop hockey among the youth to popularize the sport from the grassroots.

Despite taking a smaller share of the limelight compared to more conventional sports in a tropical country, ice hockey has grown leaps and bounds on the national stage, with players scoring local fame with accolades overseas. A bronze medal at the 2017 Asian Winter Games in Sapporo, Japan served as the initial catalyst that knocked the team and the sport itself into the public eye, proving to be a milestone for both the athletes and the game.

History was made a few months later at the 2017 SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia when ice hockey was named an event in the tournament for the first time. Representing the country in the Games’ inaugural ice hockey event, the squad concluded the tournament in record-smashing fashion, skating their way to an emotional golden finish.

“We were all very proud of this achievement,” says Imperial. “It was not only the very first gold medal the Philippines won in an international tournament, but also a historical win because it was the first time the SEA games had ice hockey.”

According to the sophomore, success at the Winter Games gave them the push to prove to their SEA Games competitors that their accomplishments were more than just beginner’s luck. Additionally, going head to head with other countries rewarded them with something worth more than any championship: Exposure and experience on international ice.

“Being exposed to Asian hockey giants like Japan, China, and Korea opened my eyes to what our country’s hockey program could become,” adds Cadiz enthusiastically. “Seeing that Asian countries, albeit more developed countries, could have such structured programs and develop such fundamentally sound players gave me hope that someday our program could be this good.”

In retrospect, early signs of promise and potential were hindered by the lack of resources and expertise to hone natural talent. But as the sport developed on local soil, the intervention of more experienced hands from abroad made an impact as an investment for the future of the sport.

“Eventually, we got more help from people who played professionally in other countries,” Imperial chimes in. “They volunteered, and now we have more than enough coaches to develop a [decent] hockey program.”

Beyond the ice

To make both school and country proud is a privilege, but to be pioneers of a rising sport in the country is a slow but honorable cause. Cadiz and Imperial, however, remain far from discouraged about the future prospects of the game.

“The hockey community here is pretty small if you compare it to sports like basketball and football,” says Cadiz. “But I’d say that around 100 players isn’t bad for a sport that really just started growing within the last two years.”

A gold medal provides solid groundwork for a new hockey campaign to flourish in the country, but the homegrown talents agree that aptitude to take to the ice must be boosted by accessibility and interest for the sport to truly take off.

“I believe we still lack the numbers. Ice hockey needs to become more accessible to anyone who wants to play and hopefully more people catch on and really develop interest,” adds Imperial.

Yuji Iwamoto’s start

By Szabolcs Zavodszky – IIHF.com

Yuji Iwamoto has taken over as the head coach of the Japanese national team and wants to get his young squad focused and pull in the same direction.

The four nations that played in the European Ice Hockey Challenge tournament in Budapest had something in common, more specifically the head coaches of the four countries had something in common. This was the first time that all four coaches were behind the benches of their respective teams for a tournament.

Ted Nolan with Poland and Jarmo Tolvanen at Hungary made their debuts already on 30th September against each other before meeting again in the November tournament while for Yuji Iwamoto at Japan and Clayton Beddoes with Italy this November international break marked their first games with their national teams.

Starting with the 2004 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship up through the 2015 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group A the Japanese national team had Mark Mahon on the bench with Greg Thompson taking over for one season. In 2016 the Japanese federation made move to have a Japanese head coach last year. Takahito Suzuki was in charge for one season, this year it will be Yuji Iwamoto trying to get the Japanese back up to the Division I Group A level.

“There is a lot of pressure to perform well. The last couple seasons Japan has not played as well as they would have liked, it has not been ideal,” said Iwamoto about the current state of the Japanese national team. The country of the rising sun took a young roster to Budapest as Japan is trying to build up the next generations and make the jump to the next level.

Japan is a proud country with an ice hockey tradition. Japan had a span of seven seasons in the late 90s and the early 2000s where they were set as member of the top division. Right now Japan tries to move back from the third to the second level where they had played for just about the past decade. “This is why the federation made the change. They want to move up from Division IB. The federation believes that Japan is a Division IA or top-division country,” said Iwamoto as he talked about the goals of Japan for the upcoming season.

After finishing his playing career, which he spent entirely with Sapporo and represented his country at three World Championships, Iwamoto turned to coaching. He coached in the Japanese youth system and was the assistant coach for the Japanese U18 and U20 national teams before taking over as head coach of the U20 team. He spent three seasons as an assistant coach in the NAHL where he had a chance to get a real taste of North American style which he now has an opportunity to put mold with the Japanese mentality. After coming back from the United States, he coached three seasons with the Nikko Ice Bucks in the Asia League before being named the head coach of Japan.

“I learned that it is very important to create competition and the players need to compete for everything. This might have lacked the last couple of years. This needs to change and this is the top priority at this time for Japan,” said Iwamoto when asked what he had learned in the United States and how he could apply it to his current team.

Head coach Iwamoto also talked about what he was trying to achieve with his team during his and his team’s stay in Europe. “Since Japan is an island nation, we can not just take a quick and easy trip to the neighbouring country to face quality competition during a three-day tournament. We want to take full advantage of coming to Europe to hold a longer training camp. We just started to put together our team for the upcoming World Championship. We have a new plan and I want the players to become familiar with our new tactics and systems. This is the first steps of our long path. I am evaluating players not only just what is on the ice but also how they act off the ice,” he said.

His first tournament was a good start. Japan had a 2-1 record playing against Division IA nations with wins against Hungary and Italy and a 3-2 loss against eventual tournament winner Poland.

Iwamoto was straight to the point when asked what kind of team he wants for the 2018 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group B in April. “This is very exciting to be the head coach of the Japanese national team and to be managing all these young players,” he continued. “Our goal is to move up to the Division IA with our defensive style in which we are very aggressive.”

It sounds like Japan has one goal on their mind and that one goal is doing what they just missed out on last season in Belfast, earning promotion.

Japan will face Ukraine, Lithuania, Estonia, Croatia and Romania in the battle for top spot at the 2018 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group B in Kaunas, Lithuania.

Abu Dhabi Storms plotting a way to end Belarus President’s Team title run

Juma Al Dhaheri, centre, is hoping to stop the Belarus President's Team in their tracks this season. Reem Mohammed / The National

By Amith Passela – The National

Abu Dhabi Storms are determined to end the dominance of the Belarus President’s Team at the President’s Cup ice hockey tournament, which gets underway at the Abu Dhabi Ice Rink on Tuesday.

In a move to stop the visitors from claiming a fourth trophy in as many years, the Storms – a side usually made up of Emirati internationals – have recruited six foreign professionals, including three Finns and three Slovenians.

“They are the team to beat and we’ll try our best,” Juma Al Dhaheri, the Storms and UAE captain, said at the launch ceremony in the capital on Sunday.

“It’s not just the Belarus President’s Team. Others in the competition are not pushovers,” Al Dhaheri added.

“A majority of the teams have several former NHL [North American-based National Hockey League] and KHL [Eastern European-based Kontinental Hockey League] players in their ranks, and we’ll only know them after seeing them play the first game.

“For us, as local players, it’s a great experience to play at this level, and the reason to bring in some professional players is to match our opponents as well as learn by playing alongside them.”

The competition played in a league format consists of six teams. The Belarus President’s Team are joined by Hockey Legends from Germany, Parch from Czech Republic and Team Lebanon, a side made up of Canadian expatriates living in Lebanon.

The two local teams challenging them are the Storms and a team representing the Emirates Hockey League – the EHL All Stars.

“The bar is raised every year in this tournament and we expect all teams to be equally strong,” said Al Dhaheri, who is also the general secretary of the UAE Ice Sports Federation.

“It’s also part of our development programme to stage a top-flight competition in the country where hockey fans both local and expatriates can enjoy by witnessing some top quality action on the ice, aside the EHL.”

Belarus President’s Team and Hockey Legends will be the first sides to take to the ice at 5.15pm on Tuesday.

The Storms then face Parch in the second game at 7.15pm and EHL All Stars take on Team Lebanon in the final game at 9.15pm.

Talal Al Hashemi, head of technical affairs at Abu Dhabi Sports Council, said the sport has a big following, particularly among Canadians, Americans and Europeans living in the region.

“This tournament has received a strong foundation and we want to build on that every passing year,” he added.

“Hopefully we’ll have teams comprising full professionals which is our long term ambitions.”

Canadian Filmmakers Get a View of North Korea Through Hockey

Taesongsan Winter Sports Club, a North Korean professional
hockey team, was shadowed by a Canadian film crew last year.

By 

VANCOUVER, British Columbia — The dated but majestic Pyongyang Ice Rink is adorned with timeless symbols of a country in isolation.

In the arena’s upper bowl, portraits of North Korea’s past leaders, Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il, hang like championship banners.

On the ice below, the national men’s hockey team often simulates a five-on-four penalty killing drill that was introduced to the North Koreans by the Soviets several decades ago.

Over the past year, five Canadian filmmakers have often been at the rink with the team, sometimes even on the ice. They are documenting the slap shots and the post-practice speeches, but are also trying to peel back the layers of a long-existing hockey subculture in one of the world’s most mysterious nations.

Why were their pads and equipment old? Why did they repeatedly run the same predictable plays? Where did these players come from?

“All of the questions that I’m sure a lot of people have about North Korea and hockey over there, I had when I first went,” said Nigel Edwards, 27, the director of the coming documentary “Closing the Gap.”

The opportunity to get answers to those questions raised even more. How did a film crew from Vancouver, British Columbia, acquire unparalleled access to shadow North Korean sports teams?


Players from the Taesongsan and Pyongyang Choldo teams lined up after a game
at the Pyongyang Ice Rink.

Matt Reichel, one of the film’s producers, worked and lived in Asia on and off over the past decade. A 2009 graduate of Brown University’s international relations and East Asian studies program, Reichel started nonprofit and digital marketing ventures while living overseas, building connections in the process.

He estimated that he had been to North Korea more than 60 times. On one of those visits, he discovered that North Korea had a pastime in common with his home country.

“I saw that there was a hockey tournament one year around the time of Kim Jong-il’s birthday, so I decided to go check it out,” he said.

Back in Vancouver, his hometown, Reichel teamed up with Edwards, a former television production assistant.

“We wanted to use media arts as a way to look at something about North Korean society that’s not political,” Reichel, 30, said. “We focused on a very tiny slice of North Korean society and wanted to see what we can learn about it in a very earnest, very honest way.”

It took two years of leveraging Reichel’s contacts and forming new ones with the Ministry of Sports and the Korean Ice Hockey Association, a league of seven clubs, for the filmmakers to get permission for the project.

In November 2016, the production crew went on the first of three trips to Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, to shadow the men’s national team and a professional team, Taesongsan Winter Sports Club. Reichel and Sunny Hahm, an associate producer, a translator and a Seoul native, provided insight into North Korean culture for the new visitors.

“They told us the first time you go there you’re a stranger, the second time you’re a friend, and the third time you are family,” Edwards said.


Taesongsan’s goalies, left, listened to their coach in the locker room at Pyongyang Ice Rink during a
Tournament of the Republic game against Pyongyang Choldo, right, in November 2016.

To break the ice with the athletes during the first days of filming, the crew played the Canadian card.

“I think from a hockey standpoint, they were very interested in us being Canadians,” Edwards said. “I think they were a little more disappointed that my entire production team couldn’t skate.”

But Hahm, a competitive recreation hockey player, could skate and was critical to building rapport. Aside from being able to speak Korean, he often practiced with the Taesongsan team, making suggestions to the coach and players.

In a game during the crew’s first trip, the Taesongsan coach presented Hahm with a jersey and an offer to sit with the team during the game, though Hahm did not play because of Korean Ice Hockey Association rules.

For the rest of the crew, trust and relationships were built on consistency and gestures. Edwards made a point of learning each player’s name; in turn they remembered his. While shooting interviews, members of the crew were cognizant of their subjects’ skepticism.

“We spent lots of conversations just sort of talking about, how do we frame these questions?” Edwards said. “How do we try to show and prove to them that we mean well and we’re not going to like rip them off or show them in a bad light?”

Every morning after breakfast, the crew made the five-minute trek from its downtown hotel to the arena.

Many competitors in ice sports like speed skating, figure skating and hockey have the arena on a given day. The schedule is planned to the minute, Edwards said.

haring the facility is efficient, but not conducive to ideal hockey practice. The ice is worn from overuse, and divots courtesy of the figure skaters are visible throughout the rink. The glass is scratched, and the boards lack compression.

The hockey play is also behind the times.

“It was a very conservative, traditional style of play,” Hahm, 29, said. “You can tell there was a sense of real lack of creativity when it comes to formulating plays.”

According to the filmmakers, North Korean teams still abide by the training materials and methodologies passed on from the Soviet Union in the 1950s. While South Korea’s hockey program has evolved in recent years, qualifying for the 2018 Winter Olympics as the host country, North Korea’s has remained stagnant. The lack of outside exposure and information sharing — televised N.H.L. games, foreign-exchange skills clinics and access to the internet — has significantly impeded the progress.

“The vast majority of the team comes from the countryside, and they are recruited as kids 12, 13 years old, based on who has athletic talent in those small villages or towns,” Reichel said.

Most of the team’s equipment is used and is donated by the International Ice Hockey Federation, which is based in Zurich. The film crew tried to help, contributing tape and new composite graphite hockey sticks.

“We wanted them to feel they were on equal levels of playing,” Hahm said.

What the North Korean players lack in knowledge, gear and size (no one on the national team is over six feet tall), they try to make up for through discipline and heart.

“You must rise higher and faster because if you are running, the opposite player is flying, and in order to catch up them, you need to train harder,” Hong Chun-rim, a star forward, said through an interpreter in “Closing the Gap.”

The filmmakers shadowed the Taesongsan team for 11 days during their first trip in November. When they returned to film last spring for three weeks, they focused on the 20-man national team, which was training for and competing in the I.I.H.F. world championship in Auckland, New Zealand.

A coach for the Taesongsan team waiting as a local team practiced. The professional
team shares the facility with other clubs and with athletes in other ice sports.
 

A Division II team in international competition, North Korea was in a pool that also included China, Israel and Mexico.

Hong, the fastest and most skilled player on the team, scored a hat trick in North Korea’s only victory in Auckland — an 11-3 win over Turkey. The team had sustained several injuries, mainly from the intense play against bigger and stronger opponents.

The yearly change of scenery for international tournaments provides an opportunity for the players to explore things they cannot find in Pyongyang.

“When we were in New Zealand, there was a group of them that would always be looking at YouTube videos in the lobby,” Edwards said. “They are very aware that there is the N.H.L. and big players. So, when they travel abroad, they always learn more.”

In December, the crew will make one last trip to Pyongyang to conclude filming. The filmmakers are seeking a distributor and hope to show the documentary at the top film festivals next year.

“We said this story is going to be a real interesting tile,” Reichel said, “as if North Korea is this giant mosaic and there’s all these different components to what North Korean society is.”

He added that he did not expect the recent rising tensions between North Korea and the United States to have much impact on the players’ day-to-day lives.

“They are all seeking what we all seek, which is self-worth,” Edwards said. “They are just looking for a place to prove themselves, and that, for them, is winning gold on an international stage. Even though, how realistic is that?

“But they will keep pushing that forever, because that is their job.”

Ice skating in Kathmandu

By  The Week Bureau

Parents could also be spotted at the mall getting their kids to the ice skating rink. While some wanted to get their children to experience this unique sport, others were simply accompanying kids who insisted on coming to the rink. 

“I was extremely excited to try ice skating for the first time,” says Tensing Norgay Sherpa, 15, while trying his skating skills on an artificial ice rink here in the capital city Kathmandu.

“I think this is a very good way to utilize your holidays. At least you aren’t cooped inside your home all day. I plan to come here often,” he adds. Situated at Civil Mall, Sundhara, this avenue for ice-skating opened its doors to the public just a couple of weeks ago and, by the looks of it, is gaining quite the traction among children and young adults alike already. Most people The Week met at the ice rink seemed extremely excited to enjoy this recreational sport and for many it was their first time ever. 

“The floor is not made of real ice. Synthetic marbles are used to create an artificial ice rink,” says Sabin Maharjan, trainer at Synthetic Ice Skating Rink. “But it is as good as real. You will not know the difference. You just have to try it once to believe it,” he says. When asked about his experience as a trainer Maharjan he says, “I get to interact with new people every day. And because the concept of ice skating is relatively new in Nepal, people are mostly in jolly moods and also very eager to step inside the rink. It is fun to train people who want to learn a new sport. This is indeed an exciting job.”

Parents could also be spotted at the mall getting their kids to the ice skating rink. While some wanted to get their children to experience this unique sport, others were simply accompanying kids who insisted on coming to the rink. “I came here with my father. I wanted to try ice skating so he obviously had to accompany me. He had no other option,” says Amian Ghale Gurung with a sly smile. Amrita Shrestha, on the other hand, brought her her 13-year-old daughter to the newly opened rink so that she could enjoy an outdoor sport and try something new and different at the same time. “Children these days are only into gadgets and indoor sports. I want her to experience new things and develop new interests rather than being glued to a screen,” says Shakya. “She seems to like ice skating a lot. It has only been half an hour and she is doing quite well too,” she adds. 

Tushita Aryal, a 15-year-old student, was happily tying her ice skating shoes when we spoke to her. “This is my first time and I already love these shoes,” says Aryal. According to trainer Maharjan the shoes used here at the rink are called hokey skating board. “We do not get ice skating boots here in Nepal. That is the reason we are using hokey skating board right now. These are shoes used by athletes when they play ice hockey,” says Maharjan.  

The skating rink mostly seemed to be teeming with school and college children. “This place gets a lot of customers when it is a public holiday. That is because mostly school and college students come to try ice skating,” says Maharjan. Some kids confessed that while they were excited to ice skate, there were also concerned about slipping on the ice while skating. “I hope I don’t fall while skating. That will be really embarrassing,” says Aryal. Gurung, on the other hand, proudly exclaimed that he fell only once in the entire half hour session. But that could also be because he was extremely conscious about his moves and skated with caution. 

However, Maharjan points out that the rink equips its customers with sturdy helmets and a bunch of trainers are always around to make sure everybody is safe and enjoying themselves as well. “Everyone falls while learning how to skate for the first time. That’s quite normal. The trainers are around to make sure that no one has any real injury. You can be sure about that and try to focus on learning how to skate and have a good time,” concludes Maharjan. 

Kuwaiti women’s ice hockey team leave for Bangkok

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By MENAFN – Arab Times

The Kuwaiti women’s ice hockey team is taking part in the international competition which kicks off Monday at the Thai capital Bangkok.

In statement to KUNA, Head of Kuwaiti Winters Sports Club and Kuwait’s delegation Khaled Al-Mutairi said the team left for Bangkok on Sunday. He disclosed the first match will be on Tuesday against America’s ‘Black Stars’, and then they will play on Wednesday against Malaysian side Jazura before the final rounds kick off.

Al-Mutairi added that the team is fully prepared for the competition as it held a training camp in Thailand for three weeks last August, followed by intensive training in one of the ice skating rinks in Kuwait, let alone holding some friendly games.

He affirmed that the girls, whether veterans or promising talents, are properly psyched up to present the best level of performance in the competition. He said the club provided all their administration and technical needs, and most important of all is reserving the local ice skating rink for them to practice locally and also outside the country.

The technical management of the team invested in developing the athletes’ fitness and prepare them to participate in the most important tournament in their career in order for them to compete strongly in this tournament which will see the participation of a number of Asian and international teams.

Pakistan Boosts Golf, Ice Skating And Ice Hockey With Sport Fellowships

At a skating arena in Karachi, ice hockey players celebrate their victory!

At the skating arena in Karachi, ice hockey players celebrate their victory!

By The. Ismaili

A little over a year ago, the Aga Khan Youth and Sports Board for Pakistan launched a sports training programme, which proved to be popular and successful ahead of the 2016 Jubilee Games. This winter, the Youth and Sports Board expanded the program to include golf, ice skating and ice hockey.

A little over a year ago, the Aga Khan Youth and Sports Board for Pakistan (AKYSBP) launched the Sports Fellowship programme, an initiative to improve the sports skills of Jamati youth. Led by an elite athlete and supported by local coaches, the training program proved to be popular and successful ahead of the 2016 Jubilee Games.

This winter, during the holidays, the Youth and Sports Board expanded the programs to include golf, ice skating and ice hockey. Continuing the spirit of “One Jamat” — a defining Jubilee Games theme — two elite players from the Canadian Jamat volunteered their expertise to train aspiring Ismaili athletes in Pakistan.

Salimah Mussani, a professional coach and former elite golf player from Burlington, Canada engaged 55 eager participants in Karachi and Islamabad to improve their golf skills.

After graduating from Stanford University on a golf scholarship, Mussani took the sport up professionally in 2002. She competed on the LPGA and Futures tours, and won the PGA Women’s Championship of Canada in 2007.

“The opportunity to go to Pakistan and teach golf to men, women and kids of all skill levels and backgrounds was unique in itself,” says Mussani. “This opportunity was not all about golf but the unity of our Jamat, it was about merging diversity of culture and it was ultimately about the connection of spirit within the ethics of our faith.”

During the winter in the northern areas of Pakistan, the Aga Khan Youth and Sports Board organises recreational activities such as mountain climbing, hiking, skiing, and ice skating. The harsh weather limits the choice of activities that youth have during their leisure time, so when AKYSBP offered a sports fellowship in ice hockey for the first time, it was well received.

Facilitated by elite Canadian ice hockey player Omar Kanji, the programs in Hunza and Karachi drew over 130 participants, including some from Gilgit and Ishkoman-Puniyal.

Born in Thornhill near Toronto, Kanji is a goalie who played for Upper Canada College before moving up to the NCAA level while attending Cornell University on a sports scholarship. He was also associated with the Tulsa Oilers for a season, and is a banker by profession.

“I cannot emphasise how thankful I am to have received such an incredible opportunity to teach and work with the youth in Pakistan,” said Kanji at the end of the coaching session in Hunza. “It will never cease to amaze me how naturally talented and gifted the youth in the country are. The sheer improvement in the kids’ skating, puck handling, and shooting abilities that I witnessed over the two weeks are beyond impressive.”

The first sports fellowship was in athletics and took place in Karachi in December 2015. It was led by Myra Nur Lakdawala, Pakistan’s national record holder in the ladies 3,000-metre run. Lakdawala earned a sports scholarship and is studying English with a minor in Philosophy and pre-law at the University of the Pacific in the United States.

By accessing professional talent from the global Jamat, AKYSBP has been able to diversify the programs so that Pakistani youth gain exposure to sports that are not traditional to the country.

 

Humo Arena Uzbekistan Tashkent Multifunctional Ice Rink Complex

By National Teams of ice Hockey

This project is one of the major presidential pledges by President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev and has attracted a great deal of attention from the local government and the public. Heerim is responsible for the design and CM (Construction Management) work by promoting a world-class competitiveness in sports facility design & CM technology that have been accumulated for decades. The design for the Tashkent Ice Rink construction will be approximately 9 months, where the construction work will be conducted in the Fast Tracked, which aims to complete the design and construction at the end of 2018. 

Four storeyed Humo Arena with the area of 74,000 square meters will include two complexes – training and main ice ranks with the area of 60×30 meters. Tashkent Multi functional Ice Rink Complex will consist of the main ice rink with 12,500 seats where international matches can be held, and secondary rink with a capacity of 300 seats.

There are various additional facilities to be built around the rink such as parking building (2000 parking lots), restaurants, children’s theme park and others.

The complex can host Ice hockey, short-track, figure skating and curling. In addition, the complex can be used to organize basketball, volleyball, handball, futsal, boxing, taekwondo and other sport tournaments. In addition, the complex will be able to hold concerts, exhibitions and forums.

 

Ice on the Prize

By Bong Lozada – Inquirer.net

The 2017 Southeast Asian Games gold medal is more than a month old already. But forgive the country’s national ice hockey team if they are still giddy over their unexpected triumph.

If it’s any consolation, they already have their eyes set on a bigger prize.

With the country hosting the 2018 International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) Challenge Cup of Asia, the team hopes to make another Disney-like run to the podium in front of a home crowd and build on what a rag-tag “bunch of kids who grew up on SM rinks” accomplished during the Kuala Lumpur SEA Games.

“The gold was really important for the sport of hockey in Manila and in the Philippines,” said goalkeeper Gianpietro Iseppi. “You guys [the media] are now talking to us because we won the gold, if we came in fourth or fifth we probably won’t have this kind of exposure or this opportunity to talk to the young kids out there or the people out there who could potentially learn more about the sport.”

Indeed, the 5-3 stunner over regional power Thailand in the final in Kuala Lumpur lifted the veil of obscurity off the team—and piled up the Mighty Ducks references on the players.

But with the recognition comes the responsibility of continuing push the sport into the public eye. And there’s no better way to do it than being heroes on home ice.

“We are speaking of the perfect timing that the tournament is being held in Manila,” said team captain Steven Füglister. “The SEA Games gold, the new rink inside Mall of Asia, it feels special and everyone is excited to hold this official IIHF tournament in Manila.”

“I’m confident our team will play attractive, fast-paced, and physical hockey and get good results.”

This is the first time the Philippines will join the Challenge Cup of Asia, an opportunity Füglister and the team want to take advantage of to grow the sport’s fan base—and talent pool.

“We hope that we can welcome big crowds to our games and support Team Pilipinas,” said Füglister. “[Anyone] who has never seen a hockey game live will [find it] a thrill to experience it live and at this high level.”

The Philippines is still unranked by the IIHF but the Challenge Cup of Asia could shine a brighter spotlight on the team which, based on its finish in the tournament, could earn spot in the Asian Winter Games.

Already, there is a subplot bubbling beneath the surface of preparations for the tournament next year: a budding rivalry with Thailand.

“I expect that they [the Thais] want to take revenge for the loss at the SEA Games and this could be the start of a nice rivalry,” said Füglister.

Thailand flew to Malaysia brandishing a four-year-old perfect slate and was the favorite to win, and even forward LR Lancero was unsure if they had the chops to take down the regional power.

“We’ve seen Thailand play and they’re really a good bunch of skaters,” said Lancero. “They’re fast, their team plays amazing, and we actually look up to them when they were playing against Singapore.”

“And we were like ‘guys can we do this?’ We were just a bunch of kids growing up in SM’s skating rinks; we are the underdogs.”

But that’s what made the Mighty Ducks movie franchise a hit. The all-too-familiar plot of the underdog overcoming adversity to reach their goal.

Fittingly, it was Lancero who orchestrated the pivotal play in the gold medal match.

The Philippines took a 4-1 lead in the championship but Thailand finally figured the Filipinos out and breathed down their necks, 4-3, in the fourth. That was when Lancero fired a pass straight to Niko Cadiz’ stick for the goal that iced the final count.

Iseppi felt that the team’s obscurity helped them trip the Thais, who fell behind early trying to feel out their foes.

But whether or not the Filipinos could spring a surprise to shake the Thais early didn’t matter. What mattered was they weren’t skating out of Malaysia without the gold medal.

“For me it was what it was—gold or bust,” said Iseppi. “I said it three, four weeks before and everyone was like ‘wow you’re overconfident’ but I didn’t feel overconfident. I feel like if we played in the level we’re capable of, we were going to win.”

And Füglister believes that win achieved more than just add a gold to the medal haul of the Philippines.

“What makes it even more special is that it has put our sport on the map after years of operating in the shadows with limited awareness in the general public,” he said.

And now that the team is on the sporting map, it is going to do its best to find its way to Asian glory.

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