Category: Asia (page 2 of 16)

Gold-medal celebration on ice for Israel hockey

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

By Johua Halickman – The Jerusalem Post

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New dawn for Japan

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

By Henrik Manninen – IIHF.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Winter Sports Schools Inaugurated At Chitral, Swat

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

By

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

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

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

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

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

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

PH Hockey Team moves on, preps for SEA Games

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

By Brian Yalung – Manila Bulletin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Korea JoogAng Daily

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ice hockey coach warms to the challenge of Olympics

Coach Hu Jiang explains tactics in Beijing last month to members of China’s ice hockey team

By Feng Shuang – China Daily

For coach Hu Jiang and China’s ice hockey players, the clock is ticking to the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.

He has often felt the weight of a nation in his selection and training of players for the event.

“Ice hockey is quickly growing in China, especially in terms of the number of players and the scale of tournaments. But it still takes time to close the gap with the superpowers in the game,” said Hu, who is also a deputy representing the Heilongjiang province at the National People’s Congress.

The International Ice Hockey Federation has granted China spots in the men’s and women’s section for 2022. China was ranked 33rd in the 2018 men’s world rankings.

Hu has just returned from a training camp in Finland with his players before attending the annual legislative session in March. “We are trying our best to meet the nation’s expectations for the upcoming Winter Olympics.”

The 43-year-old built his coaching reputation with Qiqihar, Heilongjiang province, where he grew up and received training as an ice hockey player.

He started playing the game when he was 10, and turned professional in 1992. “The training of professional teams has always been rigid, with the inevitable injuries and fatigue. But I never allowed any complacency,” he recalled.

He was first selected by the national team in 1997, and remained part of the national squad before retiring in 2008.

Hu attributed his success as a player to hard work during training and his natural fitness.

After his retirement, Hu became an assistant coach with Qiqihar’s men’s hockey team. He was appointed head coach in 2013.

He went on to guide the team to several national championships and trophies between 2013 and 2018.

His love for the game also empowered him to guide his son, Hu Wenhan, 14, to become an ice hockey player.

“To me, ice hockey is the best way to improve physical fitness and the team spirit of a child,” he said.

However, Hu can barely spare time to coach his son, who has been training under his own coaches.

The youth ice hockey friendly between China and Russia in June last year, a match that was watched by President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin, was the first time that Hu Wenhan played under his father as coach.

However, Hu insisted that the father-son relationship was not a factor that affected his team selection or tactical decisions on the ice rink during the game. “On the rink, I was the coach and he was only one of the players,” he said.

As a coach to the men’s national team, Hu has long been troubled by the shortage of homegrown talent. During the Asian Winter Games in Sapporo, Japan in 2017, he expressed his worries about the lack of top players available for selection after Team China was outscored 32-0 in its three games.

In order to truly catch up with the ice hockey giants in the world, the country should continue to focus on the fundamentals, he said. He noted that the deficiency of top players was not simply because of a lack of young players coming through.

Indeed, young players registering for the game surged to about 20,000 last year compared with a mere 300 players about 10 years ago, he said. In Harbin and Beijing, 200 primary schools have launched ice hockey teams, in which at least 6,000 pupils have participated.

“One problem is that children are giving up the sport as soon as they enter junior high schools as they begin to come under greater academic pressure. Meanwhile, there are barely any middle schools that are running ice hockey teams,” he said.

The lack of channels for young hockey players to progress through the academic system is another important reason, as few colleges in China grant scholarships to children playing the sport, he said.

He noted that a number of players for the Chinese men’s hockey team, such as Ying Rudi, Song Andong and Yan Juncheng, moved to North America for ice hockey training when they were about 10 years old.

Song Andong was the first Chinese-born player drafted into the National Hockey League. He was drafted in the sixth round, 172nd overall in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft by the New York Islanders.

“Going abroad was virtually their only choice if they were to continue to seek a career in ice hockey,” Hu said.

Currently, only two colleges in China, Harbin Sport University and Beijing Sport University, run ice hockey teams, even though the Ministry of Education greenlighted at least seven other universities to host ice hockey teams.

Cost is a factor, he said. There is the maintenance of ice hockey rinks, cost of gear, uniforms, equipment and coaching fees. “Many universities cannot afford the yearly investment of up to 3 million yuan ($447,000) each year.”

He called on education authorities to come up with concrete policies and a plan to support the development of ice hockey so that young players can have a way to get through college with ice hockey scholarships.

“The development of college games is the core part for the sustainable development of ice hockey. By having college hockey teams, we can also encourage the growth of teams at primary and middle school levels,” he said.

“That could be the best way for Chinese ice hockey to truly take off.”

New coach sees good future ahead for Chinese women’s ice hockey

By Xinhua

The 2019 Ice Hockey Women’s World Championships will take place next Wednesday in Beijing. It will be big challenge for the hosts team China, and also for new coach Jakob Kolliker.

The 65-year-old Swiss began as the head coach of the Chinese team less than a month ago. His task is to lead the world number 20 team to make a difference on their home court at the 2022 Winter Olympics.

China’s national women’s ice hockey team has played at three Winter Olympics, and made it to fourth place in 1998. However, the team failed to make it into the 2018 Winter Games.

“China have a good history in ice hockey. They have had very good Winter Olympic tournaments in the past,” said Kolliker.

“They are struggling a little bit for the past couple of years, but they have good potential and there are a lot of good players.”

“Every moment counts, and we also have a plan for Olympics,” said Kolliker.

Chinese women’s ice hockey clubs have been playing in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL) in recent years. In 2018-19 season, the Kunlun Red Star franchise was rebranded as the Shenzhen KRS Vanke Rays as part of integrating the CWHL’s two teams in China. The new team finished the season in fifth place in the seven-team league.

Most players in this team have been playing overseas, but more quality chances to play are needed.

“I think the biggest goal now is to have a league or some pot where we can play good games,” said Kolliker. “It’s important for the future.”

China is going to fight strong teams including South Korea, Poland, Kazakhstan, the Netherlands and Latvia. Four of the five teams have higher world rankings than China.

“We just want to try our best,” said Chinese veteran Wang Mengying who will experience her eighth World Championship.

“I hope we can keep moving, and get closer to the top teams in the world.”

China will take on Latvia on the opening day of the tournament.

“If we work hard, China will have a good chance in the future,” said Kolliker.

Spectacular Humo Arena Officially Opened in Tashkent, Uzbekistan

President Shavkat Mirziyoyev opening the Humo Arena in Tashkent, Uzbekistan

PRESS RELEASE PR Newswire

In a spectacular ceremony, the Humo Arena Sports Complex in Tashkent was officially opened by the President of Uzbekistan – Shavkat Mirziyoyev.

The 12,500 capacity Humo Arena includes:

  • Multi functional ice arena;
  • Training arena with 200 seats;
  • Multiple gyms;
  • A sports museum; and
  • Many other facilities

The ceremony confirmed the Humo Arena as one of the largest ice arenas in Central Asia, but also one of the most technologically advanced with smart and energy efficient technology used throughout the building.

The arena will operate in three ‘modes.’ This will allow a variety of winter sports – hockey, figure skating, short track and curling – and summer sports – basketball, volleyball, futsal, kurash, boxing, fencing and taekwondo – to be played.

The opening of the Arena complex was a signal of intent from the Uzbek government to position itself firmly on the world stage of international sport with an aim to host the Asian Games in 2030.

Following the official ceremony, guests were treated to a display of sporting prowess by Uzbek athletes and a game of ice hockey between teams mixing veterans and young players representing the past and the future of the sport. Well-known members of the Uzbek Paralympic team were also honoured for their courage and resilience in their performances for their country.

Much was made of the inspiration the Humo Arena will provide, not only to professional athletes looking to take their skills to the next level, but also to the future generation of athletic hopefuls.

In addition to being a state of the art sporting facility, the opening ceremony went a long way to show the multi functionality of the stadium in hosting other cultural events. Uzbek and Russian popstars – Philipp Kirkorov, Nikolay Baskov, Dima Bilan, the Yalla Group and many others – performed at the opening ceremony alongside a beautiful light show. 

The launch of the Humo Arena will be followed by the opening of a smaller scale sporting centres and arenas across all regions of Uzbekistan.

President Shavkat Mirziyoyev commented:

“The launch of this modern ice complex is opening up a new stage in the history of Uzbek sport. I am confident that it will serve for training the highest-class athletes and organizing major international competitions in Uzbekistan, most importantly – broadly attracting our youth to winter types of sports.”

Kyrgyzstan national hockey team lost to Canadian club H1N1

By AKI Press

The national hockey team of Kyrgyzstan continues to prepare for the start of the 2019 IIHF World Hockey Championships Division IIIQ

The Kyrgyz team on March 8 held a friendly game against the Canadian H1N1 club from Montreal.

The meeting was held In the skating rink in Bishkek and ended with the victory of the team from Canada with a score of 3-1. Igor Maksimov scored the only goal for Kyrgyzstan.

“The game was good. The opponent goalkeeper played spectacular,  in the game against Kyrgyzstan, he stop 52 shots out of 53, ”Said  vice-president of the Kyrgyz Hockey Federation Elzar Bolotbekov”.

The Kyrgyz team will play in the qualifying tournament of the World Championship for the right to get into Division III. The tournament will be held from March 31 to April 6 in the city of Abu Dhabi (UAE). In this tournament, six teams will play each other in one round.

Previously the Canadian Clubs from and Montreal and The Hockey Lads from British Colombia
played at Almaty Challenge Cup in Kazakhstan.

The winner of the tournament was the team of Almaty KZ.

Here are the final standings.

The winner of the tournament was Almaty of Kazakhstan

Grassroots program key to Philippine hockey’s bright future

Philippine Hockey will have to depend on a good grassroots program to replenish aging players in the lineup

Luisa Morales – philstar.com

More than two decades after ice hockey’s arrival in the Philippines, many of the generation of hockey pioneers in the country are slowly approaching retirement.

Much like any other sport, Philippine ice hockey will have to rely on a solid good grassroots program to sustain and replenish players as time passes.

Hockey Philippines Executive Vice President Francois Gautier is aware of this and has made moves with the federation to ensure the future of the winter sport in the country.

“We have to make sure that our youth program is good so that it replenishes our players,” Gautier said.

The federation revamped the sport’s youth program last year and has been continually developing their approach to young players – including plans to proactively approach potential prospects in schools across the country.

“We’re still trying out new things, working on improvement,”

“We’re gonna be entering schools [to] do some extra curricular activities, just to get the word out,” Gautier said.

Head coach Daniel Brodan, who first mentored the team in the 2017 during the Asian Winter Games in Sapporo, sees a bright future for the program.

“I’m looking forward to what ice hockey will look like here in the next two, three years,” the Czech national said.

Both Gautier and Brodan acknowledge that sport’s journey in the Philippines won’t be a walk in the park but remain hopeful moving forward.

“It’s not perfect… we still have hiccups but it’s a lot better than what it was before,” Gautier said.

“We still don’t have many rinks here where we can play. But in the end, if we continue like this… we can compete with any country,” Brodan said.

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