Date: October 10, 2016

Mexican ladies advance

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By Martin Merk – IIHF.com

The Women’s Olympic Qualification for PyeongChang 2018 has started with the Preliminary Round 1 tournament in Mexico City that was won by the hosts.

The Mexican women’s national team blanked Hong Kong 13-0 in its first game and then took care of business on Sunday night with a 11-5 victory against Turkey.

Joanna Rojas scored five goals in two games for Mexico, as many as the tournament’s scoring leader, Turkish-American forward Cagla Baktiroglu.

Mexico dominated the deciding game with 39-21 shots on goal against Turkey and pre-decided the game with a 3-0 lead after less than 15 minutes of play. Turkey tried to come back in a goal-laden game but never came closer than two goals. Claudia Tellez, who will become the first Mexican player in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League, was named best player of her team in the game with one goal and two assists as 700 spectators celebrated the home team.

Mexico already beat Turkey last spring, 6-1, when the teams met at the 2016 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship Division II Group B in Jaca, Spain. It was the first time the teams met after Mexico had entered a women’s national team in IIHF competition in 2014.

Turkey finished the event in second place thanks to their 8-2 win against Hong Kong.

Hosting the women’s tournament, the Mexican Ice Hockey Federation also made use of the opportunity and invited girls to try hockey as part of the World Girls’ Ice Hockey Weekend.

After winning the tournament the Mexicans will play in the second preliminary round. In Group G in Astana they will play host Kazakhstan, Great Britain and Poland, 3-6 November.

From 4-6 November Group H will be hosted in San Sebastian with the Netherlands, Italy, Slovenia and host Spain.

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Rebuilding in Estonia

estonia ice hockey

By Martin Merk – IIHF.com

In 2008 women’s hockey was on its climax in Estonia when the smallest of the three Baltic countries participated in the IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship program for the second consecutive time. Then came the financial crisis that hit the Baltic countries hard and the fourth-place finish of the Estonian team in the fifth tier, and 31st overall in the program, became a farewell event for the players.

“We had the national team compete in 2008 the last time but then the financial crisis came basically all women’s hockey teams were struggling and were stopped. We haven’t had female teams for several years, which is really sad,” says Katrin Talvak.

The 38-year-old was a player on the women’s national team’s last appearance in Miercurea Ciuc. It finished in fourth place behind Iceland, New Zealand and host Romania, but before South Africa and Turkey.

Today she’s the Marketing Coordinator of the Estonian Ice Hockey Association and advisor for women’s hockey, and in her new role at the office she wants to bring new life to women’s hockey in Estonia. The World Girls’ Ice Hockey Weekend was the starting point for it. It was a weekend she has planned for a while.

Talvak was one of the participants of the World Girls’ Ice Hockey Weekend educational program at the 2016 IIHF Women’s High-Performance Camp last summer at the Sport Institute of Finland in Vierumaki. There the women and men in attendance learned a lot about how to run such an event, how to promote it, recruit participants and tell the world. There they realized such an event with local kids. And last weekend they did it in real back home.

For Talvak home means Tallinn, the Estonian capital of 440,000 people with its picturesque medieval old town. The city’s new primary ice rink Tondiraba became the venue for a two-day festival for women’s hockey. Two extra-busy days on and off the ice as Talvak says.

On Saturday the actual World Girls’ Ice Hockey Weekend took place where kids could try out hockey.

“Since Estonian hockey is not that big we thought to invite all kids, also boys. We used the World Girls’ Ice Hockey Weekend logo with the message and commercials that hockey is for everybody. It shows that it’s for girls as well,” she says.

Six clubs were involved in organizing the event with their coaches including a new women’s team of HC Panter Tallinn. “We got the ice full of kids. I was so happy to see it. We had about 50 kids and half of them were girls,” Talvak says.

“The kids went bananas. Although some got tired, most didn’t want to leave the ice. The parents of a four-year-old girl told me she hadn’t ever skated before but after half an hour she skated pretty well and was so happy and asked her father when she can practise the next time.”

“We will send all participants’ contacts to the youth clubs in the Tallinn region and in the future we hope to have it next year in other cities as well, like in the eastern part of the country which is famous for its hockey. We definitely consider other cities as well. We don’t want to just focus on the capital,” she says.

It was a good kick-off to recruit a new generation of female players after many lost years. And there’s hope. Panter Tallinn started a new women’s program last spring with five players who had to play with men.

“In our best days we now have 27. Many of them are brand-new players,” she says, being one of them after her old team, the Dreamland Queens, folded many years ago.

On Sunday the Estonian Ice Hockey Association organized an international women’s hockey tournament to continue a weekend full of women’s hockey. For many of the ladies it was the first time to play games among women, for others like Talvak it was a return.

Kohtla-Jarve Viru Sputnik from the east part of the country is the second club with female players and sent a team to the tournament, although due to a lack of players the eight women were joined by a male goalie and a male defenceman.

These two teams competed in the round-robin mini-tournament – each game took 30 minutes – with teams from two neighbouring countries, OKK Mamas from Finland and HK Saga from Latvia, which won the event.

“It was the first women’s hockey tournament after eight years in Estonia. For some of our girls it was the first game ever. We are trying to build up Estonian women’s hockey again,” Talvak says.

When thinking of the future, she’s also thinking about the past and when women’s hockey suddenly stopped in Estonia, which is surrounded by hockey countries including Finland, Latvia, Russia and Sweden.

“It was good times. It was the peak of Estonian women’s hockey,” she remembers the time around 2008. “We had five female hockey teams in the whole country – three teams in Tallinn, one in Kohtla-Jarve and one in Tartu and the national team was competing twice in the Women’s World Championship.”

When Talvak came to Vierumaki for the program last summer, she was caught by surprise when her roommate was a Turkish lady who she played against at the 2008 event in Romania. There were nice memories to be shared.

“It is one of my dreams that these young girls who come to hockey today have the opportunity to put on an Estonian national team jersey because that feeling is so different than just playing for a club team. I hope this will be an extra motivation,” she says.

The First Ice Hockey Game In Iran

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By National Teams of Ice Hockey

Mashhad is the second most populous city in Iran and capital of Razavi Khorasan Province. It is located in the northeast of the country, close to the borders of Turkmenistan and Afghanistan.

On  October 1st, 2016 history was made when the first hockey game was played between the city’s two Ice Hockey teams. The game was a friendly match, the Padide Shandiz defeated Khorasan Razavi 5-4. The venue for the match was Padide Ice Rink in Padide Shopping Center in Shandiz.
The aim of the friendly competition was to strengthening and improving the quality and quantity of physical preparedness for players and athletes in the country.

Rebuilding women’s hockey in Bucharest

romania ice hockey

By Henrik Manninen – IIHF.com

The long wait is finally coming to an end, with the imminent return of a full-size ice rink putting hockey development in Romania’s capital back on track.

A minuscule rink surrounded by a food court inside a shopping centre has been the heart of Triumf Bucharest’s activities since the closure of the capital’s only international-size rink back in 2012.

Formed back in 1958, Triumf has introduced a wide array of future national team players to the delights of hockey, while also blazing the trail as the first club in Romania with a women’s hockey program, starting during the 1992/93 season. Following a number of barren years for hockey development in the capital region, Bucharest will now once again look ahead to the future with newly found optimism.

Hosting the World Girls’ Ice Hockey Weekend inside the Liberty Center Mall in Bucharest, a promotional campaign with the help of social media, e-mails and posters saw a committed group of girls between four to 20 years give hockey a try during a two-hour session.

George Pogacean, head coach of Triumf and Romania’s women’s national team, spearheaded the event and now will look ahead to roll up his sleeves and kick-start the development of the women’s game in the capital following the impending inauguration of a full-size rink opening up in the city at the end of this month.

“Having played with the kids in a mall on a small ice surface we have tried our best to keep up with the rest of the country, but we will now have to start everything almost from zero again, so for me and my team it will be like a restart,” said Pogacean.

In 2012, lights were switched off and doors locked in Bucharest’s Mihai Flamaropol ice rink which for long had been passed its sell-by date. Having since been razed to the ground it left Bucharest, home of around 1.9 million people, without a regular-size ice rink. While teams such as Triumf, competing in the women’s championship, to Steaua and Sportul Studentesc playing in the men’s national competition felt the impact, development at grassroots level went to the bare minimum in a city with a long and proud hockey tradition which includes two IIHF Hall of Fame inductees, Eduard Pana and the late Doru Tureanu.

With the steady decline leaving the women’s game on its knees, the historical rivalry of teams from Bucharest locking horns with its main competitor up in Miercurea Ciuc lost some of its edge, while on a national team level, Romania was to endure a five-year long spell without its women’s team competing at the Women’s World Championships.

But hockey in Romania’s capital refused to throw in the towel. With the finishing touches now being put in place for an ice rink in Otopeni in northern Bucharest, near the city’s international airport, Pogocean is now able to look ahead with excitement of what is to come.

“It has been a tragedy for our hockey activity that the capital and the largest city in Romania has been without a Olympic-size rink for so long,” said Pogocean. “But now as it’s almost here. We are waiting for it like for Christmas!” said Pogocean.

In December last year, the Romanian women’s national team made its return to the international stage, competing at the 2016 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship Division II Group B Qualification in neighbouring Bulgaria.

Pogocean’s team finished top of the standings to qualify for Division II Group B played in Akureyri, Iceland, between 27 February and 5 March 2017 with the team full of confidence for what is to come.

“Our goal is to play good, mature hockey in Iceland and to try to remain in Group IIB, and then for 2018 we will be looking to win promotion,” said Pogocean.

With Galati, Gheorgheni and Targu Mures also hosting events during the World Girls’ Ice Hockey Weekend, Pogocean hopes it can help spread the women’s game beyond its historically two dominant centres of Bucharest and Miercurea Ciuc and offer a wider selection of players finding its way to the national team fold, with the first port of call being its newly launched under-18 national team making its debut at the U18 Women’s World Championship Division I Group B Qualification in January next year.

The 31st October is currently the inauguration date for the new rink in Bucharest. Add to that the proposed 3,000-seat arena set to replace the old Mihai Flamaropol rink within the next few years as Bucharest will have its infrastructure in place to continue its proud tradition of the game for generations to come.

“We now need to open people’s eyes in Bucharest, because hockey is a beautiful, but still an underrated sport here,” said Pogocean. “The aim now will be to try to win the championship and hope it can bring more girls to hockey.”