Month: July 2017 (page 1 of 2)

Calgarian who brought hockey to Costa Rica honoured

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By Bill Kaufmann – Calgary Sun

Twenty years after he brought hockey to Central America from his Calgary hometown, the fruits of Bruce Callow’s passion for the game has been recognized by the sport’s shrine.

A crimson jersey worn by his Costa Rican-born son Anthony, a player with that country’s El Castillo Knights is set to be hoisted at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.

For former Brentwood resident and Sir Winston Churchill high school graduate Callow, it’s a fitting score to mark two decades in a land better known for steamy jungles, volcanoes and basking iguanas.

And the hall of fame exhibit also reflects the increasing entrenchment of the sport in a region where it remains a novelty.

“We feel great because we’re basically celebrating 20 years of ice hockey here and we’re moving beyond survival,” said Callow, a musician and music teacher who’s lived in Costa Rica since 1992.

The teams, based in the Costa Rican town of Heradia, has also sent the hall souvenir pucks and calendars for a possible exhibit.

They’re mementos of an odyssey that began on plastic “ice,” whose unlikely existence even caught the attention of a hockey-crazy Canadian prime minister and became a weapon of hockey diplomacy at the ambassadorial level.

Bruce Callow. File photo

In 1996, four years into his new life in Costa Rica, Callow became homesick for hockey.

He’d married a local woman and had two sons to whom he wanted to impart that beloved element of his Canadian identity.

“You’d think being in the tropics would cure everything, but it doesn’t cure your urge for hockey,” he said.

The quest for a permanent hockey presence began in the humblest of surroundings — the middle of a shopping mall’s food court.

Skaters of the embryonic movement took to a plastic surface, or “viking ice” made of tiles clad in a silicon liquid.

“Maintaining it got to be a problem,” he said, adding the faux freeze didn’t impress many prospective players.

“You had to sharpen your skates all the time because it dulls them more quickly.”

Nevertheless, the arrangement had an inescapable Canadian flavour: rink boards clad in the Maple Leaf were assembled by a Canadian handyman while the effort was sponsored by a local rock radio station owned by a native of the Great White North.

It drew the startled curiosity of the locals whose idea of a goalie was a soccer netminder, said Callow.

“Kids were watching from the sides saying ‘what’s that?'” he said.

“For the kids learning to skate, it had never been done before, but they were enthusiastic.”

And it wasn’t long before the slowly-growing group which had dubbed themselves Mundo de Hockey, or hockey world, secured real ice at a pleasure rink at the Castillo Country Club.

Callow made a decision to train in the sport’s international style, which emphasizes skill over brute strength, something more palatable to Costa Ricans with an affinity for soccer.

“Their hand-to-foot coordination is superior to Canadians’,” said Callow in 2000.

Eliana Vasco Correa’s son and daughter caught the hockey bug in 2016, quickly pulling their mother into it.

“A couple of weeks later I gave it a try, and loved it,” said Correa, 35, who initial perception of the sport softened.

“When I first saw it, it was a tough and dangerous sport but once I started playing, I found out I was wrong — I felt very safe with all the protective gear.”

Though hockey’s long found traction in hot weather markets like Arizon and Florida, Correa said it remains an odd fit in Central America.

“It’s quite strange in such a tropical climate, but that is part of its charm,” she said.

Since the program’s inception, voyages to the sport’s mother country for sustenance of various types have become essential.

In 2000, the Calgary Flames anted up 20 helmets for their tropical understudies while local sporting good stores followed suit with other equipment.

A year later, the National Hockey League Players’ Association came through with 34 new sets of gear.

“We wouldn’t have gotten here if it hadn’t been for them,” Callow said of the donors.

In the summer of 2011, a particularly promising Costa Rican prospect, David Vargas, got the call from Penticton’s Okanagan Hockey Academy, which provided him with a two-week scholarship at their camp.

Right-winger Vargas, then 17 and a Sidney Crosby devotee, was thrilled by the NHL pedigree of some of its coaches.

“Since they are professional trained hockey players, of course I want to learn from the best ones,” he said at the time.

Vargas has since gone on to become a coach with the Knights, as have Callow’s sons Anthony and Kenneth.

The unlikely puck passions of his young devotees has also been rewarded by trips to Calgary where a pilgrimage to the Scotiabank Saddledome to bask in the Flames’ glow was the highlight.

This coming October, that kind of excursion will skate a stride further as eight members of the Castillo Knights take to the ice for an intermission shootout during a game between the Florida Panthers and Pittsburgh Penguins.

“Those kids have never seen a game before and they’ll be skating on the same ice as Sidney Crosby,” said Callow.

But it was the arrival of a special guest in Costa Rica — Canada’s best-known hockey aficionado — that had a decisive impact on the movement’s fortunes.

Then-prime minister Stephen Harper was speaking at a business leaders’ roundtable in Costa Rica in August, 2011 when Canadian ambassador Neil Reider convinced him to pay the knights a visit.

The previous year, a certificate from Harper praised the program that “provided the youth of Costa Rica with the opportunity to experience the joy of Canada’s national pastime and the world’s greatest sport.”

“Neil planted the idea early to come here — apparently the prime minister wanted to skate with us but it didn’t happen,” said Callow.

But the visit’s gravitas encouraged the Castillo Country Club to cease mulling over an expansion of the rink to actually do it.

It was completed in 2014.

“That visit was instrumental in getting our new rink built,” said Callow.

That was enough to attract new players, including a record number of female enthusiasts and a nucleus of 60 players groomed by homegrown coaches like Serge Salvador, Aurelio Cence and Jorge Castiglione.

It’s also set the stage for Costa Rica’s first hockey tournament in November when teams from Calgary, Los Angeles and Britain’s Falkland Island face off with the hometown Knights.

The latter squad was wooed by Callow through connections made when he led a group of journalists to the islands in 2012 as a staffer with the British diplomatic corps.

They’ll be up against players with a bit of individualist streak, said the movement’s founder.

“I’d call it an offensive style, a tendency to stick handle all the way to the end of the ice,” said Callow.

“I’ll say ‘hey, can you pass it to me, please?'”

It’s a request made in Spanish, or Callow’s best custom-crafted hockey Spanglish.

S. Korea suffers 2nd straight loss to Sweden in women’s hockey friendly

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By Yoo Jee-ho – Yonhap News

South Korea suffered a second straight loss to Sweden in their women’s hockey friendly game here on Saturday.

World No. 5 Sweden defeated the 22nd-ranked South Korea 4-1 at Gangneung Hockey Centre in Gangneung, some 230 kilometers east of Seoul.

In their first showdown on Friday, Sweden blanked South Korea 3-0 while outshooting their opponent 40-13.

With South Korea on the brink of getting shut out again, captain Park Jong-ah got her team’s lone goal at 15:38.

South Korea hosted Sweden for two games here in preparation for the PyeongChang Winter Olympics next February. Gangneung Hockey Centre will also host hockey games during the Olympics.

Sweden once again came out firing from the first period, and South Korean goalie Shin So-jung again had to battle to keep her team in the game. Shin, named the top South Korean player of the game on Friday, frustrated one Swedish shooter after another with an array of saves. But it was a flukey shot that solved Shin late in the first.

At 16:26, Sabina Kuller received a pass from Sara Hjalmarsson to the right of Shin just outside the crease, and flipped the puck on a backhand over Shin’s shoulders to put Sweden ahead 1-0.

Shots were 19-7 for Sweden after the opening 20 minutes. The Swedes consistently found open teammates thanks to a combination of their sharp passing and South Koreans’ poor defensive coverage. For the second straight game, they were quicker to loose pucks and used their considerable physical edge to win battles in the corners.

Sweden doubled its lead just 2:37 into the second period, as Hanna Olsson scored from close range after taking a feed from Erica Uden-Johansson. With Olsson left alone at the top of the crease, South Korean defenseman Cho Mi-hwan stood watching the play unfold and failed to keep the Swedish forward in check.

Sweden enjoyed some extended shifts in the offensive zone during the period, cycling the puck down low and buzzing around the South Korea net for minutes on end. That left South Korean players gassed, and when they did secure the puck they had little left in their tanks to go on counterattacks and instead settled on clearing the puck out of their own zone and getting a line change.

Shin had to bail out her teammates on several occasions in the second period, most notably when she denied Rebecca Stenberg on a one-on-one chance with 1:42 left following yet another defensive miscue.

South Korea managed just two shots on the Swedish goalie Louisa Berndtsson in the middle frame, while giving up 20 on the other end.

Shin stopped Lisa Johannson near the top of the crease about four minutes into the third period to keep it a two-goal game. But Sweden extended its lead to 3-0 at the 11:10 mark, as Maja Nylen-Persson’s point shot traveled through the screen and ended up in the back of the net.

Annie Svedin made it 4-0 Sweden at 15:29 with a slap shot from just outside the right faceoff circle, after Sabina Kuller won the draw cleanly.

But just nine seconds later, Park Jong-ah gave home fans something to cheer about. After Sweden won the faceoff at center ice, Johanna Fallman stumbled and fell to the ice while skating back into her own zone. Park pounced on the loose puck and skated in on Berndtsson, before snapping a shot past the goalie.

South Korea head coach Sarah Murray said she was pleased with the way her players started the game, but she wanted to see more “consistency” from them.

“We need to maintain our momentum,” she said. “When things don’t go our way, we need to make sure that we maintain our consistency and don’t dip up and down.”

Park, the goal scorer, said she was elated to get the team on the board, because scoring against the world No. 5 had been one of South Korea’s collective objectives.

“I couldn’t have scored that goal on my own,” Park said. “I think we all saw some hope that if we try hard, we’ll have our chance to shine.”

South Korea and Sweden will face each other again in Group B during the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Games, where they’ll also play Switzerland (No. 6) and Japan (No. 9) in the preliminary stage.

South Korea will later set up camps in France and the United States, and face Switzerland, France (No. 13) and top-division U.S. college teams.

For more tune-up games, South Korea will also compete in a four-nation tournament in Hungary in November and have more training in New York and Minnesota in December.

S. Korea women’s hockey coach pleased with effort in friendly loss to Sweden

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By Yoo Jee-ho – Yonhap News

South Korea may have lost to Sweden 3-0 in a women’s hockey friendly game Friday, but coach Sarah Murray still saw enough that pleased her.

Sweden, ranked fifth in the world, outshot the 22nd-ranked South Korea 40-13 at Gangneung Hockey Centre in Gangneung, some 230 kilometers east of Seoul, in the first of their two friendly games. But Murray said her players still put in solid effort, despite the relative lack of preparation.

“There were opportunities where we showed we could really skate with them,” Murray said. “We could match their speed. We had some success in the offensive zone. It wasn’t like we didn’t generate any offense at all. When we were in the offensive zone, good things happened.”

Murray also praised South Korea’s forechecking in the neutral zone and the offensive zone. On the other hand, defense will need some shoring up to do. Two of the three goals were direct results of poor coverage.

“We need to improve our defensive zone (play),” she said. “I think we need to continue to get stronger physically. When we play against bigger teams, it’s hard to battle in corners when we need to match strength for strength.”

Murray separated two of her best forwards, Park Jong-ah and Han Soo-jin, for this game, after they enjoyed much success on the same line at the International Ice Hockey Federation Women’s World Championship Division II Group A tournament in April.

Murray said the decision was to ensure more depth up and down the lineup.

“We tried to put together a really fast line to shut down the other team’s first line. We thought they did pretty well,” Murray said of Park and her two linemates, Kim Hee-won and Grace Lee. “We tried to make next lines even and then we have a little bit more depth.”

The two nations will go at it for a second time at 3 p.m. Saturday at the same venue.

Russian Ice Hockey Federation to wage ruthless war on doping abuse

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By Tass.com

The Russian Hockey Federation (RHF) will provide all conditions to make the sport of ice hockey healthy and clean of doping, RHF President Vladislav Tretiak said on Wednesday.

Russia-based Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) announced on Tuesday that the doping sample of three-time World Champion Danis Zaripov tested positive for prohibited performance enhancing substances. He was suspended by the IIHF for the period of two years, until May 22, 2019.

“Doping abuse in ice hockey is a very rare case,” Tretiak said on air of Rossiya-24 television channel. “The key task for the RHF is to offer all necessary conditions to make the sport of ice hockey clean and healthy.”

“Today thousands of boys come playing ice hockey and we will do everything possible to safeguard them from doping,” Tretiak, who is also the legendary Soviet goaltender indicted in the NHL Hall of Fame, said. “We will have no mercy fighting against this evil.”

 “All cases of investigations and the following decisions to impose sanctions, including the case of Danis Zaripov, are strictly in the competence of the IIHF Disciplinary Committee in line with WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) Code,” Tretiak said.

“Neither the RHF nor KHL could in any way influence this process,” Tretiak, who is also the legendary Soviet goaltender indicted in the NHL Hall of Fame, added.

Russia’s 36-year-old forward Zaripov signed earlier this month a deal on his transfer from KHL’s Metallurg Magnitogorsk club to Ak Bars, where, according to the contract, Zaripov intended to play for the next two seasons.

Olympic Games

 A decision made by the US-based National Hockey League to pull out of the 2018 Winter Olympics will not be a problem for the Russian national team at the Games, he went on.

The NHL announced in early April that it had decided against altering its schedule for the 2017-2018 season, meaning that international players bound by contracts with NHL clubs would not be able to leave next year to join their national teams to play at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games, which are scheduled to take place in South Korea’s PyeongChang next year on February 9-25. Many Russian ice hockey stars are currently playing in various NHL clubs.

“NHL is a commercial enterprise, which is not a member of the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) and which has no separate agreements on cooperation with the International Olympic Committee (IOC),” Tretiak said in an interview with Rossiya-24 television channel. “A decision whether NHL players would participate or would not is made by the league alone.”

“Obviously the players wish to play at the Olympics and the NHL Players’ Association supports them,” Tretiak said. “However, after long and complicated negotiations the league made a decision and repeatedly voiced it since then that it would not be participating in the 2018 Olympic Games.”

“Undoubtedly the RHF, just like many other national federations with a big representation in NHL, was interested that all of the best players would go to the Olympics no matter what league they are playing for,” Tretiak, who is also the legendary Soviet goaltender indicted in the NHL Hall of Fame, said.

“However, the decision was made and we cannot influence this process,” according to the RHF chief. “At the same time, this decision will not be a problem for the Russian national team.”

“The team will be made up of players from the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) and we will do everything possible to provide for their successful performance in South Korea,” Tretiak added.

The National Hockey League Players’ Association lashed out at NHL’s April decision calling it shortsighted. The association criticized the NHL’s authorities for not only prohibiting its players for playing on the international arena, but for building obstacles for the game of ice hockey on the whole.

Burke, Brodeur, Desjardins headline management team for Canada’s Olympic squad

By Craig Hagerman – The Score

Hockey Canada unveiled the management team Tuesday that will be tasked with building the country’s Olympic roster for the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.Former NHL goalie Sean Burke, currently scouting for the Montreal Canadiens, will serve as general manager, while Martin Brodeur, assistant GM of the St. Louis Blues, will be part of the management team.

Former Vancouver Canucks bench boss Willie Desjardins will coach the club.

Burke and Brodeur will work alongside Hockey Canada CEO Tom Renney, president and COO Scott Smith, and vice president of hockey operations Scott Salmond.

Filling out the rest of Desjardins’ coaching staff will be assistant coaches Dave King, Scott Walker, and Craig Woodcroft.

“This is an exciting time for Hockey Canada and for our national men’s team program, and it will be an exciting season for Canadian hockey fans,” said Renney. “The goal is always to field the best possible team in all upcoming competitions, including this February when we hit the world’s biggest sporting stage in Pyeongchang. The faces on our Team Canada rosters may be different than in previous years, but the expectations will be the same; with the addition of Sean, Martin, Willie, Dave, Scott, and Craig, we have assembled some of the best hockey minds out there to help us meet those expectations of on-ice success.”

Canada’s men’s national team will participate in two tournaments in Russia this August – the Sochi Hockey Open and the Tournament of Nikolai Puchkov – as an evaluation process for choosing the final names that will head to the Olympics.

Here is a look at Canada’s roster for the Sochi Hockey Open, taking place from Aug. 6-9,

“These first two events allow us to continue a player evaluation process that began last season with our Deutschland Cup and Spengler Cup teams,” said Salmond. “We will continue to look at the best available players to us – these two tournaments being the next opportunity to see some of the talent we can select from.”

Canada is looking to capture gold in men’s hockey for the third straight games and the fourth time since 2002.

200 days to Olympics

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By Andrew Podnieks – IIHF.com

Today marks exactly 200 days until the 2018 Olympic Winter Games will open. With the Olympic ice hockey tournaments in PyeongChang not far away, we take this summer day to look forward to what will be the pre-eminent event on the international calendar in 2017/18.

Where will games be played?
The 2018 Olympics features two venues for hockey, the 10,000-seat Gangneung Hockey Centre and the Kwandong Hockey Centre (capacity 6,000). Both arenas have an international ice surface. All ice sports will be played in the coastal city of Gangneung. The KTX high-speed train is being extended to PyeongChang and Gangneung. Travel time between Seoul and the Incheon airport to Gangneung will thus be reduced to 68 minutes.

When do the ice hockey games begin?
The game schedules are not final yet but ice hockey is planned during all days of the Olympics starting on 10th February, the day after the opening ceremony, with the women’s ice hockey tournament until 25th February, the day of the closing ceremony. The men’s tournament is proposed to start of 14th February.

What is the time difference?
Korean Standard Time in the winter is six hours ahead of Moscow time, eight hours ahead of Central European Time and 14 hours ahead of Eastern Time in North America.

What countries have qualified for the men’s tournament?
The top-eight countries from the 2015 IIHF World Ranking automatically qualified as well as three countries through qualifying events and the hosts from Korea. In all, 12 teams in three groups will play. Group A features Canada, the Czech Republic, Switzerland, Korea. Group B includes Russia, Slovakia, Slovenia, United States. Group C has Sweden, Finland, Germany, and Norway.

Will NHL players participate?
The NHL announced that it will not make a break for the Olympic Winter Games. All teams will have to create a roster using non-NHL players mostly from Europe and other leagues in North America. This marks the first time since 1994 that this will happen, but the tournament format remains the same. Teams will play a round robin series of games within their group, no team being eliminated at this stage. The top four teams receive byes to the quarter-finals while teams 5 to 12 play a qualification game, the winners also moving on to the quarters.

Who is the favourite?
Typically, Canada would have been considered the favourite as it has won the gold in three of the last four Olympics (except 2006), but the Russians must be mentioned as well because several top NHLers have returned to the KHL for the coming season to ensure they can play in Korea. There is most definitely an uncertainty for the other teams, a sense of the unknown, which will make the Olympics exciting in its own right, in a different way from the NHL years.

Does Korea have any hope at all?
Four years ago, one might have answered with an emphatic no! But under Jim Paek the nation has improved quickly and radically. Indeed, Korea qualified for the 2018 IIHF Ice World Championship in Denmark strictly on its own merit, earning promotion from the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group A to the top this past spring by leaving countries like Hungary and Kazakhstan behind. Of course, a medal might seem a long shot, but the team is likely to be more competitive than many have thought a few years ago.

What about the women’s tournament?
The top-five teams of the 2016 IIHF Women’s World Ranking qualified automatically while two teams had to go through qualification tournaments and the Koreans got an automatic spot as hosts. The format will be the same as recent times. The top-four teams will be in Group A and all will qualify for the playoff elimination. The top-two will advance directly to the semi-finals while the 3rd and 4th-place teams will play the top-two teams from Group B in a quarter-finals round. Group A consists of the top-four seeded teams USA, Canada, Finland and Russia. Sweden, Switzerland, Japan and Korea will play in the “lower” Group B.

Who is the favourite?
It’s no surprise that the North Americans are still considered odd-on bet to make the gold medal game, but Finland’s stunning victory over Canada at this past Women’s World Championship in Plymouth is cause for optimism among the European countries. Between the North Americans, logic dictates that the U.S. is favoured because it has won the gold at the 2015, 2016, and 2017 Worlds, but, paradoxically, Canada has won the last four Olympic golds. In short, it’s a toss-up. Again.

What happens between now and February?
Canada and the United States have already started centralizing programs while the Europeans will place extra emphasis on training as a team as often as possible. Counties will play various exhibition games in the coming months to prepare for the Olympics.

Ted Nolan joins Team Poland as national team head coach

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By Cat Silverman – Fanrag.com

After earlier rumors, it has been confirmed that Ted Nolan will continue his career as an international coach this coming season, joining Team Poland as their new bench boss.

A native of Sault Ste. Marie, Nolan blazed a trail when the First Nations former reserve resident was drafted 78th overall by the Detroit Red Wings in 1978.

He went on to play in the NHL for three seasons, but has been far more successful at the coaching level. In addition to a Jack Adams Trophy as head coach of the Buffalo Sabres in 1997, when he helped the team to first in the then-Northeast Division, he’s spent three years coaching at the international level with the Latvian team.

Now, he’ll join Poland’s staff, looking to help a developing hockey nation elevate their game to the next level.

At the moment, Team Poland is ranked 20th internationally by the IIHF for men’s hockey, and currently play in the Division IA second-tier level for the IIHF Men’s World Championships. Although they’ve been ranked as high as sixth overall at a point in the team’s history, the last time Poland made it to the Olympics was in 1992; with Nolan at the helm, the hope is likely that they’ll at the very least look to develop into a nation that’s capable of putting up a fight in qualifications in the coming years.

At the moment, this is Nolan’s only gig, but success could help him find a way back to prominence coaching in North America at some level in the future.

Meet Turkey’s first female hockey team

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Founded by Umut and Hatice Çelik eight years ago, the Istanbul Buz Korsanları (Ice Pirates)
Sports Club changes female hockey players’ lives along with the faith in the sport in Turkey

By Damla Kayayerli – Daily Sabah

Working as a cashier at a skating rink, Hatice Çelik wanted to give ice skating a try one day. Her trainer Umut Çelik, with whom she fell in love with, helped her in her endeavor. As they skated on the ice hand in hand and eye to eye, they fell in love and eventually ended up getting married.

After a short while, the couple decided to found an ice hockey club. National ice hockey athlete Umut and his wife Hatice founded the Istanbul Ice Pirates Sports Club eight years ago. During the first year of the club, they had just 17 members playing in the toddlers’ league, but as time passed the number of sports people in their club quickly increased.

In time, the Istanbul Ice Pirates became a very successful club.

Hatice started to practice more and more to be able to help her husband as much as she could. Refining her skills on skates, she became an ice hockey player at the Istanbul Skating Club. She obtained a coaching certificate after attending coaching workshops, and she served as an ice skating player and a coach at the same time.

Starting to work as an assisting coach for the national team two seasons ago, Hatice had to take a break from work after she became pregnant.

Only female hockey team in Istanbul

Continuing to serve as a coach for the Istanbul Ice Pirates Sports Club, Hatice defines ice hockey as her passion. “I explored a different side of myself after starting hockey. Both skating and watching the skaters are sources of pleasure for me. The ice is a passion, which cannot be given up once you start. Women are more passionate than men when it comes to ice skating,” she said.

Hatice, who has devoted herself to the sport, places great importance on female presence in the sport. One of the pioneers of the Istanbul Ice Pirates Women’s Ice Hockey Team, she has been competing for five seasons.

The only club in Istanbul with a women’s ice hockey team, the Istanbul Ice Pirates is also last year’s champion.

“We are the only club in Turkey competing in seven different branches. We have 14 Turkish championships in various branches. Some of our 173 athletes are national athletes as well,” she explained.

As far as she noted, women’s interest in ice hockey started to increase only recently. The sport attracts a lot of attention, especially from working and studying women.

“Children are encouraged generally by their families. Women, on the other hand, see ice hockey as a different sport. There are also women who started ice hockey as a hobby and then became professional athletes. Families encourage their daughters to provide them with a hobby or make them active. Every so often, those girls turn into professional athletes in time,” she said.

The time it takes to learn the sport changes from person-to-person. However, trainees learn skating in about 10 sessions.

Hicran Kıvanç: ‘I forget everything on the ice rink’

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Hicran Kıvanç, 39, a mother of three, has been working at a news channel as a reporter for over five years. Kıvanç first encountered ice hockey thanks to her children. Her older son is a very active; so they wanted to enroll their children into a sports club.

They decided on ice hockey because it was much different than football or basketball, which are the most popular team sports in Turkey.
“My son started to take part in games as soon as he enrolled in the club. Then my younger son, daughter and my nephew also started hockey after my older son. Thus, we turned into a family of icemen,” she said.

At first Kıvanç just watched her children while they skated, but soon she too started the sport as a hobby. Now, she is a professional ice hockey athlete. “I do the sport while enjoying time with my children. To be honest, ice hockey is not an easy sport. I learned it by fits and starts. You don’t care about anything when you are skating, you turn into totally a different person,” she said.

Emral Mutlu: ‘Skating makes you feel free’

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A graduate of Maltepe University Civil Engineering Faculty, Emral Mutlu, 24, is a working woman. She first discovered ice skating four years ago with her older sister. Since Mutlu really loved the sport after trying it a few times, she decided she would give ice hockey a go. “I was captured by a great feeling of freedom after learning to skate on the ice. It was also a kind of escape from stress. You refresh while skating. Then it became more joyful after joining a team,” she said. Mutlu says that she has also experienced extraordinary dialogue throughout her adventure of skating.

She explained that people would see her with a hockey stick on the metro bus, and asked her what she does with it. She said some people thought that she had a hockey stick to defend herself. “Everyone has their own passion for skating. One you start, you cannot give it up,” she said, adding that some of her friends want to start ice hockey like her.

Didem and Özlem Bağcı: ‘Ice hockey is a different world’

Twin sisters Didem and Özlem Bağcı, 17, are students at Beşiktaş Anatolian High School. Both sisters started to skate at an ice rink at a shopping mall with their friends for fun. Didem went on to figure skating, while Özlem started ice hockey upon the recommendation of her coach.

After working in an artistic rink for five years, Didem too decided to give ice hockey a try, feeling inspired by her twin.

“I realized that hockey is more joyful. Figure skating is a more personal sport, while ice hockey is teamwork. You can help each other, which I like about it. Now, I’m on the national ice hockey team,” she said.

Both sisters are now professional athletes for the Istanbul Ice Pirates Sports Club. They both think that playing on the same team is advantageous. Skating on the rink is an undefinable feeling for both of them.

During their first years in the sport, their friends were inspired by them. Some of them tried ice hockey as well, while others could not perceive what kind of sport ice hockey was. The twins aim to promote ice hockey in Turkey.

“When I started the sport, ice hockey wasn’t known by most of the society. Now, people have an idea about it upon hearing the name ice hockey,” Didem said.

Being twins, however, can be confusing on the rink. Explaining that ice hockey is a different world for her, Özlem said that they forget about everything on the rink and it gets rid of all the problems of life.

Ice rink mooted for Limassol

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By Cyprusmall.com

Limassol could be the home of a state-of the-art ice arena of Olympic standards if the designs made by a local architecture team finds investors, it emerged on Thursday.

According to the designers, ECA Architects and Associates, the ice-rink complex would be an innovative, energy-efficient structure that would house restaurants, cafes, offices, a gym, and a choreography studio. The designers told the Cyprus Mail that the ice rink is to be constructed in such a way so as to operate in the summer as well, without this translating to high electricity consumption.

The ice rink was designed following express of interest from Russian investors, and the architects are awaiting their decision whether to proceed with construction. The architecture team has suggested two locations in Limassol where the 2,800-square metre rink could be built.

The project is estimated at €3.5m.

The rink will be of Olympic standards, and it could host local and international sports events, the architects said, as it will also have changing rooms, referee offices, and other auxiliary spaces. It is designed to host between 250 and 500 spectators, while there also provisions for an ice arena cover system to facilitate a variety of non-ice events.

Israel going big

By Martin Merk – IIHF.com

Ice hockey in Israel is usually played at small rinks, forcing the national team to have to compete abroad. But this year, at the ice hockey tournaments of the 20th Maccabiah Games, the Israelis will get to compete on a regulation-sized ice rink, installed in the Pais Arena in Jerusalem.

The arena in the southwest of the holy city is normally used as the home of the Hapoel Jerusalem basketball team with a capacity for 11,600 spectators and for concerts. With the bigger field of play in ice hockey the organizers expect a capacity for 10,000. That’s a sharp contrast to what players in Israel have been used to since the opening of the first ice rink in 1986.

The Maccabiah Games, sometimes described as the “Jewish Olympics”, are a multi-sport event held every four years in Israel with Jewish athletes representing the different countries they come from, dating back to 1932. 10,000 athletes from 80 countries in 47 sports are expected to compete this month in Israel. Ice hockey was played twice before, in 1997 and at the most recent edition in 2013 in Metulla.

Despite being in a warm country with a large area covered by desert and the thermometer expected to hit 37°C in Jerusalem today, ice hockey is not totally unknown in Israel but still rather exotic for the average Israeli.

“We have approximately 800 ice hockey players and four leagues,” says Lihu Ichilov, the General Secretary of the Ice Hockey Federation of Israel, who has been involved in the sport for 27 years, basically since its beginning in Israel. Ten teams play in the men’s A league, 14 in the B league, 10 in the U20 league and 15 in the U18 league.

While there’s no women’s hockey competition, 28 female players compete in boys’ leagues and can be two years over the boys’ age limit.

“Most of the games are played in Holon because most of the teams are based in central Israel. And then we have a rink in Metulla in the north. In Holon they can play ice hockey from 6 to 8 in the morning and from 8 in the evening to 2am after midnight. It’s crazy – but we love it!” Ichilov says. “There’s no tribune but whenever we have games, the rink is packed with 300-500 people standing around, which is the full capacity.”

While the rink in Metulla, a city in the north partly surrounded by Lebanon, is full size, the one in Holon, a city of 190,000 inhabitants a few kilometres away from Tel Aviv, is about half the size, 900 square metres, and opened in 2013. And there is an even smaller one in Ma’alot.

“Hopefully in two years we will have an Olympic-size rink attached to the current rink in Holon. The owner is working on it and the plans have been submitted to the municipality. This will sort out all our problems and increase the development to unbelievable stages,” Ichilov says. It would not only be full size but also have a capacity for at least 5,000 spectators according to him.

Israel has less experience playing at home than other countries competing at Division II level. In 1996 Israel played a qualification game for the 1998 Olympics in Metulla. They lost 10-2 to Greece but that game was eventually declared a 5-0 victory for Israel because Greece used ineligible players. Israel advanced but lost in the following round. In 2006 the IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship Division III was planned in Metulla but was eventually moved to Romania due to security concerns caused by tensions at the Israeli-Lebanese border that eventually led to a war later that year and the evacuation of the population.

Having played at many international-size arenas abroad, culminating with a Division I participation in 2006 in Amiens, France, the Israelis can now get the experience of a top-notch arena at home with the rink installed in Jerusalem.

“Everybody is excited. Not only us but everybody involved in sport. They come and see the arena and can’t believe. They used to go there for basketball and now it’s ice there. And for our team it’s exciting to play an international event at home against teams from other countries with six nations involved,” Ichilov says. “I hope between 2,500 and 5,000 people will come for the bigger games but the organizers are even more optimistic and hope for 8,000 spectators.”

Similar to the IIHF at Olympic tournaments, the Ice Hockey Federation of Israel is setting up the competitions at the Maccabiah Games with the arrangements for the teams, paperwork, schedules and officials.

The games are played in a city that has never seen ice hockey before, although there is a team with players originally coming from inline hockey that was founded in Jerusalem but plays at the other rinks and even made its way up to the Senior A league two years ago.

The North American Maccabiah teams were pushing to have the event in Jerusalem rather than in the remote north. This eventually led to discussions with the mayor of Jerusalem and IHFI President Evgeni Gusev to make the dream come true.

“The rink was bought from an Austrian company. It’s just a shame that it will finish in a warehouse waiting to be requested again. But I have the feeling they will build it up every year in summer,” says Ichilov.

Three ice hockey tournaments will take place at the Maccabiah Games that are played from 4 to 18 July – except on Saturdays, or Sabbath, when the Jewish part of Jerusalem seems to come to a standstill. The men’s teams play in the Open Tournament that includes Canada, Germany, Israel, Russia and the Unites States. The Masters Tournament for players over 40 includes Canada, Israel, Ukraine and the United States. And the U18 tournament is played with teams from Canada, Israel and the United States.

The Canadian Jews have been most successful at the last edition with famous coaches behind the bench: Guy Carbonneau at the men’s team and Jacques Demers in the over-40 category.

Israel will play with its regular players from IIHF events in the Maccabiah Games although not all of them will be able to come. “This will give a chance to younger players,” Ichilov said. “But it’s a minimum AAA and college players who come for Canada and the U.S. We don’t have any thoughts about them, we will fight, but it will be very difficult to compete with them. Our players are either students, in the army or working for their living,” he says.

The national team has had its ups and downs in the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship program. Peaking at the 28th-place finish in 2006, it went down to 41st in 2011. Currently Israel is 35th in the 2017 IIHF Men’s World Ranking.

“During the last three years the national team has gone from strength to strength,” he says and explains the history of hockey in Israel that has started by immigrants from North America and the Soviet Union.

“Before the immigration came, you could only see hockey on television. There was no hockey ever played. They used to skate on rollers but there was no inline hockey, no ice hockey,” he says. “Half of the population in Israel is immigrants.”

The many players born outside of Israel also made it difficult for them to become eligible to represent Israel internationally. Today Ichilov thinks that maybe a quarter of the 800 players was born outside of Israel.

“What we see now is a second generation to those who started hockey in Israel. In the Maccabiah Games we will see a few fathers in the veteran tournament whose kids are playing on the U20 or U18 national team,” he adds.

While most players from the recent Israeli men’s national team joined from local clubs, some try their luck abroad.

Eliezer Sherbatov is probably the most famous of them. Born in Israel and playing in Metulla, the forward born to Russian Jews went to North America and made it to the top level in Canadian junior hockey playing in the QMJHL. He then became a professional player in France and Kazakhstan.

One issue that has made development different was serving three years in the army. With the creation of the U20 team, an age group that used to have a lack in players due to the military service, the federation now aims at better conditions with delayed service or an athlete status at the army.

Roey Aharonovich and Yuval Rosenthal are two players who got the permission to delay the military service because they count as elite sports athlete under contract abroad. After leaving his hometown team Rishon, Aharonovich played junior hockey in the United States and will start college hockey at NCAA Division III level at the Neumann University. Rosenthal played junior hockey in Canada and is now with the Colorado State University.

The federation hopes that Ariel Kapulkin will also be granted a delay after having played junior hockey in the U.S.

“This is the reason that we have started two years ago to build up the U20 national team. The team consists of players who are due to go to the army. Once they finish high school, they have to go three years to the army. For those on the U20 national team we apply to be an active athlete in the army. Then they are given 90 days a year to go to camps and championships,” Ichilov explains.

Trying to combine the army and hockey is one aspect to improve the development of players, the other is grassroots hockey.

“There has been a lot of the development in the past four years. The current board of directors has been doing tremendous work in the development and with Gusin at the head I can say it’s something that hasn’t been done like that before. These are people who really think about the game and how to develop it, how to get youngsters involved and I’m sure it will go on like that,” he says. “We also have a development committee that is working in close relations with the IIHF and takes part in the camps. We started now to make our own courses for officials and start at a young age. We motivate former players to join as referees or administrators.”

The experience of organizing an international event at a big arena is one that Ichilov hopes to translate to IIHF hockey as well. The Ice Hockey Federation of Israel applied to host the 2018 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division II Group B in the same arena in Jerusalem but uncertainty about the dates and availability didn’t help in the vote. The tournament was eventually awarded to Spain.

“We have the support from the government to hold an IIHF event but we didn’t have the rink for that time. It’s difficult because it’s the biggest arena for basketball and the season doesn’t end before May. So it would have been impossible to get it earlier. But hopefully we can hold an IIHF event in Holon when we have the new rink in two years,” he says.

But first it’s time for Maccabiah ice hockey at the cool arena during the summer heat in Jerusalem. The men’s final on 15th July, which Ichilov predicts to be a Canada vs. USA game again, will be broadcast live on Israeli TV channel Sport5. Once the tournament is over, the arena is set to stay for public skating and ice shows before it will be dismantled.

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