Category: Asia (page 1 of 9)

Tower in Korea’s defence

By Martin Merk IIHF.com

In 2007 Edmonton drafted Alex Plante in the first round, so playing international hockey isn’t a surprise. Just that his debut came 10 years later – with Korea.

The two-metre (6′7″) defenceman is not your typical Asia League player. Korea’s answer to Zdeno Chara stands out in size and he’s one of few players in league history with NHL experience even though he didn’t have his breakthrough in the NHL playing 10 games for the Edmonton Oilers in his four years in the organization.

After not getting the chance in the big league, he took in 2013 the path his father Cam had taken about 30 years earlier and moved from the AHL to Austria. After one season with Dornbirner EC he moved to Norway where he played one season with his brother, goalie Tyler Plante, for Lorenskog. Then he suddenly landed at Anyang Halla, Korea’s top club team in the Asia League, where he completed his second season and won the title earlier this month.

“I just signed a two-year deal with Anyang Halla. We’ve had a couple of good years there, we won the [Asia League] championship, the organization has been great, we absolutely love it,” Plante said about his experience.

Korea has made a name for itself in recent years for naturalizing players from its Asia League clubs and Plante is the newest addition. He missed the 2017 Asian Winter Games but got Korean citizenship one month ago and fulfilled the eligibility criteria after two seasons in Korea.

With goaltender Matt Dalton – arguably the most important addition last year – defencemen Plante, Eric Regan and Bryan Young as well as forward Michael Swift the Koreans have five Canada-born players on the roster. And that line-up doesn’t include forwards Brock Radunske and American-born Mike Testwuide, who missed out on the tournament this year due to injury. Add to that NHL experience behind the bench with Jim Paek and Richard Park, who were born in Korea but grew up and played in the United States and one can easily see that the ambitions are high one year before Korea hosts the 2018 Olympic Winter Games.

Since 2015 Plante lives in Anyang, a satellite city of Seoul. “It took time to adjust but we have nothing than good things to say, we feel safe. We have a nice little community and fan base and the club itself treats us very well. There was a little risk since we had no idea where we’re getting ourselves into but it definitely paid off,” Plante said about his decision. “The language itself has been a challenge, maybe some words I learned on the road. Basic words and locker room banter so far. The longer we’re there, the more we pick up.”

One word he learned is chamchi gimbap, which he calls his favourite Korean food. “It’s a little roll that has tuna, and, I can’t name all the stuff that’s inside, it looks like a reversed sushi. It’s traditional snack food in Korea but I can’t get enough of it,” he said.

Knowing about the Koreans’ desire to have him join the national team, he already played exhibition games with them before actually getting his passport.

“I’ve done it all year now with the Euro Ice Hockey Challenge and stuff like that. I look at this like I’m thankful to have this opportunity. It was a bit different in the beginning but I’ve been in Korea for two years, it’s been a great family for myself, my kids and my wife,” he said.

“Alex Plante has been a good addition to us,” said head coach Paek. “He has a big body and a lot of game experience, international and North American experience. That’s very good for us. He’s a leader on the team and becoming an important part.”

“The tournament gets harder and harder. Every game is a championship game. Our players work extremely hard. They’re a dream to the coach because they listened to the coach. I have to give all the credit to them. They try to get better all the time,” the coach added.

Korea improved over the last few years. Thanks but not only because of its imports because other players got better too. The first two offensive lines are made of native Koreans including Sanghoon Shin and Kisung Kim, the scoring leader and the top goal scorer of the Asia League playoffs respectively.

Although the team just ended up in fifth place in last year’s IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group A in Katowice with tight standings, it was in contention for promotion until the very last day when losing the spot in the top division to Italy after a 2-1 loss against the Azzurri.

This year the team started well with two wins including the first-ever victory of Korea against Kazakhstan.

“It’s my first Worlds, I didn’t know that we wrote history. I’m just happy to be part of it. We just keep finding ways to get the bounces and to get them in. We’re going to enjoy this for a couple of minutes and then get ready for the next one. It’s a short tournament and we have to move on,” he said after scoring two goals in the victory against Kazakhstan.

“There’s no secret to success. We got systems in place we try to stick to as much as we can. It’s hard work and determination and the bounces went our way. We have a great goaltender, we definitely cannot forget about him, he gave us more than enough opportunities to get a win in both of these games. He’s been a huge piece for us and I hope we can help him out a little bit more.”

The word promotion wasn’t heard that often but the slogan hanging in front of the locker room is “Make Korea proud”.

“We came with the expectation to compete every night and let the results take care for themselves. The nation continues to get better. We’re getting more consistent, have more depth. It’s all new for me so I’m just here to enjoy and help as much as I can. Our goal as a country is to get better and better,” he said. “Ideally of course everybody would love to go up but we’re focusing period by period.”

The next period comes soon. After beating one of the two teams that came down from the top division, they will play the next one today, Hungary, at 17:00 local time (16:00 in Hungary, 23:00 in Korea).

The current road clearly goes to PyeongChang 2018 where Korea wants to be competitive against nations that are even higher ranked than the ones here. They’re seeded in a group with defending champion Canada, the Czech Republic and Switzerland.

“It’s our big goal but we’re looking now where we are at. It’s in the back of our mind. This tournament here is a step to competing at the Olympics,” he said.

And if Korea continues to play well here in Kyiv, they may play at the top level next year not only as the host at the Olympics but also as one of the teams promoted to the 2018 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship in Denmark.

Lebanon Beats Haiti for Historic First International Victory

By Steve Ellis – Eurohockey.com

Lebanon can officially join the history books thanks to a historic debut victory over Haiti in Raymond Bourque Arena in Saint-Laurent, Quebec on Sunday evening.

The game was the first official international competition for both of the teams. Lebanon did play their first ever hockey game a week ago against Maghreb United, who were made up of players from Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. Lebanon took the 8-3 victory in that game, giving them their first win of any type.

On Sunday, both teams took to the ice for the first time, with Haiti sporting Georges Laraque in the one-off event. Lebanon would get the best of their opponents, taking the 7-4 victory in the process.

While long-term plans for Haiti’s ice hockey team are unknown, Lebanon is hoping to play some teams in the future. Coach Ralph Melki told Euro Hockey that Israel, Egypt and Morocco have all inquired about playing Lebanon in future exhibition games, but nothing has been firmed up.

Video footage of the end of the game can be found here.

India’s Ice Hockey Team Has No Money Again & It’s Sad The Sports Ministry Won’t Help

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By Pulasta Dhar – Scoop Whoop News

It has been five years since India won its first international ice hockey match. It’s been nine years since they’ve been participating in the IIHF Challenge Cup of Asia. Last month, the women’s team finished a respectable 4th in the 7-team Challenge Cup held in Thailand.

But all these achievements have not registered with sports ministry – which still fails to recognise the Ice Hockey Association of India. And this means they’re forced to raise funds themselves to keep going.

At the time of writing this story, the Indian men’s ice hockey team is in desperate need of Rs 12 lakh to confirm its participation in the 2017 IIHF Challenge Cup in Kuwait. They’ve already spent Rs 26 lakh on training in Kyrgyzstan.

The team has already spent most of their personal funds on training well. Now, with just a week before the Kuwait tournament, they are falling short of 12 lakhs INR to participate in the tournament. They need this fund to pay for their travel tickets, visa, equipment and coach,” a press release said – urging people to donate.

Scoopwhoop News had reported on the Indian women’s ice hockey team in May 2016 – and nothing has changed since then.

In a detailed statement, the Ice Hockey Federation of India has further pointed out the situation they find themselves in…

Indian Ice Hockey Team rides on the sheer will of 22 young Indian players from the Himalayan region of India. They invest their own money, their parents’ savings, the support of their well wishers (and) meager sponsorships to proudly wear the Indian jersey in international arenas. And force the world to stand up and take note of India’s talent. And climb the ladder of ranking one tournament at a time. The only saving grace in this dismal scenario has been the generosity of spirit of the common India public. Who have been contributing in crowd funding campaigns to keep the hopes of Indian Ice Hockey teams alive. Again. And again.

But what is truly sad is that the government, despite a massive push in other sports, has hardly taken notice of ice hockey.

Despite ice hockey being a sport that could flourish in north India, all the Indian team has is one rink in Dehradun to practice on – and that too, has been shut for the past 5 years. This means the teams have to go abroad and use facilities in other countries to train.

It’s so bad that the women’s team trained on a frozen lake in Leh to prepare for tournaments.

Participation is essential for the growth of the Sport. Few wins and we hope the government and Indian sports enthusiasts will be taking note of this sport. Ice Hockey being the fastest contact team sport, this Winter Olympic sport will soon become popular in India. What this sport needs is the attention of investors and it would be as popular in India, as NHL is in North America,” general secretary of Ice Hockey Association of India Harjinder Singh said.

Just seven days are left for the team to prepare for the tournament in Kuwait. Seven days to get enough funds and hope that they can participate in an international tournament – something that should be their right in a country where sport is flourishing. And it’s sad that one sport, which clearly has potential, is being completely ignored.

Click here if you want to donate to the ice hockey team

With improved fitness, skills, S. Korean women’s hockey continues growth

South Korea's Park Jong-ah (C) celebrates her goal against Britain with teammates Park Chae-lin (L) and Han Soo-jin at the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) Women's World Championship Division II Group A at Kwandong Hockey Centre in Gangneung, Gangwon Province, on April 3, 2017. (Yonhap)

By Yoo Jee-ho – Yonhap News

Two games into the women’s hockey world championships on home ice this week, it’s been quite evident that South Korea has become an infinitely better team since its last international competition less than two months ago.

South Korea has defeated Slovenia 5-1 and then Britain 3-1 to open the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) Women’s World Championship Division II Group A in Gangneung, Gangwon Province. With two consecutive wins and three matches remaining, the host nation has positioned itself to capture the tournament and earn a promotion to Division I Group B next year.

Coached by former U.S. collegiate star Sarah Murray, South Korea finished fourth at the Asian Winter Games in Sapporo, Japan, two months ago. It was the country’s best showing ever at the continental event.

And South Korea showed up at the world championships even better than before. It bodes well for a young squad preparing for an Olympic debut in the same city of Gangneung next year. The world No. 23 may not win a game against Sweden, Switzerland and Japan, all top-10 countries, but South Korea may also avoid embarrassment of losing by double figures, which used to be a regular occurrence not that long ago.

Murray, daughter of the former NHL head coach Andy Murray, attributed the success so far here to improved conditioning. The national team hired a new strengthening coach to push the players more, after their fitness level emerged as an issue during the Asian Games.

With five games in seven days during the world championships, conditioning is at a premium.

“We definitely cranked up the players’ conditioning,” Murray said Sunday. “Our new strengthening coach has been doing a really great job of pushing the players.”

   The speed has always been the strength of the team, and now the players are able to compete at a fast pace for a longer stretch of time.

That clearly helped the offense against Slovenia, as South Korea fired on all cylinders and outshot the helpless opponent 78-12. With newfound strength, South Koreans are now able to get more zip behind their shots and passes.

And the added strength helped the players withstand some early pressure against physical Britain on Monday. With bigger players in its lineup, Britain applied a strong forechecking and controlled the neutral zone from the opening face-off.

Instead of running out of gas against that sort of pressure, the South Koreans took what the Brits gave them and then responded with two goals late in the first period.

At the center of the team’s progress has been forward Kim Hee-won, a 15-year-old phenom, who has scored a goal in each of the first two games. One of eight teenagers on the 22-player squad, Kim has gone from a wild player with raw talent to a precocious attacker who plays with controlled abandon.

Kim’s confidence has been palpable so far at the tournament. She has been firing shots from all over the ice — a tournament-best 14 shots — and she has demonstrated some nifty moves to dance through multiple players to create chances for herself and teammates.

Kim, at 170 centimeters tall with a booming shot, plays the right point on power plays, and has made smart decisions when helping out on defense with her positioning and stick work. She’s also hard to knock off the puck, as attested by her brilliant wraparound goal late in the third period against Britain, when she shed a defenseman behind the net and made a difficult shot look shockingly easy.

Kim said extra off-ice work — involving plenty of running and cycling — has done wonders to her overall game.

“I feel exhausted just thinking about our training regimen,” Kim said with a smile Monday. “But all that hard work is paying off now. It’s given me confidence that I can go up against bigger players and win those battles.”

   Kim spent the Asian Winter Games on the second line with Han Soo-jin as the center. But with the usual first-line forward Caroline Park out with a shoulder injury this week, Han was promoted to the top line, and third-line center Jo Su-sie joined Kim and Choi Ji-yeon on the second line.

That unit went berserk against Slovenia, combining for three goals and two assists with 18 shots fired. They were a combined plus-six for the game.

Murray then made the Jo-Kim-Choi line her top offensive unit against Britain. Kim delivered a goal, while Jo picked up an assist. In those two games, Jo has won 27 of 33 face-offs to lead the team.

Kim, who hadn’t even been old enough to play internationally until Sapporo, said playing at the Asian Games has helped her prepare for the worlds mentally.

“I wasn’t so nervous before this competition because I’d already played in a big tournament,” she said. “It puts some pressure on me to play on the first line, but I just want to reward my coach’s faith.”

   Murray, for her part, said Kim can only get better from here.

“She has so much skill and so much potential,” the coach said. “Now she has newfound confidence and hunger. She wants to shoot the puck. She wants to score. I am really proud of how she’s stepped up at this tournament so far.”

   Murray added that Kim, as a young player, should try to keep her focus on the right place at all times. Kim may do well to emulate Park Jong-ah, one of the team’s best scorers who quietly leads by example.

Park leads the team with three points on two goals and an assist. The second of those two goals was the result of a tremendous individual effort against Britain; she picked up the loose puck in the neutral zone, sped down the right wing and then cut to the middle past defenders before firing one to the top shelf.

Park shrugged off her highlight-reel goal as “a lucky break,” saying she only had the opportunity because her teammates did all the work.

Park said the team is clearly playing with more cohesion than ever before.

“We all knew our system at the Asian Games, too, but we hadn’t yet made full adjustments at the time,” she said. “We had some holes here and there, and we plugged them before the world championships. As individuals, we all tried to minimize our mistakes, and it’s worked out well so far.”

   South Korea finished second at last year’s Division II Group A event, losing out to Poland in a tiebreaker despite posting an identical record of four wins and a loss.

Park said the goal all along has been to win it all this time and do so convincingly.

“We’ve been training hard to win this tournament with a perfect record,” she said. “It won’t be easy, but I think we can do it.”

Toronto-born hockey player wants to do Korea proud at Olympics

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By The Korean Herald

It was a symbolic moment in South Korean women’s hockey at the world championships in Gangneung, and one that the country would love to see often at the Winter Olympics on home ice next year.

There was Randi Griffin, born in the United States to a Korean mother and an American father, flying down the right wing in a 2-on-1 chance against Slovenia on Sunday. She then threaded a perfect pass to Danelle Im, a Canadian native of Korean descent, who slapped it home to give South Korea a 4-1 lead.

The host went on to beat Slovenia 5-1 to start the International Ice Hockey Federation Women’s World Championship Division II Group A at Kwandong Hockey Centre in Gangneung, Gangwon Province, while outshooting the opponent 78-12.

And Im and Griffin, who have been fast-tracked to South Korean citizenship in preparation for the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics, contributed to the offensive onslaught. Both have played in friendly games for South Korea before, but this is their first international tournament in South Korean uniform.

Im is on track to represent the country of her parents’ birth at next year’s Olympics, and the Toronto native wants to do her adopted home proud.

“I think we need to just focus on our playing to get better each day and to be able to put our best version of this team forward to the Olympics,” she said. “We must wear this jersey proudly and put up a really good competition.”

Putting up a good competition won’t be as easy as it sounds. At No. 23 in the world, South Korea wouldn’t have been good enough to qualify for the Olympics, but it has received an automatic spot as the host. It has been paired in Group B with Sweden, Switzerland and Japan, ranked No. 5, 6 and 7, respectively, in the world today.

A win in the group stage may be asking too much, but at least South Korea, once a perennial doormat that routinely lost by double digits, has worked its way to respectability with Sarah Murray, former US college star and daughter of ex-NHL head coach Andy Murray, at the helm.

South Korea finished fourth at the Sapporo Asian Winter Games in February, the country’s best result ever at the continental event. Though Im couldn’t play there because of eligibility rules, she said she can clearly see the progress the team has made.

“It’s from hard work the players have been putting in every day,” she said. “It’s great to see the improvements and the work that they’ve put in.”

Im’s presence on the national team represents a new direction for women’s hockey in the country. She joins Griffin; Caroline Park, another Canadian-born player; and Marissa Brandt, a Korean-born adoptee, in the ranks of foreign nationals of Korean descent who have acquired South Korean passports.

The national team is counting on these players to rely on their experience in North American hockey — Im played at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario, while Griffin played at Harvard — to help the young squad get to the next level. The team of 22 players here features eight teenagers.

Im, 24, said she’s aware of the pressure, but she isn’t daunted by it.

“The expectation is for us to contribute, just like any other person,” she said of herself and her naturalized teammates. “We feel honored to be here, and we want to do our best to be able to contribute as much as we can.”

Im played through a hairline fracture in her right foot, and pain or not, she is simply “grateful” to be representing the country of her parents’ birth.

“Just to be here is so amazing; to be with the team and experience everything with the world championships,” said Im. “I am really grateful to be here, and to play even a few shifts was really awesome.”

Malaysia ice hockey team to fight for silver at KL SEA Games

By Tan Ming Wai – The Star Online

Ice hockey will be making its debut at the Aug 19-31 Kuala Lumpur SEA Games, but hosts Malaysia are unlikely to contend for the gold.

The national team have failed to shine in their first two assignments of the year, including the Interna­tional Ice Hockey Federation’s (IIHF) Challenge Cup of Asia (CCOA) in Bangkok last week.

Malaysia lost all their four games to finish last in the five-team competition.

They were handed a 1-15 thrashing by SEA Games favourites Thailand and lost 4-5 to neighbours Singapore. The other two defeats were 3-10 to the United Arab Emirates and 5-10 to Mongolia.

The national team, coached by Hungarian Kristof Kovago, also took part in the Asian Winter Games in Sapporo, Japan, in February.

They only managed one win out of their three Division II matches — 13-2 against Indonesia — en route to finishing 15th overall.

Team manager Hisham Yahya admitted that it would be a tall order for Malaysia to win the SEA Games based on the team’s recent performances.

“We were without the services of our key players like captain Ban Kim Loke, vice-captain Khoo Seng Chee and Reezman Isa due to work commitments and injuries. But that’s not an excuse,” said Hisham, who is also the vice-president of the Malaysia Ice Hockey Federation (MIHF).

“With barely five months to go before the Games, there’s no way we can catch up with Thailand.

They are a class above the rest in South-East Asia. The best we can aim for is a silver and we’ve to battle it out with Singapore and the Philippines,” he added.

In the run-up to the Games, the MIHF will send the team for centralised training in Harbin, China, in July.

“Our team are severely lacking exposure. We have to get it elsewhere by playing friendly matches against professional clubs abroad.

“We opt for China as they are one of Asia’s big four in ice hockey. It’s cheaper too compared to South Korea and Japan,” said Hisham.

Trans-Tasman ice hockey series added to Winter Games

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By Stuff

A three-test ice hockey series between New Zealand and Australia has been added to this year’s Audi quattro Winter Games in Queenstown.

The Ice Blacks will host their trans-Tasman rivals on August 31, September 2 and September 3 at Queenstown Ice Arena.

“It’s something we had in our initial planning, but it has taken until now to make it come to fruition,” Winter Games NZ chief executive Arthur Klap said.

 “This is all due to the efforts of both the Australian and New Zealand Ice Hockey Federations.”

It is the first time Queenstown has hosted an ice hockey international and New Zealand Ice Hockey President Gunther Birgel is hopeful that being involved in such an event will give the sport’s profile a significant boost.

“Ice Hockey is such a heavy impact and fast sport, and we are very pleased in being able to show off the excitement and skills of the sport,” Birgel said. “Being an official part of the Winter Games will give us a large exposure and hopefully a lot more people will realise that ice hockey is being played in NZ.”

Birgel added that he and his Australian counterparts were working towards holding the series on an annual basis, alternating between the two countries.

Alex Plante Trading nations for an Olympic ice hockey ticket

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By Pulse News Agency International

Fidgeting nervously, Canadian ice hockey defenceman Alex Plante cleared his throat and addressed a roomful of Olympic officials in a halting new language: “I want to represent South Korea.”

South Korea is among the world’s most racially homogeneous non-island societies but its ice hockey team is becoming unusually diverse as Seoul seeks to avoid humiliation at the rink when it hosts next year’s Winter Olympics.

Following a change in the law, a steady stream of imports have been given new passports and places in the squad, making it one-third white, even though the population is around 96 percent ethnically Korean.

Plante, a journeyman in his eighth year of professional hockey, played in the US, Norway, Austria and Germany before coming to South Korea nearly two years ago.

Aged 29, his carefully memorized five-line address to the Korean Olympic Committee was a key step in probably his last chance to appear on the sport’s biggest international stage.

“It was an opportunity that we thought could happen,” he told AFP. “We decided to come here so we invested everything that we can.”

If his application is approved he will become the seventh North American on the team.

South Korea sit 23rd in the world ice hockey rankings and have never qualified for the Winter Olympics’ blue riband event.

But as the host nation of Pyeongchang 2018 they have an automatic berth and are scrambling to build a competitive roster to avoid embarrassment.

Dual citizenship is generally prohibited in South Korea, but Seoul revised its immigration law to allow “qualified” foreign nationals to hold multiple citizenships.

At a practice in Goyang on the outskirts of the capital, the new South Koreans were easily spotted amid a pack of players in blue and white uniforms emblazoned “KOREA”.

“It’s a different jersey than you grew up looking at and cheering for,” said Canadian-born defenceman Eric Regan.

Never drafted, Regan bounced around teams, leagues, and countries until he came to South Korea three years ago to play for one of its three professional clubs, and was eventually offered a new passport and a spot on the national team.

As “a Caucasian playing for an Asian country”, it took “a little bit of adjustment” before he could fully embrace his new uniform, he admitted.

The team’s Canadian coach and former international Jim Paek — the first Korea-born NHL player to win the Stanley Cup — shouted orders in a mix of English and Korean as his multicultural team skated at speed, passing the puck and smashing it into the net.

“It doesn’t matter where you came from,” said Paek, who moved to Canada with his parents as a baby. “Now, we all have one goal as the Korean national hockey team.”

In top hockey-playing nations such as Canada, the unveiling of the men’s Olympic roster is a highly publicized event after top NHL players have competed for months to wear the Maple Leaf.

Canadian-born goaltender Matt Dalton, once the backup for the backup of the Boston Bruins, was never likely to get a chance to participate.

Instead, a South Korean agent approached him three years ago after his contract with a Russian team ended, offering him a club spot with a bigger paycheque and job security — and a chance to stop pucks at the Olympics.

“If I didn’t take it, I knew someone else would take this opportunity and I didn’t want to regret it,” he said.

Nation v Nation

Some South Korean media have labelled the exercise a vain attempt at one-time Olympic glory, expressing concerns that the players could abandon their new passports and leave after the Games.

As well as imports, the South Korean government has pumped millions of dollars into its previously ignored hockey programme, hiring top coaches and upgrading the team facilities and equipment.

But the challenges are daunting. The country of more than 50 million people has only 133 professional male ice hockey players.

South Korea lost 25-0 to Japan in 1982, but performances have improved more recently, and they won silver at this year’s Asian Games in Sapporo, shutting out China 10-0 and defeating the hosts 4-1.

But at Pyeongchang 2018 they face far tougher opposition, drawn in a pool with Switzerland, the Czech Republic, and top-ranked Canada, hunting their third consecutive Olympic gold.

That means most of the imports will line up to play against the country of their birth.

“Is there going to be little bit more added incentive and eyes on us? Yeah. But it’s still a hockey game,” Regan told AFP.

“When I put the jersey on I know who I’m playing for and who I’m playing against.”

Challenge Cup of Asia begins

By Martin Merk – IIHF.com

A new season begins for the IIHF Ice Hockey Challenge Cup of Asia with two tournaments being held in the Thai capital of Bangkok during the next two-and-a-half weeks.

Nine days after the end of the Asian Winter Games that involved 24 national teams in four tournaments more international tournaments await Asia. The Challenge Cup of Asia is mainly aimed at countries that do not, or not yet, participate in the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship program or do not fulfil the criteria to do so, and gives them the opportunity to compete against each other on an annual basis on their continent.

On Tuesday the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s Challenge Cup of Asia begins in Bangkok. For most teams it will be the first tournament of the season as only Thailand participated in the Asian Winter Games’ women’s ice hockey tournament. The hosts enter the tournament as the top-seeded team. Singapore, Malaysia and Malaysia also return from last year’s event.

The United Arab Emirates are back in the competition after a break last year while the Philippine women’s national team will have its international debut. For the first time New Zealand will participate with the U18 women’s national team. It will be their debut in an official event after having previously played exhibition games against Australia and against club teams.

The women’s tournament will be held as a seven-team round-robin tournament from 7 to 15 March and once it’s over, the rink will be busy with men’s hockey for the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey Challenge Cup of Asia from 17 to 23 March.

The men’s top-division tournament includes the United Arab Emirates, Mongolia, Thailand, Singapore, Kyrgyzstan and Malaysia who will play a six-team round robin. All teams recently participated in the Asian Winter Games where Thailand had most success of these teams winning the men’s Division I tournament ahead of Chinese Taipei, the United Arab Emirates and Mongolia.

Both tournaments will be held at international-size The Rink Ice Arena, which is located on the seventh floor of the CentralPlaza Grand Rama 9 shopping mall in the Ratchadapisek area of Bangkok.

The third tournament will be the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey Challenge Cup of Asia Division I to be held 22-30 April in Kuwait City. Seven teams will battle for promotion to the top division here. Macau, Qatar and India return from last year’s event, host Kuwait and Oman stage their comeback after missing last year’s event and Turkmenistan and the Philippines will play their first IIHF-sanctioned games. Both teams will travel to Kuwait with high hopes after their international debut in February in the men’s Division II tournament of the Asian Winter Games that was won by Turkmenistan while the Philippines reached third place.

Challenge Cup of Asia Schedule

Indian Women’s Ice Hockey team is all set to make us proud

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By Shuvro Ghoshal – Stree News

While many of us may not be aware, but Indian Women’s Ice Hockey team is all set to participate in the IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s Challenge Cup of Asia to be held In Bangkok, Thailand from 7-15 March, 2017. The 19 member team headed by Captain Rinchen Dolma will be competing with six other countries in the neck to neck competition.

Most of the members in the Indian Ice hockey team are from Ladakh, where the sport is played during winter on frozen lakes before the ice begins to melt. However, lack of infrastructure continues to pose the biggest challenge for the women, but this has not deterred the morale of the team players. The girls have proved they love this sport too much to give up. For them, ice hockey is what gully cricket is for the rest of the country.

With an aim to promote the sport and uplift the stature of women players in the region, the women formed the Ladakh Women Ice Hockey Foundation (LWIKF). Since Ladakh experiences winter for about two and half months, last year, the girls prepared an ice rink on their own which was certainly not an easy task.

They started with a bunch of shovels to get water but later applied to the Public Health Engineering Department for a regular supply of water. Soon, they had a tanker which used to deliver 3000 litres of water every evening. They would fill buckets and pool from 8 in the evening to 3 in the morning in groups of four girls.

However, the task was not as easy as it sounds. The moment a small amount of water splashed on their clothes, even that would freeze.

Difficulties were many but the ice rink was a big hit. It was so cold that even waterproof gloves weren’t of much help.
“We would almost freeze in cold but that did not kill our spirit. To keep our spirits high we would
turn on some music, and continue the task,” says Noor Jahan, who was awarded Asia’s best goaltender recently.
Further, while the boys used to get donation, the girls had to borrow equipment from the boys, which meant waiting until they finished off with their practice.

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However, now thanks to some donations, the team got few equipment and skates last year. “We got few equipment and skates last year which we gave to the players so that they can concentrate on the game and improve their skills. We don’t have to worry about borrowing equipment from the men’s team any more before playing,” said the ecstatic General Secretary of the Ladakh Women Ice Hockey Foundation.

Accomplishments
There are already some impressive feats that the women have accomplished. Last year, these girls went on to participate for the first time in an international competition in Chinese Taipei. Even though the team returned from the 2016 IIHF Challenge Cup of Asia without a win, there were many positives. A relatively young Indian team almost came close to beating Malaysia in the group stages and Noor, fondly called Noori by the team, was awarded the tournament’s Best Goaltender Award after saving 193 shots from a possible 229.

However, despite great will and determination, the girls continue to face financial crunch. “With our future at stake, the LWIHF has been trying to build an ice hockey culture amongst the next generation. It is important to build the winter sports future in our country, however, there continues to be lack of support, encouragement and even awareness,” says Dolma.

Nonetheless, the team is very hopeful and is positive to bring good results for the country. With Women’s Day just round the corner, the least we can do from our end is to wish the team the very best and boost their morale and enthusiasm.

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Rinchen Dolma – Captain of Indian Women’s Ice-Hockey team.

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