Category: Europe (page 1 of 5)

Portugal plays in first international tournament

By National Teams of Ice Hockey

Portugal is not known for ice hockey, they don’t have a rink but they do have a national team and in a effort to be more visible Portugal for the first time enter a international tournament in Grenada, Spain playing against amateur club sides from Spain and Finland .

Portugal is coached by Jim Aldred a former IHL & AHL player and the team is made up of players of all ages.

Portugal finished in 7th, place in a 8 team tournament and at times really struggled on the big ice losing 8-1 and 9-0 but there was a bright spot when they beat Eagles Granada 5-0 for there only win and the teams first ever shutout.

Goaltender Maxim Andreyev who was born in Kazakhstan recorded the blank sheet but  Maurício Xavier president of Federação Portuguesa de Desportos do Gelo said

I wouldn’t make much of it. It was in the game against the weakest team, who didn’t shoot too much. For example Ivan Silva, was much better in the games he played, especially in the last game against the Mr. Taxi team where he kept us in the game. That was an authentic shooting gallery at him.”

The appetite for Ice hockey and winter sports is there but what is really need is an ice rink in the country and for these players they won’t stop until that goal is accomplished.

From Boston to Belfast

By Andy Potts –

It’s been a tough week for the Netherlands. With the country’s top team, Tilburg Trappers, still in German playoff action, head coach Chris Eimers is forced to go with a young roster and hope that some of his more experienced guys can get to Northern Ireland in time to help the team’s bid to stay up in Division IB.

But crisis brings opportunity: that youthful line-up gives a chance to run the rule over the next generation of Dutch hockey talent. Among the youngsters who are growing up fast here, 20-year-old Guus van Nes has been one of the most eye-catching.

A year ago, he was scrapping for minutes on the fourth line in Jaca as the Dutch took gold in Division IIA. This time, he’s got a spot on the Netherlands’ top line, replacing injured assistant captain Raphael Joly and looking to supply the cutting edge that can preserve his country’s Division I status.

And, despite a tough tournament so far – three losses, 20 goals against and just three scored – the Boston Bruins junior prospect is enjoying the added responsibility.

“This tournament has been great for me,” he said. “The older guys on the roster – guys like Kevin Bruijsten – have been helping me out and I’m learning a lot. I know I’ll be a better hockey player after this experience. It’s great for my development, adjusting to a different level, playing against guys with a lot of international experience.”

That upbeat attitude typifies the Dutch approach to this tournament: dealt a rough hand by the conflicting schedules of club and international competition, Eimers and his team remain stoic – and optimistic.

“We understand the situation we are in, but there are still two games to go,” van Nes added. “If we can win one of them, we that will probably mean we stay in this division. It’s tough, but we’ll try to make the best of it.”

On a personal level, this season has been something of a break-out for van Nes. Coach Eimers was delighted with his player’s progress since Spain in 2016 and insists that the youngster’s current prominent role is on merit, rather than necessity.

“Guus really developed last year,” Eimers said. “He was with us last year in Jaca and he did well there, but since then he’s had a really good camp. When the situation arose with Joly [and his injury], we felt that Guus deserved to be bumped up to that line alongside Kevin [Bruijsten].

“He’s really grown this year, he’s definitely a young prospect and one of the better U20 guys who came here. Now we’re waiting to see if he can get a scholarship with the NCAA.”

For his part, van Nes credits his progress to a summer of hard work and a big opportunity with the Junior Bruins in the USPHL, a Junior A Tier 3 league. The Dordrecht native is in his third season with the organisation, and this time round he plundered 45 points in 43 games in the Premier Division in his most active and most successful campaign to date.

“Being over there is helping me a lot,” he added. “Playing in America is a totally different game. I’m skating a lot and I feel like I get better day on day. It’s very different to playing in Europe, but the whole thing is just an awesome experience.”

For a young player emerging from a relatively small hockey nation, the Bruins name is also a nice line on the resume – even if it’s some way from the fame and glamour of the world-famous NHL team.

“Obviously you don’t feel the whole Bruins history and mystique when you’re playing on a team at that level, but it’s still a good name to a part of and it attracts more people to come and watch, so it’s quite exciting that way,” van Nes added.

For now, though, the focus is on Division I survival. “We feel our performance is better than our results and we’ll see what we can do about getting that win,” van Nes concluded.

Lithuania goalie leads new generation

Image result for Artur Pavliukov
By Andy Pots –

Goalie Artur Pavliukov, aged just 20, has been a big part of that roster. In those victories over Estonia and the Netherlands he’s turned away 30 shots to provide the platform for his country’s winning start. It’s turning into a fine conclusion to a long and sometimes complicated season for the Lake Tahoe Icemen net minder.

The 2016-17 campaign saw Pavliukov head to North America for the first time in his career. Whatever expectations he had when he flew across the Atlantic, the subsequent year brought far more than he anticipated.

“It’s definitely been different for me this season – I went to four different clubs!” he said. That journey began in the NAHL with Coulee Region Chill, then took in a short stint at La Crosse Freeze in NA3HL. Next came WSHL hockey with the El Paso Rhinos in regular season before finally arriving in Lake Tahoe for the playoffs. “It feels like I traveled through the whole of the US.”

While the schedule was sometimes difficult, the experience was valuable. “It’s a different kind of hockey there,” Pavliukov said. “The rinks are much smaller so as a goalie you know you’ll face a lot of shots. I’m sure that I’m developing a lot better as a player for being in North America.”

Player development is a big issue for Lithuania, with opportunities at home very limited. In the words of head coach Bernd Haake, any young player wanting to achieve a high standard has no option but to leave the country and seek a chance elsewhere. The roster in Belfast offers a roll-call of Europe’s mid-ranking leagues. Fortunately, that pressure to travel and explore the hockey-playing world is something that Pavliukov has always relished.

“I’ve been traveling for my hockey since I was about 14,” he said, reflecting on seasons spent playing in the Belarusian and Latvian league systems and representing his country at u18, u20 and senior level in World Championships and Olympic Qualifiers. “This was the first time I went so far from home, but it wasn’t all that difficult to adjust. Luckily, I really like to travel, I love seeing new places so it was kind of an adventure.”

Belfast is a new stop on that voyage, and Pavliukov hopes that the final destination might prove to be promotion. Lithuania has medalled in the last two World Championships and picked up wins against the likes of Great Britain and Ukraine along the way. The young goalie was part of the team that claimed bronze in Zagreb 12 months ago before helping the under-20s win Division 2A in Tallinn earlier this season. Now he is eager to grab more hardware here despite icing the youngster roster in the group with an average age of 24.

“It’s not that we are a young team, I think it’s a balance between youngsters and veteran players,” he said. “We have good speed all over the ice, and that gives us a good chance to compete for medals. In a competition like this, any team has a chance of promotion. It’s a matter of conditioning, of coaching, of getting it all together. Whoever gets it right this week will win the tournament.”

Part of the reason for Lithuania’s rock-solid rearguard thus far has been the calming presence of captain Mindaugas Kieras. On a youthful roster, his 19 World Championship campaigns makes him an example for others to follow as the Baltic nation looks to move from one generation to the next.

“He’s a great guy in the locker room and he’s like the bridge between us young players and the coaches. He helps everyone, the young guys and even the other veterans. We love having him around.”
That blend of experience and youth faces its latest test against Great Britain on Wednesday evening – the start of what coach Haake describes as a series of meetings with the ‘big teams’ in Division IB. And with Pavliukov in red-hot form, there’s every reason for the Baltic nation to hope to upset the host nation and blow the promotion race wide open.

How the coaching staff in Frölunda is handling Rasmus Dahlin’s development


If there has been a breakout story in the SHL this season it is the rise of young defenceman Rasmus Dahlin.

Dahlin turned 17 last week, ending his run as the best 16-year-old hockey player in the world and starting his year as the best 17-year-old.

“I have coached many, many good young players, in both club and national teams,” says Frölunda HC head coach Roger Rönnberg, “and Rasmus is most certainly among the top defenders of those teams.”

Mr. Rönnberg’s assistant and defensive coach in Frölunda, Mr. Pär Johansson, says with a smile, “there is no limit in how good he can become; no limit whatsoever. The amount of skills that Dahlin already possesses is incredible.”

Much has been said about his physique and his skating, but the first thing that comes to Mr. Johansson’s mind is his understanding of the game and his vision. “He does things no one else sees. Not even full-blooded pros have seen that particular solution when he has. He is ahead of the game in many ways. He has so many skills, but that one stands out.”

Even if Dahlin stands tall when being interviewed, everyone keeps saying that he needs to grow his stature and frame.

“This summer is super important,” states Mr. Johansson. “He has been to camps before, but this is his first summer with a proper individual build-up for next season. While he will never be a Shea Weber kind of player, frame-wise, he has to bulk up a bit all over his body. Right now he manages a lot of his defensive responsibilities thanks to his outstanding balance.”

With five points (3G, 2A) in 14 playoff games with Frölunda, what stood out this year was the time in the World Junior Hockey Championship that put everyone’s eyes on the Swedish talent. He became the youngest Swedush player ever to suit up for the WJC.

Mr. Johansson chose his words carefully when asked if he would characterize Dahlin’s play as arrogant or a form of hubris. “I would never say that; I would call it the naïvety of youth, or maybe enthusiasm of youth. He oozes the thought ‘I can do this.’

“You have to remember that’s the thing we pay for when watching hockey. Then everyone goes bonkers when he succeeds and the same people turn on him as soon as he makes a mistake. You can’t have it both ways.”

When it comes to Dahlin’s progress during the season Mr. Johansson is quick to point out “there are more and more successful things compared to the unsuccessful things right now. He knows the difference of when he can try things, and when he can’t try the same thing.”

Dahlin is a work in progress, and Mr. Johansson treads carefully in working with the raw diamond in his hands. “We are pushing him every day to try things, but also to learn from his mistakes. He has scored three goals this playoff run, and he hasn’t cost us more than three; that means he’s still on the plus side of things. That’s all we can ask for since he is good for the team.”

Coach Rönnberg is in the same boat as Mr. Johansson, and the Frölunda spirit shows through. He knows his role and his vision is clear. ”We are here to educate players. That means I want to support them in the things they do. Of course, if things happen at the wrong moments or a few too many times, then I step on the brakes. But if he wants to deke someone in the offensive zone then he has to do that, and it is up to an attacker to cover Dahlin’s “normal” position.

“It’s a team effort and the upside that a player such as Dahlin brings, you have to use it.” It is a balancing act especially during the playoffs, but as Mr. Johansson says, so far it has worked out on the plus side for Dahlin.

To speed up and further the education, the day after a game is usually spent with the master and student watching every shift played on video going over strengths and weaknesses during the previous match.

When Dahlin steps off the ice after practice, the first thing that hits me is how tall he is, already standing 6’1” without skates. It’s the day after Game Five in the best-of-seven semifinal against Brynäs, a game Frölunda won. Brynäs eventually took the series in seven games, and is currently playing in the final against HV71.

“Playoffs!” says Dahlin with a smile. “They are great. You have a bad period every now and then, but both teams were struggling last night during the first period.”

Dahlin has made an impact and the previous night he scored another goal. When asked about what has changed for him during the playoffs, he answers without hesitation. “I have gained confidence throughout the playoffs, and I have matured a lot. The physique will have to wait until summer, hence right now it is the development of my game that has changed the most.

“My position game in the defensive zone and the defensive side of things overall is where I have improved a lot, and of course mentally. But it has also been a huge change how to prepare yourself before a game; what to do in difficult situations during the game to get maximum output every game. Eat, sleep, practice. Offensive play too. The work I do with Pär [Johansson] helps me on both sides of the puck.”

When asked to describe himself for the North American crowd that has only seen him in the World Junior Championship he says, “I try to be a two-way defender with an offensive upside [understatement of the year]. I am a bit more offensively inclined than defensively. Now, during the playoffs, I am more of the offensive guy on my pairing, but when it comes to it I will do what the coach tells me to do.”

One thing that has surprised a lot of people around hockey in Sweden is how well the 165-pound defender has adjusted to playoff hockey, which is usually a fair bit more physical than the grind of league play. Dahlin had three points (1G, 2A) in 26 games and has already surpassed that in game 11 of the playoffs.

It is his physical play that has surprised many. Speaking about the upcoming summer Dahlin offers up his thoughts and this own explanation to why he isn’t as big as he could be.

“I have practised hard all summer before, but I hadn’t really entered puberty so I haven’t been able to build up muscle the way that I have needed. It will be important this summer to build up my muscle mass a bit.

“I am looking forward to summer training. Maybe I shouldn’t,” he adds with a laugh. “Really, I am looking forward to it, you want to improve and this is the first step to do it.”

The answer is no surprise when asked whether he has a favourite team or player in the NHL. “I am looking more towards the stars over there, rather than a particular team. My favorite player is Erik Karlsson hands down.”

When it comes to the NHL team that drafts Rasmus Dahlin, you have to remember that he will never be a bruising type of player. He isn’t the big, stable defender. Dahlin’s upside lies in his offensive play and any team that selects him would do well to use Frölunda’s way of thinking: as long as he is generating more goals than he causes due to his sometimes naïve play, the team will benefit from his presence.

It will be interesting to see his next steps in Frölunda and the SHL next season, because it will undoubtedly be the last spent in Europe for a long time.

The next step has already been achieved. When Frölunda got knocked out of the playoffs, Dahlin wasn’t called in to join his fellow teenagers for the Under-18 World Championship; he was called up for the friendly games for the National Men’s Team against Belarus.

“It’s a dream come true,” he told the Gothenburg Post about the honour. “I haven’t really understood it yet.”

For the young phemon, you have to believe that his experience on the international stage is just beginning.

‘Why are you playing ice hockey? You’re a girl’ — Meet the women skating to success in Ukraine

The Ice Hockey League that’s more then a game. Female ice hockey players
in the Ukraine are trying to revive a national league against all odds.

Clad in a purple jersey with an orange crown emblazoned across the front, the Dnipro Queens forward whizzes across the ice at lightning speed and slams the puck past Kyiv Ukrainochka’s goalie. The crowd goes wild. Horns blare. Players embrace.

With just minutes left on the clock Elena Tkahuk has netted the goal that will win her team Ukraine’s first ever women’s ice hockey league title.

In a symbolic gesture, these historic finals were played on March 8 to coincide with International Women’s Day — an event usually celebrated in Ukraine by men giving flowers to the significant ladies in their lives, not by women donning shin pads, face guards and skates to battle it out on the ice.

But there’s still a long way for these women to go before they are recognized as sporting equals in a country where the United Nations rates female participation in decision-making as “extremely low” and perhaps the best-known sports coverage of women has centered on fears over prostitution and sex trafficking during the Euro 2012 football tournament that was co-hosted by Poland.

“In Ukraine the men, when they see me with my equipment, they ask me: ‘Why are you playing ice hockey? You’re a girl — it’s better you’re in the kitchen,'” says Valery Manchak, one of the star forwards of the Dnipro Queens team.

The scorer of 18 goals this season, the 20-year-old learned to skate as a child and, against her mother’s wishes, took up playing ice hockey with a boys’ team.

A sports fanatic, she dreamed of one day representing Ukraine at international level, but was forced to give up playing at 13 — the age where men’s hockey becomes a contact sport — because there were no girls’ teams to play with in the former Soviet state.

The Kyiv Ukrainochka team played in the first Ukraine's women's final.

The Kyiv Ukrainochka team played in the first Ukraine’s women’s final.

Fighting for acceptance

Disappointed but undeterred, Manchak took up boxing instead, and was soon competing at international level.

Ice hockey, however, remained her “one true love.” So when two years ago she heard a team had been set up in Dnipropetrovsk — a city some three hours’ drive from her hometown Kharkiv — she knew straight away that she would join.

“People have prejudices about women playing ice hockey, but when they see we’re good they get interested, they start to respect us,” she says. “So just getting out there and playing, that’s a powerful thing.”

Among Manchak’s first converts to women’s ice hockey was her mother who — although initially disapproving of her daughter playing a “man’s game rather than sitting home and studying” — quickly became her biggest fan, attending all her games and loudly berating the male referee from the sidelines if he missed a penalty.

Years of hockey experience, however, makes Manchak the exception rather than the rule.

Registered in September 2016, Ukraine’s women’s hockey league has only five teams, just passing the four-team threshold required to gain official recognition by the International Ice Hockey Federation. The Russian women’s league has eight teams.

Finding enough players to cobble together teams was among the biggest challenges in getting the league up and running. Aside from the half-dozen or so who lived or were born outside of Ukraine, most of the league’s 166 registered players had never played ice hockey before they signed up for a team.

To make up their numbers, like all the teams in the league, the Kharkiv Panthers — who wear a striking pink-and-black kit with their growling namesake on the front — have drawn players from a host of different sporting disciplines and professions: figure skating, soccer, yoga and fitness instruction.

Players from the Dnipro Queens prepare for the league finals.

Players from the Dnipro Queens prepare for the league finals.

Depending on women from such varied backgrounds has brought a whole of host of challenges.

Halfway through the season, the Panthers’ goalie quit after too many training sessions clashed with her work as a veterinarian, and the team was dealt another blow when one of its best players was unable to attend the final because she had a football tournament to play in Iran.

With several of the women either mothers to young children or employed in full-time jobs ranging from gaming app development to working for local government, just organizing three weekly practices can be a logistical nightmare.

Starting from scratch

Perhaps the biggest hurdle, however, was that at the beginning of the season many of the players didn’t even know how to skate.

To teach them, the Panthers’ coach Andrey Zemlyansky — a retired professional hockey player — took the new recruits to an ice rink in a local shopping mall and gave them exercises to do.

Even those with figure skating experience had to learn how to use the more cumbersome ice hockey blades, which require a totally different style.

“People were slipping and falling over all the place, families and kids on the rink were crashing into our players because there wasn’t enough space,” recalls Kate Bobyn, a Canadian citizen living in Kharkiv who plays for the Panthers.

“At first it was a total crazy mess, but now you seriously couldn’t tell that just a few months ago these women couldn’t skate! It’s a real achievement.”

Until recently, Julia Artemieva — one of the league’s co-founders — was among those with no experience playing hockey. That changed three years ago, when a friend called by chance to invite her to play in a women vs. men friendly.

That day on the bench at the ice rink, Artemieva first met Nadia Boboshko. The women, who both have a background in figure skating, borrowed oversized equipment from the men.

“It was terrifying. I could fit my hand inside the gloves twice over,” laughs Artemieva, who captains the Kyiv Ukrainochka team but is sidelined after breaking her leg during a match.

“After that first game I said, ‘Never again, never again,’ but that was then, and here we are now … I guess I was hooked!”

Although they first played hockey together as “total strangers,” Artemieva and Boboshko quickly became best friends. United by a shared love for the sport, they started the Kyiv Ukrainochka team.

Only 10 of the 30 women who played that initial game agreed to return, but slowly they recruited more. When teams started in other cities they realized there was enough interest to start a league.

“Sure it seemed crazy at first,” Artemieva says. “But if we’ve achieved this in three years, imagine what we can do in another three.”

Conservative attitudes have not been the only obstacle to women’s ice hockey in Ukraine, however. Historic coincidence has also contributed to the country’s lackluster performance in the sport.

Ice sports have a long history in the post-Soviet world.

While bandy — a sport with similarities to ice hockey but played with a ball rather than a puck — dominated in the Soviet Union as the preferred game for several decades, by the 1950s the bloc had caught the hockey bug and its men’s team quickly came to be considered among the best; winning multiple world championships.

‘Rag-tag’ kits and financial problems

It was not until the late 1980s, exactly around the time the Soviet Union began to crumble, that women’s ice hockey started to gain traction.

Inna and Elena Vansovich were among the athletes caught up in the turmoil surrounding the Soviet collapse. Trained as professional speed skaters when the twins graduated from their sports academy in 1990, they found money for sport had all but run out.

Canadian Kelly Whelan (left) of Kyiv Ukrainochka, vies with Belarussian player Katerina Rudchenko.

Canadian Kelly Whelan (left) of Kyiv Ukrainochka, vies with Belarussian player Katerina Rudchenko.

A year later Ukraine declared independence and, with the encouragement of an academy coach, the sisters joined the newly-fledged country’s national team (although it sometimes still competed as part of a “Unified Team” with players from other post-Soviet countries).

Despite initial skepticism about women playing the sport, both quickly fell in love with it once they were on the ice.

“It was an incredible experience,” says Elena Vansovich, now 43. On a table, she unfolds a yellowed newspaper clipping from a review of a friendly match played against a small Canadian team in 1995.

“They said our kit was rag-tag but our performance was good,” she laughs.

It was one of their last matches. Shortly after, on the way back from competing in a European Cup match, the twins were told for the second time in just a few years that there was no money left for their Sport.

“The situation during the ’90s in Ukraine was very turbulent, the financial situation was very bad,” Elena says. “So that’s just how it was — no more money, no more speed skating, then no more hockey.”

‘I woke up with goosebumps’

For a long time, it seemed the dream of women’s hockey was over before it began for the twins.

That is, until a Kharkiv Panthers player asked them to join the club after finding a photo of them posing with their national team jerseys on Facebook.

“My first reaction was, ‘No way!’ I wasn’t even sure I remembered how to play after all these years,” Inna Vansovich says with a laugh.

But once the idea was in her mind, she found herself dreaming of ice hockey when she fell asleep. “I woke up with goosebumps … I realized that I tried to forget about hockey but it was impossible, so in the end I said yes, I would like to go back.”

Much had changed in the two decades since the twins last played, but at least one thing has remained the same — finances are still tight.

The approximate $50,000 in funding the women’s league receives from Ukraine’s National Hockey Federation covers only the bare basics: three ice sessions per week per team, and the costs of holding games, including accommodation and food.

Extra practice time, kit and other expenses must either be funded by private sponsors or paid out of the players’ own pockets.

That’s no small ask in a country where the average wage is around $200 per month, but hockey kit costs can easily run up to $1,000.

The Ice Arena in Kiev, where this season’s finals were held, is testimony to the over-stretched budget the league is working with: The floors creak worryingly under the feet around the ice rink, the changing areas are little more than rooms with a few wooden benches, and each team shares just one shower.

Ukrainian politics: ‘Difficult and uncertain’

As in the Vansovichs’ skating heyday, political instability has also made it hard to find money for the league, organizers say.

The annexation of Crimea by Russia in 2014 and the ongoing war in the east have dealt heavy blows to Ukraine’s economy.

Although there have been some tentative signs of recovery in recent months, finding sponsors in such “difficult and uncertain times” is not easy, Artemieva says.

Despite the odds being stacked against them, the sport is slowly garnering attention in Ukraine, and beyond.

This season’s finals attracted hundreds of fans, many of whom had traveled hours across the country to be there — a more than decent showing in a country where ice hockey is still very much seen as a “man’s sport,” says Georgii Zubko, vice president of the Ukrainian Ice Hockey Federation and an ardent supporter of the women’s league.

Hundreds of supporters tuned in to live streams of matches throughout the season, from a host of countries including: Canada, Russia — ice hockey is akin to a religion in those nations — Belarus and Britain.

“Next year there will be thousands (of fans),” Zubko says. “I can tell you, these ladies, never do anything once — especially if it’s already been successful.”

The league is only just concluded, but there is already talk of forming teams in Odessa and Kryvyi Rih to join next season, and organizers also hope to put together an official national team following a trial run of the best players at February’s Global Girls’ Games.

If they are successful, it will be the first time Ukrainian women have competed at international level in ice hockey since the Vansovich twins represented their country more than two decades ago.

“It’s my hope that my daughter will watch me play and want to play too,” Elena Vansovich says, having posed on the ice for a photo with her children and bronze medal after the Panthers finished third.

“That for her there will be the possibility to play hockey.”

Belarus’ Ice Hockey Federation promotes ice hockey in Eastern Europe

By Belarus News

The Belarusian Ice Hockey Federation (BIHF) is actively promoting the development of ice hockey in the countries of Eastern Europe, Deputy Chairman of the Belarusian Ice Hockey Federation, member of the IIHF Council Sergei Goncharov told the media, BelTA has learned.

On 21 February Minsk played host to a seminar on ice hockey development. Partaking in the event were representatives from Armenia, Israel, Latvia, Lithuania and Ukraine. The seminar highlighted the issues related to the training of young players. “In early 2017 the Belarusian Ice Hockey Federation held a similar seminar for the countries of the Balkan region. Today Minsk welcomed representatives of some countries of Eastern Europe. We try to help them develop ice hockey, including through the training of linesmen, sharing methodical instructions,” noted Sergei Goncharov.

According to Sergei Goncharov, the Belarusian Ice Hockey Federation is currently considering including foreign players into the Belarusian Ice Hockey Championship and teams of the neighboring states into the country’s Extra League or Premier League. “Everything depends on our partners. We are ready for the dialogue,” Sergei Goncharov stressed.

It is the first season that HC Ararat Yerevan is playing in Belarus’ Premier league. “The seminar helps us study the structure of the training process for young players, enrollment principles for children’s teams. We maintain long-standing partnership with the Belarusian Ice Hockey Federation. Ararat plays in the Premier League and shows good results,” President of the Armenian Ice Hockey Federation Samvel Zakharyan said.

The seminar was also attended by Mr Petr Briza, a member of the IIHF Council, the Chairman of the Youth & Junior Development Committee, and Mr Aku Nieminen, IIHF Sports Manager, Secretary of the Youth & Junior Development Committee.

The BIHF noted that the development of children’s and youth hockey remains a priority. For example, refresher courses for coaches of Belarusian sports schools under the IOC’s Olympic Solidarity program were held last week.

Restart of a Greek ice hockey championship

By National Teams of Ice Hockey

In 2015 the HISF (Hellenic Ice Sports Federation) was absorbed by EOXA (Hellenic Federation of Winter Sports) and now has taking over ice hockey in the country. 

EOXA has restart the Greek Ice Hockey National League 2017 with a Men’s and Junior divisions which have four teams Warriors, Panserraikos, Tarandos and Ice Guardians. 

The Men’s division runs from February 25th to April 23rd and the Junior division runs from February 25th to April 22nd. All Games will be played in two Arenas the Athens Heart Mall and The Iceberg.

Click for Greek Ice Hockey National League 2017

Game action between Tarandos & Panserraikos


Final whistle for Huet

By Organizing Committee IIHF Worlds 2017

Cristobal Huet officially announced he will retire from international competitions after the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship.

Cristobal Huet started to play for the French national team in the 1996/97. The emblematic French goalkeeper then took part to 12 World Championships and two Olympic Games with France. Currently playing in the NLA in Switzerland with Lausanne, Huet is the only French player to have won the prestigious Stanley Cup (2010, Chicago Blackhawks). We met the French hockey legend.

Since you arrived in the French national team, what has changed the most according to you?

Many things have changed since 1996. At the time, we already had talented players such as Philippe Bozon, Christian Pouget, Fabrice Lhenry, Denis Perez, Antoine Richer, or Stephane Barin, but we had to complete the team with French-Canadian players. Since then important reconstruction work has been made by the French Federation to train more high-level players. We can see it by the emergence of very good players in the NHL such as Stephane Da Costa, Antoine Roussel, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Yohann Auvitu. The competition is increasing and the coach has choices to make, and this is a very positive evolution. The hard work done by Dave Henderson and his staff, as well as the emergence of leaders such as Laurent Meunier allowed the team to progress year after year.

You will have played 20 years at the international level. What is the secret for such longevity?

I don’t know. As players, we don’t calculate anything. The seasons pass one after the other, but the pleasure remains. After my NHL years (2002-2010), I was able to involve myself again with the French team, which made me feel good. Every season, we want to come back to defend our country’s colours at the World Championship. Playing for the own country is an exciting challenge to face.

At the beginning of your career, what would you have said if we had told you that you would finish your adventure with the French national team with a World Championship on home ice in Paris?

I wouldn’t have believed it! When I came back to Europe in 2010, I always thought it could be the last year. Playing in May after each season represents sacrifices but it is such a pleasure to wear the French jersey, so I don’t regret anything. The group lives very well together and the team is more and more performant. Thus, when Paris’ candidature for the organization of the World Championship got concrete, it convinced all the “old ones” to go on, to be able to live this experience.

Let’s talk about the World Championship to come. What does it represent to you and what can it bring to French ice hockey?

As a hockey player, it is a major event. Organizing the World Championship in France is a great opportunity for the French population to discover our sport, to gather all the passionate, and for the foreign fans to discover Paris. Welcoming the Canadians, the Finnish and the Swiss is amazing. For 10 days, we will focus the attention. Now it’s our turn to make it a successful championship and to show our team values.

Do you have a special message for the French hockey family?

This is THE meeting not to miss. We have a great opportunity to gather ourselves and to show the beauty of our sport to a maximum of people. I am very sure this will be a beautiful hockey celebration, so join us: we are waiting for all of you!

Finally, what can we wish you for your last months on ice hockey rinks?

I first hope to realize good playoffs with Lausanne, and then of course an excellent World Championship with France. It is always better to win games, but in every case, it will for sure be unforgettable. If I can have a happy ending by beautiful national team career, I would be the happiest hockey player on earth.


Croatian prospect Ficur joins MOB for North American experience

By Robert MurrayFort McMurray Today

The first time Fort McMurray Oil Barons head coach Tom Keca met Ficur, the McMurrayite had helped arrange travels through Alberta for a pair of hockey-minded youth groups from Europe. A standout then, Keca left the door open for Ficur to return when he was older if he wanted to experience the game at faster pace.

After travelling over 7,000 kilometers, Ficur reunited with Keca this week as the 1998-born forward seriously considers his hockey future.

“It would be like any Canadian soccer player going over there and trying to play soccer,” Keca said summing it up. “You play here at a certain level, but it’s just a different world.”

Ficur wasn’t front and centre on television screens this holiday, but the forward still took part in the World Junior Hockey Championships in mid-Decmeber, collecting a pair of assists as Croatia finished sixth out of six teams in the Division II Group A Championship in Estonia.

“The conditions here are much greater than in Croatia,” said Ficur. “I’m just enjoying my time here.

“Day after day, I’m getting better with the guys. I’m getting used to it. I’m really happy to be here.”

The reunion was no coincidence. Keca’s connections to the European nation and 26th ranked country in the hockey world — 14th in soccer, if we’re comparing — still run strong more than 20 years after a professional stint in the country.

“The education that I got was nothing that I could ever get from a book or in a classroom,” noted Keca of his professional time. “It was living it. For him, that’s a decision that’s he’s going to have to make as well.”

He added Ficur had aspirations of playing for a year in Canada before attempting to join a post-secondary program south of the border.

The intensity of practice and the mandatory Tuesday yoga sessions took the forward by surprise, but it’s an experience he’s happy to drink in. Though he’s a point per game player with KHL Mladost Zagreb, a team in the Croatian Ice Hockey League that features players almost double his age, getting up to speed in the North American version of the game was an encouraging process.

“It’s a little bit tougher than in Europe,” Ficur added. “It’s more physical. I’m here to see how it works.

“Maybe I go to the college next year. That’s my dream.”

For the brief stay, which will include a trip to the West Edmonton Mall at the request of some of Ficur’s friends back home, the Barons have been accommodating.

“It’s cool to learn how different our lives are,” said defenceman Taner Miller, who has provided Ficur with drives home after practice. “He’s said it’s a lot faster than he’s used to, but I think he’s done really good.

“He’s the same as all of us on the ice, it’s just off the ice you can tell the differences.”

MOB host Kodiaks, Pontiacs

Ficur’s stay will the team will carry through this weekend as the MOB host the Camrose Kodiaks and Bonnyville Pontiacs Saturday and Sunday respectively.

Two wins to end 2016 put the Barons on a good path to being back in the hunt for the North Division lead, but they won’t matter much unless the MOB strike against two of the Alberta Junior Hockey League’s best teams.

An offensively dangerous team like the Kodiaks will be trying to avoid the season series sweep while also fighting a positioning battle of their own in the South Division. With the Pontiacs, the MOB will try to score their first win on home ice against Bonnyville since Feb. 4, 2015, a streak of five straight losses.

“For whatever reason there’s just certain teams that you just don’t match up well against,” continued Keca. “They’re a team that outworks you if nothing else. They’re a team you can hit once, twice three times and they still keep coming at you.

“That relentlessness is a characteristic that we’d like to see a little bit more of in our team.”

Swedish hockey player Rasmus Dahlin impresses at world juniors

By Sean Gordon – The Globe and Mail

In case you’re wondering what the future looks like, it’s right there in the Swedish blue and gold sweater with No. 8 on the back.

You know, the fluid-skating, confident, ridiculously-gifted-with-the-puck 16-year-old named Rasmus Dahlin, about whom much will be said and written between now and the 2018 NHL draft, where his could be the first name called.

The defenceman is the youngest player to dress for Sweden at the world junior championship (by one day, but still), and the youngest in this year’s tournament.

One NHL amateur scout said he’s the best 16-year-old defenceman in living memory – “way ahead of [Ottawa Senators superstar Erik] Karlsson” at the same age.

It happens he’s taller and larger-framed than Karlsson, his favourite player, and is, in the words of TSN draft guru Craig Button, “icy” regardless of circumstance.

As long as we’re making comparisons, his skating may not be as explosive as Karlsson’s, but it’s smooth in ways reminiscent of another generational talent, former Detroit Red Wing Nicklas Lidstrom.

Perhaps the best way to describe Dahlin’s game is: Karlsson-like vision, lateral movement and attacking instincts in the offensive zone, whereas in his own end, his poise and ability to both defend and elude are Lidstrom-light.

How does it feel to be compared with a couple of the best Swedes to play the game, young Rasmus?

“I don’t really agree with it,” he said this week. “I mean, I’m just 16 years old … I’m just trying to play my game and do my best.”

Fair enough. But he’s also a 16-year-old who recently signed his first senior pro contract, an indication his days with Frolunda’s junior squad are over.

Being drafted first overall – he would become the first Swede to earn the distinction since Mats Sundin went to Quebec in 1989 – is “a dream, so I’m trying.”

Dahlin grew up in a hockey-playing family in Trollhattan, a town of 45,000 in an area that is, he said, “100-per-cent bandy” – an 11-a-side outdoor game played with a ball, not a puck, and with sticks that look better suited for field hockey than the NHL.

“The first time I was on the ice I was two years old. My dad plays hockey and my brother, too,” said Dahlin, who also has a sister (his parents made the trip to Montreal this week).

He played minor hockey down the road in Lidkoping, before moving to Frolunda, the club in nearby Gothenburg that spawned Daniel Alfredsson, Henrik Lundqvist and Karlsson, among others.

Anaheim Ducks prospect Jacob Larsson, who played four games with the NHL club before being returned to Frolunda, insists Dahlin is already among the Swedish Hockey League’s standout talents.

“He’s pretty much been the same player with Frolunda as he is here,” said Larsson, the anchor of the Swedish defence at this tournament. “He’s got some sick moves when he’s skating up with the puck – he’s going to be really, really good. I mean, he’s already a good player.”

Larsson said Dahlin’s skill and evident promise have been a regular topic of conversation among the club’s senior players for at least a couple of years.

Now, others have become SHL regulars at 16 and later flattered to deceive: Former Edmonton Oilers draft Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson leaps to mind.

Much can and will happen between now and June of 2018. Confidence is breakable, knees or shoulders can give out, progressions can plateau.

Could Russian scoring machine Andrei Svechnikov or OHL forward Ryan Merkley pull ahead of Dahlin in the rankings? Could U.S. national junior program slickster Jake Wise, or CHL starlets Benoît-Olivier Groulx, Joe Veleno or Ty Smith also pull ahead of him?

They could, but none is at the best-on-best under-20 world showcase ahead of older, highly-regarded players.

That he finds himself playing against men for a powerhouse SHL club with a history of developing NHL talent augurs well.

Dahlin said this week that his expectations for the tournament were “not much.” Sweden’s coaches brought him as a seventh defenceman.

In his first game, Dahlin played just under nine minutes. In that time he chipped in a goal and an assist.

In his second, he played 12:17 and, while he didn’t score, showed plenty – his evasive manoeuvre on Switzerland fore-checker Marco Miranda early in the game was jaw-dropping – and was thrown over the boards late in the third with the Swedes chasing a go-ahead goal.

Seconds later, captain Joel Eriksson Ek scored.

He also got into a bit of a kerfuffle with 19-year-old Swiss captain Calvin Thurkauf, who yanked him to the ice with what appeared to be a slew-foot at the first-period horn.

Dahlin was having none of it, and immediately got up to challenge the older player before a teammate quickly shepherded him away.

The scouts will have ticked another box.

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