Category: IIHF

Barkov confident about future of Chinese hockey

By Alistair McMurran – IIHF.com

China’s surprise 2-1 loss to Turkey in the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey U20 World Championship Division III final will not dint the confidence of new head coach Alexander Barkov.

The experienced Russian coach, who also played and coached in Finland and is the father of Finnish national team and NHL forward Aleksander Barkov, was hired late to become the head coach of the Chinese men’s under-20 side that was expected to win the U20 Division III gold medal.

China was demoted from Division II Group B last year and was desperate to get promotion back to the higher grade.

There is an air of expectation in Chinese ice hockey circles that the Beijing Winter Olympics in 2022 will lift the profile and standard of the sport in their country.

China is currently ranked 37th in the world. If it stayed at this level they would be easy beats at the Olympic Games. Therefore there are ambitions to make China Olympic-ready.

“We don’t want to go there at the level where hockey in China is now. We are determined to improve the hockey standard in China,” the 51-year-old Barkov said.

Barkov and his assistants have only been working with the Chinese under-20 national since being appointed late in December. In that short time he has improved the speed on the ice and the attitude of the Chinese players. But there remains a lot of work to do.

But his ambitions for Chinese hockey go further than this. He wants China to be competitive at the 2022 Olympics Winter Games in Beijing.

The surprise 2-1 loss has shown Barkov that there is work to be done to get his team winning tight games when there is sustained pressure from their opponents.

The job at the moment for Barkov is to build a hockey system in China that will lift the ranking of China from 37th where it stands at the moment. He has a contract to work with Chinese hockey until the Winter Olympics in 2022.

“This was just a first step because many of these players will be in the Chinese Olympic team then,” Barkov said.

“It is our long-term project to bring these kids to a higher standard. It starts with work ethics and attitude and ends with the coaching skills from the team staff.”

The Chinese team demonstrated sound team work on the ice and the speed of the players on the ice has improved.

“We’ve been training to get speed on skates and everything else,” Barkov said. “We spend time on all the basics – shooting, and tactics.”

They play a European style of hockey and know how to use every part of the ice rink.

“We always use as much of the ice as is possible,” Barkov said. “We try to use the skills that the players have. We are not asking them to do anything they cannot do.

“We ask the players to follow the coach’s instructions on the ice but still leave room for the players to use their own skills and imagination.”

Barkov, a former centre, had a long career in the Soviet Union with his hometown team Sibir Novosibirsk and Spartak Moscow. After a short stint in Italy he later played for Tappara Tampere in Finland for ten years.

He represented Russia at three World Championships (1992, 1997, 1999) and then started coaching.

He was an junior coach at Tappara Tampere and an assistant coach for the senior team, then worked for Metallurg Magnitogorsk, Ak Bars Kazan and Amur Khabarovsk in the Kontinental Hockey League for four years.

He then had a short stint with the Finnish under-20 team where the entire coaching staff was replaced during the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship before becoming the Chinese coach afterwards.

Taipei women earn promotion

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By Derek O’Brien – IIHF.com

The 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship Division II Group B Qualification went down to the very last game in Taipei City, with Belgium and host Chinese Taipei entering the game with perfect records. On the strength of two power-play goals by defender Liu Chih Lin late in the second period, Chinese Taipei won 2-1 to finish first in the five-team event and earn the promotion in its first ever participation in the Women’s World Championship program.

After a scoreless first period, in which Chinese Taipei dominated with a 17-9 shot advantage, the Belgians struck first just 23 seconds into the second when Sonja Frere swept in a rebound. Four minutes later the Belgians thought they’d added another goal from a scramble around the net, but the whistle had blown prior to the puck crossing the goal line.

In the game, the tournament’s two most dominant players went head to head – Chinese Taipei sniper Yeh Hui Chen, who scored 11 goals in the first three games, and Belgian goaltender Nina van Orshaegen, who had 59 of 60 shots saved in the tournament through the end of the first period of this game. In the dying seconds of a power play midway through the second period, Yeh picked up the puck and her own blue line, skated through three Belgian penalty-killers and skated right in on van Orshaegen, who denied her with a pad save.

However, the Belgian penalties kept coming and the Chinese Taipei power play struck twice in the last six minutes of the middle frame. First Liu managed to sweep in a loose puck on a scramble, and later blasted one in from the point after an attacking-zone faceoff.

That was all the offence Chinese Taipei needed, as the Belgians just weren’t able to get things going in the third. They did get three power plays, but two of them were cancelled within 20 seconds by penalties of their own. In the end, Chinese Taipei was 2-for-8 on the power play and Belgium was 0-for-4.

What Belgian shots did get through were handled by Hsu Tzu-Ting, making her second start of the tournament as Chinese Taipei alternated goalies. Ting stopped all nine shots she faced in the third period and 33 of 34 in the game, while at the other end van Orshaegen stopped 36 of 38.

With one assist in the last game, Yeh finished with 15 points, giving her a decisive win atop the tournament scoring, beating her nearest challenger – linemate Hsu Ting-Lu – by five points.

Earlier on the tournament’s last day, Bulgaria and Hong Kong met, still looking for their first points of the tournament, and it was Bulgaria prevailing 6-2 to claim fourth place. As it is a qualification tournament, no team is relegated.

Finishing in third place was South Africa, who were idle on the final day. The South Africans were right in the middle with two wins and two losses – losing to both Belgium and Chinese Taipei and beating Bulgaria and Hong Kong. They were led offensively by Chloe Schuurman, whose nine points ranked third in the tournament.

By finishing first, Chinese Taipei advances to the Women’s World Championship Division II Group B in 2018.

Newly elected Council meets with delegates

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By Martin Merk – IIHF.com

Delegates from most of the 77 IIHF member countries came together for the 2016 IIHF Semi-Annual Congress to discuss about the upcoming season but also about the future.

It was the first Congress for the IIHF Council that was newly elected for a four-year term in May and the International Ice Hockey Federation’s executive body wanted to use this opportunity to interact with the delegates in workshop sessions led by IIHF President René Fasel.

The planned committees were presented to the delegates by their chairpersons and the delegates and guests had the opportunity to ask questions and give their inputs. It was a session and opportunity that was visibly appreciated and used by the IIHF membership.

The session started with A like Asia. With the next two Olympic Winter Games in the Far East, the session started with the Asian Committee led by IIHF Vice President Thomas Wu.

“Asia is a big market of growth. We have more than 20 members but the standard of hockey is at a very different state in the various countries and grows at different speeds. We work among the countries but also with the entire hockey world to get support from the bigger countries,” Wu said.

Asked about the new KHL team in Beijing, Wu praised the initiative to bring that calibre of hockey to China and to make people interested in hockey.

During the next winter, the Asian Winter Games will also be on the list. 20 countries expressed the interest to play with 20 men’s and seven women’s team at the event in Sapporo, Japan.

Next was IIHF Council member and former world-class goalie Vladislav Tretiak with the Athletes Committee.

“We think about safety, about respect. Some parents don’t want to send the players into the game because they’re afraid of injuries,” Tretiak expressed one concern specifically mentioning head injuries. Another is the position he used to play himself.

“Today we have very big goaltenders who are up to two metres tall. We need to think about changing the equipment or making the goals bigger. Nobody wants to see 0-0 games. We will keep thinking about how to improve the game for the public,” he said.

It’s this but also many other topics the committee members will discuss to make sure the athletes’ voice is represented within the IIHF.

“We have to listen to athletes about their concerns on food, accommodation, formats and other topics. It’s our mission to listen to them. We have to promote hockey especially in the field of player safety,” he said.

That’s a good buzzword since there will be a Player Safety Committee in place as well. It will be a committee with wide representation with experts from different areas.

“It’s about rules, equipment, facilities, coaches. We will be working with all other committees to get inputs,” said IIHF Vice President Bob Nicholson, who will chair the committee. “To recruit and retain players you need a safe game for top players, young girls and boys. We need to have rules and an environment in place to have the safest possible conditions.”

Newly elected Council member Franz Reindl will chair the Competition & Coordination Committee where he has previously served as a member. As the title says it’s about competitions but also to coordinate the efforts with representatives from different stakeholders – IIHF, national associations, leagues and clubs.

“It’s more than 100 games for the best players, it’s incredible,” the Olympic bronze medallist of 1976 said. “We need to co-ordinate it. It’s homework on one side but on the other side we have to bring people together on one table to find solutions. To fulfil the mandate we need the right people to do it and we need to listen. Then we can create something together. We have a lot to talk and we have a lot to solve.”

The IIHF goes a slightly different way for the Coaching Committee where Hockey Canada President and CEO Tom Renney will be the co-chair. He’s not a Council member but his experience in this area is second to none working with grassroots program to top-level hockey in Canada and having been a top-level coach with the Canadian men’s national team and NHL clubs until just a few years ago.

“I see opportunities for ice hockey to do exceptional things through our great game. The leadership of coaches is very important in the children’s lives,” he said.

He also thinks about a certification program that’s harmonized globally, but first about auditing around the world where the countries and their philosophies are. “Once we understand where people are in the game of coaching development, then we can think about what to do. In today’s world coaching couldn’t me more important in any sport. It’s important for the lifestyle of people.”

The Event and Evaluation Committee will be led IIHF Vice President Kalervo Kummola, who talked in his speech about the immense development in the last decades that can also be seen in the World Championship program with many new venues that have been built. “Getting new facilities is important not only to host championships but also the leave a legacy and help the local people,” he said and hopes that there will be more applicants for top-level events in the future.

The Ethics and Integrity Committee has been newly established for the new four-year term and will be led by outgoing IIHF Council member Beate Grupp and as an external person Michael McNamee.

“If you hear the word ethics, it’s not always associated with good thoughts,” Grupp said in reference to other organizations making headlines. “When we sit here in four years we want to have positive thoughts about ethics and integrity. It’s educational, advisory instruments that will have a positive impact in our family. We will have a lot of success and positive impact,” she said.

Michael McNamee is an expert in sport ethics and a professor at the University of Swansea in Great Britain.

“The principles of good governance, accountability, transparency and so forth are nowadays taken very seriously by international organizations,” he said and praised that “the IIHF doesn’t wait for a crisis but takes an active approach in topics like anti-doping, match fixing and player safety.”

Two newly elected Council members will co-chair the Officiating Committee with Sergej Gontcharov from Belarus and Marta Zawadzka from Poland.

“One of the several tasks we have is to create a library of educational resources also to encourage young players to become referees and stay in the family, grow the pool of female referees, help also the smaller nations with their officiating programs,” said Gontcharov. Zawadzka will bring in valuable on-ice experience as a long-time referee and from the women’s hockey side.

The Youth & Junior Development Committee will be chaired by new Council member and former Czech national team goaltender Petr Briza, who recently led the successful 2015 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship organizing committee and is the owner and chairman of Czech club Sparta Prague.

“We want to help the development process, what happens at the clubs with the kids between 6 and 15,” Briza said. “During the last five years we have had 250,000 more players who play around the globe, especially more female players. Everybody needs a long-term plan. More players means better quality of hockey. We have to make the work right because mistakes we do now will be felt in 15 years.”

The growth of women’s hockey remains in focus and the Women’s Committee will be co-chaired by the two female Council members, long-time Hungarian national team player Zsuzsanna Kolbenheyer and Marta Zawadzka.

“Women’s ice hockey is still one of the fastest growing female sports in the world and the development globally is very fast,” Kolbenheyer said. “The North American countries are still far ahead and we need to support the other countries to develop women’s hockey. It’s a special committee since it touches many aspects of hockey and other committees as well.”

While many committees deal with core aspects of the sport there are also several committees dealing with other important topics surrounding it.

Kalervo Kummola will chair the newly created TV/New Media/Marketing Committee with his business background from television in Finland and his role in the negotiation process of the new marketing contract with Infront Sport & Media.

“It’s a fast-moving world and we want to be at the top,” he said about the current development. “We want that people are following ice hockey every day.”

With Don DeGregorio an person with vast legal experience from USA Hockey will lead the Legal Committee as well as the new IIHF Governance Reform Group. He and IIHF General Secretary Horst Lichtner outlined that in 2018 it will be the next time to make changes to the IIHF Statutes & Bylaws, so the work is starting soon and the membership can start thinking about proposals for the period changes can be suggested next summer.

IIHF Council member Luc Tardif will continue as Treasurer for the new four-year term and also chair the Finance Committee while Henrik Bach Nielsen will continue as chairman for the Medical Committee. IIHF President René Fasel will chair the Executive Committee and the Historical Committee.

The Disciplinary Committee will continue with Gerhard Mosslang as an independent chairman. “We have to deal with rule violations, anti-doping infractions and ethics and we need inputs from both sides, judges and players,” he said reflecting the tendency to get more former players involved.

Frank Gonzalez will continue with the Facilities Working Group.

“It is important to work with the countries and also other committees such as the Asian Committee with China having the ambition to build 1,500 new ice rinks,” he said but mentions also other examples as regions of potential growth such as South America and Turkey. “For new facilities it’s important not to do the same mistakes that others experienced before.”

Like in the past Beate Grupp will be responsible for Environmental & Social Activities. Her work in the past terms included environmental initiatives but also cooperation and promotion of sledge ice hockey. “There can be a lot of win-win situations for the federations not only money-wise when they think of the environment and social aspects,” she said.

There were many committees to introduce and many topics to discuss. After the committee structure has been determined, the composition of the various committees is being worked on. The full list of committees and members will be published on IIHF.com at a later date and a kick-off meeting for the committees is planned in Zurich in December.

Developing hockey

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By Martin Merk – IIHF.com

Some steps away from the ice rink at the Sport Institute of Finland in Vierumaki other programs of the 2016 IIHF Women’s High-Performance Camp took place in classrooms. It’s here where administrators from 15 countries visited the Long-Term Development Planning program to learn more about converting dreams to plans and on strategies to hopefully make them come true.

While the team program with the players and team staff focused on Olympic-prospective countries, this program was open for all IIHF member countries and covered a wide range of topics.

“You’re looking for things like goals, objectives, measurable incomes, getting people to think long-term and think of a number of things to address and to prioritize and build time frames for them,” said Paul Carson, who together with Steve Norris led through the program.

They learned how to build development plans, to find the need inventory and plan based on it, about measurables, about model organizations, building leadership capacities and get the support to build the plans they were presenting to their colleagues.

Peeter Kirtsi from Estonia focused on building a network of ice rinks to increase the capacity for ice hockey in a country that is surrounded by hockey countries such as Finland, Russia, Latvia and across the Baltic Sea by Sweden but where ice hockey isn’t as big and only played in a few cities. The idea is to build rinks in the regions of Tallinn, Ahtme, Narva, Tartu, Viljandi, Rakvere, Parnu, Valga and Voru. That would lead to more players but it needs a lot of persuading with local authorities.

The ambitious goal is to increase the number of rinks by 2020 from five to 11, the number of players from 1,400 to 2,600, increase the number of youth hockey clubs from seven to 12 and grow the men’s league to a minimum of seven teams.

Several participants addressed officiating including Jonathan Albright from New Zealand and Daniela Montes de Oca from Mexico, who want to increase the number of officials with new initiatives. In New Zealand there are only 66 on-ice officials for 1,340 players. “The leagues have grown but officiating not. There’s a lack of understanding of the new IIHF rules. No officials from New Zealand were awarded assignments in the 2015/2016 and 2016/2017 seasons,” Albright said and believes that due to the low standard of officiating the national teams get too many penalties in international ice hockey causing a bad reputation.

The unbalance is even worse in Mexico where only 19 referees (including three women) are registered and 1,900 players. Most games have to be officiated with two officials, the more important games with the three-man system. “We need to create an educational and recruitment program and work closer with clubs,” she said and hopes to bring in a foreign, Spanish-speaking person for an international course.

Attila Somogyi addressed a similar issue in Hungary but with getting more off-ice officials through a new development program while Franc Aci Ferjanic from Slovenia addressed the need of more on- and off-ice officials in his plan.

Another participant who came from far away was Harjinder Singh, the General Secretary of the Ice Hockey Association of India with his project “India 2020” to grow ice hockey in India in all aspects by growing in the regions and have more learn-to-play programs and camps and collaborate with other sports such as ice skating and inline hockey. There are plans for two international-size ice rinks that would help the sport that is currently mostly played on frozen ponds in areas close to the Himalayas. Additionally Singh hopes to equip six outdoor rinks with dash boards and for additional small rinks in shopping malls.

Also in its early development in ice hockey is Kyrgyzstan, one of the newer IIHF members. “One has to start somewhere” was the slogan of Maria Urpi, who wants to create an organizational framework for the federation and promote ice hockey as a sport. With little money available in the country, volunteers have been selected to work with the federation.

Burkay Altunas showed the fast growing hockey landscape in Turkey with rinks and clubs in Ankara, Istanbul, Erzurum, Izmir and Kocaeli and more rinks under construction in other cities such as Edirne, Antalya, Adana, Kayseri, Yozgat, Diyarbakir and Van. One issue he addressed is the lack of competition for kids under 14 years of age with few competitions and kids that can barely skate. He wants to bring kids born in 2003 and 2004 together in each city to provide them with more ice time, at least twice a week, and at least one game per team once a month.

Andrei Putilin presented a project where he wants to introduce a new study program for Belarusian hockey schools where student work on age-appropriate development models to improve the quality of regional junior hockey development, bring modern teaching and practice techniques to hockey schools and restore a national certification process.

Mike Horowitz from Israel focused on strength and conditioning, something he has seen first-hand at a world-class level with the players here in Vierumaki. He wants to address coaches and bring the national team players in better shape.

“Strength and conditioning is almost non-existent in Israeli hockey although some hockey schools are starting,” he said. “We want to have a program like world-leading countries, we want to do the same things as I see here at the IIHF camp in Vierumaki. It’s not just about performance, it’s also to not ruin the body of a player who wants to play hockey all his life.”

Terry Kiliwnik from Australia also addressed the national teams and wants to bring the program in alignment. “We’re not getting better in the world, we’re pretty static,” he said. “We are skating okay but need to improve skills and systems.”

Therefore he wants to align the different national teams in terms of systems, testing and off-ice training, and bring the knowledge to the different branches in the states.

Analogue to the “hockey girls rock” slogan for the World Girls’ Ice Hockey Weekend program in Vierumaki, Xavier Cherta showed his presentation under the title “Spanish hockey rocks” and ambitious plans to move the sport forward in his country.

In Spain the hockey community has to live with few ice rinks due to the warm climate, that the sport is not well explained and therefore seen as dangerous in the population, with too little media coverage and early retirement. “Things don’t change much for players because only five teams play in the top league,” he said. He aims at breaking the vicious circle by making the competition more attractive and create a virtuous circle.

“The Spanish Ice Sports Federation has the aim to break the negative dynamic that stops the growth of hockey in our country,” he said and is working on a three-year development plan that includes a consolidation of the national league, attract elite players from inline hockey to create new teams, extend the league to ten teams and create an attractive league brand.

Russian Vierumaki student Vladislav Bespomoshnov presented a coaching certification system for the Northwestern region of Russia while Jovica Rus presented a project of the Serbian Ice Hockey Association to use a synthetic ice surface facility in Belgrade for skills development all year around in addition to proper ice training with the rental cost being three times less.

Most projects were about hockey in general although George Pogacean from Romania had a women’s hockey specific project to promote hockey for girls in the age group 12-14 and work together with schools.

“The presentations were outstanding. You can look at one area or several programs and build them in a specific order,” said Carson.

“People come with really good ideas. When you start the week off with planning and writing measurables and people come in and talk, you’re never really sure. But they were pretty sharp and the presentations good. They’re passionate about their development. The common language is ice hockey no matter which country you are from.”

Sometimes the enthusiasm for something new was almost bigger than needed though, Carson observed.

“Sometimes people forget when they are building that there is already an inventory that exists and that could be built on. I don’t see it just here, I also see it a lot in Canada,” Carson said.

It was the fourth consecutive time that such a program was held during an IIHF camp in Vierumaki. Carson originally started it as an Administrators Education Program in 2013.

Indonesia, Nepal, Philippines new IIHF members

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By Martin Merk – IIHF.com

The International Ice Hockey Federation grows to 77 countries after Indonesia, Nepal and the Philippines have been admitted as new associate members.

Indonesia


Ice hockey has been played in Indonesia, the largest island country of Southeast Asia with over 13,000 islands, since 1996 and been organized by the Federasi Hoki Es Indonesia for several years. Indonesia is the world’s fourth-most populous country with 258 million people, more than half of them living on the island of Java. That’s where the country’s three ice rinks are located.

There are currently five senior clubs and three youth hockey clubs teams involving 112 players. The Sky Rink on the third level of the Mall Taman Anggrek in Jakarta Barat was opened in 1996 and has an ice sheet of 1,248 square metres. In recent years two more rinks opened with Gardenice (800 square metres) in Bandung and the 24-on-55-metre BX Rink at the Bintaro Jaya Xchange Mall in Tangsel in the Jakarta region that has become the country’s premier ice sport facility.

“Becoming a member shows to everyone that anything is possible. A winter sport can grow in tropical countries, more ice rinks can open and more people could enjoy the thrill of ice hockey sport,” said President Joko Widodo. “Our saying here is: the first time you try ice hockey, you will fall. The second time you try ice hockey, you fall in love.”

Nepal

Nepal is a landlocked country with over 31 million inhabitants in the Himalayas area with China bordering in the north and India in the south. With an ideal climate for ice hockey, the country wants to start organizing the sport in the country. Currently there are no ice rinks but four outdoor inline hockey rinks in the capital of Kathmandu, Pokara, Ilam and Kavree. The association was founded in 2014.

Nepal Ice Hockey Association President Lok Bahadur Shahi handed over a symbolic present to IIHF President Rene Fasel in form of a Khukuri knife, a symbol of Nepalese independence.

“With the support of the government and the IIHF, we are looking to build a new chapter in Nepalese sports with ice hockey,” he gold IIHF.com recently during a visit at the IIHF headquarters in Zurich and hopes that the first ice rink can soon be built in the capital Kathmandu – the land has already been acquired. Currently ice hockey can only be played on natural ice during winter months.

Philippines

Like Indonesia, the Philippines are an island country in Southeast Asia consisting of over 7,000 islands and with a population of 100 million people.

211 players from five clubs are registered in the Philippines where four ice rinks can be used, the main one being the SM Mall of Asia Ice Skating Rink in Pasay City next to the capital of Manila. The other ice rinks are at Megamall, Southmall and the Seaside Cebu Ice Skating Rink.

Click on the video link on the right to watch a presentation of ice hockey in the Philippines.

In 2017 the Southeast Asian Games are set to have an ice hockey tournament for the first time ever. The event that has taken place biannually since 1959 will take place in Malaysia and with Indonesia and the Philippines joining previous Southeast Asian IIHF members Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand, all these countries could potentially enter a team.

In addition to accepting three new members, the Qatar Ice Hockey Federation – until now an associate member – has been awarded full membership.