Day: December 18, 2016

Ex-N.H.L. Enforcer Moves to Hong Kong and Shows His Nurturing Side

Beck with some of his players. “He definitely knows what he’s talking about, and all the parents love him,” said Norm Chin, the head coach at Mega Ice in Hong Kong

By Mike Ives – New York Times

Taking the ice here on a recent weekday evening, Barry Beck issued an unsubtle warning to a fellow skater who had come to play hockey without neck protection.

“If you don’t have a neck guard, this is what you get,” he said, miming an attack. “A judo chop.”

In the 1980s, Beck, 59, was known throughout the N.H.L. as an enforcer with a crushing slap shot and a penchant for scrappy fights and bone-crushing body checks.

But here in a Hong Kong shopping mall, Beck, a former Rangers captain, was goading a 10-year-old about a quarter of his size — and the boy did not flinch. They both laughed.

Players and coaches say Beck, a 6-foot-3 defenseman who moved to Hong Kong in 2007, has played a key role in developing the city’s youth hockey culture. He is primarily known not as an ex-enforcer, they said, but as a hockey oracle who dishes wisdom with tough love and a side of Canadian wit

Hong Kong, which has a subtropical climate, is not an obvious hockey hub. But the number of youth players here has grown to about 1,500 from just a handful a decade ago, said Norm Chin, the head coach at Mega Ice, the city’s only international-size ice rink.

Chin said Beck, who moved to Hong Kong the same year that Mega Ice opened, had had an outsize effect on the sport’s development in the city and taught many of the top teenage players the basics of tactical play, including body checking.

“He definitely knows what he’s talking about, and all the parents love him,” Chin said.

Beck spent seven seasons with the Rangers, and after a three-year injury break, he made a brief comeback with the Los Angeles Kings. He said that after retiring from the N.H.L. in 1990, he had worked as a partner in a nightclub in Vancouver, Canada.

A few years later, a rancher friend in Osoyoos, a town about 250 miles east of Vancouver, called to ask if Beck would help coach a local pee-wee team. Beck said he had agreed partly out of an obligation that he felt toward a new generation of players.

“I knew I had this knowledge about the game that I should be passing on,” he said.

In 2006, Beck received another memorable phone call, this time from a Vancouver policeman he knew who had just returned from an amateur hockey tournament in Hong Kong, a semiautonomous Chinese territory of 7.3 million people.

“Uh-oh, what did I do?” Beck said he had asked.

“No, no, no,” the policeman said, Beck recalled with a laugh. “We’ve just come back from Hong Kong, and there’s somebody in Hong Kong that’s looking to start an academy for kids.”

The person was Thomas Wu, the tournament’s chairman and a prominent local businessman. Beck said he had begun talking with Wu’s staff in an informal capacity, and eventually became general manager of Wu’s nascent organization, the Hong Kong Academy of Ice Hockey.

“There were no N.H.L. players here or in China, so it was all new,” Beck said. “I could sort of set the bar, the standard, myself.”

The initial bar was low: Beck said that the association had begun with only 10 players, and that most had never played hockey before.

He said his efforts to expand the game had faced multiple challenges, including a warm climate; the cost of ice time, which he said was typically $1,500 or more per hour; and the absence of hockey-specific facilities at rinks.

Chin said the Hong Kong Academy of Ice Hockey had also faced competition from several other local youth-development programs, one of which is led by Simon Ferguson, a Canadian who retired recently after a professional career spent mainly in the American Hockey League.

But Beck said his academy now had more than 500 players from primary and secondary schools around Hong Kong. And in 2013, he led the Hong Kong men’s national team to its first appearance at the Division III world championships since 1987.

Players and parents said that Beck was known for taking a tougher and more exacting approach with his older players than local coaches would, but that he also commanded deep respect and admiration.

“Even after retirement, he’s still so passionate” about hockey, said Tony Leung, the captain of the men’s national team. “You still see the same fire in his eyes that you see in the YouTube videos of him fighting.”

Beck said that he enjoyed living in Hong Kong, partly because its bustle reminds him of New York City, and that he planned to stay until at least 2022, when Beijing is scheduled to host the Winter Olympics.

Ice hockey would receive a huge boost in China, he added, if a local player were ever to play in the N.H.L., just as Yao Ming inspired a surge of interest in basketball in the country by joining the N.B.A.

“We’re always looking for that diamond in the rough — that guy that can be the vision for everyone else,” Beck said.

In the meantime, he said, he is on the ice several nights a week, often with as many as 50 children. And until a few months ago, he played once a week in a full-contact men’s league.

The games left him so sore that he would hobble around his office for days afterward, Beck said. But he remained a fierce competitor to the end, he said, and was even suspended for fighting — with a player he had once coached on the men’s national team — in one of his final appearances.

Beck, who lost six teeth as a Ranger, said the fight had started after he defended a teammate who had been rammed after the buzzer, and one of his gloves fell off “by mistake.”

“I thought, ‘Well, I’ve got one glove off, I better get rid of the other one,’” he said, as his sly smile reappeared. “Things happened quick.”

Arosa awaits Norway

By Henrik Manninen –

Norway – Norway keeps their Olympic dreams alive as they roll on to the Final Olympic Qualification where a place for PyeongChang 2018 is up for grabs.

Winning the Women’s Olympic Qualification Preliminary Round 3 Group F on home ice in Stavanger, the hosts sealed their progress after beating Slovakia 6-2 during the final day. Norway, who earlier had seen off Hungary (4-0) and Kazakhstan (5-0), was never shaken nor stirred as they racked up three victories in as many days. Hungary grabbed second spot followed by Slovakia and Kazakhstan.

The win means that Norway will now travel to Arosa, Switzerland, for the final round of the Olympic Qualification where Switzerland, the Czech Republic and Denmark await between 9th and 12th February 2017. The other group of the Final Olympic Qualification includes Japan, Germany, Austria and France.

Mathea Fischer led the way offensively for Norway with two goals and an assist during their final day win against Slovakia, while at the other end, netminder Ena Nystrom made 19 saves in a team-effort which bodes well for the future.

“Our girls stayed confident all the time, we had a few penalty kills too many, but everyone worked together and stayed positive and that’s what I expect from them,” said Norway head coach Laura Rollins.

In their deciding game against Slovakia, Norway got themselves in front at 13:36 when Helene Martinsen broke the deadlock, before getting into trouble with Madelene Haug-Hansen being the culprit of a misconduct penalty call with 70 seconds left before the first intermission.

Having one more player for five minutes, Slovakia capitalised 45 seconds into the second frame when Tatiana Istocyova tied the game after her shot found its way past Nystrom in Norway’s net, who conceded her first goal of the tournament after more than 140 minutes of play. Buoyed by their goal, the Central Europeans looked for more goals while still on the power play, but spurned opportunities proved to be costly in the end.

“Our efficiency in front of the net was bad today and playing five minutes power play and managing only one goal is not enough, especially with the pressure being on us to win this game,” said Slovakia’s head coach Andrej Schober on one of the key moments of the deciding encounter which soon again titled over in Norway’s favour.

Being on a two-player advantage saw Fischer become the instigator which saw Millie Sirum, who only last month turned 16, put Norway back in the driving seat with her 2-1 goal at 5:41 of the middle frame. Just over two-and-half minutes later, the home crowd was on their feet once again. After Slovakia’s captain Livia Lucova had spurned a good opportunity to tie the game, moments later Andrea Dalen combined with Fischer at the other end to stretch Norway’s lead to 3-1.

An alert Viktoria Ihnatova reacted quickest as Iveta Klimasova’s slapshot rebounded off the boards to pounce in front of Nystrom in Norway’s net to reduce the arrears to one goal at just after the midway mark of the second period.

But come the third period, Norway began to dominate proceedings. The hosts came out storming out in the final frame, won the shots 15-6 and went ahead 4-2 at 1:06 thanks to a low shot by influential blueliner Lene Tendenes.

“Before the third period we made an adjustment on the forecheck, that Slovakia didn’t adjust to,” said Rollins. “Once we got our two-goal lead back, our girls settled down a bit and it was a bit easier to keep the puck deep in the zone and play for the win,” she continued.

Fischer charged down in front of the net from the right side to score her second of the evening at 8:15, before with 4:58 left of the contest and on a two-player advantage Silje Holos put the final nail in the coffin with her 6-2 goal which closed the scoring.

Hungary finished the tournament in second place. Following a tepid display against Norway during the opener, they responded the following day by battling display to down neighbours Slovakia 2-0 before two strong periods was enough to see off Kazakhstan 5-2 in their final game.

“We were a bit afraid in our first game when the Norwegian team put big pressure on us and we could not handle it,” said Hungary’s head coach Tibor Marton. “We were really down mentally after the first game, but I am proud of my team and the way we managed to improve for the next two games.”

Kazakhstan, who had arrived to Norway well ahead of time on 9th December, suffered three straight defeats but has plenty to look forward to during what is a very busy season for them with Winter Universiade, the Asian Winter Games and the Women’s World Championship looming in 2017.

“We had hoped for better performances from our players during this tournament and I am especially disappointed with how we lost the third period in all of our matches,” said Kazakhstan head coach Alexander Maltsev.

Having failed at the final hurdle for the previous three Winter Olympics, Norway is relishing the challenge of locking horns against higher-ranked nations that await in February.

“Obviously it’s going to be a step up for us. Teams that we hope to play against in the top division one day. Our goal is still to move up to the primary pool with the top countries of the world. This will be a good test for us and I think we can bring a pretty good battle against some of those teams,” said Rollins.

Blue team remains in Olympic contention

By Martin Merk –

The French women’s national team remains in contention for a ticket to the PyeongChang 2018 Olympics. The team in blue completed its undefeated streak in its preliminary-round group on home ice in Cergy-Pontoise near Paris with a 8-1 win against Latvia and will travel to Tomakomai, Japan, for the Final Olympic Qualification.

The French finish the tournament in first place ahead of Italy, Latvia and China. They’ll travel to Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido in February for Group D of the Final Olympic Qualification where they will play Japan, Germany and Austria for a ticket to the Olympics. The other Group C will take place in the mountain resort of Arosa with host Switzerland, the Czech Republic, Denmark and Norway, which won the other tournament this weekend on home ice in Stavanger.

Both tournaments will be played from 9th to 12th February. The winners will join the top-5 nations of the Women’s World Ranking – USA, Canada, Finland, Russia and Sweden – and host Korea in the 2018 Olympic women’s ice hockey tournament.

Emmanuelle Passard led the way offensively with two goals and an assist in the first period. The 24-year-old is one of four players from the national team who moved to study and play at the Universite de Montreal in Canada.

For France it was the fifth consecutive win against Latvia, which was looking to beat the French for the first time since hosting the 2004 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship Division I in Ventspils where it edged out the French 3-2 to win bronze. It was too big a task and the Latvians even needed to win with a margin of at least two goals to reach first place due to their opening-day loss to Italy. The hopes to do so faded already early in the game.

At 1:46 Soline Fohrer opened the scoring with a solo. She got the puck at the offensive blueline, skated her way through and lifted the puck above goaltender Kristiana Apsite.

Apsite continued to be in the centre of attention as the French created the better scoring chances and played a strong puck-possession game. The Latvian goalie had several saves until the French doubled the lead at 5:48 when Emmanuelle Passard deflected a Lea Parment shot forcing the Latvians to take an early time-out.

The time-out was to little avail though. At 8:06 the team in blue hit the back of the net again on a two-on-one. This time Passard had the assist after a horizontal pass in front of the crease to Chloe Aurard, who shot the puck just under the crossbar.

At 11:12 Passard scored her second goal of the night on a rebound after a blocked Marion Allemoz shot. Only after the 4-0 goal did the Latvians have their first real scoring chances but the teams went to their dressing rooms with a four-goal gap reminding of the game players two seasons ago not far from Cergy-Pontoise in Rouen where the French blanked Latvia 7-0 at the 2015 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship Division I Group A.

The French continued to romp in the second period. At 3:25 Lara Escudero made it a 5-0 lead when skating on the right side of the net to let go a shot from an acute angle. And 27 seconds later Betty Jouanny scored the sixth goal for the Frenchwomen.

The pace only slowed down once the French took penalties. Once the French had their first power play on their own, they converted it after just 18 seconds with a goal from Fohrer at 14:55 of the second period.

In the third period the Latvians had the better start and Agnese Apsite brought her team onto the scoreboard at 2:57. French captain Allemoz restored the seven-goal lead at 12:47 with a long shot to make sure the French converted their second power play of the game as well for the final score of 8-1.

Italy finished the event in second place in its strongest showing in many years. The lowest-seeded Italians beat Latvia 3-2 on the opening day but lost 3-1 to France. They confirmed their form with a 3-0 blanking of China on the last day. Latvia had to settle for third place while China went winless.

Hungary earns promotion to Division IA

By Szabolcs Zavodszky –

After coming up just short against Poland in a heroic comeback on Day 4, the Hungarian national team was given one last chance during an exciting final day to win the gold medal on home ice. And it used it.

Poland had to settle for silver, tournament favourites Slovenia and Italy finished in third and fourth place respectively while Ukraine avoiding relegation in the final game of the tournament with a 3-1 win over Great Britain.

This 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey U20 World Championship Division I Group B was filled with excitement from start to finish as by the second match it was clear that nothing was going to be according to the paper rankings.

Poland beat Ukraine 4-2 in the opening game of the championships, host nation Hungary upset Italy, who was relegated last year from the Division I Group A. Poland coach Torbjorn Johansson had the following to say after the Polish win: “The first game is always the hardest. I think we played well we had a number of scoring chances but did not score on them at the start. Ukraine is a hard opponent as they never give up, our third and fourth goals were nice. The Slovenia game will be a different game.”

The real surprise of the opening day was Great Britain forcing overtime and stealing a point from heavily favoured Slovenia. Great Britain held a late one-goal lead until Kristof Potocnik scored a power-play goal to tie the game up at 3-3. Blaz Tomazevic scored the game winner.

Ukraine defeated Italy in overtime as both teams picked up their first points in the tournament. Hungary followed up their five-goal performance on the opening day by putting five into the British net as well. Martin Sagi finished with two goals as the line of Sagi, Revesz and Peter started to come together. The closing game on Day 2 showed that if the favourites still wanted to have a chance at promotion they needed to do some math as Poland took on Slovenia.

The Polish team came out strong as Alan Lyszczarczyk scored an early power-play goal with Patryk Krezolek doubling the lead in the second period. A quick goal by Potocnik had Slovenia back within one, however, a third Polish goal meant that Slovenia needed to do some work in the third period. But in the final 20 minutes every time Slovenia closed the gap to one goal. Poland managed to go back up by two, Slovenia scored in the early part of the third period to go up 3-2. Back-to-back penalties gave Poland a two-man advantage which they capitalized. Jan Drozg made it 4-3 but Poland scored an empty-net goal for the 5-3 win thus taking control of their tournament fate.

After Slovenia cruised past Italy with a 7-0 shutout win and Hungary rode the Sagi-Revesz-Peter line to a 3-1 win over Ukraine it looked as if the third game of the tournament would follow the paper form but the day’s closing game brought more excitement. The Hungarian win over Ukraine was the first one that might not have been the smoothest according to head coach Chernomaz: “In the last ten minutes of the first period we got outplayed and after the first seven period of hockey the guys found themselves in a tied game. We had some shock therapy in the locker room and the guys reacted well, we started to battle harder and stuck to the game plan.”

In the third game of the day a Glenn Billing power-play goal in the first period and Liam Kirk score in the second period had Great Britian up 2-0 and Poland back on their heels. Head Coach Johansson and the Polish team turned to what was their bread and butter all tournament and Lyszczarczyk scored a power-play goal to get Poland back within one goal. In the final period Poland turned up the heat and scored with just under ten minutes left as a Mateusz Goscinski shot squeezed through the pads of Remy Marr to tie the game up at 2-2. It was clear in overtime that Great Britain was hoping to get the game to a shootout, which they did. Mateusz Studzinski stood tall in net as he stopped all three British shooters. On the other end Kamil Wrobel as the first Polish shooter converted his chance and Poland picked up two points and setting up a potential gold-medal match against Hungary on the second-to-last day of the championship.

Slovenia opened Day 4 knowing that they would need to take care of business on their end as well as get some help if they wanted to get promoted. They took a 2-1 lead after the first period against Ukraine and scored twice in the second to pick up the 4-1 win thanks to Zan Jezovsek, who scored twice for Slovenia.

The two remaining undefeated teams, Hungary and Poland, faced off against each other. With a win Hungary could capture the gold medal. The game started out with a five-minute major penalty against Hungary and as Poland did throughout the tournament they converted on the power play. The proficient special teams unit scored three times in the span of five minutes to open up a 3-0 lead. They followed this up with an equal strength goal to make it 4-0. At this time Hungarian coach Rich Chernomaz made the goalie change as David Kovacs, who played every minute of the tournament before, was replaced by Bence Kiss in the net.

In the second period Poland found the back of the net again as they opened up what looked as an insurmountable 5-0. In the third period Hungary came out ready to prove that they game was not over as less than a minute into the period Peter scored from close range. Ten minutes later Hungary scored two quick goals to make it a two-goal game as Revesz and Sagi both scored to join their linemate on the score sheet. In the closing minutes of the game Hungary kept up the pressure on the Polish net. Wwith less than a minute to go and the goalie pulled, Bence Stipsicz sent a shot on net from the blueline that was redirected by Kevin Szabad, went off the post and into the net.

Hungary was unable to complete the comeback as Poland picked up the win and knew that with a win against Italy on the last day they would be champions. Sometimes you need luck and according to coach Johansson, luck was on the Polish side. “We were very satisfied with our first period, in the second period we were expecting them to be coming, they had some good chances but we were lucky. In the third period suddenly they started to score goals and they were coming. We won’t change anything for our last game. We have been playing well. We just need to concentrate in the final,” he said. The Italians closed out the day with a win over Great Britain 4-1 to avoid relegation.

On the final day all Poland had to do was beat an Italian team that had nothing on the line. Regardless of what happened, Italy would finish in fourth place. The Italians took a 1-0 lead in the game but Poland tied it up on a Bartlomiej Jeziorski power-play goal. Italy scored twice before the period was over, the second one on the power play to take a 3-1 lead into the locker room. The two teams exchanged goals in the second period as Italy held onto the two-goal lead going into the third period. Poland made it 4-3 on a goal by Wrobel, but the Azzurri answered to go back to a two-goal cushion.

Poland pulled their goalie and Lyszczarczyk scored to make it 5-4, however, Poland ran out of time. With the loss this meant that the Hungarians controlled their own destiny and Poland needed help from Slovenia.

With a second chance at capturing the gold, Hungary was determined not to miss out on it. Like throughout the tournament the forward line of Peter, Revesz and Sagi was on the ice for the opening goal. Revesz won the faceoff and Peter one-timed it past the goalie.

In the second period Slovenia flipped the score on goals by Zorko and Maver. In the second intermission coach Chernomaz fired up his team for a comeback attempt in the third period, and this time they did it.

101 seconds into the third frame Revesz banged home a goal to make it a one goal-game with team captain Stipsicz scoring from the right face-off circle on the ensuing shift to tie the game at three. Minutes later Sagi put his stick on a bouncing puck in front of the goal and slapped it in for the Hungarian lead.

Stipsicz summed up the past week for his team: “It is huge that this team stuck together the way it did. I don’t think I have ever been a part of a team like this that came back so many times and in so many games in such hard circumstances. We had cohesion and team spirit. Tt was amazing how this team came together. This is what helped us prevail in all the games throughout the tournament.”

With the win Hungary won the gold medals, earned promotion to the Division I Group A and is ranked 17th overall in the U20 program – the highest ranking since reaching the same place in 2008.

Like last year Poland finished in second place and Slovenia was third. In the closing match of the day Ukraine beat Great Britain 3-1 in a battle to avoid relegation.