Month: January 2017 (Page 2 of 4)

Uphill task for ice hockey boys

By C.Y. Lee – The Star Online

THE national ice hockey team is facing a challenging path in preparing for upcoming competitions, especially for this year’s SEA Games, which will see ice hockey being played for the first time.

Not having a proper sized ice rink that can accommodate to their training needs is the biggest concern, right next to not having proper matches in accordance with international standards.

But under the circumstances, national coach Kristof Kovago is content with the team’s progress during the past few weeks.

The Hungarian preparing the squad for this year’s SEA Games said the team had vastly improved its speed and teamwork since returning from a training camp in South Korea last month.

 Kristof said the aim was to become competitive for upcoming events such as next month’s Asian Winter Games (AWG) in Sapporo, Japan, and build up with more competitions before the SEA Games in August.

“I was pleasantly surprised that the players were able to hold up during the intense training. Some of them fell ill due to the colder climate but there was only one case of serious injury,” he said about the training and friendly matches with South Korean schools teams and clubs from local leagues.

“The temperature was around minus three degrees Celsius, which is what the AWG will be like,” he told StarMetro before a training session at the Icescape Ice Rink in IOI City Mall, Putrajaya.

He added that while some players had gone for training overseas on an individual basis, it was the first time the players went for a camp as a team.

“Imagine, some of them had never even played a five-on-five game.

“They didn’t know how to use the fifth person. They were also not used to full-contact games and playing with proper stop time because we cannot get enough ice time here,” he said.

Lack of proper games, training and teams willing to play full-contact ice hockey means their form has been on a plateau. For now, they can only keep on training.

“Over there, we were able to watch and analyse the videos of our games but we cannot do that here because we don’t have proper games. The players and I, we grew a lot from that camp.

“I think we are behind where we should be at the moment, but if the new Olympic-sized ice hockey rink in Empire City Damansara opens in time, we have a chance to catch up,” Kristof noted.

For the coming Winter Games, Malaysian Ice Hockey Federation has been able to line up friendly games and practice sessions a few days before the tournament.

“Right now I am working on their drills to get them comfortable on the ice so they can focus on teamwork when the time comes.

“Obviously, everybody wants to win, but our goals are a little bit different. To me, the AWG is more of a stepping stone to gain more experience and for the players to learn to play as a team,” Kristof said about expectations for the team in Japan.

“It is also means more exposure to full-contact five-on-five games, which will be helpful in preparing for the SEA Games. At the same time, we want to do well against teams like Indonesia, Macau and Iran.

He added that it would be difficult going up against teams that field imported professional players for the upcoming games but Kristof remains optimistic.

“You’ll never know, this is ice hockey and anything can happen.

“Ultimately, we have to get ourselves competitive but if we don’t get enough matches before the SEA Games we will not be able to do that.

“We also have another idea of inviting teams over to help with preparations but we have to cover some of their expenses.”

Home crowd a spur in bid for gold

Otago’s representatives in the New Zealand junior team Ben Harford (left), Felipe Aguirre-Landshoeft (second left) and Seamus Leahy (right) and captain Mason Kennedy (second right) at the Dunedin Ice Stadium yesterday. The team will compete in the under-20 division three world championships at the stadium from Monday until Sunday

By Jeff Cheshire – Otago Daily Times

Three Otago players are set to play on the world stage at home.

The Dunedin Ice Stadium will host the under-20 division three world championships this week. While the New Zealand team is excited, the contest shapes to be especially significant for Dunedin Thunder players Felipe Aguirre-Landshoeft and Seamus Leahy, and Southern Stampede player Ben Harford. All three were in the New Zealand team that won gold at the under-18 tournament last year. They are hoping to emulate that feat in front of their family and friends.

“It is pretty cool to be able to play at home,” Leahy said.

“Obviously New Zealand doesn’t have a huge ice hockey base. So it’s cool to actually show your mates what you’re training for and what you’re working for all year round.”

The team arrived yesterday after holding a 10-day training camp in Auckland. It had played three warm-up matches against a New Zealand men’s league invitational team, winning one, and had one left against Iceland. New Zealand will begin its campaign on Monday at 8.30pm against Turkey. It will then play South Africa and Bulgaria on Tuesday and Thursday. A top-two finish in the pool is needed to advance to the semifinals. Captain Mason Kennedy said the team was well prepared, but he did not want to make a prediction as to how it would go.

“It’s hard to say at the moment,” he said.

“We don’t really know what the other teams bring. So we’re going to have to watch over the first few games and see where everyone’s ranking.”

The New Zealand game was more physical than the international one. That was something the players had to adjust to, although Aguirre-Landshoeft said New Zealand was still known as the “hitting team”. It looked to use that in its favour, creating an intimidation factor.

The team’s goal was to win gold and get promoted to division two. New Zealand had done that previously, although staying in the higher division proved challenging. There was plenty of motivation to achieve that goal, particularly for the Otago players.

“The three of us would still be in that team next year,” Harford said.

“So we’d love a shot at seeing what hockey’s like at another step up again.”

That did not dampen the drive for those in their final year in the under-20s, though.

“We all believe heavily in leaving the jersey in a better place than when you take it on,” Kennedy said.

“So I think we’re pretty happy to leave the team better than how we found it.”

The tournament runs from Monday to Sunday. Games begin at 10am and run throughout the day.

Hyukjin scores twice to give Korea promotion

By Andy Potts –

Two goals from Hyukjin Lee helped Korea U20 to victory over Spain in Logrono and sent his country back up to Division IIA one year after relegation.

But it took a breathless finale featuring five goals in barely six minutes, plus a passage of 6-on-3 play as Spain threw everything at the Koreans, before the hooter sounded on a 5-3 win for head coach Hyung Jun Cho and his team.

For the host, though, the defeat means another year of frustration in second place, just as Spain endured 12 months ago, when Romania won this section.

The Spanish came into this winner-takes-all showdown against Korea with a one-point advantage after the two teams dominated the competition. Spain picked up crushing victories over Australia (15-2) and Mexico (10-0) to enjoy a goal difference of +28 from four games, while the Koreans also ran riot against the team from Latin America, winning 12-0 on its way to a +18 record. The only blemish for either team came in Korea’s first game, when it needed a shootout to edge past Serbia after a 2-2 tie.

Despite those free-scoring performances, though, it took some time for this game to ignite. The first big opportunity came midway through the first period when Spain’s Ignacio Granell was denied by a great last-ditch challenge from Yun Ho Kim as he shaped to shoot. Granell did better in the 16th minute, opening the scoring with a wicked shot from the face-off spot, even as he tumbled under the attentions of a Korean D-man.

That sparked the visitor into life and the remaining minutes of the period were dominated by Korea. Hyukjin Lee forced the equalizer with 1:45 left to play, exchanging passes with Je Hui Lee behind the net and squeezing the puck home from a tight angle.

The middle stanza saw both teams get a chance to show off their power play, with Korea’s Heedoo Nam and Spain’s Bruno Baldris seeking to orchestrate the offence and capitalize on the numerical advantage. Baldris had the better of that duel, despite Korea enjoying 61 seconds of 5-on-3 play, but the only goal of the period came in the 39th minute. A Spanish attack broke down, Korea countered quickly and Byung Gun Kim wrestled control of the puck behind Lucas Serna’s net. His attempt pass to the slot was deflected, and Ki Suk Lee responded quickest to step up from the point and fire his team ahead.

In the final stanza, with Spain desperate to come back into the game, the host made a lively start and was up 7-2 on shots after five minutes. But Hyounseop Shim in the Korean net was equal to the task and the play steadily became more open as Korea found space on the counter attack. Serna made a big save to deny Byung Gun Kim in front of the net, Spain failed in a one-on-one breakout. Then Korea’s pair of Lees combined once again. Je Hui took the puck into the Spanish zone and set up Hyukjin for a wrist shot from between the hash marks to open a two-goal lead with barely six minutes left.

That was the prelude to some crazy scenes. Two Korean penalties in the space of 13 seconds encouraged Spain to gamble, withdrawing Serna to play 6-on-3. Granell thought he’d got one back when his shot bounced goalwards off a Korean arm; the officials ruled otherwise. Then Granell did get his second of the night after Alfonso Garcia touched Oriol Rubio’s shot into his path.

Spanish joy lasted just seven seconds. Still shorthanded, Korea won the face off and Byung Gun Kim skated through to surprise Serna with a shot over the glove. Korea believed it was safe, but only for 16 seconds when Juan Monge forced home the rebound after Garcia’s shot crashed back off the boards and into the danger zone. Serna headed to the bench once again, but this time Spain coughed up possession and Je Hui Lee added an empty net goal to his two assists.

Spain missed out on gold, but did achieve some individual successes. Rubio’s assist gave him 11 points for the competition, sharing the top scorer honours with Bruno Baldris and Serbia’s Mirko Djumic. Baldris and Rubio were selected as the best defenseman and forward respectively, while the top goalie was Serbia’s Jug Mitic. Granell’s double made him joint leading goalscorer alongside Serbia’s Luka Vukicevic, with six apiece. Baldris finished with 10 assists, way out in front on that chart. For Korea, Heedoo Nam led the scoring with 1+7=8 points, while Hyukjin Lee was the team’s leading goalscorer with five.

Outside of the race for gold, Serbia completed the top three with 10 points from five games. The Serbian first line of Djumic (3+8), Vukicevic (6+3) and Lazar Lestaric (5+4) ensured the Balkan country was well-represented among the competition’s leading scorers. Belgium took fourth place, and Mexico escaped relegation back to Division III with a nerve-jangling 6-5 overtime win over Australia. The Australians, without a victory all week, finished last and face the drop.

Retiring star Hayley Wickenheiser paved the way for female hockey players

By Donna Spencer – The Canadian Press

CALGARY — When Hayley Wickenheiser sees girls dragging hockey bags into arenas, she feels a sense of accomplishment.

 The normalcy of girls playing hockey is what she sweated for, fought for, and shed tears for.

When Wickenheiser started playing 33 years ago, there were no girls’ teams. She played with boys and wasn’t always welcomed by players or their parents.

“The greatest stride’s been made in the acceptance of girls playing the game,” says Wickenheiser. “Any little girl in this country can walk into a hockey rink and no one is going to think twice or look twice. There’s female hockey change rooms in a lot of rinks now.

“I remember when I was a kid, I hid in the bathroom and tucked my hair up so no one would know I was a girl. I just went through hell really, to play. Girls don’t have to go through hell anymore to play hockey.”

The fact that female hockey has arrived at this stage puts some soothing balm on the difficult decision to end her playing career.

The country’s all-time leading scorer announced her retirement Friday after 23 years on the Canadian women’s team and almost a dozen Olympic and world championship gold medals.

“Dear Canada. It has been the great honour of my life to play for you. Time to hang em up!! Thank you!” Wickenheiser posted on her Twitter account.

Not only was Wickenheiser a star in women’s hockey when the game desperately needed one, she changed perceptions of what women are capable of in sport.

The 38-year-old from Shaunavon, Sask., told The Canadian Press in a sometimes tearful interview she didn’t want to postpone her entrance into medical school any longer.

“It has been the greatest honour of my life to play for Canada,” Wickenheiser said. “I’ll miss it.”

The number of registered female players in Canada went from 16,000 in her first year on the national team to almost 87,000 today.

Bob Nicholson, who was Hockey Canada’s president and chief executive officer during most of Wickenheiser’s career, said she played a big role in giving “girls the dreams that boys had.”

“Her record speaks for itself winning so many gold medals, but in years to come, the biggest memory will be how she inspired so many girls to play the game,” said Nicholson, now CEO of Oilers Entertainment Group. “She always was harder on herself than any of her teammates and pushed herself to excellence.”

Her forays into men’s professional hockey in Finland and Sweden set new standards on how much a woman can be pushed physically. She played a combined 65 men’s pro games in Europe.

Her decision to play with and against men wasn’t unanimously supported at home. Some female teammates believed she should stay in Canada and help grow women’s leagues here.

But Wickenheiser made choices she felt would make her a better player, which meant leaving her comfort zones.

She trained in her off-seasons with NHL players, making headlines skating in Philadelphia Flyers rookie camps when she was in her early 20s.

“I’m comfortable being uncomfortable,” Wickenheiser said.

Danielle Goyette said Wickenheiser was a driven woman when they were linemates on the national team and when Goyette coached her at the University of Calgary.

“She’s the kind of athlete that never took ‘no’ for an answer,” Goyette said. “What I mean by that is she wants to push the limits of women’s hockey.

“She didn’t have to (train) with guys, but she always tried to train with somebody stronger than her to make sure that she’s pushing herself to the max.

“She went to Europe and played hockey with the men, full-body contact. I don’t know a lot of girls who would put themselves through that.”

Hockey isn’t done with Wickenheiser. There will be opportunities for her to work in the game. She said she’s had discussions with people in the NHL, but there are no concrete plans yet.

“I have to see how that all fits in with where I’m going in medicine and the rest of my life,” Wickenheiser said.

She was an Oilers fan idolizing Mark Messier as a young girl. Wickenheiser, who has lived in Calgary since she was 12, will be honoured in a pre-game ceremony Saturday in Edmonton before the Oilers host the Calgary Flames.

“It’s a celebration and of course it’s really emotional,” she said. “It’s sad in some ways because you’re leaving a part of your life behind, but it’s also exciting in other ways.

“There are other things I’ve wanted to do for a long time. I have other opportunities within the game and in medicine to pursue. I just didn’t want to wait to do that.”

But there have been sleepless nights coming to that conclusion.

Just six months ago, Wickenheiser said she wanted to wear the Maple Leaf at a sixth Winter Games in 2018 and pursue a fifth gold medal. It would have been Wickenheiser’s seventh Olympic Games as she also played softball for Canada in 2000.

“It would have been great to play in one more,” she said. “The more I thought about it, it would have been too long to wait.

“It’s a tough decision, but it’s going to be the right one.”

Wickenheiser underwent surgery in 2015 to have a plate and eight screws inserted in her left foot.

Her playing minutes reduced in her 13th world championship last year in Kamloops, B.C., she still drew the loudest cheers during player introductions.

Her body of work in hockey is broad, deep and unique.

A five-foot-10, 171-pound forward with a heavy shot and creative hands, No. 22 was the dominant female player in the world in this century’s first decade.

Named MVP of the 2002 and 2006 Olympic women’s hockey tournaments, Wickenheiser’s 379 career points for Canada — 168 goals and 211 assists in 276 games — will be difficult to match.

The active player with most points is Meghan Agosta at 155 in 155 games.

Wickenheiser is one of just five athletes in the world — joined by retired teammates Jayna Hefford and Caroline Ouellette — to win gold at four consecutive Winter Games.

Wickenheiser intends to continue getting girls into hockey. She’s now committing through her annual international female hockey festival Wickfest to fund 22 girls who otherwise couldn’t afford to play.

Wickenheiser is confident there will be a women’s pro hockey league some day, with the NHL’s help.

She’s been a mom since 2001 when she adopted the infant son of her then-partner Tomas Pacina. Wickenheiser continued to co-parent Noah, now in high school, after the relationship ended.

Hockey is precious in Canada so Wickenheiser’s message to the next generation is to take care of it.

“Don’t ask ‘What can I get out of the game?’ Ask ‘What can I give to the game?'” she said. “Take everything you can from the game and give everything you can back to it and it will reward you well.”

KHL All-Star jerseys are ridiculously cool, created by Bauer

By Greg Wyshynski – Yahoo Sports

The “color rush” jersey has become a thing in the NFL, where vibrant hues pop through your HDTV screens and either make you feel like you’re watching a rainbow or looking at the aftermath of your dog eating a box of crayons.

But bold colors are a trend in sports, and the KHL is on that trend for its 2017 All-Star Game and “Week of Hockey Stars” in Ufa.

Check out these duds, designed by North American equipment giant Bauer, for the events beginning on Jan. 15.

The biggest shows of the season from all three leagues – the KHL, YHL and WHL – are all to be staged during the Week of Hockey Stars in Ufa, running from the 15th to the 22nd of January, 2017, and the elite players who take part will be kitted out in gloves, leggings and helmets sporting a unique color scheme specially created for the event by Bauer. 

This special consignment for participants of the 2017 Week of Hockey Stars signals a new step in diversifying the look of Russian hockey. A refusal to adhere to the tradition of mixing only the darker hues allows the designers to experiment with new colors: lush greens, bright blues and sparkling gold. It will be the first time in Russia that the players in an event as big as the All-Star Game will be clad in gloves and pads designed to harmonize with the team jerseys.

Another result of this partnership will be an auction, devised by the Inter-Kommerts company together with the KHL and held after the close of the Week of Hockey Stars, at which many of the coveted items of equipment will be sold to the highest bidder, with the proceeds going to a very good cause – a charity providing sports equipment for a children’s sledge hockey league.

Bauer found that 87 percent of KHL players are using their skates, and 55 percent are using their sticks.

Congrats to the KHL on some sweet jerseys, even if the California Golden Seals alumni association might ask for residuals.

And congrats to Bauer on this new involvement with the KHL. Here’s hoping they were paid up front.

KHL Announces 2017 All-Star Game Rosters

By Alessandro Seren Rosso The Hockey Writers

The KHL recently announced the 2017 All-Star Game rosters through the event’s official website. The All-Star Game will be different from previous editions. Events will be spread out starting from Jan. 15 with the MHL All-Star Game and will be held in Ufa, home of the 2013 World Junior Championships when the United States won the gold medal against Team Sweden.

The top four juniors from the MHL game will then skate in the KHL All-Star Game, which will be held on Jan. 22. Other events include the “Masters Show” (skills competition) on Jan. 21 and the first-ever Russian Women’s Hockey League All-Star game on Jan. 19.

For the KHL game, the players will be split into four divisional teams, each made up of one goalie, three defensemen, and six forwards. As mentioned, the teams will receive one player each from the MHL game.

The player with the most fan votes was Sergei Mozyakin, with more than 5,800. The most represented teams are CSKA Moscow and SKA St. Petersburg, with four players each.

KHL All-Star Game Rosters

Bobrov Division

Goalie: Igor Shestyorkin (NYR); Defensemen: Matthew Gilroy, Chay Genoway, Vyacheslav Voynov; Forwards: Pavel Datsyuk, Ilya Kovalchuk, Matt Ellison, Ryan Stoa, Jonathan Cheechoo, Francis Pare.

Tarasov Division

Goalie: Ilya Sorokin (NYI); Defensemen: Mat Robinson, Igor Ozhiganov, Oscar Fantenberg; Forwards: Valeri Nichushkin (DAL), Brandon Kozun, Ivan Telegin (WPG), Maxim Afinogenov, Dmitri Kagarlitsky, Vladimir Galuzin.

Kharlamov Division

Goalie: Pavel Francouz; Defensemen: Chris Lee, Kirill Koltsov; Forwards: Sergei Mozyakin, Vladimir Tkachyov, Anatoli Golyshev (NYI), Dan Sexton, Nikita Filatov, Danis Zaripov, Jakub Kovar.

Chernyshev Division

Goalie: Igor Bobkov; Defensemen: Evgeny Medvedev, Zakhar Arzamastsev, Jan Kolar; Forwards: Linus Omark, Maxim Shalunov (CHI), Vladimir Sobotka (STL), Kirill Kaprizov (MIN), Nigel Dawes, Chad Rau.

It is expected that this year’s event will be as entertaining as the other ones, especially with the new format that should make the games a bit meaningful for players too.

Probably the best KHL All-Star Game was the very first one, held at the Red Square in Moscow between Team Yashin and Team Jagr, but other events were well-attended too and this year’s event promises to have great attendance as well, as the Ufa-Arena crowd is one of the most passionate in Russia.

There are a good number of NHL prospects featured in the game. The New York Islanders will have two players, as Sorokin and Golyshev made the rosters. Golyshev was called to the game thanks to the fans’ votes.

Metallurg Magnitogorsk star Mozyakin is at his ninth All-Star Game as he skated in every single All-Star event since the league was born. The only other player to do the same is Montreal Canadiens forward Alexander Radulov (although he missed the 14-15 game due to an injury), who will obviously miss this year’s even as he is now skating in the National Hockey League.

You can find more information about the events, including rosters for the MHL and Women’s League All-Star Games, on the event’s official website.

Women’s hockey pushes forward but a familiar question remains: What happens next?

Haley Irwin of the Calgary Inferno tapes up her stick prior to their Canadian Women’s Hockey League game against Les Canadiennes at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Dec. 10, 2016

By Eric Duhatschek – The Globe and Mail

The most dramatic and uplifting hockey game played at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi didn’t feature Alex Ovechkin or Sidney Crosby or Patrick Kane. It occurred in the gold-medal match between the Canadian and U.S. women, a game that went down to the wire. Canada tied it in the dying seconds and then won in overtime, after a U.S. shot at the empty net in regulation came gently to rest at the goal post.

It was high drama. It had a pleasing heroine – Marie-Philip Poulin, who has scored the golden goal for Canada’s women in back-to-back Olympics – and it had an opportunity once again to jump-start interest in the sport of women’s hockey.

So here we are, just over a year out from another Olympics, and while the landscape for women’s hockey has changed and improved on some levels, it still hasn’t caught on with the viewing public in any meaningful or long-lasting way.

Many of the best young female players can earn scholarships and play at a reasonably high level in the U.S. college system.

The problem is what happens next, after their eligibility runs out.

Right now, there are two competing professional leagues to choose from – the five-team Canadian Women’s Hockey League and the four-team National Women’s Hockey League. The CWHL doesn’t pay its players. It covers costs, and some equipment, but not sticks and skates. The NWHL, founded in 2015, does pay salaries, though they are modest and, recently, introduced a 50-per-cent across-the-board pay cut to its players on the grounds that it was the only way to get to season’s end, without folding.

If that sounds eerily similar to the rivalry that once existed between the NHL and the World Hockey Association, there may indeed be a parallel.

Former Canadian Olympian Cassie Campbell-Pascall, a CWHL board member and a Hockey Night in Canada commentator, believes the league’s relationship with the NHL is its best hope of one day morphing into a for-profit operation that pays its players a living wage.

“The NHL is watching us, they’re interested in us and they want it to work,” Campbell-Pascall said. “To be honest, what kills women’s hockey is people who don’t understand the big picture. It’s about eventually having a relationship with the NHL, where we have a professional league, and all of our teams fall under the umbrella of NHL teams.

“We have two leagues right now and I think we need the powers-that-be – the people who lead our leagues – to come together and make it one to make it successful.”

The CWHL has seen some heartening moments this year. On the second Saturday of December, a crowd of 5,938 attended a game at the Bell Centre when Les Canadiennes de Montreal defeated the defending champion Calgary Inferno 1-0 in a battle for first place. In February, the annual CWHL all-star game will be played at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto. For the second year in a row, Ottawa’s Canadian Tire Centre will hold the Clarkson Cup.

Playing in an NHL building boosts the credibility of the CWHL, which counts among its 13 major sponsors, four NHL teams – the Canadiens, the Senators, the Maple Leafs and the Calgary Flames. Caroline Ouellette, the CWHL’s career scoring leader and a four-time Olympic gold medalist, believes the association with the Canadiens has helped immeasurably in spreading the gospel of women’s hockey in her market.

“When we used to be the Montreal Stars, we would meet people and they didn’t even know we played hockey in Montreal,” Ouellette said. “When we rebranded with the Montreal Canadiens, it was a bit of a feeling that we were now part of their organization. Hopefully, this is a start.”

Oullette, like Campbell-Pascall, sees the evolving relationship with the NHL as the most effective means of going forward, noting bluntly: “For me, it’s a question of gender equality – for young girls to have the same dream as young boys. Right now, that really doesn’t exist.

“I don’t think my teammates and I am delusional and think we can fill an NHL building at the moment. I don’t think anyone is aiming for million-dollar salaries. But if it was an amount that would allow players to make a living playing the game and not have to work full-time, imagine how great the product can get.”

Until that happens, the majority of the CWHL’s unpaid professionals play for love of the sport. In turn, that has obliged them to become skilled multitaskers in order to fit jobs, family and life around their hockey schedules. National team players have an advantage, because of Sport Canada funding, sponsorship deals and other perks associated with their positions.

But the rank-and-file players – the equivalent of the NHL journeymen – play mostly in anonymity, their primary reward the chance to keep playing into their 20s and beyond.

Jacquie Pierri, an assistant captain with the Inferno, is a mechanical engineer who works for Atco full-time doing natural gas pipeline design. On a day in early December, she was up at 6 in the morning to drive to Edmonton for a meeting. After it was over, she headed back to Calgary and arrived less than an hour before practice, where her meal was an egg-salad sandwich bought at the WinSport cafeteria before she took to the ice for a 90-minute workout.

“Today was a little unique,” Pierri said. “A normal day is a little less hectic. I usually work 8:30 to 5 – but it can be tough because I don’t have time to cook and prepare meals – and it’s really hard to get the compete-level up for practice after you’ve worked all day.”

Many times, the Inferno will travel on a game day – flying cross country and then playing that same night. One time a few years back, they took a red-eye flight east and arrived in Montreal, where only two of their hotel rooms were ready for occupancy. It forced them to improvise – and they crammed 10 women into each room, getting their pre-game sleeps sprawled on the beds, sofas and floors.

Jeff Stevenson, GM of the Inferno, says that when he started with the organization three years ago, the team played at Calgary’s Joan Snyder Arena, capacity 220, and often there were more empty seats than spectators. Recently, they’ve switched to the larger arena at WinSport and depending upon the promotions they’ve put on, can draw upward of 1,500 to a game.

“What I’ve noticed is that now we’ve got people who are buying season tickets, they’re buying hats and jerseys and T-shirts, and they’re walking into games, already geared up to cheer on the team,” Stevenson said. “So we’ve established a very small group of loyal fans, which is great. It’s a building block. But we have a rink here that holds 3,200 people. There’s a lot of work still to be done to fill that on a regular basis. That’s my goal – to see that happen in the next few years.”

Ouellette believes potential fans need to see women’s hockey as a distinct game and entertainment entity – and instead of comparing and contrasting it to the men’s game, celebrate the differences.

“One of our challenges today is that we get compared to the boys all the time,” she said. “In tennis, people would never say, ‘oh, Serena Williams should play Roger Federer and see who wins’ – and yet, we still hear that all the time. Our best player, Marie-Philip Poulin, doesn’t train any less than Sidney Crosby. She’ll never shoot as hard as he does, but their vision on the ice is incredible and exactly the same.

“We hope that we can get to a point where people recognize it is different hockey – and appreciate it the way they appreciate women’s tennis as its own sport.”

CWHL commissioner Brenda Andress makes a tour of the league once a year in the same way NHL commissioner Gary Bettman tours his league, in order to bring the players up to date on the growth of the game and the challenges that remain.

Recently, Andress was in Calgary, to address the Inferno players about the present and the future – and the challenges of operating in the black, with limited revenues coming in through ticket sales.

“I want them to know where the money’s coming from and where the money’s going to, so they have a complete knowledge of what’s going on,” Andress said. “They might say, ‘why aren’t we getting paid?’ Well, ‘this is why.’ The more information we can give them, the more knowledge they have of the league and the better they can support the league.”

According to Andress, the CWHL product has never been better. “Now it’s just about marketing. The four teams in Canada – the parity is here, the players are phenomenal, the coaches are great, the partnerships are great. The thing that’s lacking is the funding.

“They say hockey is for everyone in Canada. It isn’t. It’s for boys. If we get a $10,000 to $20,000 sponsor, we’re lucky. Then you look at some of the money companies are putting into male sports. It’s really about individuals standing up and supporting women’s sports by actually doing something – writing a cheque or buying a ticket. That’s how simple it is – and that’s what has to happen.”

Ideally, in the CWHL’s strategic plan, they would like to start paying their players soon. “But at the same time, we realize once we pay our players, we want to pay them forever,” Campbell-Pascall said.

“I think we can have a future women’s NHL. The players aren’t going to be paid very much to start, but I think players who are 10 to 12 years old now are going to have a professional league to play in – and it’s going to be solid and it’s going to make money. I really believe that.”

Finland Wins Nations Cup

By Jason La Rose – Hockey Canada

Emerance Maschmeyer (Bruderheim, Alta./Calgary, CWHL) turned aside 17 of the 18 shots she faced, but Canada’s National Women’s Development Team was left with the silver medal at the 2017 Nations Cup after a 1-0 loss to Finland in the gold medal game Saturday.

Canada has won now silver twice at the Nations Cup (2009, 2017) and is a 11-time gold medallist, winning in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2016. It also took bronze in 2012. After an evenly-matched first period, Finland struck for the only goal of the game early in the second; with the Finns on the power play, Emma Nuutinen set up Michelle Karvinen to make it 1-0.

That would be all the offence Finland would need thanks to goaltender Noora Raty. The three-time recipient of Top Goaltender honours at the IIHF Women’s World Championship (2007, 2008, 2011) stopped all 27 shots she faced to record the shutout.

The Canadians failed to convert on seven power-play opportunities and outshot Finland 27-18, including 10-2 in the third period as they pressed for the game-tying goal. Victoria Bach (Milton, Ont,/Boston University, HE) finished as the top Canadian scorer; her five points (two goals, three assists)

Lebanon vs Haiti in a Friendly


By National Teams of Ice Hockey

Montreal  is a city that has made lots of hockey history but on April 23rd at 7pm at Raymond-Bourque Arena two countries will be making their international debut Lebanon will be taking on Haiti in a friendly ice hockey game. 

There is a strong chance that former NHL player Georges Laraque is going to be playing on the Haiti team. He is the director of the Haiti Association.

Haiti is no stranger to the game of hockey In 2015 Haiti’s national street hockey team defeated the Cayman Islands 4:2 to win the finals of the B-pool of the Street Hockey World Championship in Zug, Switzerland.

Lebanon ball Hockey tea

Lebanon is new to the sport but they are trying to qualify for the 2017 World Ball Hockey Championships.

For both countries this ice hockey game will be another way to promote the sport in their communities and their countries. We wish them all the best.

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.”

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