MANILA – The Philippines has a national ice hockey team and it’s aiming for the gold in the upcoming Southeast Asian Games in August.
French-Filipino Francois Gautier, general manager of Hockey Philippines, said they will be holding the Philippine Ice Hockey Tournament starting Wednesday to help prepare the team for the SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur.
Gautier said they will be tested against hockey teams from Korea, Taipei and Singapore. Some of these clubs are expected to field professional players.
“These teams that are coming are a lot stronger than the teams that we’re competing against in the SEA Games,” Gautier noted.
According to Gautier, Thailand is the heavy favorite in the biennial games, but is expected to face rough sailing due to a complaint it received in the Sapporo event.
Gautier noted that the Thai team brought five Swedish players in that event and if those players won’t be eligible for SEA Games, then the Philippines will come in as the favorites.
“I’m not gonna guarantee a gold, but that’s what we’re going for. We’re not going to settle for anything less,” he said.
It will be the first time that the Philippines is fielding an ice hockey team to compete at the SEA Games.
“The goal is to prepare the team for SEA Games. What better preparation than to play them against some really tough competition?” Gautier said at the Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) forum at Golden Phoenix Hotel in Pasay City.
The Philippine team recently won bronze in the 2017 Winter Asian Games in Sapporo, Japan last February. Its best win was a rousing victory over Qatar, 14-2.
The Karjala Tournament, one of the men’s national team events of the Euro Hockey Tour, will grow to six teams. The traditional four national squads of the Czech Republic, Finland, Russia and Sweden will be joined by Canada and Switzerland.
“There was desire from Canada to play against Euro Hockey Tour countries,” said the Finland Ice Hockey Association’s General Director Matti Nurminen. “The significance of the Karjala Tournament for the teams involved this year is particularly high. As NHL players are not going to join the Olympics in February, players from other leagues will give a taste of the Olympics at the Karjala Tournament.”
Switzerland as the fifth-best European nation in the IIHF World Ranking was invited as well and will complete the six-team tournament in Finland.
The event, known as Karjala-turnaus in Finnish, has been held every season since 1995/96 and is one of the most prestigious annual invitational tournaments for men’s national teams outside of the Worlds and Olympics. It usually takes place in November in Helsinki. Last year’s event was won by Russia.
For Canada the Karjala Tournament held 8-12 November will be a major opportunity to test players from Europe ahead of the 2018 Olympic Winter Games as will be the Spengler Cup in Davos, Switzerland, 26-31 December.
Ticket sale for the event will start on 31 August it was announced by the Finnish Ice Hockey Association and the schedule will be released in mid-August.
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