Month: May 2020

The Budding Winter Sports Scene of Pakistan

There is immense potential to develop winter sports in Pakistan and the 2020 season was just the tip of the iceberg, says organizers

By Sonia Ashraf – Redbull,com

Winter sports and adventure sports events have been happening for some time now, but it was from the beginning of this year that word really started spreading about all the activities that are actually happening in Pakistan.

The season started with a range of skiing and snowboarding competitions held at Malam Jabba and Naltar – the two main ski resorts of the country.

The Hindukush Snow Sports Festival held in Chitral, along with the Snow Marathon and a Winter Sports Gala held in Malam Jabba were received with a lot of positivity by the attendees and the residents of the areas. With such events attracting people from all over the world, it has done wonders for the tourism industry of the country.

We spoke to Air Commodore (Retd.) Shahid Nadeem, a prominent name in Pakistan’s winter sports who has been associated with such events and activities for the last 28 years; he is the former secretary of Winter Sports Federation and now Convener, Adventure Group National Tourism Coordination Board. “I’m making the calendar for 2021 where we intend to hold the national championships for the first time in curling, ice hockey and skating.

“We’ve had several festivals since the beginning of the year. There are certain events that are happening every year and some events happened for the first time this year – like the International Snowboarding Festival – and hopefully we will keep building on these. One of our events in January, the Winter Sports Circuit, had two coaches coming from abroad who even conducted classes for the local participants,” says Shahid.

Snow Marathon 2020

He shared that events this year had been very successful. An example was the Snow Marathon that happened at Malam Jabba in March – which was the first of its kind and attracted around 120 people.

The organizers put in immense effort in making this event a possibility and the participants had a wonderful experience. What is really encouraging to see is that from Chitral to Swat to GB, winter sports such as skiing, snowboarding and ice skating are getting popular in Pakistan’s northern regions.

In general, more people are joining these activities with the number of athletes increasing with every event.

For Pakistan, things are gradually building up for winter sports. Previously there was only one destination, Naltar, where some activities took place. Now, there are many locations that have started such events and many places that are being explored.

Malam Jabba’s comparatively close proximity to the capital and its geographical features make it ideal for winter sports events, which is why many training programs have kicked off there.

There are also areas such as Madak Lusht and many more in the works that have also started conducted events. Compared to last year, the amount of tourist that visited this time was double.

There are 8-10 winter sports clubs in Gilgit-Baltistan that allow for people to get plenty of opportunity to partake in winter sports activities. One can confidently say there’s a lot more to look forward to.

Malam Jabba & its geographical features make it ideal for winter sports

With the introduction of new sports such as ice hockey, curling, figure skating and winter action adventure sports people now have more options. Furthermore, it is becoming easier for people to enjoy these sports with much less expenditures, since all one needs is to rent shoes and they can enjoy for the whole day.

In winters, with lakes freezing over, outdoor ice rinks are affordable to make because of the temperature. However, the plan is to make such things accessible all year round.

Pakistan has some of the biggest glaciers outside the polar region and some of the highest mountains but there were no activities in these areas especially the Northern Pakistan as far as the winter season is concerned.

Initially the aim was to popularize winter tourism, through creating winter sports events in these areas. Now that it has been kicked off, there’s no stopping it. In fact, now, Shahid Nadeem even has plans for the summers.

“We’re working on indoor ice rinks – like the ones we have in cities – where we can hold different series of ice sports competitions during the summertime,” said Nadeem. “Our purpose is to facilitate the region and build the capacity for various events, which is eventually going to lead to an increase of tourism in these areas.”

These efforts to make winter sports accessible all year round and increasing the events will lead to an increase in tourism. “With several organizations such as Red Bull helping out, we can definitely hope for a lot more interesting events to take place in the future,” says Nadeem.

Maksim Laptev: “Serbs are still Freaks

By Vitali Nesterov – National Teams of Ice Hockey

Russian hockey player Maksim Laptev gave an interview to NToIH and talked about why he left Novosibirsk for Serbia at the age of 17 and why Serbia is the best country for playing hockey, despite the fact that he played in Finland.

About yourself?

I was born on December 14, 1994 in Novosibirsk. I’m also a pupil of Siberia, I spent all my childhood there until the age of 16-17. In 2011, I was at a summer camp in Novosibirsk. Since many in our city already played in Serbia, I received an offer to go play in the Hungarian championship. One Russian hockey player wrote to me saying If I want to play in Serbia. I gave my consent, and he gave my consent to Alex Andjelic (trainer in Serbia). Alex wrote to me on Facebook. The team was based in Serbia in Novi Sad. They provided everyone an apartment, three meals a day, a salary of 300 euros. Plus, tickets to Serbia, a Russian school, equipment, and so on. In general, I want to go and play. What could I think I was 16 years old? Live alone in chic conditions, play hockey and get paid. My Parents were shocked, of course, from the fact that I decided to leave. but I really wanted it and therefore made a decision. Four other Russian players left with me.

We had a very strong coaching staff – Alex Andjelic was the head coach, Daniel Cuomo and Danny Peters were assistant coaches.

First Season in Serbia?

When I came to ice rink for the first time, it seems so easy to play, for me because Serbians are not technical and are not fast. They were the best players from all country.  We were given a task has a mission was to help Serbian players.

After years these Serbian players successfully perform in different leagues. The atmosphere was great and because of 5 Russian players, “they helped me to”. The club management was happy with the outcome of the season. We went to play-offs, we went two rounds.

After the season I went to Finland. I wanted to grow up as a player, I wanted to play in a where hockey was very popular. And of course money was the one of reason to come to Finland.

Text from Alex


Career in Finland?

My first Finnish team Et-Po 72, I had good experience with adult hockey players I would play with them and gain experience. The league where I played consisted mainly of hockey players who came home to play for their local club at the end of their careers. but some clubs also had higher paid players – they would buy players. After two seasons in Et-Po 72, in the 14/15 season I moved to the Lyamarit team from a higher division. The league was better there, since the Lapland region is the strongest in Finland, they are all teams on the same level. It was interesting, a good training process and competition, but in Lyamarit it was not possible to spend a full season, as I received a shoulder injury at the beginning of the season. Then I moved to another club – TIHC. This was the best club at that time, and they won the title that same year, but without me, because they refused my visa. Therefore, I had to look for something in the middle of the season and I received an offer from “Red Star” to play in the Slovenian championship. (For two seasons in Lyamyarit and TIHC Maxim played 11 matches, scored two goals and gave up two assists)

Maksim was part of Lyamyarit

Pros and cons of hockey in Serbia

The advantages of Serbian hockey is the thrill of life and playing in Serbia. You enjoy life and do what you love. It is warm there, summer cafes, restaurants, beautiful girls, nightlife – this is the best, probably from all the countries where I have been. Well, people, of course, are very fraternal to Russians.

Of the minuses, of course, is the lack of ice and stadiums. They don’t have ice in the summer and the guys do not train on ice 5-6 months after the end of the season.

In fact, there is no Serbian championship, the only two teams – “Red Star” and “Vojvodina”. they were always interested more in the Slovenian league, and the Serbian league exists only for IIHF requirements. This is necessary for the IIHF to have a team for the Continental Cup and a team for the World Championships.

About Serbian citizenship?

Initially, as soon as I arrived, I received an offer to make a passport. I started the registration process, I was busy with all the papers, but then I went to play in Finland and everything stopped. This year they called me and asked me to send all my documents to complete the process with my passport. I think everything would be ready for the World Championships. I didn’t ask this question much, because I was focused only on my team in France.

About a career in France

After “Red Star” I played two seasons in “Vojvodina”. In May 2018, I had knee surgery, the recovery was a long time, and I missed the summer camp. If you didn’t pass the training camp with the team in the summer, then it’s hard to get in shape and join somewhere in the middle of the season.  In November, only my agent wrote to me that there was an offer from Sweden and France. I understood that the main thing now is to play somewhere and get in shape and I chose France. They were given very good training, and I am happy to be here. Reims is a good city, and the club itself has a huge history and the have highest goals that we completed this year – we went up from the fourth division to the third.

Maksim as a member of Reims

The best season for hockey in Serbia?

I don’t know about there history, but everything turned out well in one year, that they won three championships. From the U20 team I know that many guys played outside of Serbia – in the championships of Hungary, Slovenia. Plus they have a very good trainer from Canada, Fred Perone.

And the national team held the World Championships at home. This is also a plus. I hope that in Serbia everything will improve for the better (In 2019, the Serbian national teams won tournaments in all their divisions: adult IIA, youth IIB and junior IIB, and 19-year-old striker Marko Dragovic was the only player who participated in all these tournaments)

Interesting fact?

Serbians are the freaks , It was my first season for “Vojvodina”. We played at some tournament for 2 days. I told my coach “I don’t want to play, I want to rest”, but on the second day he called me and said: “Come on, we need to win this tournament. I send a car for you”. In our team we had a lot of Serbians and a little bit Canadians. They were so weird. They do anything on the ice, but they can’t shoot.


Phil Esposito a hockey hero the world over

It didn’t matter the situation or the game, once Phil Esposito was on the ice, he wasn’t coming off any time soon.

By Kevin Paul Dupont – Boston Globe

Ex-Bruins great Phil Esposito, 78, has been a regular visitor to Russia in recent years, traveling there for speaking gigs and sometimes consulting with the Kontinental Hockey League, the country’s top pro league.

“I was supposed to go back over in March,” said Espo, reached at his home in Tampa, “but obviously . . . that got changed.”

Now, provided the world can achieve a post-pandemic norm, the prolific Esposito will head to Moscow in September at the behest, he said, of Russian president Vladimir Putin.

“Because I was awarded this highest award they can give a non-Russian civilian,” noted Esposito. “We’re going to do it now in September, and my buddy Rootin’ Tootin’ Putin is going to present it to me.”

The honor, which Esposito did not identify by name, is likely the Hero of the Russian Federation, given for service to Russia. It’s usually associated with a heroic feat of valor. Russian citizenship or acts performed specifically for Russia are not necessary to win the medal, which is a gold star suspended from a red, white, and blue ribbon.

“I go over there and actually skate with some of the old guys, and have some fun,” said Esposito. “I make a couple of speeches, sign some autographs, go to dinner . . . and they pay me for it. I love it.”

The “Hero” medal has been awarded more than 1,000 times, often to cosmonauts, and at least twice to athletes — including Alexander Karelin, the great Greco-Roman wrestler, and Larisa Lazutina, who won five medals, including three golds, in cross-country skiing at the 1998 Olympic Games in Nagano.

Putin, an ardent hockey devotee who still plays in pickup games, would have been only 19 years old in September 1972 when Esposito and his Team Canada brethren pulled into Moscow for the completion of the historic Summit Series between the nations.

Russia held a 2-1-1 series lead after the first four games in Canada and stood but 20 minutes from clinching the series when they carried a 5-3 lead into the third period of Game 8 (series deadlocked, 3-3-1).

Esposito, then age 30 and the most dynamic goal scorer the NHL had ever seen (back-to-back seasons of 76 and 66 goals), put on a third-period tour de force that led Canada to a stunning 6-5 win.

Less than three minutes into the third, he connected for his seventh goal of the series. Some 10 minutes later, he set up Yvon Cournoyer for the 5-5 equalizer. And with only 34 seconds remaining in regulation, Paul Henderson knocked home a puck that Espo first landed on legendary netminder Vladislav Tretiak.

Shot. Rebound. Score. Take that, Mother Russia. Henderson forever will be remembered for the GWG, but Canada goes home a loser if not for Espo’s broad shoulders.

Tretiak, by the way, was the starting goalie when the Russians faced Team USA at the 1980 Games at Lake Placid. Russian bench boss Viktor Tikhonov, displeased with what he saw of Tretiak in the early going, pulled him in favor of Vladimir Myshkin, setting the stage for the Yanks’ historic win.

“All I can say is,” Esposito recalled decades later about Game 8 in Russia to’s Dave Stubbs, “that when they called my name, I was there. And I wasn’t coming off.”

Esposito had a penchant for, shall we say, extending his shifts. In the Summit Series, his protracted flights of fancy took ice time away from a pair of other decent centers, Bobby Clarke and Jean Ratelle, both of whom, like Esposito, also went on to become enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame. When Espo had the hot hand, he knew it. Generally, when he was on a roll, teammates were happy to have him keep throwing the dice.

Reminiscing over the phone about his Bruins days, Esposito recalled he often logged around 35 minutes a game, nearly twice the ice time current Boston coach Bruce Cassidy typically feeds top line members Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak. Different game a half-century later. Much shorter shifts for everyone, fourth-liners and superstars alike.

Some of those 35:00 TOI, your faithful puck chronicler reminded Esposito, came because he often turned a deaf ear to calls from the bench to change up on the power play and stayed out there sometimes for the full two minutes.

“Well . . . hey . . . ,” said Esposito, crafting a faux innocence. ”I had great cardiovascular. I looked like [expletive] on the beach, but I had great cardiovascular. Big defensemen with those sticks, they had to go through 2 inches of fat to get to the muscle.”

Esposito was in Russia some eight years ago for the 40th celebration of the Summit Series. The adulation there for the proud son of Sault Ste Marie, Ontario, was of nearly Putinesque levels.

“One time, my wife looked at me and said, ‘I didn’t know I was traveling with Brad Pitt,’ ” Esposito, then 70, was quoted in the Toronto Star. “Sometimes I get a little overwhelmed by the admiration, the adulation, whatever it is. It’s overwhelming. I’m 70 years old and, man, it’s wonderful to still be recognized and known. I think I’m more famous [in Russia] than I am [in Canada and the United States]. Does that make any sense?”

Maybe. If so, sounds like there oughta be a medal for it.

Kirill Lodeikin: “I am glad that I play for Estonia”

Kirill Lodeikin in the national team of Estonia under 20 years old at the World Championship in Division IIA

By Maxim Garashchuk – National Teams of Ice Hockey

19-year-old forward of the Estonian and New Jersey Rockets team Kirill Lodeikin, who became the best sniper at the last World junior Under 20 Championship in IB division, spoke about why most Estonian players go to play in Finland, as he received an invitation to the Finland national team and why he didn’t play for them.

Why do many hockey players playing in the Estonian national team go to the Finnish leagues?

Finland is very close to Estonia. Most players go there to gain experience, which in the future will lead them to professionals.

What do you think, which of the current national team players stands out for in this game?

I can’t name specific players, but I’ll say that good youth players is growing now. Definitely, they will be able to raise the level of men’s hockey program in Estonia.

If you compare Estonia with other neighboring countries, then what place do you put Estonia in and why?

In the first place among the Baltic countries I will put Latvia. They still have a very strong team, which has Dynamo Riga club. I will put Estonia in second place, because now we are showing a completely different hockey than before. I do not want to say anything bad about Lithuania. I will put them in last place, although I think that they are on the same level with us.

Tell me why you decided to connect your life with hockey? In which country did you first skate?

I started hockey at 4 years old. Of course, I tried myself in other different sports, but I never caught the buzz from the game, except for hockey. From the first time I went ice skating in my hometown of Narva, Estonia.

What languages ​​do you know?

I speak Finnish, English, Russian and I don’t speak Estonian, but I understand him, because he is very similar to Finnish.

 In Finland, you played not only in one system. How did your transitions to other clubs affect your career?

In fact, the transitions was hard. When I played for Jokerit, I really liked it there and taught me a lot. The transition from “Jokerit,” to another club was not at my request. In general, transitions are always difficult, when you yourself are satisfied where you play, and suddenly you are exchanged.

Last season you spent time in the USA. What difference immediately struck you?

The hardest is the size of the ice rink. All my life I played on big ice and suddenly switched to small, it was inconvenient, but then I got used to it. In America, it’s completely different hockey than in Europe. I like to play with my head, but, unfortunately, they play there at the expense of foot speed, I dumped the puck in and you skate in after it.

If you believe the statistics, then in the USA you have only 6 minutes in penalties in 37 games, given that in past seasons it was much more. What changed?

“I don’t like breaking the rules.” I understand that I’m letting my team down by removing myself from the game and that now the guys will have to take the game on themselves and there is a chance that the opposing team will score. In the USA, I played under different rules of hockey, the refs let a lot things go on the ice.

“Do you know about successful New Jersey Rockets graduates?”

Honestly, who was specific, I don’t know, and somehow there was no interest in this. (As part of the “New Jersey Rockets” in the seasons 2005/06 and 2006/07, performed by John Carlson – Stanley Cup in 2018 as part of “Washington Capitals”) . Now I know that Luke House and Ryan Sorkin, who played in the rink with me, have signed contracts with teams from the NCAA.

Kirill Lodeikin in the USA

At the World Junior Championship division 1B you became the best forward, although there were players with experience in QMJHL on other teams. Did you expect the tournament to be so successful in terms of your individual statistics?

When I went to the World Junior Championship didivision 1B, I realized that I could play to my strength there, so I was ready for this in advance. Hard work always pays off, but at some point it can be a little bit of luck. Of course, I didn’t think much about statistics. The task was to remain in the division, and I tried to help the team with all my might to do this.

 In the game against Italy you scored a hat-trick. Did you score hat-tricks before and how many points did you score in one game?

Yes, before that I also score hat-tricks. It’s hard to say what my best score is in one game, but I remember for sure that I scored five points in one game.

Kirill Lodeikin recognized as the most valuable player in the Estonian national team after the match against the Italian national team in the World Junior Championship division IB

This year you played for the adult team. Did you manage to switch from youth hockey to adult?

The level in adult hockey is much higher than in youth. The game was completely different from what I was used to. I saw a lot of my shortcomings, and got a very huge and positive experience. (Kirill Lodeikin made his debut for the main team at the per-qualification of the Olympic Games 2022, in which the Estonian team suffered three defeats in three games. Kirill Lodeikin scored an abandoned goal against the Hungarian national team).

In the per-qualification for the Olympic Games, the national team included players from the local championship. What can you say about their game?

 I know that Dmitri Kuznetsov was called to the training camp at the last moment. He is a great fellow that came to the team. Each player tried to prove himself, because initially the head coach said that he wanted to see young players. I remember that in addition to him, there were Saveli Novikov – a defender playing for the Tallinn Viking and Harri Koll from his club (Harri Koll & Dmitri Kuznetsov play for Tartu Valk 494) , who also tried.

What was the atmosphere on team outside the rink? Indeed, in the national team there are players who are 20 years old, but there are those who are already over 40.

As I said earlier, the atmosphere was positive. Older players always prompted and taught young players some new things. Respect was there, both from the young to the older guys, and vice versa.

How often do you visit Estonia?

In Estonia, I have many close friends. It turns out that I go there once a year in the summer and even then not always. It all depends on my hockey season.

Who do you consider to be the best player in the history of Estonian hockey?

Many talented players were, are and will be. I don’t want to single out anyone.

How popular is hockey in Estonia? What is needed in order to increase the popularity of this sport in the country?

 In recent years, it has become more popular than it was before, and I am very happy about that. What needs to be done to make hockey even more popular? I think we need to win more medals for the country.

How do you usually spend your free time?

I usually try to spend free time with my family and friends.

“Are you studying somewhere now?” Is it difficult to combine hockey with study?

I study in Finland. This year was very difficult due to the fact that my school refused to give me online education. Because of this, I had to pause my studies, but now I have come back to Finland and am doing it.

“You have dual citizenship.” Can you play for the Finnish national team now?

Regarding the performance for the national team of Finland, it is now too late to speak. When I was 14 years old, I was invited to the training camp in the Finnish national team. It turns out like this: they call the 150 best players in Finland and play a tournament between the teams, the best players go on. Only 150 hockey players, then 100, then 50, and so on they slowly create a team, but at that time I did not have Finnish citizenship and I could not go. Then an invitation was received to the Estonian national team. I am glad that I play for Estonia.

Dmitri Kuznetsov (left), Eduard Slessarevski (center) and Kirill Lodeikin (right) as part of the Estonian U-20 team at the IIA World Junior Championship

What can you say about women’s hockey in Estonia and Finland?

 I do not follow women’s hockey. However, I know that in Finland they are almost as good as the male team, and as for Estonia, I hope that they will soon be playing to a new level.

Where do you plan to conduct pre-season training and is there a chance that we will see you next season in Finland?

 I always spend pre-season training in Finland. There is everything I need here, but I can’t say anything about the next season because of the difficult situation around the world related to the virus.

Johann Leifsson: “I fell in love with hockey at first sight”

By Maxim Garashchuk – National Teams of Ice Hockey

Forward of the Icelandic team “Skautafélag Akureyar”, Johann Leifsson talked about how he fell in love with hockey, what he does in his free time from and what is needed for the development of hockey in Iceland.

 How did it happen that I chose hockey?

 I was born in Akureyri and from an early age I became interested in hockey. For this I must be grateful to my mother. I started hockey at about 3 years old. My mom brought me to the ice rink with my older brother, who also playing hockey all ready. I fell in love with hockey at first sight.

What role did your move to North America play?

I left for the USA at the age of 18. For this, I have to give a big “thank you” to my coach from Iceland. He told me that he could help me move to North America. I was very excited, because Canada is a new country for me, and it was not clear how I would look against other players. I moved to the Niagara Fury ice hockey club it was just created at that time, and the league we played in lasted only one season, and for some season there, there were only two teams: us and Erie Blizzard. Before the start of the new season, “Erie” went into the MJHL league, and our “league” closed and the Niagara team was disbanded. But I learned a lot there and that season only benefited me. After a season I returned to the SA Vikingar.

What can you say about the season in Sweden? Are there any offers from other countries now?

The season in Sweden became a new challenge for me. I went there in 2015 to play for Motala AIF for the season. Sweden really helped me as a player and as a person to become better. I had a lot of fun playing there, we had a good team and we went to the playoffs, where we could get a promotion and move up to a higher division, but then we could not get into the higher division. We played in the second division. Now I have no offers to play in other countries, but if there are any, I will always consider them.

“What is it like to be an assistant captain and the captain yourself?” How many times in your career have you performed these duties?

I was the captain for only one season – 14/15 in the Skautafélag Akureyar. You should be proud of this, because the team trusts you and gives you the right to be a leader on the ice and off the ice. For many years I was an assistant captain in SA Vikingar. In Jotnarnir I tried to be a role model and help my teammates if they needed my help. The team had players who are older than me and definitely I learned a lot from them.

Tell me about hockey in Iceland?

We have one league, it has three teams: Björnin, Reykjavik and Skautafélag Akureyar, in which I play. We play against each other four games at home and four games away. It turns out that in all we have 16 games in the championship, half of which takes place on home ice. At the end of the regular season, the playoffs begin. In the playoffs, we play the best out five (three wins to win a series). There are only three ice rinks in Iceland: two in Reykjavik, one in the northern part of the country. The country is trying to build more ice rinks, but if this does not happen then it will be difficult to expand for new teams in the league.

Iceland has a club player development program, including Akureyar. This program is really good, but due to the large number of players, we are forced to say no to hockey players who are just starting their careers.

Andri Mikaelsson, Hafthor Sigrunarson and Johann Leifsson celebrate victory in the championship of Iceland

What is the most popular sport in the country? How popular is hockey? Do many fans go to hockey games?

Football is the most popular sport in Iceland, of course. Perhaps in second place is handball. Unfortunately, hockey is not so popular. You can say that hockey is more popular in my hometown than in Reykjavik. If we talk about attendance, then our team is the most popular in Iceland, but we only manage to completely fill the stands only in the playoffs.

At one time there was a huge stir after the success of the Icelandic national football team. Do you think it is possible with hockey?

Of course, it is possible that hockey can become popular, as was the case with football, and for this we should have even more skating rinks. This will lead to the emergence of new teams and new palyers, then we will have more games and we will be able to develop hockey in the country.

Was the success of the Icelandic youth hockey team a surprise to you?

“No, that didn’t surprise me at all.” We have young players with great talent. They just returned to the division in which they were supposed to play (Iceland U-20 won the IIHF ICE HOCKEY U20 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP Division III by defeating Australia in the final.

Do clubs pay salaries to players?

No, they don’t pay, but we don’t have pay-to-play either. Clubs get money for winning the championship, but none of this money goes to hockey players.

What do you do for work?

I work in a service center for children with special educational needs.

Are there many foreigners in the championship?

No. We had several foreigners on the team before, and last season we had no foreigners at all. In general, one Russian plays in the championship, there is a Latvian and there are a couple of hockey players from Europe.

What do you think is the best hockey player in the history of Iceland? Which of the young players can become a star?

“There are a few guys worth talking about.” Emil Alengård (11/19/1987) – is the best player who played in our team, he is an Icelander who has never played in Iceland, he grew up in Sweden and played his career there. He spent most of his time in the first division. Now he is training the junior team in AIK. In general we have players like him who play well in Sweden quite a lot. For example, Dennis and Robin Hedstrom, who both play a big roles on the national team they are 32 and 31 years old, respectively.

There are hockey players who played almost all the time in our native country – Iceland. Jon Gislason, I think, is at the top of this list for me. Mainly because he was the best when I followed the team and was the best when I joined the team and even now he is a cool manager. On ice, he is still one of the best when he joins our training. Jon also has experience playing in the Asian League and Denmark. Do not forget about Sigurdur Sigurdsson (02.24.1976). Everyone in my hometown who heard about hockey knows who Siggy, when foreign players join our team, usually Siggy helps them in everything. Sigurdsson best time was before I joined the team, and from the stories about him everyone says the same thing – he dominated the league. He also played in Finland before my birth.

Finally, the captain of our national team and he is the only player who played more than a hundred games in our league. (Ingvar Jonsson (02/11/1981). Ingvar played two seasons in Denmark, the rest of the time he spent in Iceland. Since I joined the team, he has been there all the time and this is really a big part of the success that we have achieved all these years. These 3 players Jon, Siggy and Ingvar were the key players of our club and I consider them the best Icelandic players who played here. has for young players we have some really talented young guys, most of whom are currently playing abroad. For example, Axel Orongan (01/31/2001), who had previously played in Sweden and the United States. My nephew Hakon Magnusson (02/11/2003) also plays in Sweden with another talented player – Unnar Runarsson (12/29/2002). Gunnar Arason (03.15. 2001) plays in Canada. These guys are now one of the best young hockey players in Iceland and in recent years they have played a big role in the success of the national teams under 18 years old.

In December, there was a qualification for the Olympic Games. What were your expectations when you knew your rivals?

Expectations were only good when we recognized our rivals. We used to play against them all. We did not expect such a bad game against Romania. Israel and Kyrgyzstan beat pretty easily (5: 0 and 9: 4, respectively)

You lost to Romania in the last game with a big score, although before that you played on equal terms with them. How can one explain such a result?

We have a young team. Romanians were better than us in all aspects of the game. Such a loss (10: 1) is really not the best way to end the Olympic Games, but sometimes it happens in hockey.

Johann Leifsson in Iceland in the match against Kyrgyzstan in the first round of Olympic qualification

Annually, Skautafélag Akureyari participates in the Continental Cup. What has this tournament done for the team? Which match do you remember the most and why?

I am very glad that teams from Iceland can take part in the Continental Cup. It helps us to become better, and also opens up the opportunity for young children to play abroad. Most of all I remember the games against HK Kurbads and HC Donbass in 2018. We were very close to beating HC Donbass, but in the last minutes they scored two goals on us within 25 seconds and we lost the chance of winning (in October 2018, Donbass beat Skautafélag Akureyari 6: 3, and Kurbads defeated the Icelanders 9: 2)

Coaching under the threat of COVID in Hong Kong

Ken Yee Coaches at the Kung Pow King Hockey School in Hong Kong

By Ken Yee – National Teams of Ice Hockey

Ken Yee was gracious enough to write to us about his experiences as a hockey coach in Hong Kong and dealing with the coronavirus.

For over the past two years, I’ve been fortunate enough to earn a living as an ice hockey coach in my birthplace of Hong Kong. Like most Canadian kids, I grew up loving the game and played since childhood. But after spending virtually all my life in Toronto, I decided to take the leap and make the move while vacationing here in 2016. During that time, I met a good friend who is a former NCAA goaltender and hockey coach and he invited me to coach on ice. I was instantly hooked after the first my practice. There is just something special about hockey here for me that I can’t fully put into words. Hockey, the city, and finally the general experiences I had here were the catalysts to take the gamble and uproot my entire life. About a year after my visit, I quit my job, sold my car and rented out my apartment. I flew here on a one-way ticket from Toronto with my two cats, two large suitcases, two CCM twigs and a hockey bag. It was everything I had left as I embarked on my journey towards a new career and I’ve yet to regret a single moment of my new life in one of the most exciting cities in the world.

Most coaches are in this line of work because we have a passion for hockey. I absolutely love my job, but I’ll admit it’s not necessarily all fun and games. There is a bit of effort involved in coaching that parents and players may not be able to see. From the cerebral labour of practice planning, to the interpersonal and communicative work of dealing with real people -our players, and of course the physical toll it can take on our bodies, coaching can be a bit of a grind. Aside from this, there is also a certain precariousness looming over our livelihoods, for example, suffering an injury (or perhaps even a global pandemic).

Ken Yee and his students at Kung Pow King Hockey School

Now, most coaches in Hong Kong, including me, are not salaried workers. If we don’t work, we don’t get paid. Many of the coaches I know are employed at multiple hockey schools and may supplement their income with other work, such as a colleague who also works as a professional photographer. My income is derived from a whole host of coaching gigs I hold simultaneously, including on-ice coach for a hockey school, coach of a Hong Kong Women’s Ice Hockey League (HKWIHL) team, teaching inline skating at schools and finally running private training sessions. These different positions and gigs allow me to make the “okayest” of livings in one of the world’s most expensive cities.

Students take in every world that coaches are telling them

But just after January 2020 kicked, things started to take a downturn for me professionally. Due to the rising number of infections in the city, the Hong Kong Education Bureau suspended all schools and it is still in effect today indefinitely. The inline skating classes I taught at an international school have been wiped out for the entire school year. Next to be suspended was the HKWIHL season. It is the only women’s league in the city, allowing the HK Women’s National Ice Hockey Team to compete internationally. I miss my girls and we have a great squad whom I believe can take home a championship this year. I’m just hoping these girls will get the chance to compete and prove me right. Then in March, the government imposed a complete shut down of all sports and leisure facilities. This included places such as public parks and of course, ice rinks. I haven’t been on a pair of skates to coach or to play in since. The only thing that is keeping me from a complete lack of income are the private sessions I have, either in one-on-one or small group settings of four people or less. 

Student practice inline

Dealing with financial stress coupled with isolation and boredom has not been fun, but I am certain there are others out there dealing with the same -if not worse. Coaches working in all levels of hockey all around the world are going through similar experiences. Though indeed the past four months has been quite tough, I try to remind myself that no matter how long this pandemic may last, it is only temporary. Personally, I’m cautiously optimistic that life will return to normal here soon in Hong Kong. The good news is that there have been no new cases of location infection for the past couple of weeks in the city, offering a glimpse of light in all this. Sequestered in one of the epicenters of the SARS virus in 2003, Hong Kongers are more experienced in dealing with a pandemic and have arguably been more prepared than most during the current crisis. Nevertheless though, we are dealing with this pandemic on a global scale this time and we all need to do our parts in stopping the spread of this virus.

Hope to see everyone back on the ice soon and masks on people!

Stay strong let’s fight this thing together.

Kids wearing Facemasks on the ice due to COVID-19

Kung Pow King Hockey School

Alyson Baldwin – Russian girl adopted by an American family

By Vitali Nestrov – National Teams of Ice Hockey

Alyson Baldwin is an ordinary American athlete. She gave many years to hockey, trained under the guidance of the Tretiak, almost got into the Russian Gararin Cup. Now she has moved away from hockey, went into power lifting and helps young North Americans in hockey. The history of the Russian American  Alison Baldwin – in our interview.

Tell me something about yourself?

I was born on June 5, 1997 in Dzerzhinsk (Nizhny Novgorod Region), but in December an American family adopted me and took me to the United States. The name at birth was Tatyana Kalashnikova. As I was told, my family already had a child and my parents could not provide one more, therefore it so happened that in December with the help of a woman from the USA who helps American families to adopt children from Russia I was adopted. My parents were grateful to this woman for help and I was named after her – Alison. That woman in the 90s helped many Americans. Another child was adopted with me. Now his name is Sean, and after some time his brother Trey  was adopted. Trey is the youngest in our family, my American parents do not have their children. As for my biological parents, I don’t know anything about them, I tried to find information about them on VKontakte, but nothing worked. My family said that they did not want to contact us.

You have a photograph on Instagram of the Russian “Stalin”. What kind of house is this and who made this photo?

This photo was taken by my American father in 1997. The photo shows an orphanage in Dzerzhinsk. Now he is gone.

Orphanage in Dzerzhinsk

How did your Russian origin affect your life in America? Maybe there were some difficulties in adapting?

“Adaptation was not a problem for me.” I was very young when I was adopted and I did not get into Russian culture. However, I still have Russian citizenship. I learned about Russia when I was in Latvia in 2012 in a goaltender camp and I made friends with goalkeepers who then played in the MHL, and now in the KHL and VHL. I have many friends from Russia. As for the Russian language, I myself learned to read, although there is still a lot to learn and learn.

Alyson (left) with her former teammate

How did you get started in hockey?

I started playing hockey in Houston, Texas. I was still very young. My dad, who adopted me, brought from Moscow a jersey of the Dynamo Moscow hockey team with number 20. My father never played hockey, none of my American family was connected with hockey when I started. I thought it was an interesting sport. We had a skating rink near my house and I went skating for fun. Hockey seemed insanely cool in my mind, and I liked it when I was little.

Tell us more about your hockey career?

“It will be a long time, get ready”. When I started, in 2006-2008 I was a forward. Then I began to play the goalkeeper position, because at that moment the boys on my team were stronger and faster than me, they did not give me a pass, they threw themselves at me,  and to stay on the team I decided to change my position. I played for the youth team in Houston, Texas. When I got a little older in 2009 I went to the Alliance Bulldogs hockey team in Dallas, Texas. It was a low level team. Then we moved on to the Dallas Stars Elite league, AAA-league. I played in Dallas until 2012. In 2012, I went to Riga to goaltending camp with the Tretiak and members of the FHR. This gave me the opportunity to meet new people and friends in Latvia and the goalkeepers of Russia.

In 2013-2014, I studied at the Ontario Hockey Academy, developed very well as a hockey player. I had a game in Minnesota against the Russian women’s Olympic team before the Sochi Olympics. Our team won 8-0, but I did not play in this game unfortunately. In 2014-2016, I studied and played at Kent School, on an elite school. We won twice won the championship. In 2016, I went to St. Petersburg to see the local Dynamo club, but I could not go to Dynamo, I had obligations to the Wisconsin Badgers. In 2016-2018 I played in there in the NCAA League. We played twice in the NCAA National Tournament, 2017 – 2nd place; and 2 times became WCHA champions.

Allyson with legendary Tretiak

What happened after 2018?

 I was not given the opportunity to play a lot. I had negotiations with several D3, NCAA teams, but not with the leagues above. No team wanted to give me a chance. I was upset, in Moscow, Dynamo St. Petersburg wanted me to come, provided that I had good statistics, but my team did not give me the opportunity to play. I left my team in 2018, worked in ordinary jobs until 2019. Last year, I returned to the University of Wisconsin and began to study international relations. Now I am studying international political and military relations, especially Russian-American relations and US foreign policy. Now I am seriously engaged in power lifting. I like to train, to lift weights, it is popular in Russia, so I felt happy again. I was disappointed that I worked very hard in hockey, and the coach told me that I’m not good enough. In power lifting, I train for myself, I know when I work out well. I like my role in hockey now. I give advice and help parents about which youth teams are good, where there are good hockey teams in high schools in the USA and Canada. I work with many goaltending coaches in the USA (Goalies Inc.), I organize camps. My good friend from Quebec moved to the United States with his family and worked for the North Korean men’s and women’s teams. Unfortunately, I can’t continue to play, but I found an opportunity to help young hockey players through my experience and continue my university education.

Do you already have experience participating in competitions in your new sport?

I started training in August 2019, after some time I went to my first competition and got 3rd place. Squats 110 kg, bench 62.5 kg and traction 135 kg. This month I qualified for a power lifting tournament at the US National,  but the coronavirus canceled our competition. This has given its difficulties.

Tell me an interesting story.

What is funny or interesting is that most American hockey players and youth are inspired by the game of 1980 against the USSR (“Miracle on Ice” – a match at the Olympics-80 in Lake Placid between the strongest USSR team and the US team assembled from college students. USA won 4-3.)

In my career, I had the opportunity to train with Tretiak, and I played for the team coached by Mark Johnson. He scored 2 goals on Tretiak in 1980. This is a special opportunity to train and play for two very respected hockey players – Tretiak and Johnson.

Ice Rink In Transnistria

Ice rink Snezhinka

By George Da Silva – National Teams of Ice Hockey

A forgotten remnant of the Soviet Union, Transnistria is an unrecognized country hidden behind a heavily militarized border between Moldova and Ukraine. 

Transnistria is one of a number of frozen conflict zones that emerged following the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union. While almost every other country in the world refuses to acknowledge the independence of Transnistria, this autonomous territory features its own presidential government, a national flag, anthem and even a currency: the Transnistrian Ruble.

One of the most notable things about Transnistria and Tiraspol (the second largest city in Moldova and the capital of Transnistria) in particular is the prevalence of Soviet symbology. While socialist monuments and busts of Lenin may still be commonplace in other former-USSR nations such as Ukraine, Belarus and Russia, Transnistria goes one step further, actually referring to itself as a ‘soviet state.’

The ice  rink Snezhinka

Built according to the Polish project, allows developing such sports as hockey and figure skating in Transnistria . Powerful refrigeration units allow you to keep minus temperatures on the surface of the ice rink.

It offers visitors – cafes , locker rooms, showers , skate rental. The room has permanent stands with 600 seats. During the holidays, additional stands are set up. As a result, the number of seats for spectators is 1058. There are also 2 skate dryers in the ice rink.

Mass Skating, Tiraspol, Moldavia

In June 2008, the construction of the ice rink was completed, and the opening ceremony was performed by world-famous Russian skaters who presented the ice show created by the general director of the Ice Symphony company Ilya Averbukh .

In 2011, a figure skating competition was held at the rink and in August 2013, a monument to the great hockey player Vladimir Krutov was erected at the rink’s entrance. The ceremony was attended his widow Nina Krutov and outstanding soviet hockey players Alexander Yakushev, Sergei Makarov and Alexander Kozhevnikov.

Vladimir Krutov was a two time Olympic champion, five time world champion, winner of the Canada Cup and a multiple U.S.S.R. champion with CSKA. The Vladimir Krutov Hockey Academy was opened, the first international youth tournament in memory of Vladimir Krutov was held at the same time.

Monument of Vladimir Krutov

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