Month: February 2021 (Page 1 of 2)

Canada the team to beat as Olympic seedings announced

Sidney Crosby (center) of the Pittsburgh Penguins poses with teammates Mike Matheson (right) and Evgeni Malkin to honor Crosby for his 1,000th NHL appearance prior to their home game against the New York Islanders on Saturday. Crosby is expected to star for Team Canada at the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics.

By Murray Greig – China Daily

The International Ice Hockey Federation has announced its seedings for the 22 teams slated to play at the 2022 Beijing Olympics, and as expected Canada is ranked No 1 in the men’s tournament and No 2 in the women’s.

The men’s tournament will use the same format as the four previous Winter Olympics, with 12 teams split into three groups of four.

Team Canada will compete in Group A with the United States (seeded No 6), Germany (7) and host China (12). Group B will include Russia (2), Czech Republic (5), Switzerland (8) and qualifier 3 (11), while Group C consists of Finland (3), Sweden (4), qualifier 1 (9) and qualifier 2(10).

The qualifiers will be determined in the final pre-Olympic tournament, scheduled for Aug 26-29 in Latvia, Norway and Slovakia.

The women’s tournament at Beijing 2022 will be contested by a record 10 teams, in two tiered groups of five. The top five according to the 2020 IIHF world rankings-the US, Canada, Finland, Russia and Switzerland-will play in Group A, while Japan (6) will head Group B, along with three qualifiers from the final pre-Olympic tournament in November (seeds 7-9) and China (10). The top three finishers in Group B will compete in the playoff round.

With the exception of host China and perhaps one qualifier, all the men’s teams will include players from the National Hockey League.

That gives Canada a huge advantage, with the likes of superstar forwards Sidney Crosby (Pittsburgh Penguins), Connor McDavid (Edmonton Oilers) and Nathan MacKinnon (Colorado Avalanche) among their ranks, along with perennial All-Star goaltender Carey Price (Montreal Canadiens) and defensemen Cale Makar (Colorado), Shea Weber (Montreal) and Morgan Reilly (Toronto Maple Leafs).

The NHL did not allow its players to participate in the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics, and the fact that Crosby, who will be 34 when the puck drops in Beijing, is probably the only member of the 2010 and 2014 gold-medal teams assured of a return trip in 2022, bears out general manager Doug Armstrong’s pledge that “youth will be served, for sure”.

“Team Canada will see something of the changing of the guard in 2022,” Armstrong said after being appointed GM last month. “We want to be fast, we want to use our skill and we want to use our depth to our advantage.

“The NHL is a quick league right now and I think that we have the players that can play the 200-foot (61-meter) game. We want to be a fast and difficult team to play against.”

Canada dominated the 2014 Sochi Games with a suffocating defensive performance on the larger international-size ice surface, but high-octane offense will be paramount on Beijing’s NHL-sized rink, led by players like McDavid, MacKinnon and Auston Matthews of the US, each of whom helped light up the 2016 World Cup as members of the 23-and-under Team North America.

“I think that the World Cup showed the excitement and the flair that Young Guns team put on the ice,” said Armstrong. “This group that we’re going to assemble is probably going to have a lot of faces that have never worn the Canadian jersey at this level of competition. It’s going to be fun.”

Meanwhile, the recent appointment of Harbin native Yu Baiwei as a playing assistant coach bodes well for China’s hopes of advancing out of Group B and possibly making the podium in the 2022 women’s tournament.

Yu, 32, is the highest-scoring defender in the history of the Chinese national team. She competed in the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, where she was one of just three defenders on Team China to earn a point. She’s a veteran of a dozen IIHF tournaments and was named China’s top player at the 2014, 2017 and 2019 Division 1 Group B world championships.

Yu has also made her mark at the pro level, playing for Kunlun Red Star and the Shenzhen KRS Vanke Rays of the now-defunct Canadian Women’s Hockey League and the Edmonton Chimos of the Western Women’s Hockey League.

“In 2007, I was a young rookie,” Yu said in an interview with iihf.com. “Now I’m the oldest person on the team and am also working as an assistant coach.

“I’m appreciating more every single day I am training with this team. I want my athletes to figure out what their strengths and weaknesses are. Furthermore, I want to provide more individual thinking for my athletes as well. I am willing to let them explore their talent and potential within ice hockey. Most importantly, to enjoy the game and enjoy life.”

Вопросы и ответы с Юрием Грошевым

By Альфред Муталлпов – National Teams of Ice Hockey


Юрий, по традиции расскажите, как оказались в хоккее?

В принципе все стандартно. Отец часто смотрел, как играет Салават. Мы зачастую ходили на игры тогда ещё во Дворец Спорта на ул.Зорге. То ли по телевизору при просмотре очередной игры, то ли еще где-то было объявление о наборе в хоккейную школу детей 99-98г.р. Как-то так мы об этом узнали и меня привели попробовать свои силы.

Опыт игры в Толпаре?

Отличная команда родной для меня системы. Очень сплоченный и дружный коллектив, профессиональный и грамотный тренерский штаб в лице Гареева Алика Амирхановича, Полозова Константина Александровича, Василевского Андрея Леонидовича, Буторина
Анатолия Геннадьевича и всех остальных тренеров и персонала. Остались лишь тёплые воспоминания о этих двух сезонах. Сейчас так же слежу за успехами Толпара и вижу постоянный рост потенциала клуба и сопутствующие ему успехи. Так же хотелось бы поблагодарить всех вышеперечисленных за опыт и знания предоставленные за это время.

Чего не хватило, чтоб попасть в Салават Юлаев?

Салават Юлаев, по моему мнению топ-клуб КХЛ во всех аспектах, чтобы попасть в такого рода клуб нужен огромный труд и опыт, особенно от вратаря, посчитал лучшим для себя вариантом набраться игрового опыта. Мы зачастую не знаем куда приведёт нас то или иное решение, но в любой ситуации нужно работать и стремится, это обязательно вознаграждается.

Юрий Грошев сыграл 48 матчей с Салаватом Юлаевым Уфа

Как оказались в Софии?

В связи с общемировым локдауном, оказался в довольно затруднительной ситуации с поисками клуба. Терять время на ожидания, что тебя куда-то позовут посчитал несостоятельным. Агент Ботев Иван сам является уроженцем Болгарии и предложил такой вариант. Любовь к хоккею, желание работать над собой и играть, повлияло на мое решение в первую очередь.

Первое о чем Вы подумали, когда узнали, что будете играть в Болгарии?

С агентом долго обсуждали варианты, даже не помню тот момент когда это все было решено. Помню что стал интересоваться в принципе болгарским хоккеем, в частности клубом в который попал. Однозначно могу сказать, что после долгого перерыва был рад снова оказаться в условиях моего любимого дела. Ещё в Уфе выходя на тренировки на льду, получал огромное удовольствие, а новость о начале сезона была радостной, хотя и были некоторые мысли о незнакомой для меня стране и новом менталитете людей, но клуб создал все условия для быстрой адаптации в Софии, и конечно же для тренировок, как на льду, так и вне льда.

Вы писали, что, чтоб играть в Салавате Юлаеве Вам нужно больше опыта и труда, считаете уровень болгарского хоккея позволит Вам расти как вратарю?

Из системы Салавата я перешёл в клуб Вхл «Сокол» из Красноярска, а уже в связи в вышеупомянутом локдауном был произведён переход в «НСА». Но в любом случае, все зависит от твоей работы и желания, и если есть условия для работы, а они здесь есть, то рост зависит лишь от тебя. С Константином Лавреновым, игравшем в словакии последние несколько сезонов и по совместительству воспитанником «Сибири». Работаем над собой каждый день, мы оба оказались в непростой ситуации, но совпали в желании расти и продолжать свой путь в хоккее.

Юрий Грошев выступал за красноярскую рысь

Как проходил переезд в другую страну?

Все переезды были организованны клубом. Из Уфы на несколько дней приехал в Питер, для решения вопросов по визе. После чего прилетел в Стамбул, где меня встретил агент и персонал клуба. На машине добрались до Софии, первые несколько дней жил в гостинице, после чего переехал в квартиру. Как я уже упомянул все организационные нюансы взял на себя клуб.

Встречались уже с игроками с которыми проведёте сезон?

Да, с самого приезда в Софию мы приступили к тренировкам. Пока что возникают трудности в коммуникации из-за незнания языка, но по глазам ребят можно сказать, что у них есть желание играть и выигрывать . Приняли нас в коллективе очень тепло.

Учите ли болгарский язык, как общаетесь с командой во время игры?

Болгарский язык целенаправлено не учил, но в принципе из-за схожести языков и проведённого тут времени начал его понимать. Некоторые игроки и вовсе учили русский в школе и знают его на базовом уровне, так что во время игры иногда использую русский, а с теми кто не понимают общаюсь на английском.

АНБ София Команда

Уровень зарплаты в Болгарии дотягивает до зарплат хоккеистов из России? И платят ли местным игрокам?

Зарплаты конечно не дотягивают до уровня ВХЛ, а вот с ВХЛ Б, насколько мне были известны условия во второй команде Красноярска, можно сказать что условия организованные тут можно сравнивать, и я бы сказал, что они по многим пунктам даже более привлекательны. О зарплатах с местными игроками я почти не общался, знаю лишь что платят какие-то деньги тем, кто помимо игр, ещё работает с детьми на тренировках.

Чем помимо хоккея занимаются игроки клуба?

Ребята в команде находятся в разном возрастном диапазоне, кто-то работает, кто-то учится в университете.

Приходят ли болельщики поддержать любимую команду, и вообще есть ли у людей в Болгарии интерес к хоккею?

На вопрос о болельщиках полноценно ответить не смогу. Все игры проходили в условиях карантина, и на них не пускали болельщиков, кроме друзей и семей игроков. Когда интересовался о прошлых сезонах, парни говорили что вроде как поддержка есть, особенно в принципиальных играх бывало. Интерес к хоккею конечно невелик, но как мне кажется, определенный потенциал есть.

Приходят ли болельщики поддержать любимую команду, и вообще есть ли у людей в Болгарии интерес к хоккею?

На вопрос о болельщиках полноценно ответить не смогу. Все игры проходили в условиях карантина, и на них не пускали болельщиков, кроме друзей и семей игроков. Когда интересовался о прошлых сезонах, парни говорили что вроде как поддержка есть, особенно в принципиальных играх бывало. Интерес к хоккею конечно невелик, но как мне кажется, определенный потенциал есть.

В чём для Вас главные отличия хоккея в двух странах?

В первую очередь это – уровень развития хоккея, здесь его развивают отдельные люди и он не входит в приоритет на государственном уровне. Ещё бы отметил разницу менталитета, на ребят нет сильного психологического давления, поэтому они просто получают удовольствие от игры, вне зависимости от результата.

Если Вам предложат стать вратарем сборной Болгарии, то примите предложение?

Будущее сложно предугадать, моя задача работать над собой в любых условиях, конечно в первую очередь хотелось бы реализоваться как вратарь на хорошем уровне.

 

 

Women’s Ice Hockey’s Jesse Compher Has Her Sights Set on the 2022 Winter Olympics

After planting herself in the BU women’s ice hockey record books, Jesse Compher (SHA’21) hopes to compete in the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.

By Brady Gardner – BU Today

Jesse Compher is a first-liner who plays like a fourth-liner, her coach says. On the surface, that might not sound like a compliment. To a hockey coach, though, it’s one of the best qualities you can ask for in a player, especially a captain.

“She plays so hard, competes so much…and she can do so much skill-wise,” says Brian Durocher (Wheelock’78), BU women’s ice hockey head coach. “It’s a great combination to have as a hockey player.”

Compher (SHA’21) is in the final sprint of a remarkable BU hockey career. Even while missing time from injury and the pandemic-shortened 2020-2021 campaign, she has posted 123 points, good for ninth all-time in BU women’s ice hockey. This year, she was picked as a team cocaptain.

Her talent is evident, but Compher attributes her success on the ice to her competitive edge.

“I think that if you watch a BU practice or BU game you can kind of see it—I don’t like to lose,” she says. “I don’t care if I’m playing against my best friend or anybody on the other team, I don’t like to lose and that’s kind of the mindset I go into it with.”

Born to athletic parents, Compher grew up in the Chicago suburb of Northbrook, Ill., and she spent her childhood competing with her older sister, Morgan, and her older brother, JT, now a forward with the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche. It doesn’t matter what we’re doing around the house, nobody likes to lose,” she says.

That mentality set Compher up for early athletic success: she was part of a team that won four consecutive state hockey championships and a national title in high school. She also skated on the international scene, where she earned two gold medals with the US Under-18 Team at the IIHF Women’s World Championship in 2016 and 2017.

When the time came for college, Compher was recruited to BU by Katie Lachapelle, then a Terrier assistant coach and a US U-18 assistant coach, now U-18 head coach and Holy Cross head coach. 

It didn’t take long for Compher to draw attention in Hockey East. Appearing in every game her freshman year, she posted the second-most assists (17) of any first-year in the conference, the third-most points on the team (26), and was chosen for the 2017-2018 Hockey East All-Rookie Team.

Compher exploded as a sophomore, leading Hockey East with 61 points, putting her second of any Terrier in a single season and third nationally that year. She was unanimously named a Hockey East First Team All-Star, a Second Team All-American, and was a top-10 nominee for the Patty Kazmaier Award, given to the most valuable player in NCAA women’s hockey. 

Durocher says the biggest contributing factor to Compher’s breakout sophomore season was her ability to harness her “super intensity,” especially in her skating.

“In her time at BU, Jesse has evolved as an even better skater,” he says. “There was a relaxation element that came up somewhere between her freshman and sophomore years and really assisted her to move forward as a hockey player.” 

The highlight of that sophomore year was BU’s 2019 Beanpot win, the first in program history as a varsity team. Compher says the victory was her favorite moment as a Terrier. Her assist on the overtime winner by linemate Sammy Davis (CGS’17, Sargent’19, Wheelock’20) brought the Beanpot trophy to Commonwealth Avenue for the first time in nearly 40 years.

“Being out there and being a part of the overtime goal was definitely something special and something I’ll never forget,” she says.

Jesse Compher (no. 7) hoists the 2019 Beanpot trophy alongside fellow Terrier Abby Cook (Sargent’20), who Compher says was one of her biggest mentors when she arrived at BU

Ankle surgery delayed the start of Compher’s junior season. Despite that, she was voted a Second Team All-Star, tying for fourth in Hockey East in points per game (1.11) and finishing in the top four on the team in goals (13), assists (16), and points (29) despite playing 10 fewer games than most of her teammates.

Between her hyper-competitiveness and the bar set by a stellar second season, Compher says sitting out the start of the 2019-2020 season was the most challenging time of her BU career. She credits her teammates with helping her overcome that hurdle.

“We have such a close-knit team here, everyone’s so supportive,” she says. “With the people around me, I was able to get through it.”

As a senior, Compher leads the Terriers with five goals, averaging a goal a game, and is tied for the team lead in points (7). She was entrusted with the “C” on her jersey, a dream of hers since close friend Rebecca Leslie (Questrom’18) captained BU Compher’s freshman year. “I kind of always looked up to her and just wanted to follow in her footsteps,” she says.

Teammates say Compher is a natural to helm the team. Courtney Correia (CGS’20, Questrom’22), who has shared the ice with her for three seasons, says Compher’s captaincy was well-deserved and has had a positive impact on the team. “She has definitely been a leader on the ice since I came to this school,” she says. “She’s extremely committed—every time she steps on the ice, she really wants to be there.”

Durocher cites the “innate confidence” Compher brings to the ice for her success and lists her among the top Terriers he has coached in his 16 years behind the BU bench.

“Without a doubt, she’s one of those people in the history of our program that sticks out in any conversation as one of the elite players,” he says. “She checks an awful, awful lot of the boxes to be thought about with some of the top kids here.”

With a player of her skill and motivation, Compher’s ceiling is “super high,” the coach says. She has skated with the USA women’s national team on multiple occasions, cracking the roster for the 2019 and 2020 IIHF Women’s World Championship tournaments and the 2019-2020 rivalry series against Team Canada.

 Next on Compher’s list: the 2022 Winter Olympics, set to take place in Beijing. Durocher says he can easily see her on the roster. “If I’m that coach,” he says, “maybe she’s not knocking a Kendall Coyne or Brianna Decker off the first line, but she can play with everybody, and…will be a heck of a great addition to any third line or fourth line.”

In her pursuit of a regular national team spot, Compher says she has learned from BU assistant coaches Tara Watchorn (CAS’12), an Olympic gold medalist with Canada in 2014, and Liz Keady Norton, a former Team USA player.

“It’s been cool to learn from them and kind of get things from their perspective and just learn the little details of what it takes to be a national team player,” she says.

Compher credits that attention to detail for much of her success. “In the back of my head, I’m always thinking about what I can do to be better on and off the ice,” she says. “You can have skill, but if you don’t have the right mindset of wanting to be better, wanting to win, and wanting to support your teammates, then you’re not going to get very far.”

In addition to her personal ambition and goals, Compher has a bigger mission—to help grow the sport of women’s hockey.

“I wouldn’t be here playing college hockey without the women who paved the way for me,” she says. “As long as I can, I’m going to try to promote women’s hockey…and do what I have to do to not only make a national team roster, but to grow the game as I go.”

Hockey night in New Zealand. A.J. Spiller growing the Canadian game in Southern Hemisphere

William Levien, Johann Kwok, A.J. Spiller, Mason Beetham, Corey Marsh

By: Mike Sawatzky – Winnipeg Free Press

On the surface, it seems like an unlikely career path.

Seven years ago, A.J. Spiller moved from Canada to New Zealand to play fastball during the sub-tropical summer. He repeated the trip the next year and again the year after that. But at some point, those trips to the Southern Hemisphere became something more than fufilling his sense of adventure.

Spiller fell in love — he and partner Monique Whareumu met that first summer — and he ended up staying to play and manage grassroots hockey in New Zealand’s biggest city — Auckland.

“When I moved here (permanently) I played one more season and then I started to play hockey and then I kind of chose hockey over fastball after that,” says Spiller, previously a third baseman for the Portage Phillies and a defenceman for the MJHL’s Terriers from 2003 to 2008.

“I enjoyed it a lot. It was just when it got into playing both — I did that for one year — and it was too much to play both hockey and fastball and I went back to university, too. So there was a lot on the go and I kind of decided to pick one over the other.”

Spiller’s academic work dovetailed nicely into his professional life. He enrolled at the University of Auckland to pursue a bachelor of commerce degree in management and marketing, completing it in 2019.

During that time, the 33-year-old interned with the Auckland Ice Hockey Association before taking over as the organization’s general manager 18 months ago. The job with AIHA, which has 800 members including 700 players, requires a healthy amount of multi-tasking. It’s something he may have developed an instinct for since playing for his dad, Blake, the longtime GM and head coach of the Terriers.

“I tie skates, fill water bottles and I kind of run the business side of Auckland Ice Hockey Association and I coach as well,” says A.J.

One of Spiller’s main tasks is to grow the game in a country, which joined the IIHF in 1977 but has just seven indoor rinks, two outdoor rinks and 1,700 players draw from a population of approximately 4.9 million residents.

“We’re definitely trying to grow the game,” he says. “Our big focus right now is on the grassroots and making it you know, as as fun and as accessible as we can for kids. Because that’s really the lifeblood of the sport. If we don’t have a good grassroots program, and nothing else is going to come out of it.”

Competing for attention with the country’s national sport, rugby, hasn’t been easy. Hockey’s March to November season also goes head to head with rugby’s premier team, the All Blacks.

A.J. Spiller at practice with youth player in Auckland, N.Z.

“It’s a little bit of a tough sell in that we play at the same time as rugby does as well — we’re both winter sports,” says Spiller. “Obviously, rugby is gonna draw a lot of people there but we are kind of similar sports. So we try to use that as well.

“We actually had two kids last year, their dad was a video coach for the All Blacks… and the both of them came to play ice hockey. And he came to check it out because he was a rugby guy and he just wanted to make sure that it was good. And he really enjoyed it.”

The country’s top men’s league, the New Zealand Ice Hockey League, has a number of import players making it possible to raise the calibre of play. Spiller took last season off to concentrate on his duties but he’ll return to the ice this year in the NZIHL, which he says is similar in calibre to the senior South Eastern Manitoba Hockey League.

New Zealand sent men’s and women’s teams to the most recent world championships, competing at Division 2, Group B level. But Spiller says the gap in skill level between import players and the bottom of NZIHL rosters is substantial.

“That’s kind of what we’re focused on right now is how can we make that bottom end a little bit better?” says Spiller. “And how can we give more Kiwi players a better chance to play in that league. I’m also coaching the under-18 national team here as well. That’s kind of in line with that, too, is how can we get more of these players playing and playing significant roles so that our national teams get better?”

On a brighter note, New Zealand’s success in limiting the impact of COVID-19 has allowed sports to continue. In 2020, the hockey season had a few stops and starts before eventually finishing as scheduled.

In 2021, it’s been mostly business as usual. Masks are still required on public transit in Auckland and airplanes but grocery shopping, for instance, can go on without masks, providing you adhere to social distancing guidelines.

“As far as the response to COVID, to keep it out and to manage it for the last little while has been pretty impressive when you look at the rest of the world,” says Spiller.

Living without snow or the deep freeze of his home province is nice, too. Auckland enjoyed 17C Wednesday and rarely goes below 8C during the cooler months of April to September.

“I like Canada and I like the winter but I kind of enjoy it here as well,” says Spiller. “It wasn’t a hard sell to come here.”

Recap of Women’s Action

Emily Nix scored two game-winning goals as Germany won two out of three cross-border games against Switzerland

By Andy Potts – IIHF.com

For many women’s teams, the pandemic put hockey on pause for a year. But, with the 2021 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship in Canada coming up in spring, February 2021 saw several countries getting back on the ice and making plans for their rosters for April. There was action in Switzerland, Russia, Denmark and Austria over the past week. Some other countries like Finland and Sweden had two cancel their camps due to COVID-19 while the Czechs had a training camp with no games.

Before last week’s International Break, Hockey Canada and USA Hockey also held camps in January and October respectively to get potential candidates for the Women’s Worlds roster together.

‘It’s really special to be back’

Switzerland assembled for its first team camp in a year and welcomed Germany across the border to Romanshorn for three exhibition games at Lake Constance. Each encounter was a close-fought affair, beginning with a goalless tie that was decided in a shootout in game one. With goalies Saskia Maurer and Jennifer Harss on top throughout the action, it took 32 penalty shots before Emily Nix beat Maurer to give Germany the verdict.

Nix also played a big role in game two, assisting on Kerstin Spielberger’s first-period opener before scoring the game winner early in the second. The 23-year-old, who plays for Eisbaren Berlin in the Frauen Bundesliga, converted a 5-on-3 power play to make it 2-0. Switzerland hit back through Sinja Leemann but could not complete the recovery. For the Swiss it was the second defeat despite outshooting Germany in both games.

Game three was the highest scoring of the week, and this time Switzerland claimed a 4-3 verdict. The teams traded goals inside the first five minute before Leemann’s second tally in two games gave the Swiss the lead for the first time in the exhibition series. Twice, the Germans tied it up – the Nix-Spielberger combination delivering again – but Switzerland won it on Nicole Bullo’s 47th-minute marker.

Both teams were delighted to be able to return to the ice after a long break. When the pandemic struck last March, wiping out World Championships at all levels and categories, few imagined that the February 2020 camps and tournaments would prove to be the last time these teams could get together for 12 months. Germany’s plans were disrupted further by the unavailability of head coach Christian Kunast, but Franziska Busch stepped up from her role in charge of the U18s to deputize on the Swiss side of Lake Constance.

“It was great fun and an honour for me,” she said. “We had some problems getting back to our game after a year, but it was also clear that we continued to work well tactically during that year. We have a stable system that helped us.”

Kunast, watching from afar, was also encouraged by what he saw. “We learned a lot,” he added. “Our younger players are stepping up and the pool of potential World Championship players is growing.”

The Swiss, too, were excited to be back. “We’ve never gone so long without a training camp before,” said goalie Saskia Maurer. “It’s really special to be back with the team after a year apart.”

Happy reunions aside, there was also work to do at the week-long camp. “The focus is a little bit on everything,” said blue-liner Sarah Forster. “After a year, we need to go back to basics. We have a young team, so we have to go step-by-step.”

Head coach Colin Muller was pleased with the progress his team made during the week.

“It’s always difficult against the Germans and this week it was a one-goal game every time,” he said. “We were unlucky to lose the first in a shootout and the second game was also very tight. I’m happy that we were able to react to those losses and win the last game.

“We are always working on our team for the Worlds. This was a test for all of us, everyone had to show what she could do.”

Russia against the world

Russia, short of match practice this season due to COVID restrictions, found an unusual way of getting game time. The Red Machine arranged two warm-up encounters with KRS Vanke Rays, the defending Russian WHL champion. The Chinese franchise, temporarily playing out of the Moscow Region town of Stupino, boasts players from Canada, the USA, Finland, the Czech Republic, Russia and China, making this something of a Russia-against-the-World clash.

Yevgeni Bobariko, Russia’s head coach, had some inside knowledge of the opposition: his alternate captain, Alexandra Vafina, plays her hockey for KRS this season and faced off against her clubmates in these two games. In a pair of evenly-matched encounters, her insight might have tipped the balance as Russia won the first game 1-0, then edged a shootout verdict after a 3-3 tie.

The first game was dominated by goalies. For Russia, Valeria Merkusheva recorded an impressive shutout. That’s the third time this season she’s denied KRS, after twice blanking the league leader in WHL action. At the other end, though, Finnish star Noora Raty was stretchered off in the second period after sustaining a lower-body injury. Last week she announced on her Instagram that the problem was not as bad as initially feared and would not require surgery. However, it’s unclear whether she will recover in time for a comeback already this season. Polina Bolgareva, who plays under Bobariko for Dynamo-Neva St. Petersburg, potted the only goal.

Next day, the teams met again in a higher-scoring clash. Russia opened a 2-0 lead but let it slip and needed a tying goal from Nina Pirogova 33 seconds from the end to save the game. Landysh Falyakova potted the shootout winner.

Olga Sosina, captain of the Russian team, enjoyed the weekend work-out – especially in the absence of the usual Euro Tour schedule: “The Vanke Rays are an excellent opponent,” she said. “They have a skilled team, which plays attacking hockey and went at us from the get-go, finding the places where we weren’t ready and could make mistakes. But in the second game we spent a lot of time in their zone and created chances. We couldn’t take enough of them and got hit with three counterattacks. So we have things to work on.”

For the Vanke Rays, it was a good chance for players to promote their own international prospects. Minntu Tuominen suggested it might also help the Finnish women’s national team get a look at how Russia is shaping up for April’s Worlds in Nova Scotia, while Megan Bozek and Alex Carpenter are both eying a return to the American roster for the big tournament. Carpenter enjoyed her spot of international action during a busy league schedule. “We’ve had a couple of weeks without any games, so these were good tests before the concluding games of the season,” she said. “We had a chance to work on our systems against strong opposition, get a look at our special teams and get ready for a difficult stretch in the season. We have 10 WHL games in a short space of time, then the playoffs.

“The results [against Russia] aren’t so important, but the games were very even.”

 

Newly-promoted nations meet

Denmark and Hungary, promoted to the top division of the Women’s World Championship together back in 2019 when they finished atop of the Division I Group A in Budapest, faced off as part of their preparations for the 2021 event in Canada. The teams met in Copenhagen at Orestad Skojtehall, the venue built next to Royal Arena before the 2018 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship when it served as practice facilty, and shared one victory apiece from their two encounters.

In game one, Hungary took the honours in a shootout after a 2-2 tie in regulation. The Magyars led twice thanks to goals from Alexandra Huszak, but Denmark twice tied it up with goals from Silke Lave Glud and a last-gasp equalizer from Josefine Jakobsen with 20 seconds left to play. Fanny Gasparics secured the win for Hungary in the shootout.

Day 2 saw the teams meet again and this time the Danes won 2-1. Regina Metzler, 15, made her international debut and celebrated with the first goal as Hungary once again opened the scoring. This time, though, the host hit back through Michelle Weis Hansen 49 seconds later before Jakobsen’s point shot deflected by Glud brought a second, decisive goal.

Austrians beat Kazakhstan

Outside of the top tier nations, Austria played two exhibition games against Kazakhstan. Neither of these teams will go to a World Championship this year following the cancellation of the lower divisions, but Austria could celebrate back-to-back wins in Vienna ahead of both teams’ Olympic Qualification campaign next autumn.

The first game was tight, with Nadja Granitz getting the only goal in the second period. Goalies Selma Luggin and Jessica Ekrt shared the workload, stopping 33 Kazakh shots between them. In game two, Kendra Broad, enjoying her second season playing in Kazakhstan, got her first goal for her adopted nation midway through the first period. However, the Canadian-born centre was destined to finish on the losing side again. Austria recovered to tie it up in the second through Monika Vlcek before third-period tallies from Emma Hofbauer and Lena Daubock gave the home team a 3-1 verdict.

Recap of Beijer Hockey Games & Kazakhstan Open

Recent World Juniors participant Zakhar Bardakov was among the young players on the Russian men’s national team in Malmo

By Andy Potts – IIHF.com

Russia marches on

For the third time this season, Russia beat all-comers in Euro Hockey Tour action, winning the Beijer Hockey Games in Malmo, Sweden, and securing top spot in the overall rankings for the season. The four-team event was played in a bubble, with everyone confined to a hotel next to the arena, and the competing countries sent experimental rosters to the behind-closed-doors tournament.

Elsewhere, there was success for Kazakhstan on home ice against Belarus and Russia B in the only other event to take place in men’s senior hockey during the February International Break due the pandemic.

Beijer Hockey Games

Russia continued its imperious form in this season’s Euro Hockey Tour, winning all three games in Malmo despite once again sending an experimental roster to the competition. As at November’s Karjala Cup, Russia was led by acting head coach Igor Larionov, who more usually works with the juniors. Unlike the event in Helsinki, the Russians were not limited to U20s and took the opportunity to test some older players whose KHL form pushed them into international contention.

However, the man who grabbed the headlines was Nikita Chibrikov. The SKA prospect celebrates his 18th birthday on Tuesday. His debut against Finland on Thursday made him the third youngest player every to represent Russia or the USSR in a men’s international – only Vladislav Tretiak and Alexander Ovechkin were younger when they made their debuts. The Moscow native consolidated his status as one of the top prospects for this year’s NHL draft by collecting a goal and two assists across three games: only Ovechkin was younger when he scored for Russia.

With only 12 KHL starts in his career to date and no major international tournament experience within his age group, Chibrikov was a surprise inclusion on the roster. But the man himself had no qualms about stepping into the red jersey for the first time.

“I have every faith in my ability. This doesn’t happen easily, I had to work hard to make the national team and I put in some good performances in the KHL,” he said after the game. “I didn’t bring any nerves onto the ice, I went out there with confidence that I could do good things for the team. I can’t lie, I was a bit surprised to get a call to the senior national team, but I put a lot of work in, tried to progress my game and so I think I deserved the chance.”

Russia performed well throughout the tournament but saved the best for last. In the third period against the Czechs on Sunday, the Red Machine racked up five goals on the way to a 7-4 victory. However, Larionov’s response was cautiously optimistic rather than euphoric.

“Any win in any tournament plays a big role, it’s important,” he said. “But I wouldn’t read too much into it. This is a big step in these guys’ careers. Three games in four days against strong opposition is a test of skill, character and resilience. Wins like this toughen up our players and make many more things possible. Hockey is a game that gives guys a chance to grow, and these are exactly the type of games that help us hope for a good future.”

Chibrikov wasn’t the only unfamiliar Russian to impress. Zakhar Bardakov, who featured in the recent World Juniors, made a strong contribution to the senior team. Against the Czechs, he had a goal and two assists, following on from a five-game goalscoring streak in the KHL this month. Vladimir Butuzov, who plays his club hockey for unheralded Amur Khabarovsk, tied the Czechs’ Michael Spacek for the tournament’s leading scorer with 4 (3+1) points. Lokomotiv’s Nikolai Kovalenko was also among the top scorers with three points as he led Russia’s recovery from 1-3 down against the Czechs on the final afternoon.

Sweden looks for more firepower

However, there was a shortage of Swedish names on the scoring charts – and a failure to capitalize on chances in the first period of the host nation’s shoot-out loss against Russia proved costly. Tre Kronor head coach Johan Garpenlov challenged the forwards on his inexperienced roster to take the ‘next step’ in the international game.

“We have goalscorers in the SHL, there are many who can score goals,” he said. “It’s about taking your game from your home environment up to this level. And it’s about the individual skill to take the chance when you get it.

“But we have a fairly inexperienced team here. It takes time to get used to [international hockey]. That’s the next step for many of these players.”

There was better news for the Swedes at the other end of the ice where rookie goalie Christoffer Rifalk produced a shutout on his international debut as Sweden blanked Finland 3-0 on Sunday evening.

That result left the Finns in third, edging in front of the Czechs thanks to a shootout win when the teams met on Saturday. The Czech Republic twice went to overtime without winning, then blew a two-goal lead against Russia in a frustrating few days for Filip Pesan’s team.

Kazakhs triumph on home ice

Kazakhstan hosted a four-team tournament with two Kazakh teams against Belarus and Russia B, with the host nation coming out on top in Nur-Sultan. Two goals from Barys forward Nikita Mikhailis – playing under his father, Kazakh head coach Yuri – settled a hard-fought battle against the Russians in Friday’s decisive match-up.

Exactly a year after an unexpected loss against Poland abruptly ended Kazakhstan’s Olympic qualification campaign, there were changes to the roster for this tournament at the same site. Long-serving dual nationals Nigel Dawes and Dustin Boyd did not feature, goalie Henrik Karlsson was also absent. There was also no place for veterans Talgat Zhailauev and Yevgeni Rymarev while the youthful likes of Daniyar Samat and Adil Beketayev featured on defence for the first time. 

“The whole team was the best player in this tournament,” Coach Mikhailis said. “This was a tight-knit, united roster. The players came from various clubs, there wasn’t much time to prepare. I’d like to thank the guys who came from the Kazakh championship, and to the clubs who released their leading players for this tournament. They showed up well and the whole team deserved this win.”

Earlier, both Kazakhstan and Russia proved too strong for a Belarus team preparing for its return to the World Championship top division in the spring. The Belarusians handed debut to two new players, goalie Danny Taylor and forward Francis Pare, both of whom have extensive KHL experience and currently represent Dynamo Minsk. However, the new faces could not lift Mikhail Zakharov’s team, with losses to Kazakhstan (2-5) and Russia (2-4) compounded by a shoot-out defeat against Kazakhstan B in an exhibition game.

Elsewhere, COVID-19 curtailed much of the international program. Casualties included the Kaufland Cup in Slovakia and the planned exhibition games between Germany and Switzerland in Fussen.

 

Puck dreams: Iran’s women hockey stars plan to make their mark on ice

Maral Rasekhi was a key figure in Iran’s 2018 success in South Korea

By Mohammad Hashemi – Middle East Eye

The national inline hockey squad defied expectations with a bronze medal at the 2018 Asian Roller Sports Championship in South Korea. Now they want to replicate that success in ice hockey.

On a chilly day in early January, two dozen female ice hockey players train at Iran’s only standard-sized ice rink, in Tehran’s northwestern outskirts.

A team of judges, including assistant coach Azam Sanaei, watch attentively as players perform on the rink, competing for a spot in the first Iranian women’s national ice hockey squad.

The hopefuls are in their twenties and thirties and count among their number some of the country’s best athletes on ice.

Nevertheless, the standards they must meet are stringent, with physical fitness tests designed to filter out all but the elite.

“We’ve never seen everyone so filled with passion and enthusiasm during training before,” says Sanaei, 31, who also serves as the captain of the team. On offer is a spot in the squad that will compete in the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) Challenge Cup of Asia, which was scheduled to be held in the Philippines in May but has been postponed indefinitely because of the coronavirus pandemic.



Onlookers watch on as hopefuls shuttle up and down the 60-metre-long rink, trying to make the required six lengths within a standard time, some crashing into the billboards enclosing the rink in exhaustion. Teammates on the sides shout and bang their hockey sticks on the ice in support.

The squad will eventually be made up of 20 players, of whom six have already been chosen. In competitive matches, six players from the team take to the rink, including a goaltender, two defensive players and three forwards.

Members of the Iranian women’s ice hockey team pose with hopefuls trying to make the cut

For those who make the cut, the struggle has just begun. For all their efforts on the ice, women’s ice hockey remains a sport that has yet to make an impact among everyday Iranians and sponsors, whether the state or private backers, are in short supply.

Iran only joined the International Ice Hockey Federation as an associate member in 2019, more than a century after the sporting body was established, and only after the opening of Tehran’s privately owned ice rink.

According to the IIHF, there are 103 female ice hockey players in Iran, just slightly more than the 100 male players on its books.

Transitioning from inline hockey

Many on the women’s team first cut their teeth in Iran’s inline hockey scene, including their captain Sanaei, who transitioned to ice hockey after starting in competitive inline hockey in 2005. She says that despite this change in environment, the team is showing glimmers of hope on ice.

“The pace of improvement in our training is very promising in light of the fact that ice hockey is totally new to us,” says Sanaei, who is also studying for an MBA at Tehran University.



Inline hockey, unlike ice hockey, is played on hard surfaces instead of an ice rink, and ice skates are replaced by inline skates. The two sports are otherwise similar, with minor differences in regulations.

The players come from across Iran and have different class backgrounds, but most face a shared struggle in trying to win recognition from their families and wider society.

A case in point is 26-year-old Negar Arjmand, who joined Iran’s women inline hockey national team in 2015, later participating in tournaments in South Korea and Italy as a defensive player.

A physical education graduate, Arjmand teaches skating to make ends meet and fund her hockey career. She has even set her eyes on emulating her hero, Russian NHL star Alexander Ovechkin, by attracting the attention of foreign clubs.

Negar Arjmand’s family initially had reservations about her choice of sport but have since come around to the idea

Arjmand’s parents, both accomplished artists, suffer from polio, and her father especially was opposed to her choice of sport. He saw little in the way of financial remuneration and, perhaps due to his own physical condition, feared hockey would result in permanent injury for his daughter. There was also the issue of marriage and the concern that the sport would distract Arjmand from starting a family.

It was her performances, and a third-place finish in inline hockey at the 2018 Asian Games in South Korea in particular, that calmed the tensions and earned her family’s approval, as well that of the rest of the country, eventually.

“My parents were not in favour of this sport. Still, they didn’t want to prevent me from pursuing my interests,” Arjmand says.

“I think in their heart they saw me as an active person who could do extraordinary things. I believe that gave me the strength to continue.”



Asian Roller Championships

Maral Rasekhi, the team’s most senior player, says the team’s performances in South Korea in 2018 were a turning point.

The team went in as rank underdogs, but came out with a reputation as giant-killers, ending the tournament with a bronze medal.

Iran’s third-place finish at the 2018 Asian Roller Championships included a 4-2 upset win over hosts South Korea

“Our third game was against South Korea, the host nation, and a team we thought were invincible,” Rasekhi says. “They had come to the rink with the sole purpose of thrashing us but we beat them four goals to two.”

She calls the moment “an extraordinary feat that became an over-the-moon moment”.

Rasekhi began skating at the age of seven and overcame personal tragedy in the form of her father’s death when she was 10 to become a professional inline hockey player aged 19, making history as the first Iranian woman to play for a foreign club, in Hong Kong.

She credits her mother’s and sister’s support for her success, as well as the mentorship of Kaveh Sedghi, the head coach of both the male and female national inline hockey teams – someone the players credit with doing more for the sport in Iran than any other person.

The culmination of those efforts was the 2018 Asian Games, where as well as the women’s bronze medal, the Iranian men’s team took home the gold.



‘National pride’

The response in Iran on the team’s return following the performance was modest. Heads only began to turn after the release of a documentary two years later about the squad’s exploits in South Korea by filmmaker Sam Kalantari, called No Place for Angels.

Following the release, Iran’s female hockey stars became a source of pride for the country, drawing celebrity endorsements, including from actors such as Niki Karimi, Roya Nonahali and Behnaz Jafari, in addition to exuberant local media coverage.

Kalantari follows the players and their coaching staff, including their much-loved French coach Marina Fagoaga Jalinier, as they attempt to raise enough money to get to the tournament, and their eventual run to the semi-finals.

Captain Azam Sanaei says: “The main message of this documentary for women is to not give up hope in the face of obstacles.”

Azam Sanaei briefs players trying to join the Iranian women’s hockey team in September 2020

In one scene, Sanaei talks about how hockey has become a symbol of independence for the women on the squad.

“From early childhood, it was really important for me that no one would tell me that I could not do something because I was a girl,” she says.

“I don’t need somebody to stand behind me to be successful. Instead, I believe not only in not relying on anybody else but also in lending my support to other people, allowing them to rely on me.”



Continuing struggle

Neither the film nor the team’s performance in 2018 changed the fact that major obstacles remain when it comes to women’s participation in sport in Iran.

Of 153 countries on the Global Gender Gap Index for 2020, Iran ranks 148th. The state has barred female spectators from watching live sports in stadiums for around four decades, competitors must cover their hair during sporting events even outside of Iran and TV channels do not broadcast sports featuring female participants. Additionally, issues such as women riding bicycles continue to court controversy, and athletes are among other personalities defecting from the country over its dress requirements, as well as other policies.

Nevertheless, Sanaei is keen to caution against painting a bleak picture of the situation when it comes to hockey.

“I believe our problems have nothing to do with our gender, at least in our field of sport. Others in different countries might have the same problems,” she says.

“In my opinion, if we are determined to reach our goals we could remove any barrier. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” 

Neither can responsibility for all the obstacles Iran’s athletes face be placed at the feet of the Iranian authorities.

Sanctions reinstated on Iran by the Trump administration have led to a devaluation of the Iranian rial against foreign currencies, such as the dollar and euro, meaning the price of hockey equipment, made up mostly of foreign brands, has risen drastically.

Azam Sanaei is optimistic about the future of women’s hockey in Iran

For example, a single ice hockey stick may cost up to $350 (about 77m rials) – the equivalent of two months’ salary for an ordinary Iranian. Around three years ago, the price was 15m rials. Hockey skates can sell for anything between $500 and $1,200 a pair.

The financial situation also means that what funding authorities may have provided is being diverted towards more pressing needs.

In the past year, the Covid-19 pandemic has also created physical barriers, which have made it difficult for the team to practice – leaving coach Fagoaga, who is currently in France, to relay long-distance orders to Sanaei.

All of that does little to dull Sanaei’s or her teammates’ optimism for the future of hockey in Iran.

“I think today there are roughly between 300 and 400 people who play hockey in Iran and I believe this field, especially ice hockey, will have a very bright future for women,” Sanaei says.

Q & A with Sadiq Saleem

Sadiq saleem,
Founding member and President of a youth based organization named as ‘The Altit Sports Club And Rising Federation (SCARF)’


By George Da Silva – National Teams of Ice Hockey


We had the great pleasure of Interviewing Sadiq Saleem from Pakistan. Sadiq Saleem is the
founding member and President of a youth based organization named as ‘The Altit Sports Club And Rising Federation (SCARF)’ . The Altit SCARF organized the Pakistan’s first ever Ice Hockey tournament in season-1 at grassroots level in 2019 and this year in 2021 they have successfully organized season-3.

 

Q1: Can you gives us a brief history of ice hockey in Pakistan?

The first ever community to support Ice hockey at grassroots level was first organized by The Altit Sports Club and Rising Federation (SCARF) at the premises of 1100 years old Altit Fort, for the very first time in the history of Pakistan. It was a totally a self-help event by The Altit Sports Club and rising federation. Moreover, ice hockey was also been organized by Pakistan Air Force at Naltar valley at organizational level.

How did you become fan of this sport?

A special type of hockey was played by our elders many years ago locally known as “Phinchko”. One of our members had attended a two days ice skating training camp in 2014, he later trained our local youth. One day it was a snowy day in winters of 2015) we started to skate on ice and then we learned ice hockey by ourselves and also watched some videos on youtube. Then we became interested in ice hockey and our community has supported us to organized local level championship. We, then, extended our event on the basis of our expertise and organized a provincial championship in 2021.

The Altit SCARF organized Pakistan’s first ever Ice Hockey tournament at the grassroots level in 2019 and this year in 2021 you successfully organized it again. Have the numbers of participants grown over the last 3 years?

Yes. The Altit SCARF organized Pakistan’s first ever Ice Hockey tournament at the grassroots level in 2019 as season-I and this year in 2021 we successfully organized ice hockey championship season-III. We have witnessed an increasing number of players in the last 3 years. Initially we had maximum of only 8 ice hockey players. But this year we have witnessed more than 100 players of ice hockey which includes both Boys and Girls. All of these players are trained by our senior players on self-help basis. In our recent ice hockey championship, 10 teams had participated out of them 3 teams were comprised of girls.

Youth ice hockey tournament in Northern Pakistan

 

Young girls take part in youth hockey tournament

Are you getting any players or coaches from other countries to help out?

Not really. But we are optimist that if we get any support and guidance, we can fully polish our skills to play ice hockey

What’s the long-term plans and how do they plan on achieving them?

Our plan is to make a national team of Ice hockey which will represent Pakistan and play for Pakistan at international level. Further. We want to create sports based diplomatic ties with other countries to promote healthy activities and brotherhood.

Hockey Night in Hunza, Pakistan

Are there any plans to build indoor ice rinks in the country?

We are currently limited to our region and maximum to our province Gilgit-Baltistan. But here as well, we are trying to build more rinks to play ice hockey by involving the local communities. We hope that by continuing our struggle we will build maximum possible ice hockey rinks in Pakistan in near future.

Ice hockey equipment is very expensive, where are you getting it from?

We cannot afford to buy full equipment of ice hockey and currently we lag the safety gear as well. We buy the used skates from the Flea markets of Karachi and Lahore. We were also assisted by some individuals as well.

India & Nepal have join the International Ice Hockey Federation. Will Pakistan follow suit in the coming years?

We are optimist about our talent, potential and spirit towards ice hockey. Pakistan is a country full of young potential and confidence. As a citizen of Pakistan, I can confidently say that Pakistan will join the international ice hockey federation in coming years.

Hoping one day to play for Pakistan

Have there been any talks with India or Nepal about having joint development hockey camps or tournaments to help develop the sport in the region?

Any Government official can answer this question, if they have any higher level talks with any of the countries. As we are an independent youth organization and organize ice hockey on self-help basis, so we are not been able to talk to other countries so far.

I feel lucky that have got this golden opportunity to talk to IIHF as a president of a youth organization.

Do think that winter sports in general can get a foot hold in Pakistan sporting landscape?

A big yes. I would say, Northern Pakistan and valleys like HUNZA, especially, has this opportunity to uplift the winter sports at national and International level.

Teams ready to do battle

Riga to host all matches of 2021 Ice Hockey World Championship

Source: Tass Russian News Agency

The Latvian capital of Riga will be the sole host for all matches of the 2021 Ice Hockey World Championship, the press service of the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) announced on Tuesday.

“The IIHF Council has voted to confirm Riga, Latvia, as the sole host for the 2021 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship, following the decision to withdraw the tournament from Minsk, Belarus,” the statement from the IIHF reads.

On January 18, the IIHF Council announced a decision to strip the Belarusian capital of Minsk of the right to host matches of the 2021 Ice Hockey World Championship and to relocate them to another venue. The IIHF said in a statement that it made this decision “Due to safety and security issues that are beyond the IIHF’s control.”

“With continued uncertainty surrounding international travel restrictions, the Council believes that keeping all teams in Riga throughout the tournament and avoiding travel between two host countries is the safest and most cost-effective way to operate the event,” according to the statement.

The world’s governing body of ice hockey stated that “The main venue will be the Arena Riga in Riga and will host Group B, two quarter-final games, the semi-final round and the medal round.”

“The second venue will be the Olympic Sports Centre, which will be converted into a 6,000-capacity ice rink and will host Group A and two quarter-final games,” the statement said adding that “All 16 participating teams will be housed in one hotel.”

Matches of the 2021 IIHF World Championship in the Latvian capital of Riga and the Belarusian capital of Minsk were scheduled to be played between May 21 and June 6, 2021. However, various European public organizations called on the IIHF to relocate championship’s matches from Minsk due to a tense political situation in Belarus. Tournament’s sponsors also threatened to leave in case Belarus hosted the championship.

The IIHF Council considered three options to substitute cancelled matches in Belarus – Latvia’s Riga hosting all matches of the championship or co-hosting the championship either with Denmark’s Herning or Slovakia’s Bratislava.

From bobsleds to blades Jamaica Ice Hockey sharpens its skates

(From left) Jaden Lindo, co-captain of the LATAM Cup winning team; Don Anderson, director of JOIHF; Minister of Sports, Olivia Grange; and Teegan Moore, co-captain of the team, on the occasion of their visit to the minister after the LATAM Cup victory

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Source: Jamaica Observer

Having made its initial foray in the Winter Olympic Games with the bobsled team, Jamaica is now forging ahead with plans to enter an ice hockey team as well.

The Jamaica Under-20 team in 2017 impressed many with their 5-1 victory over a Nova Scotia (Canada) All Star team, comprising the best college players in the region.

Since then the senior team competed in the Latin American (LATAM) Cup for the first time in 2019, beating defending champions Colombia, runners-up Argentina, as well as Mexico and Brazil, to win the coveted trophy. The onset of COVID-19 prevented the team from defending the trophy in 2020, but the team is gearing up to defend the trophy in September or October this year.

As part of this plan, there have been numerous developments geared towards building the sport, locally and internationally, to enable the team to play in Olympic Qualifying tournaments in the near future.

Big recruitment program under way

The Jamaica Olympic Ice Hockey Federation (JOIHF) has launched a massive recruitment drive to enlist players of Jamaican descent currently playing ice hockey in the US, Canada and Europe. So far, this totals approximately 70 players, some of whom were part of the winning LATAM team in 2019. A major drive, through all existing channels, is under way to strengthen this roster of players.

Discussions with coaches

JOIHF is currently finalising discussions with two very experienced coaches and National Hockey League (NHL) alumni, who have both expressed an interest in working with the team to defend the LATAM Cup. The coaches know each other and are prepared to partner with JOIHF as co-coaches. Former ice hockey players themselves, they each have played over 400 games in the NHL, and are now heavily involved in managing ice rinks and hockey programmers at youth and adult levels. Details are being finalised and will be released very shortly.

Additional hockey and business expertise

In addition to the co-coaches, JOIHF now has on board two other highly experienced ice hockey personnel. One is Gary Smith, who played professionally in Europe, has coached the game at the youth through adult levels, and has 24 years of experience in ice rink development, including design and equipment selection, throughout the USA. The other, Sean Caple, also a former hockey player, has managed ice rinks, developed hockey programmers, and coached teams in the USA. He was one of the original members of the ice hockey personnel that visited Jamaica in 2010, at the launch of the program, and who met with Minister of Sports Olivia Grange then.

The other recent major addition to the team is Cindi Dixon, a financial, marketing, and organizational leadership consultant, who has vast corporate and investment banking experience in the US and other regions, as well as business interests in Jamaica.

MOU with G C Foster College

Last year, JOIHF signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with G C Foster College to develop a grass-roots program, which is a prerequisite for Olympic qualifying. The curriculum for the course will fall under the coaches and business degree program, and is being developed incorporating content provided by the International Ice Hockey Federation, as well as assistance from other world-class coaching organizations.

In the meantime, the organizers of the LATAM Cup have already expressed their delight that Jamaica will be back to defend the trophy, and are eagerly awaiting the country’s participation. The tournament has already attracted significant new interest because of the excitement created by Jamaica’s participation, and ultimate victory, in 2019.

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