Day: June 21, 2021

Growing the girls’ game in Indonesia

Indonesian female players of a mixed team at the 2019 South East Asia Youth Cup pose for a photo after the closing of the tournament

By Liz Montroy – IIHF.com

October of 2019 marked the second year in a row that World Girls Ice Hockey Weekend (WGIHW) celebrations were held at Indonesia’s Bintaro Xchange Ice Skating Rink. Young girls flocked to the rink to don skates and gear for the first time, accompanied by others already familiar with the sport who were eager to share their love of hockey with potential new players.

The WGIHW festivities have been highlights in the development of women’s ice hockey in Indonesia, a country that is still relatively new to the sport, having joined the IIHF in 2016. Driven largely by the efforts of coaches Ronald Wijaya and Andianto Hie, Indonesia got a boost in 2014 when Malaysian coach Gary Tan arrived to help build their development program.

“To coach the coaches,” Tan, who was the head coach of Indonesia’s men’s national team from 2016 to 2018, said of what his initial focus was when he first started working with the Indonesian Ice Hockey Federation. “That’s the most important thing, because the coaches are the ones who are going to develop the kids… At that time there weren’t many coaches, maybe three, but I think it has grown due to the nature of the sport right now. So most of the kids that I taught when I first started are coaching right now.”

While still a work in progress, the number of female players has seen some growth as well, in particular following the WGIHW events held in 2018 and 2019. The majority of Indonesia’s female players started out as figure skaters, transferring to ice hockey after seeing siblings or parents play the sport.

“At first I actually wanted [to play hockey], but my parents told me to do figure skating because there are more girls in figure skating,” said 15-year-old Qanita Feira Larasati.

Indonesia has a number of rising star players; 17-year-old Chiara Andini Salsabila, for example, was one of 44 female goaltenders who attended the 2019 IIHF Goaltending Development Camp in Slovakia. She regularly practises with expats and men’s teams.

“The commitment level from the girls, from what I’ve seen, is really incredible,” said Tan. “[In Indonesia, hockey is] a unique thing for a girl to participate in, and to have the passion and the drive to push themselves to improve is incredible.”

Despite sometimes having to travel long distances to get to the rink and struggling to overcome the stigma associated with girls playing hockey, Indonesia’s female players have developed an unbreakable love for the game and their teammates.

“Ice hockey is really fun, and the atmosphere and the people in the rink and the team – it’s really fun,” said 13-year-old defender Ghina Rameyza Salsabila. “It’s like my second or third home.”

Happy Indonesian players at the 2019 South East Asia Youth Cup

One thing Tan has encouraged the program to do since its inception is play in tournaments to gain game experience. Indonesia regularly sends mixed kids’ teams to tournaments around South East Asia, and while the first few were challenging, the teams have progressively seen improved performances and benefited from an increased following.

“I remember at the South East Asia Youth Cup, [when] we scored our first goal,” 15-year-old Farrah Zabreena Belle Synarso said as she recounted one of her fondest hockey memories. “Even though we lost [the game], we were so happy.”

Competing in tournaments has given Indonesia’s players something to aim for – a crucial element for improving player retention and giving aspiring athletes opportunities to achieve excellence. Many of Indonesia’s players have their sights set on moving up the podium at the South East Asia Youth Cup and improving upon their previous bronze medal finishes.

Meanwhile, the coaches are collaborating on delivering a development program that will see Indonesia climb the ranks in South East Asia and one day play in the both the men’s and women’s IIHF Ice Hockey Challenge Cup of Asia tournaments – and introducing more girls to the sport will be key to this.

“As [my dad] said to me, sports have no gender,” said Synarso. “So if you’re a girl and you want to play, than sure, why not?”

Stewart raising Jamaica’s game as national team co-coach

Former NHL forward aims to inspire squad, which hopes to qualify for Olympics

By William Douglas  – NHL.com

Chris Stewart took the unsolicited email as a sign.

The 33-year-old former NHL forward was grieving the recent deaths of relatives in Jamaica when the Jamaican Olympic Ice Hockey Federation (JOIHF) reached out to him to inquire whether he’d be interested in becoming a co-coach and hockey ambassador for its national team.

“I had an uncle die of cancer that was living in Jamaica and two weeks after that I had another uncle die of COVID on Jamaica,” Stewart said. “To say that Jamaica was on my heart and mind at the time was a massive understatement. I’m a big believer that everything kind of happens for a reason.”

Now Stewart is on a mission to help Jamaica defend its 2019 Amerigol LATAM Cup championship Oct. 14-17 at the Florida Panthers practice facility in Coral Springs, Florida, and boost the Caribbean country’s effort to one day compete in the Winter Olympics.

After Stewart received the email, he spoke with Sean Caple, JOIHF director of hockey operations, in May about the team comprised mostly of Canadian players of Jamaican heritage, including co-captain Jaden Lindo, a forward selected by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the sixth round (No. 173) of the 2014 NHL Draft.

Jamaica defeated Colombia 3-2 in a shootout to capture the LATAM Cup in 2019

“We got talking about where they’re going and the vision of the federation going forward, and we just aligned,” said Stewart, whose father, Norman, migrated to Montreal from Jamaica in the early 1970s and quickly became a Canadiens fan. “There’s a foundation there, for sure.”

Jamaica defeated Colombia 3-2 in a shootout to capture the LATAM Cup in a tournament that also featured men’s and women’s teams representing Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Puerto Rico and the Falkland Islands. The tournament was canceled in 2020 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus.

“Winning that trophy, I can’t tell you how important that was for Jamaica,” JOIHF president Don Anderson said. “It made … Jamaica proud of the team because, obviously, not very many people in Jamaica knew we had a hockey team.”

Anderson said Stewart’s hire adds the exclamation point to Jamaica’s effort and Olympic ambitions.

Team Jamaica 2019

Selected by the Colorado Avalanche with the No. 18 pick in the 2006 NHL Draft, Stewart scored 322 points (160 goals, 162 assists) in 668 NHL games with seven teams from 2008-20, and 11 points (six goals, five assists) in 39 Stanley Cup Playoff games. He also played for Canada at the 2011 IIHF World Championship in Bratislava and Kosice, Slovakia.

“Chris is going to bring tremendous expertise, knowledge in the sport of hockey,” Anderson said. “He also has tremendous influence within bigger hockey circles, the NHL and IIHF and we expect that we will be able to use some of that experience and know how that Chris has to be able to present programs that we believe will be worthwhile enough for the two bodies to support us on.”

Stewart will join former NHL defenseman Jamie Huscroft behind the Jamaica bench. Huscroft scored 38 points (five goals, 33 assists) in 352 NHL games with seven teams from 1988-2000 and one assist in 21 playoff games.

Anderson said Stewart is already paying dividends in his hockey ambassador role. One of his first acts was to connect the JOIHF with the NHL Players’ Association Goals & Dreams fund to apply for a donation of hockey equipment to help grow the game in Jamaica.

The fund is the world’s largest grassroots hockey program, providing more than 80,000 children in 34 countries the opportunity to play the sport over the past 21 years through equipment donations. It has donated more than $25 million to help grow the game of hockey.

“I just connected the dots, I know the PA and know they’re always looking for things to help out on,” Stewart said. “Yeah, they’ve been speaking and, hopefully, we can build the relationship into something that can materialize into something good.”

Jamaica would join Costa Rica as the second Caribbean country to benefit from the Goals & Dreams fund if the JOIHF’s application is approved.

Stewart hopes to further assist the effort in Jamaica by being one of five North American coaches at a week-long hockey clinic at the G.C. Foster College of Physical Education and Sport in St. Catherine, Jamaica, which has added the sport to its curriculum.

“We anticipate 25 to 50, even more kids,” Caple said. “It would be free of charge. We’re going to go through a lot of the basic skills and concepts of hockey that you would on the ice rink.”

Jamaica’s biggest hurdle to full IIHF membership and Olympic qualification is the lack of a skating rink on the island. Anderson said JOIHF officials hope Stewart’s presence and hockey resume will help serve as a selling point in getting one built.

There were reports in 2019 that a Canadian investor was interested in building a rink as part of a resort on the island’s north coast and Anderson told Jamaican media the federation has spoken with some private companies about constructing a synthetic ice sheet as a short-term solution.

In the meantime, Stewart is keeping his eyes on the prize that potentially awaits in Coral Springs in October.

“We’ve gone from the hunter to the hunted. We’re the defending champs,” he said. “We’re the measuring stick, right? So it’s no different than Tampa Bay (Lightning) or Chicago (Blackhawks) when they were going through it. Every team is preparing to beat you that night. We’re the measuring stick.”