Category: Asia (Page 1 of 12)

Anurag Thakur handed a strategic blueprint for development of ice hockey in Ladakh

india ice hockey

Source: Yes Punjab

New Delhi, Dec 7, 2023- Union Minister for Youth Affairs and Sports on Thursday unveiled a strategic Blueprint for the development of Ice Hockey in the Union Territory (UT) of Ladakh.

Royal Enfield unveiled a strategic blueprint for the development of Ice Hockey in the Union Territory (UT) of Ladakh.

Titled Game Changer, the blueprint document, prepared by Royal Enfield, will serve as a roadmap for the holistic development of the sport in Ladakh and is a step towards realising the ambition of fielding an Indian Ice Hockey contingent at the 2042 Winter Olympics.

The blueprint was handed over to Thakur in the presence of advocate Tashi Gyaltsan, Chief Executive Councillor, Leh, Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC), Mohd Jaffer Akhoon, Chief Executive Councillor, Kargil, LAHDC and Ravinder Kumar (IAS), Secretary to Lieutenant Governor of Ladakh and Department of Youth & Sports, Administration of the Union Territory of Ladakh by Bidisha Dey, Executive Director of Eicher Group Foundation, the CSR and Sustainability arm of Royal Enfield, at an event in the national capital.

“Today’s development is very exciting for our nation. I would like to congratulate the Administration of the Union Territory of Ladakh and Royal Enfield, for the creation of this Blueprint for the Development of Ice Hockey in Ladakh.

“This blueprint is a Game Changer and will certainly pave the way to enable an Indian Ice Hockey contingent to participate in the 2042 Winter Olympics,” said Anurag Singh Thakur, who has also written the foreword of this potentially game-changing document.

With more than 90% of India’s Ice Hockey players hailing from Ladakh winter sports is emerging as a promising avenue towards building resilience and generating livelihood opportunities—particularly for the youth. It can also simultaneously boost winter tourism, potentially transforming Ladakh into a coveted winter sports destination.

Commissioned by the Administration of the Union Territory of Ladakh, Royal Enfield collaborated with the European Business and Technical Centre (EBTC) and all relevant local, national and international stakeholders to develop this Blueprint, shaping the future of Ice hockey and winter sports in India.

Reviewed by and created with inputs from the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF), this holistic document covers requirements for equipment and infrastructure, scouting and nurturing local talent, conducting training camps with the involvement of international coaches and professional governance, among other things.

While the document has been commissioned by the Administration of the Union Territory of Ladakh and has been created to develop the sport in Ladakh, it is not limited in its scope. It can be used as a template for developing the sport in other Himalayan states like Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh. (Agency)

Bahrain Might Be Getting a Renewable Energy Complex With an Ice Arena and It Looks Pretty Cool

Source: localbh

A UAE-based company named W.E.T.E.R, has unveiled an idea for Bahrain and is proposing an amazing combination of wind energy and an ice arena! It’s a project that brings together sustainability and sports.

In May 2023, the W.E.T.E.R project team presented their ideas to the authorities, economic planners, and construction professionals in Bahrain. Led by Mr. Abdullah Mohammed al-Qasemi, Chairman of the Bahrain ice hockey club, they shared technical and design materials for an electricity-generating building. But wait, there’s more!
In June 2023 The Ministry of Youth and Sports Affairs saw the potential and wanted to take it up a notch by integrating the facility with an ice arena. The W.E.T.E.R project team, experts in wind energy and sustainable architecture, got to work and developed a fantastic design. They seamlessly merged the power-generating building with the ice arena, creating a facility that honestly looks so cool. The Ministry of Youth and Sports now has the graphic drawings and other supporting materials in their hands. They’re carefully evaluating the proposal.

Bahrain is always showcasing its commitment to a greener future in the most remarkable ways! To stay updated on the progress of this remarkable project, be sure to visit their website here.

Oman gets first women’s national ice hockey squad

By Mohammed Taha – Muscat Daily

In a historic development, the first Omani women’s national ice hockey team was unveiled on Thursday at FunZone in Muscat. This landmark moment is the result of years of dedication of officials and relentless determination of the team members who defied all odds and challenges to pursue their passion.

Present at the team launch was H H Sayyida Hujaija Jaifer al Said.

Overjoyed at the momentous occasion, Sharifa Ali al Aufi, Secretary of Oman Skating Sports Committee, told Muscat Daily, “There’s immense confidence and belief in this team. I’m elated that we can represent Oman and am part of this pioneering initiative.”

Sharifa envisions the team making Oman proud on the international stage, with aspirations of competing in the Women’s Ice Hockey World Cup someday. Sharing how formation of the team began in 2021, she informed that the effort was spearheaded by Saud Nasser al Aufi, Training and Development Manager of Oman Skating Sports Committee. The initiative began with selection of just four players.

After rigorous training and friendly matches in the sultanate, the team recently underwent further conditioning in Kuwait. Its mettle will soon be tested in an international tournament in the UAE being held from September 5 to 9.

“We stand steadfastly with our team, especially as it debuts in the UAE championship. It will be competing against teams from Mexico, the Philippines, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE,” Aufi informed.

However, the journey hasn’t been without challenges. Highlighting the lack of adequate training facilities in the sultanate, Aufi said, “We have only three small stadiums, none of Olympic standards.”

Additionally, lack of equipment and financial constraints posed hurdles. Having overcome all challenges, the team now has 28 dedicated players.

With a national team now formed, Aufi has his eye set on setting up more teams across the sultanate’s wilayats to popularise the sport. “To encourage more youth to embrace the sport, and host Arab, Asian and global tournaments, we need Olympic-standard ice hockey facilities.”

He extended his gratitude to FunZone and the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Youth, saying, “Their unwavering support enabled us to meet the challenge and establish the national team. Kudos also to the families of our players for their immense support.”

He wished the team success in its international debut later this week.

Ice hockey talent pool expanded in southern China

Players compete in the women’s ice hockey match between Guangdong and Sichuan at the National Winter Games in Hulun Buir, North China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, on July 22, 2023.

By Lu Wenao – Global Times

The ice hockey competitions at the National Winter Games, though rarely held in the summer, concluded in early August in Hulun Buir, North China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, as the spotlight surprisingly fell on teams from southern China.

Debutants Guangdong Province, whose women’s ice hockey lineup included several players affiliated with international teams such as national team captain Yu Baiwei, claimed their maiden national championship title as they won the seven-team competition.

“It allows more people to witness the charm of ice and snow in the summer. It’s our first experience participating in such an event during [the summer] season,” Yu told the Global Times. “I hope more people will watch our games, fall in love with ice hockey and even engage in the sport.”

Yu, who joined Shenzhen-based club Shenzhen Red Star in South China’s Guangdong Province in 2017, said Guangdong has been very supportive in developing winter sports, though the province is known for its warm climate.

“Guangdong has provided strong support for ice and snow sports, and these efforts have shown results in recent years,” Yu said. “I believe winning the National Winter Games will inspire more cities in southern China to develop ice and snow sports.”

In the men’s tournament, debutants Chongqing Municipality rounded off their ­maiden National Winter Games foray with a fourth-place finish in a nine-team race.

“They have demonstrated tenacity as the team even without winning a medal for Chongqing,” said Zhang Ge, deputy director of the Chongqing Winter Sports Administration. “The emergence of several outstanding young players is the greatest positive from our participation in this event.” 

Zhang mentioned that the team still requires more competitions to gain match fitness, saying, “We believe that with an increase in tournament participation, the team will see greater improvement.”

Olympic legacy

For many people from northern China, ice sports like skating are ­familiar, with locals having ­participated in them since childhood. Artificial ice technology spread in China thanks to Beijing winning the 2022 Winter Olympic bid, and has helped introduce children and teenagers winter sports in southern China.

The aforementioned two teams are just examples of ice hockey’s spread in southern China, as teams representing Sichuan and Anhui provinces, as well as Shanghai Municipality, areas in southern China where ice and snow is rarely seen, also qualified for the National Winter Games.

The southwestern province of Sichuan founded its ice hockey team in 2019, as the province aims to establish a squad that might widen the talent pool of the national team, said Duan Yuchuan, chief of Sichuan’s winter sports authority.

“Our short-term goal when establishing the team in 2019 was to participate in the National Winter Games and the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics. This goal has since been achieved,” Duan told the Global Times. 

“The mid-term goal is to win medals at national multi-sport events, contributing more talent to the national teams. Now we have seen several talent being summoned to the national team training camp,” Duan said, before noting that their long-term goal is to have Sichuan-born athletes win gold medals for China at the Winter Olympics in the future.

“Athletes from Sichuan often possess advantages in flexibility, skill, endurance, and performance. These strengths can be fully harnessed in specialized development across segments such as ice and snow sports skills,” he added.

Sichuan’s hopes of being summoned to the national team are firmly pinned to Sichuan’s women’s goalie Wei Xueqin. Wei, now 22, made it to the national team training camp for the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics but had to skip the quadrennial tournament due to a squad limit. 

Despite not making it to the national team, Wei continues to relentlessly strive for greatness. 

National team captain Yu, 35, said witnessing many young ice hockey players at the National Games assures her that the sport has a brighter future.

“I have seen emerging forces in ice hockey like the Sichuan team, represented by athletes crossing disciplines and fields. While they might lack some technical skills and experience, I can feel their youthful enthusiasm when competing against them,” Yu told the Global Times. 

“As long as they keep pushing forward and maintain the momentum, there’s significant potential for the future development of women’s ice hockey in China.”

The competition for younger ice hockey players will be held in February 2024, when Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region hosts the full-scale National Winter Games. It is considered an event in which China’s ice hockey younger squad depth will be tested before the 2026 Winter Olympics.

Preparing for championship

As Shenzhen, a metropolis in South China’s Guangdong Province, will host the Division I Group A women’s ice hockey world championship tournament from August 20 to 26, China has a chance to further expand ice hockey’s influence in the country.

Team China will host Denmark, Norway, Slovakia, Austria, and the Netherlands in the tournament, all aiming for gold and a chance for advancement in the sport’s international ranking.

Yu also underlines that actualizing quality performances is also vital to boost the sport’s popularity.

“It’s not just about achieving results, but also about playing the game well,” Yu said. 

“Showing the younger generations what kind of teamwork and technical moves can be displayed in ice hockey is vital for the sport. I hope we can deliver better performances and become an example for young players to learn from.”

Israeli ice hockey reinvigorated with new fresh board of directors

A Recent picture of the Israel Women’s National Team playing at the OneIce Arena in Tnuvot, just outside Netanya.

 Jerusalem Post

Ice hockey may not be the most popular sport in Israel, but it rivals any in terms of passion.

For the hundreds of those who spend their time on the gleaming chilly surface or stand behind the boards watching their kids trying to handle the puck with a stick while balancing on skates, it is not a revelation that the national federation in Israel has recently passed through a very difficult period of turbulence.

For the hundreds of those who spend their time on the gleaming chilly surface or stand behind the boards watching their kids trying to handle the puck with a stick while balancing on skates, it is not a revelation that the national federation in Israel has recently passed through a very difficult period of turbulence.

But now the wait is over. The new management team of the Ice Hockey Federation of Israel (IHFI) has been selected and the organization can return to its primary mission – taking the local game to new heights.

New Board of Directors

A competent Board of Directors, under the guidance of the new president Basil Gamsu, will help ensure that no infringements are possible, a volunteer-based professional operations unit led by new CEO Mikhael Horowitz will take care of the hands-on, day-to-day activities, and a renewed Professional Committee led by Pavel Levin will advise and direct on the professional side.

Levin and Horowitz are by no means new to this game and they have many notches on their belts which prove their competence. Pavel is one of the founders of OneIce Arena, the country’s best ice facility located in Tnuvot just outside of Netanya, and Mikhael, an Israeli-born hockey manager, has international experience and education both in North America and Europe and has been involved in hockey within Israel  for more than 20 years. Heading the organization as the president, Gamsu is an experienced financial leader who anticipates guiding the organization to prosperity.

“We have gone through difficult times in previous years,” noted Horowitz. “The global pandemic alongside internal misdoings have taken us many steps back. But we have held strong. As Christine Caine stated: ‘Sometimes when you’re in a dark place you think you’ve been buried, but you’ve actually been planted.’ That’s the attitude we have. That’s the attitude that allowed us to have a breakthrough season this year.”

In a very short period of time, the new processes led by renewed IHFI management definitely have borne fruit. Starting in January in Turkey, where the U20 team reached the final of its divisional tournament but had to settle for silver after losing to Australia. Then in March in Iceland, the U18 team made it a step further winning gold in Division 3A and being promoted to an upper tier for the first time since 2008.

Later in March, OneIce Arena hosted the Women’s World Championship in Division 3B – the first International Ice Hockey Federation level event to be hosted in the country. On home ice, the blue-and–white ladies accomplished their first-ever victory, defeating Bosnia and Herzegovina, and brought home their first medal as they finished ranked second.

Finally, in April in Spain, the men’s team successfully secured a spot in Division 2A after a heroic mini-miracle-on-ice, last-second win vs Iceland in its final game – yet another unprecedented feat.

IHFI success has been greatly influenced by OneIce Arena’s support and involvement as a strategic partnership has developed between the federation and the venue. The facility, which had run independently from the IHFI in previous years, has fully opened its doors for the first time to IHFI activities.

Since opening in 2019, OneIce Arena has sponsored national team activity, merged its league with the national league and brought know-how to operations. Having survived the COVID-caused hiatus the arena now operates around the clock welcoming everybody who shares the owners’ passion for ice sports.

OneIce co-hosts, alongside with the northern Canada Center facility in Metula and a smaller rink in the Holon – Ice Peaks – the renewed Israel National Hockey Leagues (INHL). The INHL is the federation’s national league which provides leagues for youth, juniors, adults, and masters, the veterans who refuse to give up the game.

OneIce Arena is home to the OneIce Hockey Academy which runs programs for kids and adults of all ages and levels – from those who just put their skates on for the first time until those who become (semi)professionals.

What’s next? After all the positive overhaul, the future of Israeli ice hockey seems as bright as ever. New management knows that there is a lot of hard work to be done and they are very happy they can rely on their close colleagues and friends for support.

“I would like to thank everyone who has given back to hockey this year,” said Horowitz. ”We are running a huge volunteer-based operation. I would like to acknowledge Felix Kozak and Steven and Natalie Maksin as they have been a huge help throughout the years.

“Through his work as an attorney, Felix knows everything about sponsorship and fundraising, which is an invaluable support for the national teams program. The Maksin couple and their company, Moonbeam Capital Investments, also proved themselves as devoted and reliable partners – and, most importantly, true friends who share a passion for the game and are always ready to help tackle any problem and overcome any barrier, just like good teammates do.

“With friends like these anything is possible.”

The rise of ice hockey

By Adnan Sipra – GDN online

With the sporting limelight in the kingdom hogged by football, basketball, volleyball and handball – the four sports that dominate the headlines on a regular basis – a major achievement by Bahrain’s national ice hockey team slipped quietly under the news radar.

Competing in the Arab Club Ice Hockey Championship – which was held recently in Kuwait, featuring teams from eight countries across the region – Bahrain reached the semi-finals of the competition before losing to eventual champions, Lebanon, in a hard-fought contest.

Earlier, placed in a tough preliminary group with regional heavyweights Algeria and Tunisia and hosts Kuwait, the Bahraini team surprised everyone when they defeated the mighty Algerians to notch up their first ever win in an international clash at this level.

A few days later, after narrowly losing to the Kuwaitis, Bahrain upset the highly-fancied Tunisians to snap up another international win and finished second in their group behind the hosts.

“The win against Algeria was incredible because it was our first ever win in an international tournament,” Bahrain head coach Petr Dubsky told the GDN in an exclusive interview. “It was an amazing feeling to register that victory. I still get goosebumps thinking about it.

“For it to be followed by another win against another tough team like Tunisia was an even more spectacular feeling. No one expected us to do well so I can tell you that quite a few people there were quite shocked at what we were able to accomplish.”

Dubsky, 44, who started playing ice hockey at the age of five in his native Czech Republic, played the sport regularly until he was 18. Now the general manager at the Diplomat Radisson Hotel, the Bahraini head coach – who served an earlier stint in the kingdom with the same chain from 2014-17 before being transferred first to Saudi and then to Oman – returned to the island in January last year.

“While I was in Oman, I took the opportunity to apply for a coaching licence because I wanted to coach their national team,” Dubsky said. “Then, when I returned to Bahrain in 2022, I thought I would put my passion for the sport and my licence to good use by coaching the kingdom’s national team.”

In his capacity as head coach, Dubsky has been working closely with Abdulla Al Qassimi, the chairman of the Bahrain Ice Hockey Club (BIHC), the only officially recognised club in the kingdom.

It is Al Qassimi, 40, who played the sport competitively until a serious leg injury forced him to stop, who has worked tirelessly to try and put Bahrain on the regional and international ice hockey map.

Not bothered by the lack of a full-size ice rink of their own – the BIHC rents one at a popular recreational facility in Manama for every two-hour training session – Al Qassimi juggles his job at the General Sports Authority (GSA) while overseeing the administration of the club.

“The rink we use is roughly half the size of a proper international one,” he explained. “So that makes our team’s exploits in Kuwait even more remarkable.

“And I agree with Petr – seeing our team win against Algeria to finally register our first success generated a feeling I can’t even begin to put into words! And, then, watching them bounce back from a defeat against Kuwait to hand Tunisia a comprehensive drubbing was even more incredible.”

Bahrain captain Sameh Hegazi, who won the player-of-the-match award against Tunisia was similarly delighted as he described what it was like to lead his team to their first ever international victories.

“We were in a very difficult group,” Hegazi, 36, who works for the Bahrain Navy, told the GDN. “The other group had Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Egypt and Oman with only the Lebanese being a truly formidable team.

“But here we were, pitted against Algeria and Tunisia. Almost all of the players in those two teams live in France or Canada and play in pro leagues. Here, we don’t even have a full-sized rink and, of course, we don’t have any leagues.

“So, in our very first game against Algeria, we had to make the adjustment from playing on a small rink at home to playing on a proper rink against top-class international opposition. And we won 6-5, after having first trailed 3-5.”

The defeat against Kuwait was treated by the Bahrain team as a learning experience, Hegazi added.

“We gave them tough competition,” he continued. “We eventually lost, 6-4, but it was a good game with the hosts receiving a lot of support from their home crowd.”

But, in their final group game against Tunisia, Hegazi said, the Bahrain team roared right back.

“We pushed hard in the first period and kept them in check,” he explained. “And then, we eventually won 7-2.”

In the semi-final against Lebanon, however, the team’s preparations were undone by injuries to two key players and the fact that the Lebanese players all had pro league experience.

“They are a very strong team,” Hegazi said. “Nearly all of the players in that semi-final were 19-22-years-old. All of them live in Canada where they play in pro leagues and their lives are all about ice hockey. We lost 8-1 to them, but there was no shame in that.

“Afterwards, we lost our third-place play-off to Oman – who had lost to Kuwait in the other semi-final – but, again, while we would have liked to have won that, we were still very happy with what we were able to achieve.”

Watching all the action from the bench was Bahrain women’s captain Malak Janahi, who is part of the senior BIHC leadership group formed by Dubsky. The women’s team did not take part in the tournament but Janahi did lead her team to an invitational tournament in Kazan, Russia, last January.

“There were seven teams, including us, in that tournament,” the 24-year-old software engineering student, who was appointed captain in late 2021, told the GDN. “Considering that most of the girls in the team started playing the sport very recently, it was a great experience.

“We knew that the tournament was intended to be part of our learning curve. And, it helped us immensely. You see, in Russia, girls start playing ice hockey from a very young age so they’re very, very good by the time they become adults.

“So we told ourselves that we would try and learn as much as we could from playing against them, and other good players from other countries. As a result, our girls came back feeling much more confident about their abilities after going up against such good opposition.”

Behind the scenes, Al Qassimi has been liaising with officials from ice hockey federations in different countries in the region and beyond and is working hard to register Bahrain with the International Ice Hockey Federation.

“In partnership with officials from other countries, we have also created an Arab Ice Hockey Federation as well as an Islamic Ice Hockey Federation,” he said. “This will help give the game a boost in Bahrain as well.”

But before that can happen, head coach Dubsky said, prospects of the sport prospering in the kingdom were difficult without proper facilities.

“But we’re still grateful for the small ice rink,” he added. “It’s just that you can’t really practice strategy by playing on a small rink, that is half the size of an international standard one.

“If you go from practicing on a small rink to playing an international tournament on a proper rink, there are problems with passing, problems of scale, the players have to adjust to the speed of the puck on a big rink very quickly.

“That, again, is why the team’s achievement in Kuwait is so momentous. Meanwhile, Abdulla is doing good work. One of his plans is to send players to other countries to play, coach, referee and manage. It will make them even more well-rounded.”

And Dubsky, himself, who is loving every bit of the time he gets to spend on the sport he is so passionate about, has also taken some initiatives of his own.

“I’ve created four teams – two consisting of Bahrainis, two of expats – who played each other in a sort of league recently,” he explained. “The Bahraini guys did really well, which was extremely encouraging.

“And, also, I want to do my bit for local communities here. I feel that, as an expat, I should give something back to the wonderful country I live in. And my employers have been extremely supportive of both my involvement in the kingdom’s ice hockey scene as well as my initiatives for community development.”

Top sports authority issues formal reprimand to ice hockey body

the Sports Federation & Olympic Committee of Hong Kong, China said Thursday it will issue a “written reprimand” to the Hong Kong Ice Hockey Association over a national anthem blunder.

Source: The Standard

The Sports Federation & Olympic Committee of Hong Kong, China said Thursday it will issue a “written reprimand” to the Hong Kong Ice Hockey Association over a national anthem blunder.

The association was also urged to submit supplementary info within 14 days on how it would improve its corporate governance, integrity management, and membership system.

The SF&OC’s decision follows fierce exchanges between them and the ice hockey association since the association submitted an 11-page report to the top sports authority on the February incident in which the organizers of an international ice hockey tournament in Bosnia played a protest song rather than the national anthem at the event.

Speaking to the media today, SF&OC’s honorary secretary-general Edgar Yang Joe-tsi said the board has found the team leader of the ice hockey team not following relevant guidelines in the Bosnia game after reviewing the report, in which it decided to issue a “written reprimand” – a very stern warning instead of a general warning.

Yang said the SF&OC will also refine the guidelines to provide solutions for sports teams when they run into extraordinary circumstances.

He said the sports team will be requested to collect a tool kit from the committee before setting off for games, with the organizers of the events required to acknowledge receiving the kit with a written receipt.

Should the organizers refuse to acknowledge or confirm the national anthem and the national flag, team leaders must not let athletes attend the ceremonies, he added.

Kuwait and Lebanon to Compete in First Arab Ice Hockey Championship Final

Source: Arab Times

The Kuwait and Lebanon men’s ice hockey teams have advanced to the final of the first Arab Ice Hockey Championship, currently taking place in Kuwait, after defeating Oman and Bahrain, respectively, in the semi-finals on Thursday evening. The Hockey Blue team secured a well-deserved victory over Oman with a score of 13/3, while Lebanon dominated its match against Bahrain with a score of 8/1.

The two teams will face each other in the tournament’s final on Saturday, while Bahrain and Oman will compete for third place. In placement matches from fifth to eighth place, Tunisia defeated Saudi Arabia 14/3, and Algeria beat Egypt 8/3. The Vice-President of the Kuwaiti Winter Games Club, Khaled Al-Mutairi, expressed his admiration for Al-Azraq’s qualification to the final and praised the tournament’s technical and organizational success.

The Chairman of the Omani Ski Sports Committee, Saeed Al Zaabi, was proud of Oman’s progress to the semi-finals, while Kuwait national team player Jassem Al-Awadi expressed the team’s determination to win the championship and dedicate it to their fans. The final match promises to be a competitive and exciting event as it brings together the tournament’s top teams.

Thailand wins women’s 2023 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s Asia and Oceania Championship gold

By Andrew PodnieksIIHF.com

Backed by the near-perfect goaltending of Thamida Kunthadapakorn, Thailand won the 2023 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s Asia and Oceania Championship (IIHF WAOC) with a 3-1 win over Iran in the gold-medal game Sunday in Bangkok. The eight-team tournament saw Kunthadapakorn surrender just one goal in 260 minutes of playing time while her teammates outscored the opposition by a whopping 51-3 margin. The final game was the only one in which the Thais didn’t score at least 11 goals.
 
Other countries competing in what was formerly known as the Challenge Cup of Asia included Singapore, Malaysia, United Arab Emirates, India, Kyrgyzstan, and Kuwait. Singapore won the bronze earlier in the day with a 3-1 win over India.
 
For Iran and Kyrgyzstan these were historic games, their first women’s participation under the IIHF umbrella. The tournament is particularly valuable to these nations which are not competing in an IIHF World Championship event but nonetheless gives them international experience and also helps prepare them for the Asia Winter Games which will next be played in Trojena, Saudi Arabia, in 2029.
 
The IIHF WAOC tournament started in 2010, and was won by China in that inaugural season. This year marked the second time Thailand won, the first coming in 2019, the last time the event was played before covid-19 forced the cancellation of hockey worldwide. It also marked the second time Thailand had hosted the event, and all 20 games were played at the Thailand International Ice Hockey Arena in Bangkok, which has the standard international dimensions of 60m x 30m. The explosion of hockey in Asia, and Thailand in particular, is further evident by the imminent opening of another rink, in Chiang Mai, about 700km north of Bangkok, this summer.
 
In the case of India, the team was coached by Canadian Darrin Harrold, and some 18 of the 20 players came from Ladakh, a region in the far north that is making a major push to develop hockey.
 
The winning Thais were also coached by a Canadian, Rory Rawlyk, while the players came from a national women’s league that has also made a push to promote hockey. And in Iran, their first rink opened four years ago, and the following year a women’s team was formed, mostly from Inline players. The Tehran Times covered the 2023 IIHF WAOC, an important symbol of respect for the emerging popularity of the game. In the United Arab Emirates, the team held a two-week training camp prior to the tournament, an event they hosted in 2019.
 
The tournament was played with two groups in vertical structure, the top four in Group A (Thailand, Singapore, Macau, UAE) and the lower-ranked four in Group B. The last two teams in Group B—Kyrgyzstan and Kuwait—didn’t qualify for the playoffs while the top two in A—Thailand and Singapore—automatically advanced to the semi-finals.
 
Key to Thailand’s win in the final game was holding tournament scoring leader, Fatemeh Esmaeili, in check. Although she led all players with a whopping 17 goals and 26 points in just five games, she was held pointless in the game for gold. At the other end, it was captain Thipwarintorn Yannakornthanapunt who led the way, scoring two goals in the third period to break a 1-1 tie and carry her team to victory. Incredibly, she also took 34 of the team’s 38 total faceoffs in the game, winning 19 (64 per cent).
 
Supitsara Thamma had given the Thais the early lead, but Zahra Rezaei Jafari tied the game for Iran midway through the second, setting the stage for Yannakornthanapunt’s heroics in the final period.
 
All in all, the Thai win was impressive and important, but the tournament was, in the bigger picture, indicative of an ever-growing development of the women’s game in the Far East and the evident sense that this growth is only just beginning.

Hong Kong Government support suspension of ice hockey association over national anthem row

The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Government announced that they will be supporting the decision to ban the Hong Kong Ice Hockey Association (HKIHA) after a blunder with the national anthem in February.

They released a statement backing the Sports Federation & Olympic Committee of Hong Kong, China (SF&OC) request for the HKIHA to produce an explanation behind the mistake and how they will improve upon it.

The incident happened before Hong Kong’s match against Iran at the  International Ice Hockey Federation World Championship Group III in Bosnia and Herzegovina when an anti-Government song linked to protests in Hong Kong, a special administrative region of China, in 2019 were played instead of the Hong Kong anthem.

“In the event that suspension of the HKIHA’s membership is affirmed by the SF&OC through the passage of a special resolution, the HKSAR Government will, under the premise of not affecting the athletes, consider reducing the subvention to the HKIHA correspondingly as punishment,” the statement said, according to China Daily.

“The national anthem is a symbol and sign of the country and should be respected on all occasions. 

“The HKSAR Government will impose severe sanctions for non-compliance without exception.”

Detailed instructions on flag and anthem ceremonies were issued in November last year after a similar incident occurred at a rugby sevens match in Incheon in South Korea.

Despite the row, Hong Kong’s Secretary for Culture, Sports and Tourism Kevin Yeung Yun-Hung promised that he will advocate for funding to continue so that athletes can participate in international competitions and receive funding.

“When dealing with this incident, we see that the managing leaders of the ice hockey association did not give appropriate attention to the handling of the national anthem,” Yeung told public broadcaster Radio Television Hong Kong.

“This also reflects some issues with its internal management. 

“Therefore, we support the measures taken by the SF&OC to start a proceeding that may lead to the temporary suspension of the membership of the ice hockey association.”

Honorary chairman of the HKIHA is Kenneth Fok, vice-president of the SF&OC, which is led by his father Timothy, who is also a member of the International Olympic Committee.

Kenneth Fok is also Legislative Councillor for the Sports, Performing Arts, Culture and Publication Functional Constituency.

Fok was appointed as honorary chairman of the HKIHA after leading the Hong Kong delegation as team leader to the 2020 Winter Youth Olympic Games in Lausanne.

He has supported the decision of the SF&OC to recommend the suspension of the HKIHA, claiming it will highlight the corporate governance issues within the association.

Yun-Hung also talked about the potential cuts in funding and what extent it may reach.

“We will not discuss in detail the spending of all the budget of the Ice Hockey Association openly,” he said.

“If we have to cut some of the budgets at the end, which we do not really want to happen.

“We will ensure that the athletes will be able to continue to participate in international competitions and also their training will not be affected.”

The ice hockey association mentioned that budget cuts will have repercussions on development and competing.

They also said that the leaders of the organisation are volunteers and unpaid.

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