Category: Asia (Page 1 of 15)

In 2006, the first Iranians were selected in the NHL draft

Daniel Rahimi

By Vitaly Nesterov – National Teams of Ice Hockey

In 2006, a historic event happened for Iran – Two hockey players with roots in this country were drafted by NHL clubs

These hockey players were Daniel Rahimi and Rhett Rakhshani

Daniel Rahimi was born in 1987 in Sweden and before the 2006 draft he played in the system of  IF Björklöven. In the 3rd round, under the 82nd overall pick, the defender was drafted by Vancouver and Rahimi immediately moved to Canada, but played only in the AHL for Manitoba Moose.

After two seasons, Rahimi returned to Sweden.,  at the moment, Daniel is a playing in the Allsvenskan league (the second strongest league in Sweden), where he moved this season from the elite division  Club Vaxjo to IF Björklöven.

Rhett Rakhshani was born in March 1988 in the United States and was selected a little later than his future Linkoping teammate Rahimi – he was chosen by the Islanders in the 4th round under the 100th pick overall. Rhett has little experience in the NHL for his team – in the seasons 2010/11 and 2011/12, Rakhshani played a total of 7 games without earning a single point.

In season 2012/13, Rhett moved to Sweden and played fpr HV-71.  Rhett still plays in the country and in the 2015/16 season, Rhett played with Daniel Rahimi for Linköping HC.

For the last two seasons, Rakhshani has played in Frölunda HC and, of course, his achievements include a victory in the Champions League. Before the start of the new season,Rakhshani moved to Djurgårdens IF, but has not yet played for the new club.

Rhett Rakhshani

Pride of Japan

Japanese forward Yuri Terao skates during the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group B in Estonia

By Jim Arm Strong –

Yuri Terao figured his game was better suited to the rugged North American style. Following an impressive debut in the ECHL, the promising Japanese forward has his sights set on ice hockey’s biggest stage.

The 25-year-old Terao has exceeded expectations in his first season with the Utah Grizzlies of the ECHL, scoring 18 goals and 22 assists in 61 games for the team that plays at the venue of the Salt Lake City 2002 Olympics before the remainder of the season was put on hold in March due to the coronavirus.

He’s now back in Japan playing for his hometown team the Nikko Ice Bucks of the Asia League, which gives him the chance to stay fit until the ECHL resumes in December.

The decision to join the Grizzlies is the latest step in a career that has made steady progress at each stage.

“I really wanted to play with Japanese pride and do the best I could,” said Terao, who earned the nickname “The Magician” in his first season in Utah. “I know it’s all about results so I wanted to get as many goals and assists as possible.“

Terao is considered one of the top prospects to come out of Japanese hockey. The 173-cm (5-foot-8), 86-kg (190-pound) forward is small by North American standards but is known for his speed and hard work.

Yuri Terao Salt Lake, Utah

Terao got a taste of North American hockey when he played for the Waterloo Black Hawks of the USHL in the 2015/16 season when he also scored 18 goals and had 22 assists.

Despite being the smallest player on the Grizzlies roster, Terao doesn’t shy away from the physical side of the game and has adjusted well to the smaller rinks in North America.

“The hockey culture is completely different,” Terao said when asked about the differences between his homeland and North America. “The systems are different, the quality of the reffing… Japan is less physical than North America where you have to battle for every chance.”

Japan has never produced an NHL player other than goaltender Yutaka Fukufuji, who played briefly for the Los Angeles Kings in the 2006/07 season and is now Terao’s teammate with Nikko.

Terao would love nothing more than to break that barrier even if it meant playing only one game in the NHL. “I think my personal hockey style is closer to the North American style,” Terao said. “My long-term goal is the play at least one game in the NHL but before that I want to get called up to the AHL and play some games there.”

While it has a long history in Japan, hockey is overshadowed by sports that are bigger in Japan such as baseball, football or sumo wrestling.

Terao knows that having a Japanese player in the NHL would boost the popularity of the sport in Japan by leaps and bounds.

“To have a Japanese player in the NHL, the media reaction here would be great and then you would have more focus on the game,” Terao said.

Terao got into hockey at an early age. His father was also a professional player and Yuri started skating when he was just two years old. His brother Hiromichi also plays hockey.

Terao was born in Nikko, which is a hockey hotbed in Japan. Just two hours north of Tokyo, the popular tourist destination is known for its ancient temples and fall foliage and there are constant reminders of the Ice Bucks. Their logo adorns taxi doors and flags that are flown in front of stores.

Hockey Town Nikko flags are visible throughout the historic city of Nikko

The Ice Bucks resumed play in early October in a revised Asia League competition known as the Japan Cup. Due to travel restrictions, the tournament features only the five Japan-based teams while the Korean teams currently also have to play a domestic competition.

The Grizzlies are an affiliate of the Colorado Avalanche. The ECHL is a mid-level professional hockey league with teams in the U.S. and Canada. It is one tier below the American Hockey League.

Terao’s Finnish coach in Nikko, Ari-Pekka Siekkinen, says he sees plenty of potential in his young player.

“Yuri has a high passion for the game,” Siekkinen said. “He wants to win the battles all the time, he is hungry to go to the net. He has really quick hands and a great shot.”

Siekkinen, who represented Finland at the 1992 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship, thinks the sky is the limit for Terao.

“I think he could play in the NHL one day but needs a little more time,” Siekkinen said. “He wants to play at the highest level so as long as he keeps improving and has good coaching I think he can do it.”

Japan’s rising star

Yu Sato was in flying form at the start of this year when Japan’s U20 raced through undefeated to win gold at the 2020 IIHF Ice Hockey U20 World Championship Division II Group A with the debutant who was then just 17 years old

By Henrik Manninen –

Having already suited up for teams on three different continents, it´s all part of the masterplan for 18-year-old prospect Yu Sato to one day enter Japanese ice hockey folklore.

“I want to become the first Japanese outfield player in the NHL. It is a dream I’ve had since I started to play hockey at the age of three,” said the Saitama-born forward, whose rookie season with the Quebec Remparts in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) came to an abrupt end following the COVID-19 lockdown.

Having previously played junior hockey in Russia and Finland, Sato’s credentials were put to a severe test in Canada’s Eastern province of Quebec during the 2019/2020 season. Skating against mostly older opponents such as top NHL entry draft pick Alexis Lafreniere became a notch up in quality for the Japanese prospect. After overcoming an early season injury, relentless competition for places saw playing time eventually become limited as he finished the season on four goals and six assists in 39 games for the Remparts.

“Each country I’ve played in has a different style of hockey which helps develop me as a player. In Quebec it was a physical game against older players where you had to make fast decisions playing on a smaller sheet,” said Sato, whose style of play makes him a rare commodity in Japanese hockey.

“The typical player in Japan is playing along the wings and always thinking to pass, pass and pass. Sato is very different. He always wants to shoot and his mind is always on scoring,” said Japan’s head coach Yuji Iwamoto of a player he hopes can lead the way for the men’s program to earn a place at the 2026 Winter Olympics.

Yu Sato in action during the 2020 IIHF Ice Hockey U20 World Championship Division II Group A

While NHL and the Olympics might still be a distant dream for Sato, another life-long ambition was fulfilled at the start of this year. Making his debut for Japan, Sato was in imperious form as Nippon raced to gold at the 2020 IIHF Ice Hockey U20 World Championship Division II Group A in Vilnius, Lithuania.

“It was my dream to represent my country and it was an amazing experience. I always wanted to play for Japan. I hope to get to the top division someday and I want to help Japan reach that level,” he said.

At the age of 11, Sato’s ambitions had already outgrown his native Japan. With Alexander Ovechkin being Sato’s hero as a kid, where better to speed up the development than in “Ovi’s” native Russia? The junior set-up of Krylia Sovetov in the Moscow region became Sato’s first port of call on his hockey odyssey.

“In Japan we had no junior league and only played tournaments. In Russia I was able to fully focus on hockey and there were lots of games. At first, it was hard. The culture was different and so was the style of hockey. I didn’t know Russian or English back then, so I was working from hand gestures on how to do things,” said Sato.

His parents took turns to stay with their son during a five-year Russian stint. There the Japanese teenager picked up the Russian language while relentlessly honing skills out on the ice that set him apart from his contemporaries.

“I mainly improved my physicality and skating in Russia. I was faster than the Russian players, so I came to use that to my advantage,” said Sato.

Yu Sato (left) celebrates Japan’s gold medal at the 2020 IIHF Ice Hockey U20 World Championship Division II Group A together with head coach Teruhiko Okita (right)

Topping the scoring charts for Krylia, he soon caught the eye of one of Russia’s all-time greats, Igor Larionov. The Triple Gold Member took Sato under his wings. When import restrictions closed the door for Sato to progress into Krylia’s MHL team, Larionov found him a new challenge in Finland.

“I first tried to go to the Lahti Pelicans, but there they said I wasn’t going to get much game time, so I went to Kiekko-Vantaa instead. It was a good experience. The hockey was different from Russia as it was much faster,” Sato said of the 2018/19 season where he notched 80 points (37+43) in 37 games for various Kiekko-Vantaa junior teams.

Ahead of this season, it was once again Larionov, who had rolled up his sleeves to find Sato a spot on the Quebec Remparts roster. Playing in a home arena in Quebec City with 18,000 seats and facing top talent took him momentarily one step closer towards the NHL dream only one Japanese-born and trained player has fulfilled so far.

In 2007, netminder Yutaka Fukufuji clocked up 97 minutes for the Los Angeles Kings. The closest a Japanese skater has come to the NHL is Yushiroh Hirano, who last season notched an assist in his sole appearance for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in the AHL. Hirano was back skating in his second spell in the ECHL last season together with another Japanese forward, Yuri Terao.

Sato is realistic about his prospects on what is still a long road ahead. Having returned to Japan during the COVID-19 pandemic, he now ponders the next destination on a hockey odyssey where he one day hopes to be locking horns with Lafreniere once again.

“As it is right now I can say that it’s not possible to be drafted, but I will continue to work hard every day to reach my dream,” Sato said.

Women’s Ice hockey team tuning up for Challenge Cup of Asia

Forty Women at selection camp in Iran

Source: Iran Skating Federation

According to the Ice Skating Federation of Iran, the Iran’s women’s ice hockey team started the camp for the IIHF Challenge Cup of Asia.

The event will be held in Manilla, Philippines in May 2021.

According to the public relations of the Iran Skating Federation said that  ice hockey women athletes have passed the first stage of their selection camp to participate at IIHF Challenge Cup of Asia in Manilla.

Forty athletes from the provinces of Tehran, Tehran County, Eslamshahr County , Qods County, Ray County and Pakdasht County  attended and the techniques, tactics and skills of skating were held The athletes were evaluated under the supervision of the technical staff of the national ice hockey team, and the names of those invited to the next stage will be announced through the official website of the Skating Federation.

The first stage of the selection camp for men’s ice hockey players to participate in the IIHF Challenge Cup of Asia., which will be held in Singapore in May 2021, will be held on Wednesday, September 26, 2020

The purpose of the IIHF Challenge Cup of Asia is to provide competitive opportunities for Asian teams that are either in the lower divisions of the IIHF World Championships or did not compete in any IIHF World Championships.

The first women’s tournament took place in Shanghai, China from April 10 to 14, 2010.

Skate away the winter blues

By Stephanie Lilly – Chao Hanoi

For those who fancy trying out a winter activity in Hanoi, ice skating perfectly fits the bill.

Winter is well and truly here, and for those hailing from colder countries a big part of the season is putting on a pair of skates and gliding across frozen water– or ice as we like to call it. In a country where winter does not come close to freezing, what hope is there for frozen lakes and ponds for people to indulge in the nostalgic activity of ice skating? Believe it or not, the Vietnamese love to skate as much as anyone else, well, nearly. For those keen to give it a try, the Royal City Vincom Mega Mall in Hanoi is an ideal place to give it a spin.

Aside from shopping, the giant mall has an assortment of activities including a large indoor skating rink. Launched in the summer of 2013, the ice rink provides a great way to scratch that winter itch.

After entering the mall, follow the little skates symbol seen throughout the mall until you come upon the giant ice skating rink; you can’t miss it.

It costs 220,000 VND per adult (though is cheaper outside the weekends) and an additional 50,000 VND for skate rental. There are also penguins, dolphins and other animals with seats and handles for children or adults who are a little out of practice and need some support on the slippery ice.

Weekends tend to be busier, but if you make it on a weekday you may have the entire rink to yourself, ideal for working on those rusty spins, loops and axels. Or maybe just to fall over without anybody looking! If you are scared of following you can pay for a chaperone to guide you across the ice. Sometimes events such as skating competitions, a local Hanoi hockey league, or even EDM dance parties are held at the rink.

Hockey players are not to be messed with. Photo courtesy of Hanoi Hockey.

Take your family, go with a group of friends or invite your crush to enjoy a wholesome winter activity. If skating is not your bag do not not fear, this mall is “mega” for a good reason, a huge selection of activities are on offer including bowling, arcades, a cinema and a solid selection of restaurants serving hot food, bubble tea, ice cream and more.

Ice hockey’s fascinating story in Israel with the man who started it

An Israeli hockey league game at the rink in Holon, near Tel Aviv. (Facebook)

By Joseph Wolkin –  World Israel News

Most just saw a tiny rink but Shindman had a vision.

Ice hockey in a Mediterranean climate? Most people would throw up their hands and head to the beach. Not Paul Shindman. The Canadian ex-pat who made aliyah, or immigrated, to Israel in 1987, may have left behind his home country but not his love of hockey.

Shindman was inspired in the late 1980s by Israel’s first ice skating rink in Kiryat Motzkin. Most just saw a tiny rink but Shindman had a vision.

He got a job working for rink owner Asher Farkas, helping build the second, bigger rink in Bat Yam that featured a floor cleaner converted to serve as a Zamboni. His initiative to collect hockey equipment and start a league got a boost thanks to a group of Canadian soldiers stationed in Israel at the time.

One can say Shindman’s dream came true. Ice hockey is flourishing in Israel. The country is a member of the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF), and the sport is considered to be one of the most popular during the Maccabiah Games.

“The ice rink [in Kiryat Motzkin] wasn’t huge. It felt about the size of a big living room and dining room combined. But it was a rectangular shape with round corners, and you could play hockey on it. We started playing three-on-three, and I started collecting equipment. I asked people to bring donations, like pads, sticks, when they came to visit Israel.

Israel ice hockey pioneer Paul Shindman at the new ice rink in Tnuvot, near Netanya

“By the end of 1988, I had enough equipment. I started recruiting guys, mostly by word of mouth. I put an ad in the Association of Americans and Canadians in Israel monthly newsletter, and I found a couple of guys that way. We started a four-team league.

“In 1989, we had the first experimental season in Bat Yam, with four teams – Jerusalem, Netanya, Bat Yam and Haifa. They played a double-round round-robin. The first game would finish and the guys would take off the equipment to give it to the guys for the next game.

“It was on a dinky rink. What happened was, the rink owners hired me because I’m great at mechanical engineering. I’m a hockey player and coach, so I was going to be their adviser. But they surrounded the rink with plate glass windows. After we shattered two of them, they decided to get sheets of plexiglass with little grommet holes. Before every game, we’d go around and hang these sheets of plexiglass to protect them from getting shattered.

“At the time, I was in touch with the International Ice Hockey Federation and the International Skating Union because we started a nonprofit, originally called the Israel Ice Hockey and Figure Skating Association. There were less than 100 athletes. We registered, and I turned to the IIHF and they said the qualifications to join the IIHF are, ‘You need a full-size rink and an official recognition from your national Olympic committee that you are the representative body for the sport.’

“I turned to the Olympic committee, and they basically laughed and said don’t waste our time. The major event that really got us started was when I got a call from the liaison person who was handling the rest and relaxation for the Canadian Peacekeeping troops. Canada, at the time, had a couple of hundred peacekeepers in the Golan Heights. They heard there was ice in Israel, so they had equipment sent over. They wanted to have an exhibition game, which was in February 1990.

“We got blue and white hockey sweaters made, and we had Team Israel versus Team Canada. I invited the mayor of Bat Yam, the general manager of the Israel Olympic Committee, who knew the mayor, and we invited the ambassador of Canada to do the official puck drop. This tiny rink was packed with 200 to 300 people.”

“The entire staff of the Canadian Embassy came out to cheer. We did the whole shebang with national anthems, gift exchange and the like, and the Canadians clobbered us, 20-2. It was bizarre, but the Israel Olympic Committee saw we were for real, gave us a letter and I turned back to the IIHF and, in 1991, Israel became a member.”

What’s been the biggest challenge for ice hockey in Israel since then?

“The biggest challenge for many years was there wasn’t enough ice. All of the rinks in the center of the country were tiny. There were about 10 different rinks that opened and closed.

“The Olympic rink opened in 1994 in Metulla on the Lebanese border, and that story is a book in itself. So, to play full hockey, you had to go to Metulla, which is about a three hour drive from the center of the country.

“About seven years ago, an Israeli entrepreneur built a large rink in Holon, which is just outside of Tel Aviv. You can play four-on-four full-rink hockey with blue lines. It’s a shortish, narrowish rink, about two-thirds the size of a full rink. But you can have real games. Suddenly, Metulla became second fiddle. You’d go up once a month to Metulla, but you played all of your hockey in Holon.

“Pavel Levin, father of ice hockey player David Levin, is a roller hockey coach. He got investors and built an NHL-size rink in the moshav called Tnuvot, which opened last year near Netanya. Now, you can have a certified international tournaments near Tel Aviv. Israel now has two full-sized rinks and three you can play hockey. There’s a national senior league, junior league, kids leagues, non-contact leagues and several thousand people are playing hockey. What’s amazing is that Arab countries play hockey, too, mostly in the Gulf states.”

You hear about sports bringing Arabs and Jews together. How is that happening with ice hockey?

“There are some Israeli Arabs who play up north in Metulla. But the rinks aren’t near any Arab population centers. Arabs in Israel play a lot of roller hockey, but there hasn’t been a big move to get them on the ice yet. That really needs a hockey, Zionist philanthropic boost from somebody who can get them involved. There is interest. The big breakthrough, I think, is signing the peace treaty with the United Arab Emirates. They will hopefully get the OK to play ice hockey against Israel.

The UAE, Kuwait and the other Arab countries refuse to play Israel, and the IIHF understands that. Israel is grouped in Europe and the Gulf States are grouped in Asia. Now that there will be direct flights and full diplomatic relations, there’s no reason that the UAE can’t play games against Israel.”

What would that mean for you to see that happen for Team Israel?

“Anytime Israelis compete against Arabs in any sport, it’s a big thing. Sports builds bridges. Sports is a stepping stone to peaceful relations, mutual understandings and communication between people. Unfortunately, the Islamic world weaponizes sports against Israel.”

You saw that with judo just a year ago with Sagi Muki.

“Judo is the prime example. It happens in other sports as well, including hockey, but at a low-key level. The international organization realizes the political reality and doesn’t group Arabs with Israel. Now with the UAE peace deal, there’s no reason not to. We’ll have to see where that goes.”

What’s the goal for hockey in Israel?

“My goal was to – I lived the Canadian-Jewish-Zionist dream – I made aliyah and played hockey in Israel. It doesn’t get better than that. We’re there. We’ve made it.”

Is there a potential to pursue an Olympic run?

“No, Israel is too small. The countries that make the Olympics have a bigger population, a much more northern location and a lot more resources than we do. We only have a few thousand people playing hockey with a few rinks. You can’t go out in the winter and skate in your backyard. You don’t get that ice time.

“There’s an Israeli kid, David Levin, when he was 12 years old, told his parents he wanted to move to Toronto to live with his aunt and uncle in order to play hockey. He moved to Canada and grew up playing there, becoming a top junior player and getting tryouts with a couple of NHL teams, but moving there was one of the reasons why he could make it.

“Israel in the Jewish Olympics? Yes. Ice hockey is already a Maccabiah sport… For the hockey final at the Maccabiah games in 2017, four Jewish NHL owners donated a rink to the City of Jerusalem. They set it up in the basketball arena Hapoel Jerusalem plays in. It was basically NHL size. They advertised the final, which was Canada versus USA. Six thousand people showed up to the final. Wayne Gretzky sent in a video greeting that they put on the scoreboard in between periods. It was the biggest event at the entire Maccabiah besides the opening ceremonies.”

Olympic throttling may stunt growth of China’s unexcited hockey ‘culture’

Kids carry team flags at a preseason game between Vancouver and L.A. in Beijing in 2017. Despite some flashy efforts by the NHL to drum up interest, there are only a few thousand players in the world’s most populous country

By Ed Willes – The Province

“The software, building a system, getting kids involved, getting them excited about the game, are the things that are missing. That’s sad for me because I love hockey in China. I really want to see it work.” — Former Montrealer Mark Simon, now living in China.

In September of 2017 the Vancouver Canucks and Los Angeles Kings staged a two-game exhibition series in China that signaled the NHL’s initial attempt to establish itself and hockey in the world’s largest market.

Since that first exposure, the game has experienced incremental growth in China but it’s also failed to attract a larger audience or create widespread participation. In 2022 the Winter Olympics will be staged in Beijing and the NHL’s hope is the best-on-best tournament will engage this country of 1.4 billion while awakening it to the world’s fastest team sport.

That, at least, is the hope. But according to one hockey man who has spent more than a decade trying to grow hockey in China, the NHL, IIHF, the IOC, the NHLPA and all the game’s stakeholders are playing a dangerous game with the Olympics.

“I cringe at a lineup with (Connor) McDavid, (Nathan) MacKinnon and (Sidney) Crosby against these guys (on the Chinese men’s team) I know and I like,” said Mark Simon, the 41-year-old Montrealer who moved to China in 2007. “It won’t be a good outcome. If that happens three or four times, the question will be asked, ‘Why are we doing this?’

“You want to build hockey in the country. But why do we want games that won’t be competitive? Now it’s on the biggest stage in the world and it’s not China against Canada. It’s China against anyone.”

Simon can speak with some authority on this subject. Since moving to China, he’s had a front-row seat to watch the game’s development, and while there has been some growth, it’s largely been sporadic.

For starters there are about 8,800 registered players in China, 7,300 of whom are youth players. The good news is with 213 indoor rinks, ice time isn’t exactly a problem. The challenge is attracting more kids to the game to fill that ice time.

To that end, Simon has helped organize youth tournaments in Beijing and Shanghai, worked with the NHL in introducing a ball-hockey program to elementary schools and coached any number of youth teams while consulting with Kunlun Red Star, the China-based franchise in the KHL.

In that time he’s learned the problem in China isn’t infrastructure or resources. The problem is utilizing those resources to build a hockey culture.

“The way I break it down is hardware and software,” Simon said. “It’s easy to build a rink. That’s a hardware piece and, in general, hardware is easier in China.

“The software, building a system, getting kids involved, getting them excited about the game, are the things that are missing. That’s sad for me because I love hockey in China. I really want to see it work.”

Five years ago, it was hoped that Red Star would be the energizing force in building the Chinese game but, like the sport itself, the team has experienced many ups and downs in its brief history. Again, money hasn’t been the problem. Owner Billy Ngok, an industrialist who ranked 99th in The Hockey News 2019 Top-100 people of power in hockey, invested heavily in Red Star and Vanke Rays, an entry in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League based in Shenzhen.

When the CWHL folded in 2019, the Rays moved to Russia’s WHL where they won the league title in May.

Red Star, meanwhile, has led a nomadic existence since joining the KHL in 2016-17. It’s played games in Shanghai and Beijing. It was set to move into a permanent home in Beijing — the Shougang Arena at the Olympic site — but the COVID-19 pandemic altered that plan.

The team will now play just outside of Moscow for the 2020-21 KHL season that is scheduled to start in September.

It goes without saying that start date isn’t exactly etched in stone.

“You move back and forth and it’s hard to develop a fan base,” Simon said. “It’s not just marketing a team, you’re marketing a sport and 99 per cent of the market doesn’t know much about that sport.”

Simon has worked with Red Star and their GM Scott MacPherson, the former NHL scout. The hope is the KHL team — coached by, ta da, former Canuck Curt Fraser — will help form the nucleus of the Chinese men’s team in 2022 but, with the Olympic tournament less than two years away, the makeup of that team has yet to be determined.

There are currently about 15 players of Chinese ancestry playing in the KHL or VHL, the second-tier league that operates out of Russia, China, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. Those players include Maple Ridge’s Brandon Yip, the former Colorado Avalanche forward; Spencer Foo, the former Calgary Flames farmhand; and Victor Bartley, the former Nashville Predators defenceman. All three played with Red Star last season and Yip was the team’s captain.

Beyond that is another level of players with minor pro, junior or college experience. According to IIHF regulations, the Chinese heritage players have to play 16 consecutive months for their new country to qualify for the Olympics.

They also have to qualify for Chinese passports, which can be an arduous process and, if they’re successful, here’s the payoff: They’ll be in a group with the U.S., Canada and Germany in the Olympics.

“I love the idea of the Olympics and I try to be as balanced as I can in my opinions,” Simon said. “I just don’t think it’s the right spot for that country. For the success of the sport in China, how good will it look if the home team is throttled?”

That, we assume, is a rhetorical question.

The Budding Winter Sports Scene of Pakistan

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

By Sonia Ashraf – Redbull,com

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

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

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

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

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

Snow Marathon 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Coaching under the threat of COVID in Hong Kong

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

By Ken Yee – National Teams of Ice Hockey

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

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

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

Ken Yee and his students at Kung Pow King Hockey School

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

Students take in every world that coaches are telling them

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

Student practice inline

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

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

Stay strong let’s fight this thing together.

Kids wearing Facemasks on the ice due to COVID-19

Kung Pow King Hockey School

J&K Ice Hockey Association formed

By State Times News

The Ice Hockey Association for Jammu and Kashmir was formed on Thursday in the presence of President Dr S.M Bali and Secretary General Harjinder Singh of Ice Hockey Association of India at Circuit house, Sonwar, here.

During the meeting, the members laid the emphasis on the promotion of winter sports especially Ice Hockey in Jammu and Kashmir.

The general body also confirmed the elected members of the new unit with Dr S.M Bali as President and Ajaz Rasool Mir as General Secretary of Ice Hockey Association for Jammu and Kashmir.
The house authorised the Dr Bali to nominate rest of the office bearers and executive committee members with in a week’s time.

It was unanimously decided to host the 10th IHAI National Championship for Men at the Ice Hockey Rink in Gulmarg. Dr Bali along with Harjinder Singh, Ajaz Rasool Mir and Waseem Raja Khan visited the Rink at Gulmarg for an on the spot assessment of the facility to host the sport at National level. IHAI also decided to conduct UT level coaching camp for boys and girls prior to the national championship at Gulmarg.
Harjinder also shared the past success of Indian National Team of Ice Hockey with the house.
He stated that Indian men’s team got a silver medal in the IIHF Challenge Cup of Asia (Div -1) at Kuwait in 2017 and women’s team won a bronze in the IIHF Challenge Cup of Asia ( Div-1) at Abu Dhabi in 2019.
With the focus of the Government of India on winter sports through 1st Khelo India Winter Games Meet recently held at Gulmarg, Singh laid emphasis on competent management for developing the sport and felt that the new body will deliver to their expectations.

The 10th Nationals at Gulmarg in 2021 would give right impetus to develop this Winter Olympic Sport in the region and also give a spurt to Sports tourism in the Region, he said.
He thanked Kiren Rijiju, Minister of State for Youth Affairs and Sports, for initiating Khelo India Winter Games.

Ice Hockey Association of India is a full member of International Ice Hockey Federation and also Indian Olympic Association.


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