Category: Asia (Page 2 of 12)

Hong Kong top sports federation threatens to suspend ice hockey body over anthem blunder

Hong Kong hockey players react to a protest song being A The protest song Glory to Hong Kong was heard instead of China’s Marches of the People during an ice hockey match between Hong Kong and Iran on February 28.

By Hillary Leung – Hong Kong Free Press

The top sports federation representing Hong Kong at the Olympics has warned that it could suspend the Hong Kong Ice Hockey Association (HKIHA) after a blunder that saw a pro-democracy protest song played instead of China’s national anthem at a recent international match.

In a statement published on Tuesday, the Sports Federation and Olympic Committee of Hong Kong, China (SF&OC) said the association had one month to provide a “full written explanation” about its “non-compliance… to handle the national anthem in a dignified manner.”

Otherwise, the federation would suspend the HKIHA’s membership, a decision it added was supported by the Hong Kong government.

The move comes over a month following the anthem mishap, in which Glory to Hong Kong – a song composed during the protests in 2019 – was played at a February ice hockey match in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

It was at least the fifth such incident involving the wrong song being played at an international sporting event in recent months. Hong Kong authorities have referred to the tune being “closely associated with violent protests and the independence movement in 2019.” Though the protests attracted a handful of pro-independence activists, it was not one of the movement’s demands.

When Glory to Hong Kong was played after the match in Sarajevo, athletes made the “time-out” gesture as per new guidelines on how to respond if the incorrect song was heard. The correct song, Chinese anthem March of the Volunteers, was played soon after.

Leadership ‘failings’

In the Tuesday statement, SF&OC repeated earlier criticism that the HKIHA had been uncommunicative and failed to act with “the appropriate due diligence.”

The federation said it had made “repeated attempts” to meet with HKIHA’s leadership to discuss the incident, but that such a meeting could only be arranged after more than three weeks.

“Such unwillingness and evasiveness reflect the failings of HKIHA’s leadership to communicate and cooperate with SF&OC, as well as its placing insufficient importance to the display of the national anthem and to uphold the dignity of the country,” the SF&OC wrote.

In addition to a report on the association’s “non-compliance,” it will also have to submit “a plan of improvement on corporate governance.”

HKIHA said in a statement a day after the incident that it had “strictly observed” SF&OC guidelines with regards to the anthem, having issued the “official version” to the event organiser, the Ice Hockey Association of Bosnia & Herzegovina.

The European association expressed its “deepest apology” over the error, calling the mishap an “honest human mistake” made by a technician playing the anthems.

Anthem saga

The national anthem saga began last November when the song associated with the 2019 extradition bill protests was heard at South Korea’s Rugby Sevens instead of the national anthem. Asia Rugby President Qais Abdulla Al Dhalai later flew into the city to apologize as the government demanded an investigation. Organizers had reportedly downloaded the top song listed when when searching online for the “Hong Kong national anthem.”

The government said it had asked a search engine to pin the correct information about the national anthem at the top of their search results. The Innovation, Technology and industry Bureau added that it was “enhancing” government webpages including adjusting keywords and adding text titles to boost their search ranking.

The authorities have refused to say if the Glory to Hong Kong is illegal, though it is banned in schools and police have intervened when it is played in public.

Clash between Hong Kong top sports body, ice hockey team deepens over national anthem blunder

Hong Kong hockey players react to a protest song being A A song linked to the 2019 anti-government protests was played at an international ice hockey event last month.

By Emily Hung – South China Morning Post

A war of words between Hong Kong’s sports federation and the city’s ice hockey association deepened on Friday over a blunder last month when a protest song was once again played at an international tournament instead of China’s national anthem.

After the Sports Federation and Olympic Committee of Hong Kong, China on Wednesday issued an ultimatum to the Ice Hockey Association’s management to come clean over its handling by Monday, the team’s leader hit back on Friday that it had already promised to respond by the deadline and was concerned by the body’s accusations of non-cooperation.

The blunder behind the fiery exchange occurred on February 28, when a song related to the 2019 ant-government protests played instead of “March of the Volunteers” after Hong Kong beat Iran at the 2023 Ice Hockey World Championship’s third division in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The ceremony was halted after Hong Kong athletes made a “T” shape with their hands, and the correct anthem was later played.

But the city’s sports federation on Friday said it was unclear whether the ice hockey team had provided organizers with a hard copy of the anthem, which could have prevented the blunder.

A federation insider said passing a hard copy to organizers should have been done face-to-face, based on guidelines issued last November by the city’s top sports body and international customs concerning playing national anthems at overseas sports events.

According to the source, association president Mike Kan Yeung-kit had said a copy of the anthem was given to the organisers but the information was not included in the group’s preliminary report on the incident.

The insider also accused Kan of being evasive when the federation sought to clarify the discrepancy.

The Post has contacted the association for comment.

The guidelines issued by the city’s sports federation require a team leader assigned by their respective association to give organisers a USB drive containing the correct music.

The drive could either be obtained from a toolkit provided by the federation or the anthem could be downloaded from the official website and saved to a hard copy.

Upon receiving the materials, organisers should provide confirmation by email, text message or a written note with an official signature.

Discussing last month’s blunder, a second federation insider said: “If the team leader did make an effort to [prevent the error] and the problem lies with the organiser, we would surely understand and accept it.”

“But in this case, we have not managed to meet [the association] in person and discuss it, and we cannot know the whole picture.”

Speaking in an independent capacity on Friday evening, ice hockey team leader Annie Kwan Yuen-yee said she was doing her best to work with the federation and police despite flying to South Africa for another tournament last Friday, just two days after returning from Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The team leader said she had already provided a statement to police last Wednesday after the tournament wrapped up, before submitting a preliminary report two days later, and replying to text messages from the federation on Friday to acknowledge Monday’s deadline.

“The association and the athletes are troubled by the accusations of not being responsive, and that we could not explain ourselves due to insufficient time, which resulted in misunderstandings,” she said.

“This has affected our athletes and we are regretful that we only got the first and second runner-up positions in the tournament this time.”

The team earlier accused the sports federation of providing a problematic hyperlink for downloading the country’s anthem, which was passed to the organizers.

Team leader Kwan had said the organizers failed to download it and instead searched for a copy online without contacting the association, resulting in the error.

While she admitted to having a hard copy of the anthem, Kwan had made no mention of any attempts to pass it to the organizers.

After the Monday deadline, the federation said, it hoped to meet the management of the ice hockey association in person on Thursday to determine the facts and suggest fixes for any loopholes.

But the federation on Friday stopped short of saying how it might follow up with the team if it did not cooperate, reiterating that the sports body recognised the efforts of the athletes and did not wish to trade blame with the ice hockey association.

The federation was also speaking with the event organizers to learn more about how the anthem was passed to them, it added.

Hong Kong Ice Hockey Association may be kicked out of sports federation and lose funding for failing to follow new anthem protocol

Hong Kong hockey players react to a protest song being played instead of the national anthem after they beat Iran.

By Edith Lin – South China Morning Post

The Hong Kong Ice Hockey Association may be kicked out of the city’s sports federation and lose government funding after a preliminary investigation found it had failed to take the proper steps to ensure the Chinese national anthem was played at an international match.

In a report submitted to the government by the Sports Federation and Olympic Committee of Hong Kong, China, on Friday, the team was said to be “clearly not in compliance with the requirements” of the protocol for the playing of the national anthem at the 2023 Ice Hockey World Championship Division III last week, when a song linked to the 2019 protests was used instead.

“[The committee], in conjunction with the respective department of the government, should consider implementing possible and appropriate sanctions against [the association],” it said.

Guidelines released last November stated sanctions could include suspension of membership in the National Sports Association under the committee and lose of subvention or funding from the government.

On Friday, the government said it would review the report and discuss follow-up action with the city’s sports federation.

The protocol was drafted hot on the heels of an embarrassing fiasco in which the protest song “Glory to Hong Kong” was played instead of the “March of the Volunteers” at a rugby match in South Korea’s Incheon in November.

The new guidelines placed extra responsibilities on the team leader, including distributing a hard copy of the anthem and a city flag to the event organizer with an official confirmation before the game and checking with them at the venue.

But the protest song was played last Tuesday following the city team’s defeat of Iran in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The athletes made a “T” shape with their hands to point out the blunder, which is part of the requirements under the new protocol.

The report criticized the ice hockey club for failing to come clean on whether they had followed the requirements of the city’s sports federation, including passing on a hard copy of the anthem or obtaining a written confirmation of receipt from the organizer.

“Despite persistent questioning by [the committee], [the association] has been evasive and failed to address such questions … It is therefore strongly believed that [the association] did not perform their duty in accordance with the guidelines,” the committee said.

The report said that while the organizer, the International Ice Hockey Federation, had ignored the team leader’s request to check the national anthem would be used, they did not follow up the request. The representative should have made a “more robust request”, which could have stopped the incident from happening, it said.

The report said that while the organizer, the International Ice Hockey Federation, had ignored the team leader’s request to check the national anthem would be used, they did not follow up the request. The representative should have made a “more robust request”, which could have stopped the incident from happening, it said.

The report quoted Ji Ping, the Chinese ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina, who said International Ice Hockey Federation staff had “inadvertently” downloaded the wrong song.

The committee urged the event organizer to submit a report, which was to be sent by Friday.

The Hong Kong government “strongly deplored” the blunder and requested the local Olympic Committee conduct an in-depth investigation, while the organizer apologized for the incident.

Pui Kwan-kay, honorary vice-president of the city’s sports federation, had said it was the Hong Kong government’s responsibility to continue liaising with internet giant Google to ensure the Chinese national anthem was placed at the top of search results when the relevant key words were entered.

 

Japan Calls on Veteran NHL Coach Perry Pearn to Get Men’s National Ice Hockey Team Up to Speed

The Japan Under-20 men’s national team stands on the ice before its game against Ukraine in the 2023 IIHF Ice Hockey U20 World Championship Division I Group B final in Poland in December 2022. (International Ice Hockey Federation)

By Jim Armstrong – SportsLook

Looking to emulate the progress made by the women’s team, the Japan Ice Hockey Federation has hired a veteran National Hockey League coach to help the men’s national squad move up in the rankings.

As the host nation, both Japan’s men’s and women’s teams took part in the 1998 Nagano Olympics, where it was hoped appearing on such a large stage would give the sport a boost in Japan.

The Japanese men, under Canadian coach Dave King, had two losses and a draw in the preliminary round. Then, before a capacity crowd of 9,495 at the Big Hat arena, they beat Austria 4-3 in the consolation round.

It was a significant accomplishment. While not a top-tier nation, Austria had a decent hockey program at the time and was in the group of teams just below the elite division.

The women went 0-5 in the preliminary round with their best result being a 5-0 loss to Sweden.

It was hoped both the men and women would build on the Nagano experience. But that’s only been the case for the women’s team, which has risen all the way to seventh in the IIHF rankings.

Known as “Smile Japan,” the women’s team has found a winning formula. The men, currently 25th in the world rankings, are still looking for one.

In order to take the next step, Japanese ice officials named veteran former NHL coach Perry Pearn as head coach of the national senior and junior men’s teams in November of 2022. And the move is already paying off.

“I am very excited to have the opportunity to lead the Japan national team,” Pearn said in a statement after the announcement was made.

Japan men’s ice hockey head coach Perry Pearn coached for many years in the NHL. (Japan Ice Hockey Federation)

Junior Squad’s Successful Debut Under Pearn

One of Pearn’s first assignments was guiding Japan’s Under-20 team at the 2023 IIHF U20 World Championship Division 1 Group B tournament in Bytom, Poland in December.

And the team came through with a stunning 7-4 win over Ukraine to take the gold medal and secure a place in next season’s Division 1A competition.

Such wins are hugely important to the overall men’s program. The players on the U20 team are the future stars of the senior team.

Pearn attributed Japan’s success in Poland to the team’s quickness.

“We’re not a big team but our speed and quickness is really noticeable,” Pearn told the IIHF website. 

He added, “We’re much better skaters overall than most of the teams in the tournament.”

Pearn said Japan was able to compensate for its lack of size against the bigger Europeans.

“We’re not as big as some of the teams. So we have to be really smart in terms of winning battles by playing a different way than probably a team like Ukraine is able to play,” the coach said.

Preparation Paid Off for Japan

One of Ukraine’s star players, forward Olexi Dakhnovskyi, marveled at Japan’s ability to anticipate the flow of the game, a tribute to Pearn’s coaching no doubt.

“They were the best team because they were so prepared for us,” Dakhnovskyi told IIHF after the game. 

He added, “They were the most disciplined team we faced, [and] they were ready. And it was like they knew what we were going to do on every centimeter of the rink.”

In Poland, Japan was led by Junya Owa who had three assists in the final and finished the tournament with six points to be named best defender. Forward Kotaro Murase was tied for the tournament lead with 10 points.

After the gold-medal win in Poland that included wins over South Korea, Poland and Estonia in the preliminary round, there was still more success for the juniors at the 2023 World University Games in Lake Placid, New York, in January. 

Japan opened with an 8-3 win over Latvia and beat Sweden 5-0 in a major upset. 

Two wins against two losses in the preliminary round was good enough to get Pearn’s team to the semifinals where it lost a hard-fought game 4-3 to the United States.

Japan played Kazakhstan in the bronze medal game but lost 8-1. Still, there were plenty of positives in Lake Placid, and it was more proof the Japanese men are getting more competitive at the international level.

Upcoming Test for Japan Senior Squad 

The hope now is that Pearn can do for the senior men what he has done at the junior level.

The next big test will come when the senior men’s team plays in the Ice Hockey World Championship, Division 1 Group B tournament in Estonia from April 23-29.

Currently, the elite level of international ice hockey is made up of 16 teams that contest the IIHF World Championships every spring.

This group includes powerhouses like Canada, Sweden, the United States, Finland and the Czech Republic. Russia and Belarus are currently suspended.

Other nations like Germany, Norway and Switzerland are also currently in the elite 16 and will compete at the IIHF World Championship in Finland and Latvia from May 12-28.

Below the elite level is Division 1 which has Group A and Group B. Group A teams compete for promotion to the Elite Division while Group B teams compete for promotion to Division 1 Group A.

Japan currently finds itself in Group B along with Estonia, China, the Netherlands, Serbia and Ukraine.

The goal for Japan now is to earn promotion to Group A just like the junior team did. There are also Divisions II through IV so Japan is ahead of many countries.

The Japan Under-20 men’s national team in Poland. (International Ice Hockey Federation)

A Wealth of Coaching Experience

Pearn seems to be the right man for the job.

A lifelong coach, the 71-year-old from Stettler, Alberta, has twice served as an assistant coach with Canada’s national junior team at the IIHF World Junior Championships (1990, 1991). 

Then as head coach, he led Canada ― and future Hockey Hall of Famers Paul Kariya and Chris Pronger ― to gold in 1993.

After 1993, Pearn went to coach professionally in Switzerland. He then went on to serve as an assistant coach in the NHL for 21 years with the Winnipeg Jets (twice), Ottawa Senators, New York Rangers, Montreal Canadiens and Vancouver Canucks.

He brings a wealth of experience that can only help Japan’s bid to reach the next level. 

An agreement on the establishment of the Association for the Development of Ice Hockey of Islamic Countries was signed in Kazan

Source: Kazan hockey Cup

On January 17, at the international hockey forum of the first tournament among Islamic countries, the KazanHockey cup, the first meeting of the working group of the Association for the  Development of Hockey of Islamic Countries took place.

Delegates from 13 countries, leaders of the hockey federations of the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Algeria, Oman, Bahrain, Iran, Mongolia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Turkey and representatives of the Ice Hockey Federation of the Republic of Tatarstan agreed on cooperation and interaction in the development of hockey, organization of joint sports tournaments, exchange of experience between federations.

The President of the Tatarstan Ice Hockey Federation, Nail Maganov , was elected as the head of the international Association with headquarters in Kazan  . President of the Ice Hockey Federation of Kyrgyzstan Anvar Omorkanov was elected Vice-President in the Asian region, President of  the UAE Winter Sports Federation  Hamel Al- Qubeisi was elected Vice-President in the Middle East region .

The purpose of the organization is the development of hockey in states with the leading religion of Islam, the development and popularization of hockey in the regions of Asia, the Middle East and Africa. Cooperation will allow countries to adopt the experience of Russian hockey, train players, coaches and referees and gain access to methods for training young hockey players.

Anvar Omorkanov , President of the Ice Hockey Federation of Kyrgyzstan:

– Tatarstan has a long history of hockey development, there is the country’s leading club Ak Bars, where the best hockey players of the country play, the best training conditions have been created for the players on the basis of the team. We are amazed at the level of infrastructure for children’s and adult hockey, and we are also very pleased that we were able to take part in such a tournament.

Cooperation with the Ice Hockey Federation of Tatarstan will be a great impetus for the development of hockey in Islamic countries. By adopting the experience of the leaders of the hockey world, our colleagues from the Middle East and Africa will be able to do even more to promote and develop our game.

There are still many Islamic countries in the world where hockey is also played, and our organization will grow. One of the goals of the association is to include hockey in the Islamic Solidarity Games, which will give our sport even more momentum.

Hamel Al-Qubeisi , President of the UAE Winter Sports Federation:

– Many thanks to Kazan and Tatarstan for their hospitality, we thank the participants for the tournament, the forum and our meeting. We are glad that now our cooperation in the field of hockey is reaching a new level. The popularity of hockey in our countries is growing, in the UAE the demand for classes already exceeds our capabilities, especially hockey is attractive to girls.

The conditions of Tatarstan for the development of sports impressed all the guests, and it was not in vain that we chose Kazan as the headquarters of our new organization. It is the northernmost capital of the Islamic world and the hockey leader among Muslim regions. We are confident that through our joint work we will achieve high results and do our best for the development of hockey in the world.

The First Hockey Tournament Among Teams of Islamic Countries & The Republic of Tatarstan


Source: The Ice Hockey Federation of the Republic of Tatarstan

From January 14 to January 17, the first ice hockey tournament among teams of Islamic countries and the Republic of Tatarstan will be held in the city of Kazan at Tatneft Arena and the Sports Palace. The event was organized following the decisions of the international summit “Russia – Islamic World: Kazan Summit 2022”.

12 male and 5 female amateur teams will take part in the competition. Hockey players from the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Oman, Bahrain, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan will play in the men’s division, players from Algeria, Morocco and Lebanon will form a combined team. Tatarstan will be represented by the Ak Bars team and the hockey team of the Spiritual Administration of Muslims of the Republic of Tatarstan. The men’s teams are divided into three divisions. They will play each other in a round-robin format.

On January 17 at 19:00, a gala match will take place on the ice of the Tatneft Arena, in which the best players of each team will take part

Athletes from Tatarstan, Iran, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain will compete in the women’s Division. The five women’s teams will play in one group, and the two best of teams will advance to the final

The opening match of the tournament will be held on January 14 at the Sports Palace at 13:00.

Tournament of ice hockey begins in Chitral village

Ice Hockey in Pakistan

An ice hockey match under way in Parwak village of Upper Chitral district on Tuesday.

Source: Dawn

PESHAWAR: An ice hockey tournament kicked off in Parwak village of Upper Chitral district on Tuesday, providing a thrilling and rare opportunity of entertainment to the young boys and girls, who were divided into eight teams.

Canadian High Commissioner in Islamabad Ms Leslie Scanlon had arrived in the village along with her daughter, who refereed the inaugural match of the event played between the fox and snow leopard teams. The latter won the match by three goals.

A large number of locals had thronged the venue located in the centre of the village, where an ice surface had been developed for the game with the financial support of Canadian High Commission and facilitated by Aga Khan Rural Support Programme.

The people evinced great interest in the newly-introduced game, and were impressed by the performance of the young players, who had worked vigorously during the past two years when ice hockey was introduced here by the Canadian government.

Ice hockey is the national game of Canada.

The participants said it was quite a new and thrilling game for them, adding the game would become popular with the locals like polo, thus becoming the best pastime for them in winter.

A woman councillor, Sara Shah said participation of little girls in the game was highly appreciable and the game promised gender equality in the area, where girls had also excelled in the field of education.

Speaking on this occasion, Ms Scanlon said the topography of the area was ideal for the game. She said future of the game would depend on the interest of the local communities.

She expressed her determination to support the ice hockey and other snow-related games in the area. Later, she visited the stalls of locally made handicraft and food items and expressed her interest in them.

Perry Pearn to coach Japan’s men’s national team

Source: Japan Ice Hockey Federation

Perry Pearn (71), who has experience as the coach of the Canadian men’s and women’s national teams, has been appointed as the Coach of the Japan men’s national team.
Perry Pearn, the new coach, was the manager of the Canadian men’s national team in 1991-92, after which he served as team coach of the National Hockey League, and in 2018-19 he was the manager of the Canadian women’s national team. In Japan, he will coach the men’s national team and the men’s U20 national team. Pearn will lead Japan to there first international tournament  Euro Ice Hockey Challenge, which will be held In November 1in Budapest, Hungary.

Perry Pearn 
Born June 6, 1951
Coaching history
 1989-91 Canada U20 national team coach
 1991-92 Canada men’s national team manager
 1992-93 Canada U20 national team manager
 1995-96 NHL Winnipeg Jets coach
 1996-04 NHL Ottawa Senators coach
 2004-09 NHL New York Rangers Coach
 2009-12 NHL Montreal Canadiens Coach
 2012-14 NHL Winnipeg Jets Coach
 2014-17 NHL Vancouver Canucks Coach
 2018-19 Canada Women’s National Team Coach
 2020-21 KHL Automobilist Yekaterinburg Coach
 2021-22 Canada Rink Hockey Academy Kelowna Manager

Comment from new coach Perry Pearn

 “I am very excited to have the opportunity to lead the Japan national team. I was able to see the high quality of the staff, and I am very happy and grateful for the experience and long-standing relationship of trust with former manager Rick Carrier that led to this opportunity. Rick and his coaches have built I am looking forward to continuing and accumulating more. 
I sincerely hope that I can be of some help in the development of ice hockey in Japan.

” Mr. Pearn, who has a wealth of experience and achievements as a leader, including the NHL at the level, teaches players how to improve strategic knowledge and technical skills, and in each category such as the Japanese national team and junior generation,  I am confident that he will help us raise the bar.”

Kuwaiti women ready to host

The Kuwaiti women’s national team had its first IIHF competition at the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s Challenge Cup of Asia Division I, pictured against host United Arab Emirates.

By  Liz Montroy – IIHF.com

When the search for a host for the inaugural IIHF Women’s Development Cup began, Kuwait eagerly put their name forward.

While Kuwait’s men’s national team has competed in three World Championship tournaments (2018, 2019, 2022), the women’s program has yet to reach that level, and the Women’s Development Cup presented itself as an opportunity for Kuwait to gain valuable competitive experience against national teams from other smaller women’s programs.

“The Kuwait Ice Hockey Federation, they’ve far exceeded expectations,” said Irish Ice Hockey Association President Aaron Guli, one of the architects of the Development Cup, which debuted with a men’s tournament in 2017. “It’s top to bottom first class. They’ve been a big driving force in getting the first Women’s Development Cup over the line.”

In 2019, the Kuwaiti women’s team made their international debut at the IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s Challenge Cup of Asia Division I tournament. It was not an easy introduction to international play (through three games, Kuwait surrendered 34 goals and scored zero), but it was an important first step for the young program.

One special occurrence of that event in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, was that Kuwait had five sisters on the roster including a triplet (see story).

Since then, Kuwait has been hungry for chances to develop their athletes and play against other countries. They have held training camps in Czechia and Slovenia, and participated in tournaments in Abu Dhabi and Bangkok. This August, three women’s teams – two from Kuwait and one from Bahrain – competed in the Kuwait Ice Hockey League Open Championship, a tournament developed to further the sport in the Gulf region.

“When we go to another tournament in another country, [the players] get more power from hockey,” said Kuwait women’s program team leader Laila Alkhbaz. “They know more players, they know other cultures. When they contact with other teams and other players in different countries, they get a new experience in hockey or also in their life.”

When the puck drops at the Kuwait Winter Games Club’s ice rink to start the inaugural IIHF Women’s Development Cup on 6 November, Kuwait will be joined by national teams from Andorra, Colombia, Ireland, Luxembourg and the United Arab Emirates.

“It is very honouring to be the host,” said Alkhbaz. “All the team members are very excited to be meeting players and teams from different countries. They are working very hard with preparations for the tournament. Our management are very excited and they are working very hard.”

Alkhbaz has been at the forefront of developing women’s hockey in Kuwait since the program was officially launched in 2017. 

“Before we didn’t have a women’s team in Kuwait, only like a hobby. A few girls, they go to the ice rink and they play. Meshal [Alajmi] is the first coach to help the girls to make a hockey team, and this was in 2008. But they didn’t have the money, they didn’t have the equipment, they didn’t get the support from the government, so they cancelled it. After 2017, the Winter Games Club decided to make a women’s team and they collected the girls who know hockey, who played hockey before, and we made a team.”

In 2018, Alkhbaz attended the IIHF Women’s High Performance Camp (see story), taking part in the Leadership Development Program, while player Rawan Albahouh learned about growing the sport in the World Girls’ Ice Hockey Weekend segment. 

“I learned that when you work hard, you get what you want,” said Alkhbaz. “I felt some difficulties there because it’s my first time to contact with the hockey society. I learned how to manage my team, how to be a good leader… Now I feel like hockey is a big part of my life.”

When not participating in tournaments or travelling to other countries for training camps, Kuwait’s female players compete in the Kuwait Women’s Ice Hockey League (KWIHL), which was formed in 2018. Now in its fifth season, the league consists of four teams – the Blue Waves, Gladiators, Diamonds and Wildcats – that play once a week from October to March or April.

The league was still in its infancy when Kuwait took to the ice at the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s Challenge Cup of Asia Division I. Fast forward to today, and the players taking part in the Development Cup will come with several years of experience of league play. 

Kuwait has made significant strides in just five years, launching a women’s national team program and a four-team women’s league, and participating in IIHF events. They will return to the Challenge Cup of Asia (now called the IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s Asia and Oceania Championship) for the 2023 edition in Bangkok in May as well. But first, Kuwait gets to cross another milestone off the list – hosting not just an IIHF women’s event, but the first ever Women’s Development Cup.

Asia & Oceania looking to a bright future

Members of the IIHF Asia and Oceania Strategy Planning Group participated on-site in Abu Dhabi and remotely at the meeting.

By Harald Springfeld & Martin Merk – IIHF.com

The IIHF Asia and Oceania Strategy Planning Group with delegates from the IIHF’s member national association in Asia and Oceania held a meeting in Abu Dhabi to prepare for the new international season but also to assess and accommodate the findings and the new Strategy Plan ICE26  in the Asia and Oceania Region.

Due to stricter travel restrictions, many ice hockey tournaments have not been place for two seasons in Asia. The IIHF Asia and Oceania Ice Hockey Championship (formerly Challenge Cup of Asia) came back last summer with an U20 edition held in Thailand. Now two more tournaments have been announced.

The 2023 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 Asia and Oceania Championship is planned to be held between 26 February and 5 March 2023 (exact dates to be confirmed) in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia with Indonesia, India, Iran, Macau (China) (TBC), Mongolia, Singapore, Thailand, the United Arab Emirates and Uzbekistan. It will be the first IIHF tournament for Uzbekistan since becoming a member in in 2019.
 
The 2023 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s Asia and Oceania Championship will be held in Bangkok, Thailand with the initial dates 14-21 May 2023 with the participation of India, Iran, Kuwait, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and the United Arab Emirates. It will be the first participation in an IIHF tournament for the Iranian women’s national team.

The meeting was held with the members of the Asia and Oceania Strategy Planning Group (AOSPG) and in attendance of IIHF Senior Vice-President Petr Briza and IIHF Development Director Kalle Valiaho, who introduced and highlighted the importance of ICE26.

In a seasonal review and outlook, IIHF Regional Vice-President for Asia and Oceania, Aivaz Omorkanov, mentioned that the pandemic hit ice hockey in Asia very hard and it is one of the main priorities to come back stronger than ever before. Carefully selected programs with the main focus on development and sustainability alongside a good mix of events will become the key to success.
 
Several workshops and in-depth discussion in regard to the IIHF’s key initiatives amongst the membership and with all IIHF representatives on-site where a focal point of this meeting. 
 
“We need to use every single opportunity in the Asia and Oceania region to ensure the growth and to unfold the potential. With the IIHF Asia and Oceania Office, which is now located in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates and managed by IIHF Sport Development Manager for Asia and Oceania Harald Springfeld, we will lay down the foundation of future growth. The office will work very closely together with the IIHF Office and all 27 members of the Asia and Oceania Strategic Planning Group,” said IIHF Vice-President and Committee Chairman Aivaz Omorkanov.
 
In the first quarter of 2023, the members of the Asia and Oceania Strategy Planning Group will regroup and kick off a new series of Learn to Play seminars and recruitment program initiatives with two seminars in the region. Following the meeting, an ice making seminar for the region has started in Abu Dhabi. Based on the further development and final version of ICE26, other initiatives will follow.
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