Category: Europe (Page 1 of 8)

The History of Ice Hockey in England

Source: British Ice Hockey

Ice hockey has progressively risen in popularity since it was first played professionally in Canada in 1895. The game’s popularity is particularly noticeable in the winter when several local and international leagues are played worldwide. Like field hockey, the game requires players to move around using sticks to shoot at a target, but with skaters instead of grass or artificial turf. It is a very physical and fast-paced game, which makes it a very entertaining sport, for fans to watch,

In England, the first recorded ice hockey games took place in the early 20th century, but it was not until after a few years that it generated enough interest to form permanent teams. However, the sport has grown significantly in England from its humble beginnings as a five-team league in the early twentieth century to now being played professionally in the Elite Ice Hockey League (EIHL) today.

Origin of ice hockey

The origins of ice hockey have been traced back to a variety of stick and ball games popular in the United Kingdom, Ireland, and North America during the 18th and 19th centuries. One of the games closely associated with the origins of ice hockey is bandy, a winter sport played with ice skates and sticks to direct a ball into the opposition’s goal. Other similar games included the Irish game of hurling, Scottish shinty, and North American lacrosse. However, because these three games were played on a field rather than on the ice, the bandy remains the most similar to modern ice hockey in terms of gameplay.

The game of bandy is said to have evolved from a group of similar ice skating games. It was first played in British North America (present-day Canada), where it was known as “hockey on the ice.” However, since field hockey developed in 17th century England, there is a belief that some of the games took place on the ice, which means England can also be credited directly with the development of ice hockey.

While the sport’s origin seems contradictory, there is no doubt that modern-day ice hockey began in Canada. In March 1875, the first modern ice hockey game was played in Montreal, Canada, between two teams of nine players each.

Early days

The first English ice hockey game was said to occur in 1885 between Oxford and Cambridge universities. However, there are doubts that this said match even occurred. Some believe it was a bandy game that took place, not ice hockey. Nevertheless, by 1903, the first European ice hockey league was formed in England. It consisted of five teams, and the London Canadians won the league that year.

Five years later, the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) was established, with Great Britain as a founding member. Great Britain went on to win the IIHF European Ice hockey championship in 1910. By 1914, the British Ice Hockey Association (BIHA) was established. However, it was later replaced by the Ice Hockey UK (IHUK) in 1999.

Golden era

Ice hockey grew tremendously in popularity in England between 1935 and 1954. At the time, the English National League and the Scottish National League were the two most popular ice hockey leagues, drawing much attention. The Men’s National team also had an incredible run of success, winning the Olympic and European titles and a couple of world titles. One of their memorable games was their 2-1 victory over Canada, the reigning world champions at the time. 

The English and Scottish national leagues were later merged in 1954 to form the British National League. However, things didn’t go well for the game after the merger, which eventually caused the league to fold up in 1960.

Modern era

After the 1960 decline, the sport fell into obscurity for more than 20 years. It wasn’t until 1982 that it began to regain prominence. The former British National League was restructured to form the English Ice Hockey Association. At the time, the association comprised 60 ice hockey teams. 

The sport went on to enjoy even more prominence in the 1990s. At this time, the game became quite popular, attracting an average of eight thousand spectators each match day. One of the most attended matches at the time took place at the 17,000 Manchester Arena, which was completely sold out. One important factor that contributed to the sport’s incredible success at the time was a large sponsorship deal with Heineken, which brought more revenue into the league. 

The Ice Hockey Super League, an additional top-tier league, was later founded in 1996 with the goal of improving the image of the sport. However, the Super League only lasted six years before collapsing. It was replaced by the Elite Ice Hockey League, which suffered from low attendance when it was newly introduced.

Ice hockey in England today

The Elite Ice Hockey League (EIHL) eventually recovered in the 2010s, increasing the national profile of ice hockey. Today, the EIHL is England’s highest-tier ice hockey league. The other league tiers in the country today are the National Ice Hockey League (NIHL), National Ice Hockey League 1 (NIHL1), and National Ice Hockey League 2 (NIHL2).

Conclusion

Despite many ups and downs, ice hockey has gradually grown into one of the most notable sports in England. Today it continues to garner more enthusiasts, particularly during the winter season. 

STROKE OF PUCK

The Stanley Penguins team from the Falklands Islands will compete at a Miami tournament.

By Amir Razavi – The Sun

Falklands ice hockey team to compete at international tournament despite never training on a rink

Many of the under-20s squad have never even skated on ice before.

Instead, the members of the Stanley Penguins — based in the Falklands — use rollerblades to practise.

Their underdog story echoes the Jamaican bobsleigh team in 1993 film Cool Runnings.

The Penguins will compete at the Amerigol Latam Cup, which starts in Miami on Thursday, alongside teams from Central and South America, plus further afield.

The UK Overseas Territory in the South Atlantic has a population of just over 3,200 — making it the smallest country to field a side in the tournament.

Grant Budd, the Penguins’ coach and founder, said: “It has been three years since many of the team played on ice, but everyone is looking forward to playing again.”

Amanda Milling, Britain’s minister responsible for the Falkland Islands, said: “I have a feeling the Penguins will take to the ice like ducks to water.”

Luxembourg forms first ever national women’s team

Tornado Women’s team

Source: RTL Today

The newly-created Luxembourg women’s national ice hockey team will compete in the 2022 IIHF Women’s Development Cup in Kuwait.

The Luxembourg Ice Hockey Federation (FLHG) announced the creation of the team in a press release on Thursday.

Ice hockey has been booming in popularity in the Grand Duchy in recent years. For many years there were just two senior teams: Tornado Luxembourg and Ice Hockey Club Beaufort.

Now there are seven active senior clubs, including Luxembourg’s first all women’s team, the Tornado Women.

Luxembourg’s first national women’s team will be composed mainly of players from Tornado Women.

They will get their first chance to compete on the international stage in November, when they compete in the inaugural Women’s Development Cup in Kuwait City.

The Development Cup allows Luxembourg to begin international competition with the support of a few non-Luxembourg nationals, as there are not yet enough registered women players with Luxembourgish nationality.

The FLHG aims to promote the sport with the long-term goal of attracting more Luxembourgish female athletes to the sport, so that the team can eventually compete in the IIHF Women’s World Championships.

Hockey celebration in Israel

Full house at the Pais Arena in Jerusalem for ice hockey at the Maccabiah

By Martin Merk – IIHF.com

Not many people you meet on the street might think of ice hockey during the summer in Europe and North America right now. Even less in the south of the continents. But for the ice hockey family in Israel it was high season in July as the coolest game on earth was one of the hottest events of the Maccabiah.

Sometimes described as the “Jewish Olympics”, the Maccabiah labels itself as third-largest sporting event in the world with about 10,000 athletes from 80 countries who beside the love for their sports also share their faith and heritage. The delegations in various sports include one from Israel as well as delegations of the Jewish diaspora from other countries. In case of ice hockey the Israeli teams competed against teams of Jewish heritage players from Canada, the United States and a Team Europe with players from various countries from the continent.

Ice hockey wasn’t part of it from the beginning. The first ice rink in Israel opened in 1986 and the country became an IIHF member in 1991. Ice hockey was played three times at the Maccabiah. In 1997 and in 2013 in Metula in the north of the country while for the 2017 edition a big move was made to set up an ice rink at the Pais Arena in the southwest of Jerusalem that is normally home to the Hapoel Jerusalem basketball team. The event was a success with thousands of fans fleeing the heat for ice hockey setting a record for Israeli ice hockey so that it was repeated for the 21th Maccabiah this month at the same venue.

The move to a big facility in the holy city was also made with the help of the North American diaspora that dreamed of playing there rather than 240 kilometres away at the north end of the country.

“The Jewish community in Canada and the U.S. helped with having a temporary ice rink in an arena that is normally used for basketball, which is a big sport here. It is a unique opportunity for us and it’s very special. In the last 10 years ice hockey has grown a lot in Israel and ice rinks have opened,” said Levav Wienberg, the President of the Ice Hockey Federation of Israel.

Although ice hockey is a small sport in Israel, Amir Gissin, the CEO of the Maccabi World Union, recently called it one of the most popular events of the Maccabiah in an interview with the Jerusalem Post, even talking about the prospects of extending the organization’s sports facilities in Ramat Gan with the addition of an international-size ice rink.

Every day’s ice hockey in Israel looks a bit different than the Maccabiah experience in a state-of-the-art sports hall. For a long time of the country’s hockey history there were two ice rinks at opposite ends, in the very north in Metula as the only full-size ice rink, and in the very south in Eilat a smaller one not suitable for ice hockey. Many games in recent years, however, have been played in Holon since most teams are from Central Israel but the ice sheet built in 2013 is only 900 square metres big. Another rink earlier operated in Ma’alot shut down while a new rink opened in Tnuvot. A recent hockey program includes Yarka, a town in the north populated mostly by Druze, an Arabic-speaking ethnic minority.

There are plans to add a full-size ice rink in Holon to the existing one.

Premiere for women’s ice hockey

Last time three ice hockey tournaments were played in the category men’s senior, men’s U18 and men’s masters (40 and older). In 2022 a women’s tournament was staged for the first time.

Five years ago there was no women’s team in Israel but a growing number of female players participating with men’s teams.

The numbers have grown in the meantime and an Israeli women’s national team was formed for the first time for the 2021/2022 season while there was also desire from North America to form women’s teams for the Maccabiah. Players of Jewish heritage extensively searched for other players in Canada and the U.S. to be able to form teams for the Maccabiah and create a three-team tournament with the Israeli women’s national team.

The three women’s team pose for a joint photo together with IIHF President Luc Tardif after their historic Maccabiah participation.

This year several sports saw their first women’s tournament at the Maccabiah, beside ice hockey also football and futsal.

When the Israeli women’s national team was formed one year ago there were 40 female players in Israel to choose from. “Now we have 60 and it’s growing also thanks to the national team. We have more younger players and I believe in a few years from now we will have over 100 female players to be able to have more teams in the league,” said Wienberg. “It’s a new process and everybody involved is very excited. It’s exciting for them to see other female players. It’s very unique since ice hockey is not such a popular sport in Israel.”

Game practice for Israeli teams

Competing against players from North America is also welcome game practice for the Israeli teams of any category since they don’t play many international games beside the official IIHF events.

“We have Jewish players in North America that play at a very high level of hockey and they are hard to play for us but it’s a very high level of hockey to compete,” said Wienberg. Especially for the women’s national team that just started competing recently. “We didn’t have women’s tournaments in Israel before. Of course it’s not easy to play against these teams but our team doesn’t make life easy for the other teams.”

Players on the North American men’s teams included many collegiate players especially from Division III programs. In the men’s open category the United States won for the first time beating Canada 5-1 for gold while Europe took third place edging the Israeli men’s national team 8-7.

Canada beat the U.S. for gold in the other three tournaments and became the first-ever women’s ice hockey champion at the Maccabiah with a 6-2 final win against the Americans. The teams included current and former collegiate players as well as players with PWHPA and CWHL experience.

For Israeli ice hockey the Maccabiah is less about the results than about having a competition and bringing the sport to the people and media.

“I very enjoy that more and more people come to see the games and to gain knowledge about ice hockey. For some games including the opening game and the last game the arena was sold out,” said Wienberg. The capacity for ice hockey in the arena is 9,000.

“Also the scores went down, games were more competitive and the Israeli teams have become stronger to compete against these players.”

Presidential visit

Beside the teams from abroad, the Ice Hockey Federation of Israel also got a presidential visit as IIHF President Luc Tardif joined the event for a few days and was also on the ice for ceremonial puck drops and closing ceremonies of the men’s and women’s ice hockey tournaments.

Beside Jerusalem, Tardif also visited the facilities in Holon, Metula and Tnuvot.

“The purpose was to visit the facilities before hosting the 2023 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship Division III Group B and it was interesting to see the Maccabiah, to meet the authorities and talk with the Ice Hockey Federation of Israel in general and about the development of ice hockey in particular,” said Tardif.

“I saw at the Maccabiah that they have the tools and ability to host an event. It was important to be there and I was impressed about the Maccabiah, what a big organization it is and that ice hockey is the most popular sport, with many fans at the arena and broadcast on TV. I was impressed about the level of organization. It is important not only for Israel but also for the Jewish community around the world. The facility is great and more is to come. There is a new ice rink in Tnuvot and for 2024 they plan the new rink in Holon. Those ice rinks, just after the pandemic, are a success and will help ice hockey in Israel.”

IIHF President Luc Tardif (second from right) and Ofer Yanay (second from left) on the ice for the award ceremony following the USA-Canada gold medal game of the men’s open tournament.

For Israel, which is ranked 33rd in the 2022 IIHF Men’s World Ranking, it was a big deal for the local ice hockey community to welcome Tardif.

“Israel is a small country that is not on the front page of the hockey world and the fact that President Luc Tardif decided to come and to support what we are doing here is a big thing for us and it gives us understanding of how to do things in the right way,” said Wienberg.

“We haven’t had an IIHF President coming to Israel for a long time so having an official visit shows that the IIHF supports not only the big countries but also small and developing countries and shows the new vision.”

Hosting at home

Israel has less experience in hosting international ice hockey on home ice than other countries. Only once did the country have the chance to host an IIHF-sanctioned event and that was back in 1996. Israel lost a qualification game for the Nagano 1998 Olympics in Metula against Greece 10-2 but due to the use of ineligible players on the Greek side it became a 5-0 win for Israel, which advanced but lost in the next round.

Ten years later the 2006 the IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship Division III was planned in Metula but was eventually moved to Romania due to tensions at the Israeli-Lebanese border that eventually led to a war the same year.

Things look better these days and Israel was awarded the hosting of the 2023 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship Division III Group B. The tournament that also includes Serbia and Bosnia & Herzegovina is planned from 27 to 30 March 2023 at Israel’s most traditional ice rink at the Canada Centre in Metula.

For the women’s team, which had its IIHF debut earlier this year, competing at the Maccabiah also gave valuable experiences for next year’s challenge on home ice.

“It’s very exciting because we haven’t hosted an IIHF event in Israel for almost 30 years. It will make waves in Israel and help us promote ice hockey in Israel and the Maccabi Games are helping us to prepare ourselves to host an IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship. We will be much more ready for that,” said Wienberg.

“We really hope that the facility in Metula will be ready to host the event and we will need to make some adjustments to the venue. We have now a few facilities in Israel to host tournaments.”

Next step for Georgia

From left to right: Georgian Ice Hockey Federation President Zakaria Khechuasvhili, Minister of Culture, Sport and Youth of Georgia Thea Tsulukiani and IIHF President Luc Tardif.

By  Martin Merk – IIHF.com

IIHF President Luc Tardif traveled to Tbilisi this week to meet with the Georgian Ice Hockey Federation and with the Minister of Culture, Sport and Youth of Georgia, Thea Tsulukiani.

It was Tardif’s second visit to the country. Ten years ago he visited Georgia and inspected the infrastructure when the federation applied to join the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship program. The country joined the IIHF as a member in 2009 and had its debut with the men’s national team in 2013. In 2018 the Georgians gained promotion to the Division IIB and will play next year for the first time at the Division IIA level. 

“It’s a good time to move a little further and the commitment of the government makes us believe that this is the time to be by your side in the development, have new targets such as organizing a World Championship in the upcoming years with the success of the team for example in Tbilisi or Batumi. It’s important that the infrastructure will be built in a sustainable way and we will be by your side,” Tardif addressed Tsulukiani at the meeting.

“The new arena will be an important step for the development of ice sports in general and of ice hockey in particular.”

All parties agreed to contribute to the participation of Georgian players, coaches and officials in international competitions and other events and to the development of the general ice hockey infrastructure in Georgia.

Tsulukiani praised the recent success of the Georgian Ice Hockey Federation in IIHF competitions and of the figure skaters at the Olympic Winter Games. “All this shows us that winter sports need help and we decided to build an ice palace in the Olympic Village in Digomi,” said Tsulukiani announcing a decision to build a modern ice rink in the Digomi area of Tbilisi with the technical consultation of the IIHF. The Ice Arena Tbilisi is foreseen with two ice sheets, tribunes and construction will begin next year.

Construction work for the new Ice Arena Tbilisi will start in 2023.

The ABC’s with Ukraine’s NHL – Bound Star Artur Cholach

Artur Cholach bound for the NHL

By Lee Reaney – Kyiv Post

In an exclusive interview with the Kyiv Post, Cholach talked about Arenas, Barrie (Canada), and Comebacks after leading the Ukrainian national team at last week’s IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships – Division 1B in Lithuania. 

It’s been a long time since Ukraine has seen such a promising hockey talent as Artur Cholach.

Drafted last summer by the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knight, the hulking 193 cm, 91 kg defenceman plies his trade for the Barrie Colts in one of the top junior leagues in the world – Canada’s Ontario Hockey League (OHL).

“This is a special moment that I’ve been dreaming about my whole career”, he told the Kyiv Post. “This means that I am moving in the right direction and that everything can be achieved if you stick with it and work hard.”

The last time a Ukrainian was drafted to the NHL? In 2007, when goaltender Sergei Gaiduchenko was drafted by the Florida Panthers, although he never played in North America. 

The last time a Ukrainian defenceman was drafted to the NHL? In 1998 – five years before Cholach was born – when Maxim Linnik was selected by the St. Louis Blues. He, too, did not play in the NHL.

Cholach’s chances at turning pro are looking up. 

After scoring two goals during Sokil Kyiv’s run to the finals last season, he was drafted third overall by the OHL’s Barrie Colts. Cholach starred for Ukraine’s national U20 team at last week’s Division 1A world junior championships, where he nearly cracked the Top 10 in scoring by registering 8 assists in 5 games.

Setting an Example
As the only player on the U20 national team currently playing in North America, things worked differently for Cholach in the run-up to the world junior tournament.

Firstly, he needed to come back from an early season concussion. Then, he needed permission from his local club – who he pointed out were enthusiastic about his participation. Finally, he needed to adapt to the time zone, new teammates, and a much larger ice surface.

“I am proud to be able to represent my country on the international stage“

he said. “Unfortunately, our national team is not experiencing the best of times. We need to move to the higher divisions. Still, it’s a great opportunity and learning experience when you play against other national teams.”

The team experienced a wild run at the championships, with promotion still on the table until late in the tournament.

Ukraine was the only team to top the first place France, who will be promoted to Division 1A next year. The game against France was itself a roller coaster, with Ukraine building a 5-1 first period lead only to find themselves forced to come back to tie the game late in the third period.

“It was a difficult game in terms of psychology”, Cholach said about the encounter. “Our team was bad at preventing goals. We lost the second period and had to start all over again in the third.”

Forward Maxsym Simchuk tied the game with 2:31 to go, with Artem Hrebenyk netting the overtime winner to cap one of the most memorable comebacks in Ukrainian hockey history.

“It was our game and we couldn’t lose”, said Cholach. “Everyone considers us outsiders at the championships, but we have proved the opposite – that we can and will beat the favourites and raise the level of our national team.”

Unfortunately, the team fell to a tough Slovenia team in the next game and finished the tournament in fourth place with 3 wins and 2 losses to secure yet another year at the Division 1B level.

Still, the future looks bright. 

Besides Cholach’s heroics on the blue line, the team was led by Danylo Korzhyletskyi, Simchuk, and Denys Honcharenko, who notched 37 points between them to finish 2nd, 3rd, and 4th, respectively, in the scoring race.

From Lviv to Canada
It has been a crazy journey for Cholach.

At first, he wanted to play football like every other boy in Ukraine. Being too young to play, his parents put him in hockey.

It’s a good thing they did. 

Cholach got his start with the Galician Lions youth team, which plays out of the tiny arena in Novoyavorivsk in Lviv Oblast. 

Recruited as a 15-year-old teen to play for Russia’s elite U16 Red Army team, he spent half a season there before getting promoted to its U18 squad.

He spent the next season playing AAA hockey in the USA, before coming back to Ukraine to star for Bila Tserkva Bilyy Bars and Sokil Kyiv. That’s when the Colts came calling.

“Artur is a great addition to our defensive core and Colts fans should be excited”, said Colts coach and GM Marty Williamson, who used the team’s only import pick on Cholach. “With Artur playing in the U.S. previously, his English is very good which helps with his adjustment to our team.”

From the tiny rink in Novoyavorivsk to the big lights of one of the world’s best leagues – the journey isn’t lost on Cholach.

“Arenas are good [in Canada] and have a lot of capacity”, said Cholach. “Probably the only comparable rink in Ukraine is Kyiv’s Palace of Sport. There are probably 10 such arenas in Barrie [ed. Population – 150,000) alone. Ukraine still has room to grow in this regard.”

You can catch Cholach starring for the Barrie Colts when his team plays the Kingston Frontenacs on Feb. 3, as the game will be broadcast nationally on Canada’s TSN.ca. Game time is 19:30 ET (2:30 EET on Feb. 4).

National Team First Victim in Ukrainian Hockey’s Civil War

President Ukrainian National Olympic Committee Serhiy Bubka

By Lee Reaney – Kyiv Post

Shorthanded due to the ongoing civil war among Ukrainian domestic leagues, Ukraine’s national hockey team put on a brave face over the weekend even as it struggled to keep pace at the Christmas Cup – the latest in a series of Euro Hockey Challenge events ahead of next April’s world championships.

The previous Euro Hockey Challenge event, in Budapest, Hungary from November 12-13, ignited a civil war in Ukrainian hockey that continues to cut deep. 

On the eve of that tournament, Donbas Donetsk and HC Kramatorsk recalled some of their players in violation of national team commitments. The Ukrainian Hockey League (UHL) suspended the players from the domestic league. Donetsk and Kramatorsk continued to play the players, resulting in their expulsion from the league.

Like South Park’s Cartman, Donbas owner Boris Kolesnikov essentially told the UHL: “Screw you guys – I’m going home” and took his team, the teams of allied owners, his media partners, and corporate sponsors, and started his own league, the Ukrainian Hockey Super League. 

The Ukrainian Hockey Federation (UHF) recruited new teams to its rump UHL and recruited media partners and corporate sponsors of its own.

Then came the battle for players – and public relations.

Sanctioning the Unsanctioned
The first front in this civil war was a legal one.

Donbas filed first, arguing that the UHF’s suspension of its players violated Ukraine’s Labour Code since the players were employees of the team and were being kept from working by the federation. 

The federation shot back, issuing a notice that any players participating in the Super League will face sanctions, saying in a statement

“I urge hockey players not to bury their careers and to decide – do you play for yourself, or do you play for us all?”

This has incensed Sergei Varlamov, a former NHLer and General Director of the Super League. In an open letter to Georgi Zubko, President of the UHF, he addresses players directly:

“I urge you to act exclusively within the framework of the Law and not carry out the criminal orders of leadership of the UHF … I ask you to inform me personally about all the facts of pressure on you, as on the bodies of sports justice. I guarantee the provision of legal assistance and protection to all victims of the UHF.”

As in any war, you need to align your allies.

So, to shore up legitimacy, the sides called in the big guns. 

Vying for Prominence
The next front to open was the battle for influence, or alliance-building.

The Super League drew the opening salvo by having Ukrainian National Olympic Committee President Sergei Bubka, also of Donetsk, drop the ceremonial puck at the Super League’s inaugural game. He sat for an interview with the Super League’s press service afterwards. 

“Today there should be as many clubs as possible to have greater competition”, Bubka told the Super League. “When there is competition, then the quality of our players will increase … Today we need to unite efforts, do what we can to have as many clubs as possible … throughout Ukraine. Then the championship will be more competitive, and the league will be stronger, so the quality of the game will increase.”

Bubka was traveling and not available for comment over the weekend, but his office referred the Kyiv Post to a statement that read:

“The NOC of Ukraine [hopes to] initiate a round table meeting to discuss the existing problems between the Hockey Federation of Ukraine and hockey clubs in order to establish a constructive dialogue and resolve issues”, adding that Bubka and Ukrainian Youth & Sports Minister Vadym Gutzeit hope to meet directly with the UHF.

Not to be outdone, the UHF brought in IIHF President Luc Tardiff, who also met with Bubka and Gutzeit.

“Of course, I am well aware of the situation in Ukrainian hockey … because the case in Ukraine is unprecedented,“

he said in a release that clearly sided with the federation.

“I can say that the UHF did absolutely right. The first rule that cannot be violated [is that] clubs must ensure the participation of players in international competitions. This is the rule on which the principle of holding all international competition is based … [violating this] key rule of world hockey can lead to anarchy.”

Money Matters
Of course, money makes the world of sports go ‘round.

One of the main disagreements that precipitated the current civil war was over league sponsorship and TV rights. 

Before the division of the Ukrainian Hockey League, games were played on Ukraine’s XSport, owned by Kolesnikov. 

After an audit, Zubko accused XSport of not only not paying the league for broadcast rights, but of actually receiving payment from the league to play the games on television.

Zubko also accused Kolesnkikov of tanking a sponsorship deal the league had made with sports betting site VBet that would have seen the UHL receive millions of UAH for broadcast rights. Donbas is sponsored by VBet rival Parimatch. 

The fragmentation into two leagues saw the rival betting companies back competing leagues – Vbet the UHL, Parimatch the Super League.

Likewise, the Super League is being broadcast by Kolesnikov’s XSport, while the UHL has worked with local broadcasters and streams games on YouTube. 

The Player Conundrum
The final front of this civil war is the battle for players.

After the initial split, both leagues scrambled to find additional teams – often with a side of nastiness.

After Bila Tserkva Bilyy Bars followed Donbas and HC Kramatorsk to the SuperLeague, many of its players and coaches stayed in the UHL to form Brovary Sports & Professional College (BSPC). 

Sokil Kyiv stayed loyal to the UHL, while the Super League had UkrDonInvest founder Vitaliy Kropachev found SK Sokil Kyiv to directly compete with the more well established Kyiv team. 

This has been a boon for Ukrainian players and those in the region at or near retirement.

Druzhkivka Altair, a team founded after the launch of the Super League, coaxed 41-year-old Denis Kochetkov out of his recent retirement to become their player-coach. 

Viktor Shakhvorostov, who played with Donbas in 2015-16, was coaxed to the Super League’s Sokil Kyiv from Russian second-tier team HC Rostov. In an exclusive interview with the Super League’s press service, he explained his reasons for returning.

“Family – plus they offered the best conditions”, he told the press service. “I thought [about it], weighed the pros and cons. It’s just that there were more advantages here [including family], so I made the decision.”

Still, even with the influx of hockey teams and players into the country, the ban on SuperLeague players from the national team can be felt. 

Christmas Cup
The first victim of this mess has been the Ukrainian national hockey team, which dropped all three matches at last weekend’s Christmas Cup in Poland.

Ukraine started the tournament well, pushing Hungary to overtime before a terrible giveaway in the extra frame saw the team fall 2-1 with just 8 seconds left in the game. 

It was another tight game against the favored French in game two, but some heroics in goal by Sergei Pisarenko meant the French required a diving goalmouth save in the game’s final moment to secure a 2-1 win. 

Ukraine was flat in the third game, and never looked to bother host Poland as they fell to 0-3 with a 4-1 loss.

The Christmas Cup is part of the Euro Hockey Challenge – a series of exhibition tournaments between similarly-ranked nations designed to give players national team experience ahead of the year-end IIHF tournaments. 

Ukraine hosts the next tournament, from February 10-12 at Kyiv’s Palace of Sport before travelling to Katowice, Poland to play in the 2022 IIHF World Hockey Championships Division 1B. Held from April 25 – May 1, Ukraine will play Estonia, Japan, Lithuania, Poland, and Serbia for the chance to be promoted to Division 1A.

Whether or not they will field a full team by then remains to be seen. 

Like all wars, a great deal of good will and diplomatic leadership will need to be seen before then.  

The Ukraine Ice Hockey Federation announces the restart and reboot of hockey in the country

New Logo of Ukraine Ice Hockey Federation

Source : Ukraine Ice Hockey Federation

The Hockey Federation of Ukraine presented a new program for the development of hockey in Ukraine until 2033 as part of an official presentation in Kyiv.

The new strategy is designed for 12 years old and up, the time during which a young sports fan grows into a professional hockey player. One of the ambitious tasks of the public organization is to represent the national team of Ukraine at the Winter Olympic Games in 2034, and for this it is necessary to prepare a powerful team that will be capable of fighting in 2033.

Children dream of playing ice hockey. You understand that in 2034 today’s children will play. It seems so far away, but in reality it is our immediate future. Our task is to ignite, to capture the imagination and of course, to develop a new method of training athletes. That get higher results “ , – the president of the Federation Georgi Zubko emphasized.

The Federation team has already done a tremendous job of researching the best models for hockey development in the world – from the US to Slovakia, enlisting the support of experts from Sweden, Finland and Canada and finding world-renowned partners who are ready to make every effort to develop hockey in Ukraine. 

The Federation plans to implement a state program to develop hockey infrastructure in Ukraine, which is already being considered by President  Volodymyr Zelensky  to increase the number of professional clubs from 8 to at least 16, improve the skills of Ukrainian coaches, support amateur hockey and create a hockey fan family for the Ukraine. 

A new information campaign of the Federation “Hockey starts with« “will start on August 20. Its goal is to light a fire in the hearts of hockey fans and make new fans fall in love with the fastest team sport in the world. 

So far, fans have been presented with an updated logo of the Federation – a trident with the silhouette of a hockey player. It should be an impetus for in-depth collaboration with new marketing partners and sponsors in the future. The plan is to actively work on further updating the identity of the public organization to make it modern and easy to remember and associate with hockey.

Ukraine Ice Hockey Federation began cooperation with Ice Hockey UK

Source: Ukraine  Ice Hockey Federation

The Hockey Federation of Ukraine has started cooperation with the Hockey Federation of Great Britain.

Thus, the Secretary General of the British organization Andy French will advise Ukrainian experts on working with national teams.

It should be noted that the national team of Great Britain actually managed to leave Division IV to the elite of world hockey in 4 years and stayed there at the end of the 2018/2019 season.

Reforms in the coaching staff of the national team contributed to the rise in the class. In particular, the British-Canadian team is currently working with the team. Britain’s Pete Russell has led the country’s national team since 2014, assisted by two Canadian experts – Corey Nilsson and Adam Kiefe. Nilsson joined the United Kingdom in 2013 and Kiffey in 2017. Both had experience working with clubs of the British elite hockey league.

The coaching staff of the British national team has developed a long-term strategy for working with the team, carried out partial naturalization, involving Canadian hockey players, and paid special attention to the development of the national championship with an emphasis on improving the playing qualities of British athletes

Estonia national team to participate in international tournament

Estonia national team head coach Jussi Tupamäki

Source: ERR

This weekend, the Estonian national ice hockey team will participate in an international tournament in Poland, where they will face off against four opponents.

The Estonian national team got together in Tallinn last took part in international competition a year and a half ago. World championship qualification tournaments were canceled both this year and the year prior due to the coronavirus pandemic and the team is using the opportunity to train and compete together.

“I started missing the national team a little myself. It is always good to see friends and play together, to represent the Estonian national team and in a tournament such as this upcoming one in Poland. I think we will get good experience,” national team forward Rasmus Kiik told ERR.

The Estonian national team is made up of multiple players who have performed in world championship competitions before, including goaltender Villem-Henrik Koitmaa. Most of the team is however made up of younger call-ups, still lacking much international experience.

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“I think there are quite a few young players who are very thankful to even train with the men. Then they see what the level is and how much more they should put in to make the team in the future,” said national team head coach Jussi Tupamäki.

National team mainstays Robert Rooba, Kristjan Kombe and Robert Arrak will have to skip the current training camp and upcoming tournament. In addition to Poland, Estonia will face off against Latvia’s under-20s team, Lithuani and Croatia.

“I think the first game against Poland will be very hard. I know this already, but we all know it and it is a challenge,” Tupamäki said.

Rasmus Kiik added: “We cannot say we will go to win this tournament, but we will also not go to lose. We will give our best each game. The final games of the tournament will certainly be better. I think we will give our best and try to win a few. We’ll see what happens by the end of the tournament.”

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