Category: Europe (Page 2 of 8)

An ice arena has opened in Baku

Source: Media.AZ

On June 2, the grand opening of the ice arena at the Sports and Concert Complex named after Heydar Aliyev took place in Baku. The Ministry of Youth and Sports of Azerbaijan put this facility into operation in order to stimulate the development of sports such as figure skating and hockey in the country.

head of the press service of the ministry Gabil Mehdiyev , the arena will operate not only for training future athletes, but also available to amateurs.

Under the Federation of Winter Sports, sports the ice rink will be opened  for future figure skating and hockey athletes. For athletes the  training will be free this month and will be charged next month. For amateurs or those wishing to start doing these sports not for a sports career, but as a hobby, classes will also be paid, for” G. Mehdiyev noted.

The representative of the ministry also added that the cost of training has not yet been set, this will be handled by the managers of the ice arena.

In turn, Secretary General of the Azerbaijan Winter Sports Federation, President of the European Ski Mountaineering Consulate of the International Ski Mountaineering Federation Gunel Badalova said that the Federation regularly received proposals to open an ice rink so that both athletes and amateurs could practice figure skating and hockey.

“For the development of any sport among the local population, it is necessary to start with infrastructure, and then increase the number of athletes. I want to note that at the opening of the ice arena, we were approached by a lot of people who wanted to enroll their children in figure skating and hockey. Just yesterday, a woman applied to the Federation – her family had recently moved to Baku. She said that in  country where they came from her daughter was engaged in figure skating and really wants to continue working in this direction.

This suggests that there are many people in Azerbaijan who want to engage in these sports and move in this direction professionally, even among those who do not know how to skate at all. I would also like to note that among those who want to skate are not only girls, but also boys,” G. Badalova emphasized.

According to her, the Federation plans to engage in educational detail among kindergarteners and school students in order to attract those who want to engage in these sports professionally. In addition, excursions around the ice arena will be held for children as part of physical education lessons.

“The arena will operate not only for professional skating, but also for mass use. Those of all ages can visit it. To do this, we are now developing a schedule and setting prices. When the work is completed, we will publish all the necessary information by putting the ice rink into operation,” she said.

Badalova also noted that in order to work with future athletes, the Federation is negotiating with professional coaches from around the world. At the moment, figure skating coach Vitaly Novikov has arrived in Baku . The specialist has coached teams both in Russia and in the USA.

“Negotiations are also underway with ice hockey coaches. We strive for the Azerbaijanis living in our country to start practicing winter sports, therefore we attract foreign coaches, not athletes.

By the way, for the development of ski mountaineering (skiing), we invited a coach from Andorra Patrick Kampais , he has been training our guys from Gusar and Baku for a year now. Now we have only five athletes in ski mountaineering, but to increase their number we plan to hold selections in June, September and October,” our interlocutor summed up.

GERMANY CUP 2023 WILL TAKE PLACE IN LANDSHUT – FOR THE FIRST TIME, WOMEN’S & MEN’S NATIONAL TEAMS WILL PLAY

By George Da Silva – National Teams of Ice Hockey

German Ice Hockey Federation announced today at a press conference that this year’s Deutschland Cup will take place in Landshut for the first time from November 8th to 12th, 2023. The 34th edition will have for the first time, women’s and men’s national teams and will hold their tournaments in one arena  ( The Fanatec Arena).

There will be four women’s teams and four men’s teams.

Women’s Group:

Germany
Finland
Czechia
and one team TBA

Men’s Group:

Germany
Denmark
Austria
Slovakia

Will Lithuania ever stand up to Latvia on the ice hockey rink?

Source: Baltic News Network

When it comes to ice hockey, this May has been starkly different for Lithuania and Latvia. Having lost to South Korea, the former has dropped into a lower league, IB, and the latter has risen to the dizzying dazzle of stardom, winning bronze in the 2023 IIHF ice hockey world championship that was held in Riga and Tampere.

Note –with a win against the mighty United States.

“The entire country was and still is in a state of euphoria. Over 30,000 gathered in the center of Riga to greet the players upon their return and Monday was declared a legal holiday as well. Moments like this when it seems everyone has finally found one thing they can agree on are invaluable – for national morale and positive thinking,” Ilze, an American living in Latvia, told BNN.

With the braliukai (that’s how many Lithuanians call their closest neighbours, Latvians, amicably) leaping in joy, many Lithuanian ice hockey pundits and ordinary Lithuanians are scratching heads anew – can the country’s ice hockey be any better? And what needs to be done to ascend the IIHF ladder?

Remigijus Valickas, executive director of Lithuania’s National Ice Hockey League (LNIHL), says “all is about traditions.”

“LIKEWISE LITHUANIANS IN BASKETBALL, LATVIANS HAVE VERY STRONG ICE HOCKEY TRADITIONS,

hence the respective attention to young ice hockey players, the financing of ice hockey schools, and the sport’s infrastructure. Until recently, Lithuania has had only three ice hockey arenas – in Elektrėnai, Kaunas, and Rokiškis. To draw a parallel with basketball, where our national basketball team would be if had only three basketball courts?” R. Valickas told BNN.

He says that with more ice arenas being opened, more children enroll the ice hockey schools.

“And the number of our children playing ice hockey has grown exponentially – from 170 in 2013, when I came to the Ice Hockey Federation, to a little bit over 1 100 now. So, the investments in children will yield results – sooner or later,” the LNIHL executive director emphasised.

Yet, he agrees, getting back to the IIHF’s higher tier, IA, to which the Lithuanian ice hockey squad belonged before dropping into IB after an unsuccessful tournament in May, will not be easy.

“The top division has 20 teams. So considering everything and being the 23rd on the IIHF ranking our situation is not tragic. By the way,

THE ONLY TIME OUR NATIONAL SQUAD PLAYED IN THE TOP DIVISION WAS IN 1939.

Understandably, there were quite a few teams in the championship and ice hockey has changed unrecognizably since then,” R. Valickas noted.

He says Lithuania has never beaten Latvia on an ice hockey rink yet.

“We lost even against their teams with the second-tier players on the rink. But there is always a first time – for our win against it, too,” he said.

Speaking to BNN, Gintaras Nenartavičius, a sports journalist at lrytas.lt, insisted that, compared to the situation two or three years ago, Lithuania is seeing a slump in the performance on the rink.

“A couple of years ago, we saw a kind of rise in the sport, but things are edging downward now. Just a few years ago, we could fight on par against Poland, but they crushed us 7-0 in the IIHF’s IA tournament in May, a big embarrassment. Even the Poles were surprised how weak our team was,” he said.

According to the sports journalist, there is a “bunch of reasons” for Lithuania’s unimpressive performance on the rink.

“Of course, No. 1 is traditions.

WE ARE A BASKETBALL COUNTRY, NOT ICE HOCKEY. IN LITHUANIA, ICE HOCKEY IS DEEMED A NICHE SPORT,

with the games’ centers still being far from the major cities: in Elektrėnai (a town of about 11,000 inhabitants in Vilnius County, some 45 kilometers away from Vilnius – L. J.). And the other in Rokiškis, a far-flung provincial town,” G. Nenartavičius said, adding: “Recently, the Latvians have significantly ramped up their ice hockey infrastructure and the bulk of it is in Riga.”

According to the journalist, unless the local ice hockey coaches can pick talents from a big line-up of children, a breakthrough cannot happen in the sport.

“Now, they train who they have – quite a few children on the rink. Far from the luxury of basketball coaches who have dozens and dozens lining up for the selection,” G. Nenartavičius said.

In his words, as a sport, ice hockey is expensive – for children and their parents.

“The gear costs hundreds and thousands. It is not like basketball where you can put a T-shirt on and any sneakers and run on the court. Many parents just cannot afford having their child in an ice hockey school,” the journalist suggested.

“I spoke to some Ukrainian children and their parents who came to Vilnius from Kharkiv (Ukraine’s second-largest city – L.J.). Even though, all together, Ukraine’s ice hockey is weak, but, to believe them, they had great conditions for training there. And here the conditions they have do not even come close to those in Kharkiv,” he added.

For Aurimas Jokimčius, head of „Šaulys“ ice hockey school in Šiauliai, Lithuania’s fourth-largest city, the underlying issues of national ice hockey are embedded in the sport’s financing.

“Unlike in Latvia, where both Government, the local municipalities, and numerous big-name companies support the sport financially, here in Lithuania, we are getting just crumbs.

THE SECOND REASON IS THE LACK OF PROPER ICE HOCKEY ARENAS IN LITHUANIA.

We tend to support sports, with the exception of basketball, only when their best athletes win internationally,” A. Jokimčius told BNN.

Asked how his private ice hockey school has been doing over 10 years in operation, he was honestly blunt: “We have been skidding most of the time and we are still skidding, yet persevering and chugging forward.”

“For many parents, ice hockey is too expensive. Imagine the prices of the outfit at nearly 500 euros and the arena lease costs us roughly 2000 euros per month. And then travelling to tournaments and so on,” he said,

Yet the school founder and coach says that, when it comes to the children’s motivation, he has no problem with it.

“When you play ice hockey in Lithuania, getting into the national squad is much easier than, say, for all the aspiring young basketballers, where the competition is huge,” A. Jokimčius said, adding: “If you work hard and stay goal-oriented, success will come. For example, we have young Lithuanians playing for top-tier Swiss and Swedish ice hockey clubs.”

However, he is hesitant if Lithuania can make it into the top IIHF division in the next 10 years.

“Many cards have to fall on the table favourably. Having many more ice hockey arenas, allotting bigger financing for the sport is a must. Our Baltic children, and Lithuanian children too, are gifted as players of physical sports, so I am optimistic,” A. Jokimčius said.

Big Plans in Armenia

armenia ice hockey

By George Da SIlva  – National Teams of Ice Hockey

Armenian Ice Hockey League has big plans for the future of the national team and the league.

1. October 2023 Friendly match of the Armenian national ice hockey team after 13 years hiatus.

2. December 2023 Formation of the final composition of the National Ice Hockey Team of Armenia for the 2025 IIHF World Championships.

3. March 2024 Test match will be set up for the Armenian National Ice Hockey Team.

4. May 2024 The Armenian Championship Playoff Cup 2023-2024 season.
September 2024 The start of the Armenian Ice Hockey Championship. 2024-2025 season.

5. May 2025 Participation of the National Team of Armenia at IIHF World Ice Hockey Championships.

Winnipegger to lead German national team

By Taylor Allen – Winnipeg Free Press

Harold Kreis never imagined a local newspaper ad would lead to a more than 40-year pro hockey career overseas.

That, however, is exactly how his story began.

Kreis was a 19-year-old Winnipegger when his grandfather flipped open the paper and read about a coach in Germany seeking Canadian players with German ancestry.

The defenceman had played three years of junior, split between the Kildonan North Stars of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League and Calgary Wranglers of the Western Hockey League, and was hoping to earn a university scholarship in the United States. Although it wasn’t his original plan, he made the choice to head to Europe and attempt to make a name for himself with Mannheim ERC of the Deutsche Eishockey Liga (DEL) — the highest level of hockey in Germany.

It was a wise move, indeed. Kreis would go on to play 19 seasons with Mannheim and win two league titles, culminating with the retirement of his No. 3 jersey shortly after he called it a career in 1997 to begin coaching.

“I find with anything in life, you have to be open to opportunities. There’s no doubt about it. But you’ve got to have some luck, too,” Kreis, now 64, told the Free Press by phone Wednesday.

“For whatever reason, my grandfather saw this ad. For whatever reason, we decided to meet this (coach), and after that, it was an easy choice to say, ‘OK, let’s take the one-year contract, let’s take the two-way flight to Germany and try this out. Why not?’ A two-way flight and a one-year contract turned into a nearly 20-year playing career and a coaching career. So, yeah, there’s a lot of luck involved.”

Kreis was also a member of the German national team at the 1984 (Yugoslavia) and 1988 (Calgary) Winter Olympics, as well as 10 world championships.

“The (‘88 Olympics) were special because I was in my home country. Although, playing for a different nation in your home country, that was a little odd, I have to admit. I don’t want to call myself a traitor, but I did change flags,” he said.

Kreis, who lives in the town of Ladenburg, will continue to represent the black, red, and gold on the international stage as the German Ice Hockey Association recently named him the new head coach of its men’s national team.

His first competition will be next month’s world championship in Latvia and Finland, from May 12-28.

Kreis, currently the head coach of the DEL’s Schwenniger Wild Wings, has paid his dues behind the bench for over two decades. He guided both HC Lugano and the ZSC Lions to Swiss league titles before returning to Germany. He’s also been an assistant coach with Germany at three world championships (2010-2012).

His new position is a full-time, year-round job that will take him away from the club game. The national program is currently holding training camp in Frankfurt.

“Twice I was asked if I would take the head-coach job — once before Marco Sturm (who led Germany to a silver medal at the 2018 Olympics) took it, and once before Toni Söderholm, my predecessor, took the job. But both clubs (I was coaching at the time) didn’t want me to take the job. And I thought, ‘OK, after the second time, that’s it. They’re not going to ask me again,’” said Kreis.

But the job became available again in November when Söderholm took the reins of a team in Switzerland.

“They interviewed multiple coaches and they chose me. And the club decided to let me go this time. I was very fortunate the club let me go and that they thought I was the right guy for the job.”

Harold Kreis, now 63, played 19 seasons for the Mannheim ERC of the Deutsche Eishockey Liga, winning two league titles.

Mike Schmidt of Palmerston, Ont., played two seasons with Kreis at Mannheimer. The two also coached together in the DEL at Düsseldorfer EG.

“He’s an icon. He’s one of the rare guys that went over and played for one team his whole playing career. That just doesn’t happen at all, which I also think says something about him,” said Schmidt, who played 17 seasons in Germany.

“I think he’ll do just great. He’s a dedicated, thorough coach. He’s a good communicator who gets along well with his players, but he’s got a line that he draws, too, when you need to draw a line.

“And he enjoys it. From my years coaching with him, he enjoys the job. He’s into it and he’s really good at it, too.”

Spain excitedly presents the Ice Hockey World Cup in Madrid 2023

By George Wiliams – Sportsfinding

The Ice Hockey World Championship in Division II of Group A, which will be held in Madrid from April 16 to 22, was presented this Thursday by the Royal Spanish Ice Sports Federation (RFEDH) in the company of the main institutions of the Community of Madrid and the City Council of the capital.

The event was attended by Frank González, president of the RFEDH; Luciano Basile, national coach; Alberto Tomé, Deputy Minister of Sports of the Community of Madrid, and Sofía Miranda, Delegate Councilor for Sports of the Madrid City Council.

The RFEDH has indicated in a press release that “all the speakers have expressed their enthusiasm for hosting the event for the first time in Madrid”. As an added incentive, it will coincide with the centenary of Spanish ice hockey (1923-2023), according to an anniversary that occurred on March 10.

The Spanish team, which was last in Division I in 2011, will have to fight against Israel, Australia, Georgia, Iceland and Croatia in a regular league format, where only the first classified achieves the gold medal that implies the category upgrade.

The debut of the Spanish team, at the Madrid Ice Rink, will be next Sunday against Israel (7:30 p.m.). The group of 22 players coached by Luciano Basile is one of the youngest in Division II, with an average of just over 22 years.

After the press conference, Spain has lost a friendly against Australia. “The meeting was held in front of more than 60 students from a school in Madrid, the result of an activity in coordination with the Madrid City Council that was attended by Alicia Martín, General Director of Sports at the City Council”, added the RFEDH in his note.

This 2023 Madrid World Cup is organized by the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) and by the RFEDH itself, with the institutional sponsorship of the Higher Sports Council (CSD) and the Madrid City Council and Community.

In addition, the tournament receives the collaboration of the Madrid Winter Sports Federation (FMDI). The RFEDH has thanked “sponsors such as Lotteries, Joma or Sidgad and official suppliers such as Supercor, Goiko, MiÓptico and Top Global for their participation”.

The RFEDH celebrates the centenary of ice hockey at the CSD

By George Williams – SportsFinding

The Royal Spanish Federation of Ice Sports (RFEDH) has held this Friday the act of commemoration of the centenary of Spanish Ice Hockey (1923-2023) in the Samaranch Room of the Higher Sports Council (CSD).

The event was attended by the president of the RFEDH, Frank González; Alberto Serrano, vice president of the RFEDH and member of the Spanish team for the 1977 World Championships; Carlos Kubala, member of the Spanish team for the 1977 World Championships; Elena Álvarez, captain of the Spanish team and ice hockey member of the RFEDH; and Ander Alcaine, former ice hockey player, national team goalkeeper and professional in the Magnus League.

This centenary coincides with the date on which, in 1923, the tenth IIHF Annual Congress was held in Antwerp (Belgium), where Spain was accepted as a member of the International Ice Hockey Federation. Spain was represented at the congress by the diplomat, artist, film director and hockey player Edgar Neville, a figure who was present at the event through his grandson Edgar Neville.

Neville has shared a video in which he remembered his grandfather’s passion for ice. A message was also projected from Manel Puigbó, an illustrious player from the fifties and sixties, now 91 years old and one of the pioneers of hockey, in which he recalled the championships that were played in the Nuria Valley in the mid-fifties between Spanish teams and some international guests.

Carlos Kubala has stressed that he has “great friends” from that 1977 team. “We have been together for more than 50 years and we still meet from time to time to play for veterans,” he said. “We were happy with what little we had, they were tough starts but I am proud of what we achieved and I love seeing young people who continue to raise the level of ice hockey,” added Alberto Serrano.

Frank González, also a member of the first national team at the 1977 World Championships; in Copenhagen (Denmark), recalled that they had to bring exchange items with the Danes. “About 33 bottles of Licor 43 and cognac to get some material and equipment for our team instead,” he recalled.

For her part, Elena Álvarez has claimed that the level of women’s ice hockey “has improved a lot” from its creation to the present. “It seems like another sport. The Iberdrola League is made up of real athletes and more and more players are developing from the base,” she said.

Finally, Ander Alcaine has added that when it started they were high school kids traveling every two months. “We looked like professionals when we were barely 15 years old and from the EYOF in 2007 they began to work a lot with my generation and I was able to play professionally in France at the age of 19,” he said.

The event was also attended by the Madrid City Council Sports Director General, Alicia Martín, who congratulated the RFEDH on the centenary of ice hockey. “It is an honor for Madrid that these events culminate with the World Cup in Madrid. When the proposal came to us, it was a resounding yes because we want the city to be filled with ice hockey and this competition helps strengthen the grassroots sport.” Finally, the press conference closed with the intervention of Juan María Fernández Carnicer, Director of the CSD’s Cabinet, who thanked “all those present for their commitment, since without you none of this would have existed; and also their passion for move on,” he said.

The centenary celebration will continue in April during the Ice Hockey World Championship (Division II Group A), which will be held in Madrid from April 16 to 22 and with Spain aspiring to promotion.

The RFEDH has also exhibited a selection of historical shirts from different eras, together with an exhibition of centenary images based on a ‘falcon board’ model as a support, in line with the federation’s commitment to sustainability.

Germany ice hockey team appoint Harold Kreis as head coach

The Canadian-born Kreis has spent most of his adult life in German hockey

By Chuck Penfold – dw.com

The German Ice Hockey Association (DEB) confirmed on Monday what had been widely expected since late last week, appointing Harold Kreis, 64, as the man to lead Germany into the upcoming World Championship and beyond. Kreis, who is currently coach of the Schwenniger Wild Wings of the Germany’s top league, the DEL, will step into the role at the end of current domestic season. 

He replaces Toni Söderholm, who surprisingly stepped down in the autumn to take over as head coach with top Swiss National League outfit SC Bern. Kreis’s contract runs through the next Winter Olympic Games and the 2026 World Championship. Alexander Sulzer, a former NHL defenseman, who had spells at the Buffalo Sabres and Nashville Predators, will be his assistant. 

DEB President Peter Merten said the association’s board believed that the coaching team of Kreis and Sulzer were capable of “permanently establishing the men’s national team among the world’s top eight (ice hockey) nations.”

Aiming to build on recent progress

“I have experienced a lot in my career, but now to work as a national coach is something very special, it’s a great honor for me,” Kreis said, before acknowledging the work of his predecessors, Söderholm and Marco Sturm, who led Germany to an unprecedented silver medal at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.

“The development of the team has been extremely positive in recent years. The team has progressed in terms of attitude, conviction and self-confidence. This started under Marco and continued under Toni. It’s my aim to ensure that this continues under Alex and myself,” Kreis said. 

“The days when you (Germany) would go into a game against Sweden or Canada and think ‘let’s just try to keep the score down’ — those days are over.”  

Vast coaching experience

The Winnipeg, Canada, native never played professionally in North America, instead turning pro at the age of 19 with top German club the Mannheim Eagles, where he spent 18 seasons, culminating in the retirement of his No. 3 jersey. He represented West Germany 180 times, including at the 1984 and 1988 Winter Olympics.   

Kreis went into coaching shortly after hanging up his skates in 1997, starting out as an assistant before going on to become a head coach in both Germany and Switzerland. His two greatest successes were winning Swiss titles with Lugano and ZSC Lions Zurich. 

Kreis is also no stranger to being behind the bench with the national team, having worked as an assistant coach at the 2010, 2011, and 2012 World Championships. 

His first major test as national team coach is set to come at the World Championships to be hosted by Finland and Latvia from May 12 to 28. 

Toni Soderholm Resigns As National Coach and Joins SC Bern

Toni Soderholm

By George Da Silva – National Teams of Ice Hockey

The German Ice Hockey Federation complied with Toni Söderholm’s short-term request for a premature termination of  his contract. The day after the end of the Deutschland Cup 2022, the 44-year-old approached the DEB executive committee with the desire to join the Swiss club SC Bern. The DEB has decided to accommodate the request and to gave approval for the move. Soderholm is giving up his position as national team coach, which he has held since 2019. Both sides have agreed not to disclose the terms of the termination of the contract. The search for a suitable successor to coach the Germany National Team  will be started immediately. 

In January 2019, Toni Söderholm took over as national coach of the German team. Before that, he worked as an assistant coach for the U20 national team. During his time as head coach of the DEB selection, he coach in three IIHF World Championships and led the team to quarterfinals twice (2019, 2022) and semifinals once (2021). In addition, Söderholm looked after the DEB selection at the Olympic Games in Beijing (2022) and won two titles at the Deutschland Cup (2021, 2022) with the team.

The traditional Catalonia-Euskadi ice hockey returns this Christmas

Catalonia Euskadi Ice Hockey

Source:  FCEH

Five years after the last edition, the two powers of state ice hockey will meet again on December 28th, 2022, at the Puigcerdà ice rink. Tickets for the men’s and women’s national team matches can now be purchased on the FCEH website.

In another sign of a return to normality prior to the pandemic, the schedule games had to be postponed last year due to covid-19 prevention measures, on December 28th, 2022, the Puigcerdà ice rink will host a new clash between the teams of Catalonia and Euskadi. A duel with a certain tradition behind it that had not taken place for five years. The last one was in 2017, also in Puigcerdà, with a Catalan victory.

With the organization of the Catalan Federation of Winter Sports (FCEH) and the support of local institutions and entities, the Christmas holidays will once again have a match between two friendly teams with powerful social and sporting roots in state ice hockey. And it is expected that a large part of the players that make up the squads of the men’s and women’s teams will be from C.G. Puigcerdà and FC Barcelona, in the case of Catalonia, and CHH Txuri-Urdin, in terms of the Basque Country.

Puigcerdà will alive a Wednesday with a festive atmosphere where ice hockey the usual protagonist of the daily life of the area, will be the great attraction. The day will have the celebration of two matches –male and female–, the schedule and order of which is pending confirmation.

Tickets for the double event on December 28, 2022, are already on sale on the FCEH website, at a promotional price that will increase slightly later, depending on the month in which they are purchased. In addition to the tickets for each match, you can also buy the All in 1 pack, which includes access to both matches for a cheaper price.

The face to face, favorable to Catalonia

2008 was the opening year of this match, in Vitoria-Gasteiz, with a 3-5 Catalan victory. It was not, however, the official debut of the national team, which began its journey in 2003 with a duel against the Belgium team. Since then, the balance between Catalonia and the Basque Country has been favorable to the former by three wins to one, as well as a draw.

Both national teams have a significant weight in Spanish ice hockey, where C.G. Puigcerdà, FC Barcelona and CHH Txuri-Urdin have dominated state competitions in recent years. La Liga is a clear example of this, as you have to travel until the 2015-2016 season to find a champion who is not Catalan or Basque (CH Jaca)

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