Category: Women (Page 1 of 7)

Women’s Worlds welcomes the return of both Norway and Hungary to the prestigious event

By National Teams of Ice Hockey

This historic promotion for the Norway hockey girls is a momentous occasion for the team and the country as a whole. It signifies their exceptional performance and places them among the elite teams.

The Norwegian hockey girls have displayed an impressive level of talent and teamwork throughout the tournament. Their unwavering commitment and relentless efforts have paid off, as they have triumphed over every opponent they faced. The recent win against South Korea not only solidifies their unbeaten record but also cements their position in the Women’s World Championships for 2025. This achievement is a testament to their hard work and dedication, and it will undoubtedly inspire future generations of female ice hockey players in Norway.

The Hungarian squad emerged victorious over the French team with a remarkable display of skill, securing a 2-1 win after a hard-fought battle. Despite facing an initial setback, the Hungarian players showed resilience and determination, ultimately clinching the victory and securing a second-place finish in the Klagenfurt 1/A World Championship.

The women’s national team secured a commendable second place finish and swiftly reclaimed their position among the elite. Their journey continues in the Czechia next April, where they have the opportunity to further etch their success story.

While luck may not have always been on their side and goal-scoring opportunities were not plentiful, the team managed to find a way to emerge victorious. The tournament served as a valuable learning experience, teaching them important lessons along the way. Reflecting on their performance, the head coach expressed satisfaction with the team’s overall display and acknowledged that with a bit more fortune, the tournament could have been less challenging. Nonetheless, their ability to adapt and triumph in adverse situations is a testament to their resilience and determination.

Danna Ramadan poised to make a strong presence in the goal for Egypt.

 

By National Team of Ice Hockey

Juggling a hectic schedule, Danna Ramadan’s ability to maintain utmost organization is crucial for her to dedicate herself to particular tasks. Currently, her primary endeavor revolves around guarding the net as one of the two goalies for the Princeton Tiger Lillies of New Jersey.

Ramadan, a player with dual citizenship, is set to represent the National Egyptian Women’s Hockey Team during the first-ever Dream Nations Cup. In addition to her rigorous hockey schedule, the 16-year-old athlete must also balance her academic commitments. She has put importance of preparing for the SAT exams while juggling her training sessions.

Ramadan, whose aspiration is to compete in Division I college hockey, began her hockey journey approximately seven years ago. Transitioning to the position of goalie after spending a year on the ice, she embraced the unique challenges and responsibilities that came with the role.

Danna Ramadan was first introduced to the sport by her father, Sameh Ramadan, who holds dual citizenship and was born in America.

Sameh, who grew up in New Jersey, developed a passion for ice hockey and became a devoted fan of the Rangers. He spent his childhood playing street hockey and ice hockey, honing his skills and love for the game.

In 2016, Sameh’s cousin, who was residing in Egypt at the time, was actively involved in ice hockey as a goalie. This connection sparked Sameh’s interest, and he decided to participate in the inaugural African Ice Hockey Clubs Cup held in Morocco. It was an exciting opportunity for Sameh to showcase his talent and contribute to the growth of ice hockey in Africa.

The destruction of Egypt served as a catalyst for Sameh to step up his involvement in the sport. His efforts to pave the way for Egypt’s entry into the IIHF and official recognition from the government marked a significant turning point. As a result, by the year 2021, Egypt found itself under the auspices of the Egyptian National Olympic Committee, entrusted with the task of fostering the growth of ice hockey in the country.

The Dream Nations Cup holds great significance for Danna Ramadan, as it signifies the debut of Egypt’s women’s national ice hockey team. This groundbreaking moment fills her with excitement and anticipation. Ramadan considers it a tremendous privilege to not only be a part of the team but also to serve as their goalie, a position that requires skill, dedication, and leadership.

One might assume that a country with vast desert landscapes and a scarcity of ice rinks would not be a breeding ground for ice hockey talent. Nevertheless, the rise of individuals such as Sarah Nurse and Hillary Knight serves as a testament to the fact that exceptional athletes can emerge from the unlikeliest of origins.

Kazakh Coach Joins International Ice Hockey Federation’s Committee

By Aiman Nakispekova – The Astana Times

Victoriya Sazonova, the General Manager of the women’s national teams, has become a member of the international committee for the development of women’s hockey of the International Ice Hockey Federation, reported the federation’s press service on Dec.29. 

Sazonova will represent Kazakhstan globally, marking the first time an Asian representative has joined this committee.

“I feel a tremendous responsibility for the honor bestowed upon me. I want to represent Kazakh hockey and do it with dignity,” said Sazonova. 

Having dedicated about 20 years to her hockey career as a player for the national team, Sazonova concluded her playing career in 2013. In 2022, she led the women’s junior team at the World Championship and later served as the coach for the women’s national team at the 2023 World Championship. 

Since 2022, she has been taking the position of General Manager for the women’s national teams and director of women’s hockey development at the Kazakhstan Ice Hockey Federation.

 

Japan’s Akane Shiga making North American debut with PWHL Ottawa

Shiga scores against Finland goalkeeper Anni Keisala during a women’s quarterfinal hockey game at the 2022 Olympics

By Celeste Decaire – CBC News

Ottawa’s Professional Women’s Hockey League (PWHL) team has both the new league’s youngest player and its only Japanese player in the same pair of skates.

Akane Shiga, 22, is poised to make her North American pro debut Tuesday night at a sold-out TD Place arena against Montreal.

“I’m still learning English and there’s a long way to go, but just with help from everyone else and the teammates being very thoughtful of the language barriers … I think the communication part has been better than I expected,” she said through translator Madoka Suzuki

According to head coach Carla MacLeod, the language barrier has hardly been a setback.

“[At the] end of the day, the language that we speak is hockey,” MacLeod said, adding that Shiga speaks it very well. 

The defender converted to forward and made her senior national team debut in the 2019 world championship. She then played in the 2022 Olympics, where her team won its group and suffered its only regulation loss in the quarterfinal.

Japan beat Czechia 3-2 in group play that tournament and MacLeod was behind the Czech bench as head coach.

“Obviously she’s an elite athlete within the sport, so it’s easy enough to sort of teach her the hockey side [as she’s] very visual. You can use video, you can draw, you can demo,” MacLeod said. 

Ottawa’s bench boss was also an assistant for the Japanese team at the Sochi Olympics in 2014. Spending a few years in the country, she picked up some words that she uses to give feedback to Shiga. 

“I can randomly speak some Japanese to Akane and she just shakes her head and smiles because she knows I’m just being kind of a dork, but [I’m] trying to be inclusive that way too.” 

All in all, it’s Shiga’s skill that makes her stand out. She started playing hockey at the age of six. 

“I started playing hockey outside, just kind of like pond hockey style, and then just kept playing. I had ambitions to play overseas eventually,” Shiga said.

“So when the opportunity came to try out for Ottawa, it was a no-brainer.”

The hockey competition in North America is much stiffer than in Japan, making Shiga’s leap to the PWHL that much more remarkable.

“I just think that the dream is now available to all of us,” MacLeod said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re a boy or a girl. It doesn’t matter if you’re from Canada, US or Japan or [Czechia] or Germany or Hungary. You have opportunities in our game.”

Shiga made the team out of training camp and has been noted as one of the players to watch for this season. She said her family and friends will be cheering her on, but mostly from a distance.

Here in Ottawa, her nationality is getting recognition from the Ambassador of Japan to Canada.

“A woman, just on her own coming to Ottawa, becoming the big player? She can change the world,”  said Yamanouchi Kanji.

“I think that is a great source for younger generations and also a symbol of the friendship between Canada and Japan — friendship on ice.”

His advice for Shiga this season is simple.

“No matter what they say, just be yourself. Have confidence and do your best.”

Four Louth players on Irish ice hockey team travelling to Poland

Zsofia Bartl, Sonya McEneaney, Lorna Hoey and Beatty Hosgood from Dundalk who play with the Irish Senior Women’s Ice Hockey team

By Margaret RoddyIrish Independent

Four players from Louth are one the Irish team that flies out to compete in the 2023 International Ice Hockey Foundation Development Cup in Poland next month.

Sonya McEneaney and Lorna Hoey from Dundalk began playing ice-hockey when the ill-fated Ice Dome opened in the town, in 2007, with Beatty Hosgood joining in 2008 and Zsofia Bartl from Hungry coming on board more recently.

Both Sonya and Lorna played with the Dundalk Lady Bulls team and remember the excitement when the Ice Dome hosted the International Ice Hockey Federation Division III World Championships in 2007.

Since the Dome, the only one in Ireland, closed in 2010, they, and all other Irish ice hockey players, must travel to Belfast, to the only ice-rink on the island.

“When the rink in Dundalk closed, we kept a team going through roller hockey and we train out of Belfast,” says Sonya.

It requires a lot of dedication and Sonya admits that they are relatively lucky that Belfast is just an hour’s journey away – some players have to travel much further.

“It’ takes a lot of dedication and everything is self-financed as we don’t get any funding,” says Sonya.

“Our girls come from all over Ireland, Kilkenny, Cork, Dublin and Galway,” says Lorna. “We’ve also got some players who are living in London and France, and one girl goes back home just to train.”

Sonya, who captained the Irish Women’s team when they played in the IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship Division V in 2011, explains that they can no longer compete in the World Championship as Ireland doesn’t have an ice rink for them to play on.

Instead, they are competing in the Development Cup along with other countries similarly lacking facilities and will come up against Poland Iran, Argentina and Colombia from November 6 to 12 in the Polish city of Krynica-Zdroj.

The Irish team travelled to Kuwait in 2022, where they finished fifth.

While the players are very excited about representing their country on the world stage, they have to bear the costs of the travel and accommodation associated with taking part in the competition.

Sonya, Lorna and Zsofia set up GoFundMe pages to raise funds to cover these costs and are very grateful to the support they have received so far.

They are looking forward to travelling to Poland, taking part in the competition, and playing on ice.

Sweetest feeling’: Iran’s female ice hockey team defies the odds

Azam Sanaei is the captain and assistant coach of Iran women’s ice hockey team

By John Dureden – Aljazeera

“Nobody was expecting such a great outcome, so everyone was quite shocked and surprised,” Azam Sanaei told Al Jazeera, in what can only be described as an understatement.

The 34-year-old is the captain and assistant coach of Iran women’s ice hockey team that came so close to becoming champions of Asia and Oceania last month.

The team did not even exist three years ago, but now looks like it could be a force to be reckoned with.

In May, Iran travelled to Bangkok to play in the IIHF Women’s Asia and Oceania Championship for the first time.

Iran started the eight-nation tournament with a 17-1 demolition of India, followed by even more emphatic wins over Kuwait (20-0) and Kyrgyzstan (26-0). They beat the United Arab Emirates 14-0 in the quarters and Singapore 3-0 in the semis.

Iran’s run was ended by the host nation in the final. The score was 1-1 for much of the game before Thailand – roared on by a big and partisan crowd – pulled away in the closing stages to win 3-1 and take the gold medal.

Still, silver was still a fine reward for the women from Iran.

“It was our first official Asian ice hockey championship experience,” Sanaei said. “All our competitors had much more experience in ice hockey than us, so even getting to the tournament was a huge step. It was the sweetest feeling and proudest moment to get to the final and take second place.”

Sanaei’s teammate Fatemeh Esmaeili, the competition’s leading scorer with 17 goals, told Iranian television that the home crowd and Thailand’s experience had made the difference.

“We were really shocked at the beginning of the final match because we had never played in such an atmosphere.”

‘An incredible achievement’

For Sanaei, the journey to playing in the final began when she started in-line skating as a young girl, a popular activity in Iran. At the age of 14, she started playing in-line hockey, a sport not so common in her homeland.

“Hockey and ice hockey are not popular in Iran at all, they are [among] many sports that not a lot of people know about.” She felt comfortable with a stick in her hand and was also interested in ice hockey, but until recently there was no international standard ice rink in Tehran.

That changed in 2019 with the opening of the Iran Mall in the capital and the beginnings of a team that transitioned from in-line hockey to the colder kind. “From then on, our ice hockey practices started,” she said.

The team, she said, practiced day and night in a bid to close the gap with more established ice hockey nations.

The onset of the COVID pandemic meant the women had to wait for their first opportunity to play other countries. In January, they finally played their first international games in Russia where they reached the final of a five-team Islamic Countries tournament.

Then came the trip to Thailand, which the women had to finance themselves.

“Around six months ago our federation became part of the Skiing federation which had no budget for ice skating so we had to pay for everything including tickets and visa fees ourselves,” said Sanaei.

Given all the obstacles, finishing second in a major international tournament turned heads inside and outside Iran.

“It is an incredible achievement for the Iranian team to perform so impressively, indeed one might even say that such success is unprecedented,” Simon Chadwick, professor of sport and geopolitical economy at SKEMA Business School in France, told Al Jazeera.

The team also reached another milestone during the tournament when their matches were screened back home – the first time Iranian women’s sports were broadcast live on Iranian national television.

In a country where women are not allowed into stadiums to watch men’s football, this was seen as significant.

“It was such a huge step to have our games shown live on television,” said Sanaei. “It really means a lot. We hope that this continues and will have a positive effect on this sport.”

Chadwick says more state support is required for the sport to grow.

“This must be seen as just the start and not the end of the team’s journey. Indeed it demands that sports officials in Iran must take women’s ice hockey, and for that matter women’s sport, much more seriously,” he said.

“There is an opportunity for the Iranian government to utilise ice hockey success as the prompt for promoting female sport. It should be encouraging engagement amongst relevant groups, and must not see it as a sinister threat to Iran’s male hegemony.”

The signs are promising as the players were reimbursed – and given bonuses – for their expenses in playing in Thailand by the Ministry of Sport. They received messages of congratulations from sports minister Hamid Sajjadi as well as spokespeople for the Iranian government and the foreign ministry.

It all means that Sanaei is excited about what comes next.

“We are so looking forward to the future as we believe that next time we can make it to the top. With all the training that we will have, we can get there even in one year. Whatever happens, we won’t lose hope as we have faith that we will get to the best place.”

And there is a bigger prize, helping to inspire other young girls in Iran to pick up hockey sticks or take up any sport.

“Our achievement can help all of Iran’s women to know that there is nothing that can stop them and, even with all the barriers in front of them, if they try, they will make it to wherever they want.”

Gender no bar: Iranian women prove their mettle in international sports

By Maryam QarehgozlouPress TV

Azam Sanaei, the 34-year-old captain of the Iranian women’s ice hockey team, has just returned from Thailand where her team ended up as the runner-up in the 2023 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s Asia and Oceania Championship.

After impressive performances against formidable opponents throughout the tournament, the Iranian team went down fighting in the summit clash against reigning champion and hosts Thailand 3-1.

On the road to finals, Sanei’s girls defeated India 17-1, Kuwait 20-0, Kyrgyzstan 26-0, United Arab Emirates 14-0 and Singapore 3-0, conceding only one goal in five exciting games.

It was the IIHF debut for Team Melli, and they managed to create history in their first foray. 

Speaking to the Press TV website, the proud skipper said the impressive result shows the women’s ice hockey team “holds enormous potential”.

“Undoubtedly, the Iranian women’s ice hockey team holds great potential, and if we keep on doing a good job, we will definitely get a gold medal in the next tournament,” she said, oozing confidence. 

The 2023 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s Asia and Oceania Championship was held in Bangkok, Thailand, from April 30 to May 7, organized by the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF).

According to Sanaei, all seven teams that took part in the tournament were much stronger and more experienced than Iran. The Iranian side went into the competition with only three years of training. 

“Our team trained day and night because we knew other teams were more experienced,” the captain told the Press TV website. “We only trained for three years and had to make up for the gap.”

Sanaei has accompanied the female inline hockey team since it was first formed in 2012. 

In the last more than a decade, the team participated in only three Asian championships and came third every time, Sanaei said, which prompted her girls to work harder this time. 

In 2018, after Asian Roller Sports Championship in South Korea, Iran’s inline hockey team decided to replicate the success in ice hockey.  

The first standard-sized ice hockey rink measuring around 1,800 meters was built only three years ago in Tehran’s northwestern outskirts.

“It was a dream come true for inline hockey players who wanted to play on the ice,” she said.

Since then, the captain said, young players began training hard to secure a spot in the first Iranian women’s national ice hockey squad.

As the ice hockey team’s training coincided with the coronavirus pandemic, international tournaments were postponed indefinitely. The tournament in Thailand presented the first opportunity for Sanaei and her team to prove their mettle at the international level.

“In the final match, our players played beyond their abilities. Our rival was the host country and a title holder, their professional experience led to our defeat,” she said.

“It was nonetheless a close fight, until the end of the second half we were tied 1-1. However, in the third and last period, we were left behind and settled for the second place.”

Fatemeh Esmaili, a 25-year-old striker of the Iranian women’s national ice hockey team, said she and her teammates “did a great job” to make it to the final, even though they had bigger expectations.

“We cried hard after finishing in second place, but we still pulled off an amazing feat,” the leading goal-scorer of the tournament told the Press TV website. 

“When we lost to Thailand, we thought we blew it all, but in all fairness, it was the first time we participated in an official IIHF tournament, and we defeated teams with more professional experience,” she hastened to add.

Their impressive performance didn’t go unnoticed in Iran and across the world. Social media has been flooded with messages of congratulations for the “winner” team since the final.

Iranian government spokesman Bahadori Jahromi, foreign ministry spokesman Nasser Kan’ani and sports minister Hamid Sajjadi in separate messages lauded their incredible achievement. 

On Tuesday, it was announced that all expenses incurred by the members of the team would be paid by the sports ministry, acknowledging their contribution to women’s sports in the country and bringing laurels to the country on the international stage. 

Due to some changes at Iran’s Ski Federation and budget-related issues, the female ice hockey squad had to pay for the visa fee and other expenses, which according to the sports minister will now be covered and the players will be also getting a win bonus for their epic feat.

“While Skating Federation was previously responsible for ice hockey, the discipline was merged with the Ski Federation six months ago and due to the changes, no budget was allocated to ice hockey in last year’s budget plan, so the private sector sponsored the team,” Kaveh Sadeqi, Ice Hockey Society chief said.

“But while we were in Bangkok, the (sports) minister announced they will pay for the expenses.”

Iranian women’s national ice hockey squad, however, is not alone in making history and bringing laurels to the country. Other female national teams, including the women’s futsal team, are also on song. 

In January, the Iranian women’s team was crowned champions of the 2023 CAFA Women’s Futsal Championship.

More recently, in April, young Iranian girls confirmed their spot in the AFC U17 Women’s Asian Cup Indonesia 2024.

Massoud Hussain, a Tehran-based veteran sports journalist, told the Press TV website that Iranian women’s futsal and football teams have raised the bar in the past years.

“In past two editions, women’s national futsal team defeated Japan, a formidable side, which shows they possess great potential for further progress.”

He added that in addition to team sports, women have done brilliant job in individual sports as well, such as shooting, karate, weightlifting, track and field, and Taekwondo.

Zahra Nemati is one of the most successful Iranian Paralympic and Olympic archers who has won several medals for the country in international competitions.

At the 2012 London Paralympic Games, Nemati won an individual gold and a team bronze. 

Following her performance at the 2015 Asian Archery Championships in Bangkok, Thailand she secured Iran a qualification slot for the Rio 2016 Paralympics as well as the Olympics. 

At the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games, she made history by taking home her second gold.

In 2019, Poupak Basami became the first Iranian woman to compete in International Weightlifting Federation World Championships.

She finished sixth in the D session after managing a total of 158kg – 72 kg in the snatch and 86kg in the clean and jerk – breaking her own national record.

Elham Hosseini also made history in the 2022 Asian Weightlifting Championships by winning a gold medal in the women’s 81kg weight class.

In the 2023 Asian Weightlifting Championships, five female Iranian weightlifters are expected to show up for the second qualifying event for the 2024 Paris Olympic Games.

“Iranian sportswomen are highly motivated, and they can be great representatives and ambassadors for their country,” Sanaei said. “All they need is the support and encouragement they deserve.”

 

National women’s team hits ice for the first time

By Carine Warsawski – The Jerusalem Post

A new breed of ice hockey players emerged in Metulla on Thursday. Not only did they sport Stars of David on their fronts, but also ponytails on their backs. Israel’s national women’s ice hockey team held its first practice last week at the Canada Canter, alongside the men’s junior national team, for a special skills clinic led by Sean Skinner, an internationally acclaimed stickhandling master who came from Colorado for a week. Alan Maislin, chairman of the Israel Ice Hockey Federation, has recruited former NHL players Steve Dubinsky and Bill Jaffe to coach the national women’s team. Maislin and Sergei Matin, the Israel IHF president, also enlisted Dr. Esther Silver, who has extensive competitive hockey experience in Israel and in Canada, to help direct the program. Also on the front line is 19-year-old forward Lisa Horowitz, and her father, Wayne Horowitz, a professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The Horowitzes have been instrumental in the local women’s league, which was established last year. Despite the relatively small number of women hockey players in Israel, Skinner thinks that the national women’s team can succeed. “It’s not about the number of players, it’s about the quality of training,” he said. “Russia, for example, has the least number of hockey players, but has the world’s strongest program.” With its first practice out of the way, the women’s team plans to make its debut at a tournament to be held at the Canada Center from January 24-26, and make its first International Ice Hockey Federation appearance in 2007. The national women’s team is in Division IV of the IIHF, alongside Iceland, New Zealand, and Romania. Dr. Silver hopes the team will provide a boost for the local women’s ice hockey program in the short term, by developing female coaches, trainers, on-ice officials and team managers, and down the road. “Within two years we hope to participate in the IIHF World Championships,” she said. “Our long term goal is to develop our Olympic team to represent Israel at the 2010 Winter Olympics.” Lisa Horowitz, who began as Israel’s first female ice hockey player and hopes to be one of the women who leads the national team to those Games, sets the goals for practices. Hopefully, “we’ll get to know each other’s strengths and weaknesses, what positions each of us play, and to work on skating and shooting,” she said. “I want to function as a team, and also to help improve each individual player.” The players, coaches and officials hope that the women’s ice hockey program will have a positive impact on Israeli women participating in sports and point out that women’s ice hockey is different than the men’s version. It is “a totally different game – it is a game of finesse and not brute strength,” explained Dr. Silver. “I believe we will be paving the way for female athletes to get involved in a sport that can showcase the unique aspects that women bring to [hockey], as well as promoting Israel and sports development in Israel… [and] that women play a major role in Israeli sports programs and also on the international stage.” While the national women’s ice hockey team is currently based at the Canada Center in Metulla, along with all of the Israel IHF programs, there are plans to build a new ice rink in the Tel Aviv area. The organization hopes to move its activities to the proposed facility, where it will be better located to offer ice hockey to a larger population of children and adults, which has increasingly taken up roller hockey. Skinner said that he believes these players can easily transfer their skills from the cement to the ice. For more information on women’s ice hockey in Israel, e-mail isrhockey@yahoo.com.

Nela Lopušanová: Slovakia’s 15-year-old hockey phenom

By Elena Yank – The Lawrentian

On Feb. 26, Slovak ice hockey player Nela Lopušanová celebrated her 15th birthday in perhaps the most fitting way for the young star: scoring a jaw-dropping 19 points in one game. 

Lopušanová’s 10 goals and 9 assists in that game contributed heavily to her team’s (Vlci  Žilina) 24-1 win over HC Košice in the top Slovak women’s league, Extraliga žien. Following this win, the young star now has 28 goals and 21 assists in 8 games, placing her fourth in the league in scoring while having played half as many goals as those with more points than her. 

First drawing international attention in January of this year, a then-14-year-old Lopušanová scored a Michigan, or lacrosse-style goal – a goal scored by lifting the puck on one’s stick and shooting into a top corner of the net from behind – to tie the quarter-final game between Slovakia and Sweden at the IIHF U18 Women’s World Championships. She was also named the tournament MVP, leading all skaters at the event with 12 points. 

Besides playing in the Extraliga and internationally, Lopušanová plays for the men’s under-16 (U-16) league, where she is first in points per game and thus far has scored 43 points in 13 games. Her success playing against both girls older than her and boys her same age would seem to quell any accusations that the outstanding numbers she is putting up can only be attributed to the relative ability of the players around her, which detractors of women’s hockey are wont to purport. 

With her current skill level, Lopušanová’s future superstardom seems inevitable as she shows no signs of slowing down. Being just 15, she has a few more years of eligibility at the U-18 level before the all-but-inevitable event that she will be given the opportunity to play for Slovakia’s senior national team; Lopušanová must wait at least one more year before she would be eligible. 

What makes Lopušanová even more impressive is the fact that she is an elite player in multiple sports. Picking up figure skating at age two before becoming an ice hockey player, she also plays soccer and is a member of Slovakia’s national women’s ball hockey team. 

Nela Lopušanová not only has the opportunity to revolutionize women’s hockey, which still faces derision as well as a lack of funding and support, but also to be the “next face of hockey,” per Jesse Pollock of TSN. As current women’s hockey icons, like Olympians Hilary Knight and Amanda Kessel, are nearing retirement age for the sport, and rising stars, including Jesse Compher and Abby Roque, are stepping up, Lopušanová may have the opportunity in a few years to serve as an ambassador for a new generation of elite women’s hockey. While the future of women’s hockey can be a heavy expectation for a young girl to carry, Lopušanová stays focused. Her personal philosophy is to take her sport one day at a time and not concern herself too much with what the future holds. 

Despite her amazing numbers and plethora of highlight reel-worthy goals, this young player gets relatively little media coverage for someone of her calibere. Few major English-language sports outlets are covering her trajectory, even the recent 19-point game. In general, women’s sports are regarded as inherently lesser than men’s, but even when men’s sports are considered to be the default, Lopušanová excels. “I want to make girls’ hockey more visible to the world,” she says;, and if her current level of play is anything to go by, then she certainly has the capacity to do so. 

With all eyes currently on Connor Bedard, perhaps in a few short years Nela Lopušanová will be the most talked-about name in not just women’s hockey, but in the sport as a whole. 

Pursuit: From Spain to Sudbury … to play hockey?

Claudia Castellanos

Meet Claudia Castellanos who fell in love with Canada’s game in her home country of Spain and who is spending this winter in Sudbury to play hockey for St. Charles College and the Sudbury Lady Wolves.

Randy PascalSudbury.com

Meet Claudia Castellanos who fell in love with Canada’s game in her home country of Spain and who is spending this winter in Sudbury to play hockey for St. Charles College and the Sudbury Lady Wolves.

In the entirety of Spain and its population of 43 million or so, there are approximately 760 registered hockey players, or about 25 per cent of the number of hockey players in Sudbury alone.

The country is home to 16 arenas, the bulk of which are in Madrid, home of Claudia Castellanos.

At least that’s the permanent home of the cheerful young teenager who is spending the winter of 2022-2023 attending St Charles College, suiting up with both the Cardinals and the Sudbury U18 A Lady Wolves.

Make no mistake, despite the rather unique foundation on which her hockey career is built, this girl can play. 

Just ask Lady Wolves’ netminders Stevie Levesque and Farrah Farstad, both of whom have seen plenty of the bar-down snipe of a forward who this past summer helped lead her team to the IIHF U18 Division II championship (a nine-team tournament that included the likes of Great Britain, Latvia and Australia), earning the promotion to Division I Group B with Poland, South Korea and Denmark.

“It’s so different here,” said Castellanos, whose athletic background in her youth included swimming, kick-boxing, in-line hockey, alpine ski, ice hockey, but not soccer. “There’s more intensity. In Spain, hockey is not that important. Here, it’s hockey, hockey, hockey. There, it’s football, football, football — like soccer.”

Castellanos was just five years old when she first laced up the skates, quickly taking to the game without the countless training advantages that a typical Canadian child might have at the same age. 

“When I was nine, I had seen some videos and so I put the puck through a defenceman’s legs and controlled it and shot and scored,” she recalled.

The fact that she converted on the shot will surprise very few of her new teammates. While there is plenty to like about her game, it’s the pace of her shot and the quickness of the release that has already seen her noticed in local settings. 

“I got good on my shot when I was little,” she said. “My father made me something on the floor for in-line hockey and I have a net and I would see videos. I worked for hours on getting a better shot.”

As one might well imagine, the challenge in Spain, as it is in so many countries, is the lack of competition for those who somehow take a liking to a sport that flies well under the radar in the land of Flamenco and bull-fighting. 

“When I was five, I played against people that were 10 years old or more,” said Castellanos. “They were so big.”

Thankfully, there are at least some options that do not involve crossing the Atlantic in terms of allowing the young woman to enjoy like-minded girls. 

“In the summer, I would go to the Netherlands, Germany, Sweden and Finland to play hockey,” she said. “My parents have helped so much.”

Just over three months into her North American hockey adventure, Castellanos could not be more pleased with the results. 

“My skating is faster and my stick-handling is better,” she said. “In Spain, you make a move and you get past the players easy. Not here.

“Here, it’s more strong, more physical. I like it here.”

While she is not completely unique (Castellanos explained that two of her friends are currently playing in Boston as well), there is little doubt the dreams she had were definitely not shared by the masses in Madrid.

“When I was 10, I thought about going away for hockey,” she said. “I saw the NHL and wanted to be playing in Canada, skating on the lakes, something like that. In Spain, we have no snow and almost no lakes.”

Such is her passion for the game that Castellanos has now introduced the sport to her entire family, with mom and dad and both of her little sisters giving it a shot. In fact, she suggested that the youngest sibling might yet be the most talented of the crew.

That’s saying something, given the impact that this young player has already made on a pair of local girls hockey teams in Sudbury. 

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