By The Star Online

The Malaysian ice hockey team will be playing their biggest home ground game for the first time, representing the country at the KL SEA Games inaugural winter sports this August at the Malaysia National Ice Skating Stadium in Empire City Damansara.

Although the team has been playing tournaments overseas including the Asian Winter Games, they never had the opportunity to play with the home crowd until now. While the venue was previously a challenge, it has been overcome with the new Olympic-sized ice rink.

“Before, we would practice in a smaller ice rink which affects dynamics,” said the team’s forward Aqfar Naeem Abulais. A team is typically made up of six members including the goalie for a full-fledged ice hockey game. With smaller-scaled rinks, the number of members gets lower accordingly.

National team goalkeeper, Tengku Muhammad Azlly hopes the KL SEA Games will help raise awareness for the sport.

 “Many are still unaware that Malaysia has an ice hockey team although it has been around for more than 10 years,” he said.

Ice hockey is a fast-paced contact sport employing tactical moves while maintaining balance and game sense.

“You need the ability to multitask and you need to master skating. Then, combine that with puck handling and communicating with your teammates while on ice,” Azlly said.

Having made great strides and proven their skills over the years, they are now less than a month away from competing at one of their biggest sporting events on home soil.

“Representing the country is a dream come true. After years of playing overseas, playing at home is going to be exciting,” said Moi Jia Yung, who plays defence.

Leading up to it, the team has been undertaking intense training, practicing three times every weekday. Having to balance between school, work and training, the team needs all the energy and help they can get.

Besides active support from the Youth and Sports Ministry, and National Sports Council, the National Sports Institute has been helping the team prepare through sports science in three areas.

“Firstly, it is conditioning through gym sessions. Secondly, we look into nutrition; and thirdly, it is on psychology. You need to be strong not just physically, but mentally as well,” said team manager and SEA Games programme director Hisham Yahaya.

While the outcome is hard to predict, the team is giving no less than their best to place Malaysia on the map for ice hockey.

Our national ice hockey team will be playing against Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand.

Be sure to show them support this Aug 20 to 24 at the Malaysia National Ice Skating Stadium. Admission is free.