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

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

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

By Emily Hung – South China Morning Post

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Post has contacted the association for comment.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Edith Lin – South China Morning Post

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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.

Kyrgyzstan strikes gold again

The Kyrgyz players celebrate after being awarded the gold medals at the 2023 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division III Group B in Sarajevo.

by Henrik Manninen –

Kyrgyzstan won the 2023 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division III Group B in emphatic style in Sarajevo, Bosnia & Herzegovina, to celebrate back-to-back gold medals.

Having finished top of the Division IV on home ice in Bishkek last season, Kyrgyzstan’s golden generation is currently on a roll. In Sarajevo the youngest team of the tournament took maximum points while scoring double-digits in each of their five games. Ruthless in front of the net, the Mikhail Chekanov coached Kyrgyz men’s national team left their opponents in their wake scoring 76 times and conceding on just five occasions.

“It was an awesome experience to represent your country and it means the world to play hockey with people you grew up with. We had a job to do when we came here and we did just that,” said Kyrgyzstan’s 20-year-old blueliner Ernazar Isamatov.

Kyrgyzstan had arrived in Bosnia & Herzegovina ready for the job at hand. A full month before touching down in Sarajevo, the Kyrgyz national team had been honing their skills at a training camp in Bishkek. The fruits of their labour in the Kyrgyz capital were clearly visible out on the ice in Division III Group B.

Brushing aside Singapore 14-2 in their opener, Kyrgyzstan then steamed ahead to beat hosts Bosnia & Herzegovina 10-1 before blanking Malaysia 22-0 and Iran 18-0. Needing a point in their final game against Hong Kong, China, which was ranked second before the final day of play, the Kyrgyz team did not disappoint winning 12-2 to secure gold and sweep the field with 15 points from five games.

Five Asian participating teams had travelled to the European hosts Bosnia & Herzegovina to compete at the Division III Group B in Sarajevo. To mark the occasion an ice rink had temporarily been installed inside the Skenderija Sports Arena. Ice hockey had last been played at this very venue during the 1984 Olympic Winter Games.

En route to their gold medals, Kyrgyzstan’s smallest margin of victory came during Day 2 against hosts Bosnia & Herzegovina, which eventually finished in second place.

Winning the shots against Bosnia 30-3 in the first period, Kyrgyzstan had to wait until 10:15 before team captain Kuzma Terentyev led by example to fire the Central Asians in front. Teenager Ersultan Mirbekov doubled their lead at 13:54. Despite a heroic performance in the Bosnian net by Dino Pasovic, top scorer Mamed Seifulov converted on a one-man advantage from a Anton Kudashov pass to add Kyrgyzstan’s third before the end of the first period.

“This was the only game where we changed our system to play total defensive hockey and try to make something from counterattacks. We had two-three good chances in the first period and made some mistakes when they scored, but Kyrgyzstan is simply better than us,” said Bosnia & Herzegovina head coach Uros Brestovac.

With the Bosnians trying to find a way into the game during the middle frame, instead, it was Kyrgyzstan’s first line and Vladimir Tonkikh scoring their fourth unanswered goal at 27:28. Only one position apart in the current IIHF World Ranking, but out on the ice gap was widening in Kyrgyzstan’s favour.

The on-song Seifulov added his second marker and Kyrgyzstan’s fifth at 35:27. Just 26 seconds later the puck was behind Pasovic once again as 18-year-old Sultan Ismanov converted on a Mirbekov feed. With 2:40 left of the middle frame, Alexander Petrov piled on the misery for the Bosnians with his 7-0 strike.

“After the second period I just told the players to continue working and fighting while sticking to our system and play their positions as it’s the only way to keep believing in the development of this team,” said Brestovac.

With the Bosnians on the power play, Mirza Omer finally got the tournament hosts on the scoreboard 3:17 into the third frame. The joy was however short-lived. 1:34 later World Championship debutant Seifulov potted his third of the evening to extend the Kyrgyz lead to 8-1. Blueliner Maxim Egorov added Kyrgyzstan’s ninth goal at 51:37 before the speedy Titov closed the scoring with his second of the evening as Kyrgyzstan hit double digits to complete a 10-1 win.

Kyrgyzstan’s Seifulov led the tournament with 28 points (18+10) in five games. He was followed by his linemate Islambek Abdyraev, who tallied 21 points (3+18) in five matches. Isamotov, selected by the tournament directorate as the top defender, explained the strong points of the Kyrgyz team.

“It’s the friendship and bond that we have. We are ready to do anything for each other. So it’s not just about hockey, but also how we treat each other,” he said.

Undefeated en route to the gold medals in Division IV on home ice last spring and now again winning gold with a perfect record in Division IIIB, the question is how much further this Kyrgyz team can continue to rise.

“Only the future will tell, but if you believe in what you do and keep working hard, you can do anything to be honest,” said Isamotov.

Teams pose together for a joint team photo after the closing ceremony of the 2023 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division III Group B.

Bosnia & Herzegovina bags silver in front of their home crowd

Hosts Bosnia & Herzegovina rose to the occasion inside the Skenderija Sports Arena to win their first ever silver medal at an IIHF World Championship event. They quite possibly also played their best game since becoming an IIHF member on 10 May 2001.

The 8-2 win against fourth-placed Singapore on Friday night was when things fell into place. In front of a vocal home crowd of 850, Bosnia & Herzegovina had run away with a 6-0 lead after 38:11.

“This was the deciding game for us whether we were going to be second or fourth. I’ve been coaching this team since 2019, but in the five-six years before that, I knew everything about them. In my personal opinion the win against Singapore is the best game they played and the one I am most proud of,” said head coach Brestovac.

Bosnia & Herzegovina’s opening game against Hong Kong, China was also another memorable game setting the tone for the rest of the tournament. Trailing 3-5 after two periods, the Bosnians launched a fightback. Nikko Gakovic had pulled one back at 53:41 and with the hosts piling forward in a nervy finish, Adnan Mlivic scored the game-tying goal with only 13 seconds left of the third period.

With the momentum now with the hosts and the game being decided by penalty shots, Bosnia & Herzegovina’s top scorer Omer and then Haris Mrkva scored for Bosnia. Then up stepped 51-year-old blueliner Anthony London to became the unlikely hero. Going eye for eye against a fellow veteran, 50-year-old Keung Emerson Kwokway in the net of Hong Kong, China, London converted his game-winning penalty shot to the joy of the 800 inside the Skenderija Sports Arena.

“We basically grew in the system we wanted to play from the first game to the last. During our first game against Hong Kong, China we didn’t believe totally in the system that we wanted to play, but for each game the boys grew in self-confidence,” said head coach Brestovac.

Dino Pasovic was voted the best goalkeeper of the tournament by the directorate while Omer came third in scoring tallying 20 points (11+9) in five games.

Winning bronze last year and now silver, who knows what might lie in store for Bosnia & Herzegovina come next season?

Hong Kong, China claims historical bronze medal

Hong Kong, China entered the final round of games against the seemingly invincible Kyrgyzstan with a theoretic possibility to win gold. In the end, the Hong Kongers finished a fine third. It is their first medal at a World Championship tournament since entering in 1987. Arriving late to Sarajevo and without a chance to practise together, the end result delighted head coach Nikita Smirnov.

“We still have a lot to improve. Many of the younger players don’t have a lot of experience and played for the first time in such a tournament. But we fought in every game and it was a very good experience for us,” said Smirnov.

Hong Kong, China was led brilliantly in the offence by Chung Pan Justin Cheng scoring 20 points (8+12) in five games and was voted the top forward of the tournament by the directorate.

Singapore, which showed flashes of brilliance, finished fourth. Last season’s silver medalists in Division IV, Iran, won their opener in Sarajevo against Malaysia 14-4 before losing steam to lose all of their remaining games to finish fifth. Winless Malaysia battled valiantly in each of their five games to finish bottom.

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. 

New study explores the feasibility of an Indigenous-owned hockey franchise

By Andrew Cruickshank – Cottage Life

At a summit in Toronto this past January, in front of a crowd of 400, the non-profit organization the Carnegie Initiative announced that it was partnering with Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU) to conduct a study on how to establish the first professional hockey franchise led by First Nations owners.

The Carnegie Initiative, which is named after Herb Carnegie, a black hockey star in the 1940s and 50s who spent much of his life fighting for equality in the sport, aims to make hockey more diverse and inclusive. This was the organization’s second annual summit.

The study referred to as The Spirit Project is being led by TMU professors Richard Norman and Cheri L. Bradish. According to Norman, the study will involve undergraduate students connecting with stakeholders, such as Ted Nolan, a former NHL star, a Carnegie Initiative board member, and a member of the Ojibway tribe. The stakeholders will provide the students with a broader knowledge of the current hockey landscape and First Nations culture. Using this information and their own research, students will develop a viable plan for creating a First Nations-led hockey franchise. The plans will be presented to the Carnegie Initiative in April.

“It’s not necessarily looking at playing at the NHL level,” Norman says. “Although, I think down the road, there’s always the possibility of an expansion franchise. But really, what I think it’s looking at is multiple leagues, men’s and women’s, and also how this might play out on the international side.”

First Nations have a long history with hockey. According to the nonprofit organization Native Hockey, Europeans first observed ice hockey being played by Mi’kmaq Indians in Nova Scotia in the late 1600s, using a frozen apple as a puck.

Fred Sasakamoose from Saskatchewan was the first Native player in the NHL, lacing up for the Chicago Blackhawks in the mid-1950s. He was followed by other great players, including Theo Fleury and Carey Price.

One of the goals of The Spirit Project, which will be carried on by graduate students after the April presentations, is to see whether an Indigenous team could play as its own nation on the international stage. “There are examples around the world, like Maori nations playing rugby as a separate entity from New Zealand,” Norman says. This could include men’s and women’s First Nations teams squaring off against Canada in the Olympics.

The international stage, however, may still be a few years off. In the short term, Norman says he hopes the study will provide grassroots initiatives to help connect First Nations youth to hockey. “The professional franchise would act as a conduit so that there’s representation from the front office to the coaching staff to everywhere, showing how Indigenous folks can be connected with the game and the different aspects of how that comes together,” he says. “Then also looking at on-ice and off-ice activities for indigenous youth to help their skills and development throughout the process.”

To support these initiatives, students will look at travel time to games, how to create leagues that provide different levels of play, and what the development of the sport, in terms of social change, looks like for First Nations youth.

“Looking into the future, there are going to be tensions,” Norman says. “But if we’re looking at true reconciliation and the decolonizing of our sports systems, and what that looks like, I think it does ask those deeper questions of what does nationhood look like, and what is sovereignty going to mean within the Canadian context.”

Canadian businessman plans multipurpose ice rink for Jamaica

An ice hockey rink at Acadia University in Nova Scotia, Canada.

By Richard Parchment – Jamaica Observer

Tropical Ice Ventures Chief Executive Officer Jason Swales says he still has plans to set up an ice hockey programme in Jamaica, although privately.

To do this though, he plans to first build a multipurpose arena that will house an ice hockey rink.

Swales, a Canadian now based and building rinks in South East Asia, says he wants to partner with a major hotel to build the facility on the north coast. Privatizing this venture, for him, would mean creating a venue that hosts various events, allowing it to generate revenue throughout the year.

“It would be a multipurpose arena,” Swales told the Jamaica Observer. “We could use it for all kinds of different events — trade shows, expos, basketball, music shows. The plan is that that hotel would fund it, and we’ll build it for you and attach it to the hotel, and in return, we will keep your hotel full by running adult and kids’ hockey tournaments, all the multipurpose events that we could run through there.

“The hotel wins because we’re keeping it full and the country wins because now, they have the facility to start training in and learning the game of hockey, ice skating, short track speed skating, and also part of my plan, too, is to build a bobsled run-off as they have in Calgary, Canada — not an actual bobsled track, just a run-off where they can pratice their run-offs and time themselves.”

Swales previously visited Jamaica to partner with the Jamaica Olympic Ice Hockey Federation (JOIHF) nearly a decade ago, but those plans fell apart because of differences with the JOIHF board, which is headed by Don Anderson.

Anderson declined to comment on the matter when contacted by the Observer, but he did say in a previous interview that he had wanted a rink built in Jamaica as it is one of the requirements by the International Olympic Committee for participation in the Winter Games. But Anderson told the Observer in January that those plans have been suspended.

Donovan Tait is a former national player, and former member of JOIHF, now serving as a gazetted police executive in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police but based in Turkey, where he coaches in the Turkish Ice Federation. He is disappointed in Anderson’s recent comments that there were construction plans which were then put on hold.

Don Anderson’s announcement in the Jamaican newspapers a month ago is really a moot point because there really was no rink conversation happening behind the scenes,” Tait told the Observer.

But he however says he is excited by the prospect of Swales’ project being a private venture as he has lost faith in JOIHF and the Government’s ability to get a rink created, especially after Swales’ recent attempt to work with both parties yielded no result.

“There was no shortage of roadblocks and barriers thrown up for Mr Swales and he eventually moved on,” Tait said. “That was really the beginning of the end for a number of us in JOIHF – myself, Graeme Townshend, Lester Griffin, and CJ Bollers, who were, for a lack of a better term, the real operational people in JOIHF moving the hockey operation forward and identifying Mr Swales as the number one person to build the rink and have those legitimate conversations with the Government and the leadership of the JOIHF group. Unfortunately, those fell on deaf ears and it became clear that JOIHF was just interested in keeping Jamaican ice hockey at one level and in the hands and control of just a few people.

“In my view, with the current leadership of JOIHF, there will be no ice hockey rink built because there’s just no interest in building the rink. It would take away total control and influence of what is Jamaican ice hockey, which in my view is dormant and has been dormant a while now, save for a lackluster and embarrassing performance at the [2021] LATAM Cup.”

Swales says that Jamaica playing ice hockey at the Olympics any time soon is far-fetched as it would take decades to develop a program.

“I have zero interest in entertaining the idea that in my lifetime, Jamaica is going to play ice hockey in the Olympics,” he said. “My interest is in getting the proper facility built in Jamaica and giving the kids and the youth a fresh new sport to play and to develop in. It gets them off the streets, gives them something else to get involved in, and gives them a team atmosphere to develop.

“With the right people such as Graeme Townshend, the first Jamaican-born ice hockey player, you develop the game in the country and that’s what we want to do.

Jamaica’s ice hockey team, which Tait was a senior member of, took the LATAM Cup with a win over Colombia in the final in 2019. It returned to the competition in 2021 but was only allowed to play exhibition matches because the squad was made up of professionals, which organizers of the tournament said was not allowed.

Back-to-back Belgian gold

The Belgian players celebrate with the gold medals after winning all games in Cape Town.

By Andy Potts –

Belgium’s women made it back-to-back gold after sweeping all-comers in Cape Town to win the 2023 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship Division II Group B. A year after taking a Covid-hampered Division IIIA, the Belgians secured another gold in impressive style in South Africa.

The key game was against Australia, with Belgium grabbing a 1-0 victory against last year’s silver medallist. Goalie Nina van Orshaegen produced a fantastic performance, stopping 48 shots in a game that was dominated by the Aussies. Belgium was limited to just 12 shots on goal, but a power play goal from Femke Bosmans after 25 minutes made the difference.

“Collectively, our ladies played an incredible game,” head coach Sven van Buren told the Belgian Royal Ice Hockey Federation’s website. “They executed our tactical plan in detail. On defence, we wanted to keep Australia to the outside. That, in combination with Nina’s excellent performance in goal, meant we were able to beat the title favourite. The entire staff is very proud of this achievement.”

Van Orshaegen, 28, featured in all four of Belgium’s games. She finished with a GAA of 1.00 after giving up 3 goals in 180 minutes of game time. The Olen native, who plays her club hockey for Cold Play Sharks Mechelen in the German second division, also stopped 96.51% of the shots she faced. That form earned her the directorate award as leading goalie ahead of Australia’s Sasha King, who played 160 minutes and stopped 20 shots without allowing a single goal. Van Orshaegen played a leading role between the piping alongside understudy Charlotte Swinnen. Swinnen, 20, played three periods in total in Belgium’s wins over South Africa and Croatia, gaining experience of international play.

Lotte de Guchtenaere was another key figure for Belgium. Her four goals in a 4-2 win over New Zealand wrapped up top spot with a game to spare. She finished with eight goals in the tournament, many of them assisted by line-mate and leading scorer Anke Steeno, who had 11 (2+9) points.

Now Belgium is celebrating its first ever back-to-back gold medals in IIHF play. Meanwhile, promotion to Division IIA would put the Blades at their highest ever level in international women’s hockey.

For Australia, the failure to break down Belgium’s defence proved costly. The top seed scored freely in its other games, putting 10 past South Africa and 19 past Croatia before winning a Southern Hemisphere showdown against New Zealand 5-2. However, after losing out to Iceland in a shootout last season, the Aussie Flyers once again suffered a narrow loss in a crucial game. The Australian team included two players from the gold-medal U18s team that won Division IIA last, with Molly Lukowiak and Katrina Rapchuk stepping up to the seniors here. Rapchuk, 15, made a good impression in her rookie championship and was named MVP for her team in the Belgium game.

New Zealand, back in action after withdrawing from last season’s tournament in Zagreb, came closest to halting Belgium’s progress. The Ice Fernz got a 2-1 lead in the first period of the teams’ meeting, but a fine attacking display from Lotte de Guchtenaere scored twice in the middle frame to turn the game around. She finished with all four markers in a 4-2 victory.

That denied the host nation a bronze medal, with New Zealand taking third place in the tournament. Defender Donne van Doesburgh won the directorate award for her position. Croatia, which came fifth on home ice a year ago, had another tough tournament and brought up the rear after again failing to win a game. Türkiye had to withdraw from the competition following the devastating earthquakes that hit the country earlier this month.

Among the individual achievements, de Guchtenaere tied with Australia’s Michelle Clark-Crumpton on eight goals. The Belgian forward also got the nod as top forward in the competition. Sharna Godfrey was the leading scorer in the competition, with 14 (6+8) points, just ahead of Clark-Crumpton. Anke Steeno was the leading Belgian scorer with 11 (2+9) points, tied with New Zealand’s Anjali Mulari.


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

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

By Jim Armstrong – SportsLook

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Junior Squad’s Successful Debut Under Pearn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Preparation Paid Off for Japan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Upcoming Test for Japan Senior Squad 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Wealth of Coaching Experience

Pearn seems to be the right man for the job.

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

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

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

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

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