Hockey tournament among Islamic countries to be held in Kazan

Hockey tournament among Islamic countries

Source: AK Bars

From January 13 to January 19 Kazan will host the first international hockey tournament among Islamic countries. The decision to hold the competition was made at the international summit “Russia – Islamic World: KazanSummit 2022”.

The men’s national teams of the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait and Oman, the combined team of Algeria, Tunisia, Lebanon and Morocco, as well as the national team of The Republic of Tatarstan, will take part in the competition. Representatives of the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Tatarstan and the combined team of Oman and Bahrain will play in the women’s division.

Mansur Usmanov, Executive Director of HC Ak Bars:

We are glad that the decisions of the “Russia – Islamic World: KazanSummit 2022”. are being implemented in various sectors, including sports. It will be a great honor for us in Tatarstan to represent the great Russian hockey in the countries of the Islamic world. It is very pleasant that a common faith and sport bring nations together and help build partnerships between states. We hope that this tournament will be just the beginning of a long-term cooperation and will help the development of men’s and women’s hockey in the countries of the Middle East and North Africa.

Building Ice Hockey at the Equator

Ice Hockey in Ecuador

By Kyle Drinnan – overtime heroics

Ecuador is known as a football country. The sport is so connected to many people’s lives that it could even be called a religion in the region. But Ecuador is a country with a vibrant and growing sports scene. It is a growing sport that one would think would be impossible to do. Orkos Quito Hockey Club is determined to grow the impossible, ice hockey in Ecuador

The club is founded and run by a small number of individuals. Fabian Romero is the current president of the club, and they are the only club currently in Ecuador that is hosting ice hockey games. They have even traveled to other nations that are members of the IIHF, like Chile, to play hockey games and represent Ecuador.

Economic Hardships

Ecuador even has an ice surface, which many IIHF countries would consider a blessing. However, there have been some issues with the ice rink, as Quito used to have two ice rinks in the capital city. Unfortunately, one of the two ice rinks had to shut down because of economic hardship. Now with only one rink, it has been harder to meet up and play ice hockey. Quincentro Sur Ice Rink is a small surface, so only 3-on-3 hockey could be played on it, but what is tougher is that it’s located away from where most of the club members live, which makes what used to be a weekly meeting into a meeting once every-so-often.

The economic situation has also been a strain on growing the sport in the country. Hockey is an expensive sport, putting a huge strain even on the bigger hockey nations like Canada. Club Secretary Javier Balseca says that the price of the equipment alone could set someone back months of pay.

Quito Hockey Club

Orkos Quito Hockey Club

“The basic income for Ecuador is $450,” Balseca said. “You can spend $100 on a hockey stick so a lot of parents don’t have enough to pay for the full hockey gear for their children.”

Trouble Getting Equipment

There isn’t even a hockey store to sell equipment in the country. Javier’s brother, Jose Balseca, says that all of their equipment is from traveling or importing into the country.

Since they don’t have a lot of ice hockey equipment and facilities, the club uses inline hockey to help educate kids and adults about the sport on ice while keeping the club active. “There are more people playing roller hockey in this country,” said Jose Balseca. “What has happened is we have people from Canada, U.S., Germany, and even Russia to come and help out build the sport in the city.”

Inline hockey has more cultural significance in South America and is growing faster in Ecuador. Colombia, the nation north of Ecuador, has become a regional powerhouse in the sport and is also quickly growing ice hockey as well.

Inline hockey rinks have been popping up in Quito, and these rinks have been much closer to the Club’s members. It has allowed the club to grow and keep enough members to have a full team interested in ice hockey.

Right now, the club has three divisions: men, women, and children. Many nations that are currently growing ice hockey are only focused on growing the men’s side of the sport. Orkos Quito Hockey Club is looking to grow in the sport as much as possible with anyone who wants to play. Recently they had a tournament with an organization called the Friendship League. That tournament allowed them to have more equipment and notability in the hockey world.

They also have options to play in the LATAM Cup, a tournament hosted by the Florida Panthers for countries in the Caribbean, Central, and South America. Despite the economic issues and growing the sport from scratch in a nation without any ice hockey history, there are people that are inspired to grow the sport and hope to see their flag among the greats of ice hockey. Despite the challenges ahead, it will be a one-step-at-a-time approach, and maybe one day, Ecuador will be in the IIHF with the other South American nations.

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)

Swedes win on Finnish ice

Swedish wins the Karjala Tournament

Marcus Hogberg had a strong tournament in the Swedish net at the Karjala Tournament in Finland.

By Martin Merk – IIHF.com

In international men’s ice hockey the season for reigning World and Olympic champion Finland started on home ice in Turku with the Karjala Tournament. But this time it was not the Finns but Sweden, which took first place ahead of newcomer Switzerland.

The Swedes under new head coach Sam Hallam had a successful start into the Euro Hockey Tour by first winning the break-out game in Ceske Budejovice against home team Czechia 4-1. It was the show of Andre Petersson, who hasn’t played a big international tournament since the 2010 IIHF World Junior Championship but scored a hat trick against the Czechs en route to winning the scoring race.

“You never know. You step on the ice every game and try to score and sometimes you end up scoring a lot of goals and sometimes you don’t,” Petersson said.

He did it again in what turned out to be the deciding game on Saturday against eventual runner-up Switzerland. His goal after six-and-a-half minutes deflecting a Par Lindholm shot opened the scoring for Tre Kronor in the match-up of the 2013 and 2018 Worlds finalists. Switzerland showed an improved performance as of the second period and tied the game with a power-play goal from Damien Riat. During the third period Sweden regained the lead and the Swiss tied it again. An avoidable penalty of the Swiss made things clear in overtime where Jonathan Dalen scored the game-winning goal on the man advantage after 65 seconds. It was Sweden’s ninth win in a row in an international game against Switzerland.

On the last day Switzerland and Czechia, which beat Finland 5-2 in the second game, needed a regulation-time win in their head-to-head game and hope that Sweden would lose the last game to Finland in regulation time to be able to win the tournament.

Like each of Switzerland’s games in Turku, this one also ended 2-2 after regulation time, which meant Sweden was known as tournament winner before the last game. Sven Senteler capitalized on a giveaway in overtime to score the game-winning goal for Switzerland in a game that determined second and third places. Andres Ambuhl, the 39-year-old on an otherwise slightly rejuvenated team, played his 300th international game with the Swiss men’s national team scoring a goal.

In a game that didn’t influence the standings, Finland had a 4-1 consolation win against its neighbouring rival Sweden. However, the Swedes finished first and Finland remained in last place.

“Karjala is always a fun tournament. Three games in four days, that’s always tough but we tried to play solid. Today the Finns were one notch better than us but we still take home the tournament victory, so we’re happy. We played a good game, we could have won. We had a lot of scoring chances but couldn’t score,” said Petersson, who gave a good first impression to the new head coach as scoring leader of the tournament.

Could that open the door to the first IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship participation for him? “We’ll see what he says. I’ll try to do my best and work hard all year and see where it gets me,” he said.

Switzerland impressed with a second-place finish as newcomer to the Euro Hockey Tour thanks to their wins against Finland and Czechia. The Swiss were invited to this small circle of four teams replacing Russia.

“It’s the best that could have happened to Swiss ice hockey. It is important to play against such opponents to make a step forward. We want to show that we belong here, not just because Russia is missing but because we can play hockey well,” Ambuhl said.

“We are incredibly thankful to be here even though the circumstances to be part of are sad. It is enormously valuable for us as a team. It’s a great tournament with strong opponents. We want to be here to win every game, no matter who the opponent is,” said national team head coach Patrick Fischer.

The next Euro Hockey Tour event in December will be hosted by the Swiss in Fribourg.

Germany wins Deutschland Cup

The Deutschland Cup is another traditional event of the international break in November and it ended up with Germany sweeping through its home-ice event in Krefeld.

The Germans had their toughest challenge on Day 1 against Denmark where Daniel Schmolz scored two goals including the overtime winner in the 3-2 victory. They followed up with 3-0 blankings of Austria and Slovakia.

“A young German team found the way to win the game and the tournament,” Germany head coach Toni Soderholm said. “I’m very proud of what the players showed and how they performed. It was a deserved tournament win.”

Second place went to Austria, which started the tournament with a 3-2 overtime win against Slovakia and ended it with a 3-1 victory against Denmark.

“I’m very happy and very satisfied with the game. We didn’t have much time to regenerate [after the loss to Germany]. We had good discipline and a fighting spirit. It was a great performance, I’m impressed. I think we represented Austria very well,” Austria head coach Roger Bader said.

Denmark had a 4-3 overtime win against Slovakia to finish the event in third place ahead of the Slovaks. Mathias From scored two goals including the game-winner that also lifted him to the top of the scoring stats.

Wins for Latvia, Italy and Poland

Elsewhere, Latvia, the co-host of the 2023 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship together with Finland, won a Three Nations Tournament in Trondheim. Georgs Golovkovs scored a hat trick in the 6-3 win against host and second-ranked Norway, which was followed by a 3-2 victory against Denmark’s B team.

The six-team Tamas Sarkozy Memorial Tournament in Budapest ended up with a neighbouring rivalry between France and Italy in the final. The French game back from a two-goal deficit but Enrico Miglioranzi scored the 4-3 tournament-winner in the shootout. Ukraine participated in the tournament after the relaunch of the league and beat host Hungary 2-1 in the third-place game thanks to first-period goals from Danil Trakht and Glib Krivosapkin. Japan took fifth place after defeating winless Slovenia.

Poland won the Baltic Challenge Cup in Kaunas thanks to wins against host Lithuania, eventual runner-up Estonia and a Latvian students’ selection.

Finland, Hungary win women’s events

Finns find winning ways

Viivi Vainikka and Noora Tulus led the tournament in Finland in scoring.

By Liz Montroy – IIHF.com

With the 2022 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship season behind them and the 2023 tournaments on the horizon, women’s national team programs are preparing for the new international season with tournaments and exhibition games against other nations.

Nine countries competing in the Top Division and Division I Group A were the first to do so this fall, with Finland finishing first in the Five Nations Tournament on home ice in Vierumaki and Hungary finishing first in the Four Nations Tournament in Vaujany, France. While most nations were missing a number of key players due to other commitments (such as the NCAA season), these tournaments provided others with an opportunity to make a case for their inclusion on the national team next spring.

Finns find winning ways

Four wins and only two goals against led Finland to first place in their first competition since their sixth-place performance at the 2022 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championships. Played from 8 to 12 November, the Finns collected two 4-0 shutouts over Switzerland and Germany and two 3-1 victories over Sweden and Czechia. Noora Tulus and Viivi Vainikka led the tournament in scoring, Tulus with one goal and six assists, and Vainikka with five goals. Defender Rosa Lindstedt also stood out with five assists. 

While they lost to Finland and Czechia, the Swedes – led by Anna Kjellbin wearing the C – also collected two significant shutout wins. Fanny Rask scored a hat trick in a 7-0 win over Germany to open the tournament, while Felizia Wikner Zienkiewicz collected two goals in a 5-0 win over Switzerland to close out the tournament. 

Perhaps the closest game of the tournament was the match-up between Czechia and Switzerland, who last met in the bronze medal game at the 2022 Women’s Worlds, which Czechia won 4-2. While Czechia took a 2-0 lead in Vierumaki, Switzerland tied the game early in the third period. However, it was the Czechs who skated away with the win, with Agata Sarnovska potting the game winner.

It was a tough tournament for Germany, who iced a young team and were shut out in their three games played (the Germany-Czechia game was cancelled due to a power outage). Two teenage goalies shared duties for Germany, 19-year-old Lilly Uhrmann and 18-year-old Felicity Luby.

Hungary wins in France

Hungary followed up their eighth-place finish at the 2022 Women’s Worlds – a historic best-ever performance – with first place in the Four Nations Tournament, which took place 10-12 November. They were followed by Slovakia in second, France in third, and Norway in fourth. 

Hungary and France gave a sneak peek into the 2023 Worlds, which will see France return to the Top Division for just the second time. Imola Horvath was the hero of their match-up, scoring a late goal to give the Hungarians a 1-0 win. 

Norway, which will compete in the Division I Group A in April along with Slovakia, was the only team able to beat Hungary, which they did by a score of 3-2 with contributions from rising stars Silje Gundersen and Lotte Pedersen and veteran Andrea Dalen.

The host nation’s Clara Rozier, who is on her way to a standout season in Finland’s Naisten Liiga with 14 goals and 13 assists in 17 games, led the tournament in goals scored with three, one to open scoring in a 3-2 win over Norway and two in a 4-3 overtime loss to Slovakia. While France tried to settle into a 3-1 lead, Slovakia made a comeback, tying the game with two goals in the final 10 minutes and securing the win with an overtime winner from Livia Kubekova.

U20 Finns perfect in 5-team event

Finnish U20 national team wins five nations

Jani Nyman was among the top players of the Finnish U20 national team.

By Derek O’Brien – IIHF.com

In the last tune-up tournament for three of Europe’s top under-20 national teams ahead of the 2023 IIHF Ice Hockey World Junior Championship, Finland’s U20 side went unbeaten in a five-team tournament in the Ostrava suburb of Poruba, Czechia. In three games, the Finns outscored the Swedish U20 team and a pair of Czech junior national teams 18-3. The Finns secured first place with a 4-0 win over Czechia U20 in the last game. 

Finnish right winger Jani Nyman recorded two goals and an assist in the last game to finish with a tournament-leading seven points. The 18-year-old from Ilves Tampere was a second-round pick of the NHL’s Seattle Kraken this past summer. One point behind him was Swedish centre Filip Bystedt, a first-round pick of the San Jose Sharks and current member of Linkoping HC, had a goal and five assists. Swedes Leo Carlsson and Oskar Pettersson and Finn Ville Koivunen had five points each, while the top-scoring defender was Finland’s Topias Vilen with three points. 

Among goalies, Sweden’s Ian Blomquist and Finland’s Aku Koskenvuo each won both of their starts, while Finn Jani Lampinen earned the tournament’s only shutout in the final game. 

Finland’s roster included five players who were part of the silver-medal squad at last summer’s World Junior Championship in Edmonton, including 2004-born Joakim Kemell, who went 17th overall to the Nashville Predators this past summer. Also on the team was 16-year-old defender Aron Kiviharju of TPS Turku.  

The Swedes also finished with nine points but played one more game, losing 6-1 in the head-to-head game with Finland U20 on Saturday thanks to a Kalle Vaisanen hat trick. The tournament didn’t schedule the two Czech teams or two Finnish teams against each other. 

The Swedish roster included nine members of the U18 team that won gold this past April in Germany and four first-round picks from last year’s NHL Entry Draft – Bystedt and the Djurgarden Stockholm trio of Jonathan Lekkerimaki, Noah Ostlund and Liam Ohgren.

Czechia U20 opened with a narrow 4-3 loss to Sweden and eventually finished third with three points. Eduard Sale – a highly-rated prospect for the 2023 Draft – and Jakub Kos had three points each. The Czechs, who took a very young team to the last World Juniors but have several eligible players in North America, only brought seven of a whopping 19 potential returnees to this tournament on home ice. That includes 2004-born defender Frantisek Nemec, who suited up for the Czech U19 team. 

In the matchup between the tournament’s two U19 squads, Finland edged Czechia 3-2 in a shootout. 

Elsewhere, on home ice in the alpine town of Monthey, Switzerland won a very evenly-matched four-team tournament. After opening with a 3-2 loss to Slovakia, the Swiss edged Norway 6-4 and Germany 1-0. In the last game, goalkeepers Mathieu Croce of Switerland and Mathias Bittner of Germany were perfect for 45 minutes but, needing a regulation win to secure top spot, Switzerland’s Terraneo Simone scored the game’s only goal with 14:48 to play. 

Also on the last day of play, Norway secured second place with a 4-3 overtime victory over Slovakia. The Slovaks had battled back from a 3-1 deficit to tie the score in the third period but Kasper Magnusen, with his third goal of the game, scored the overtime winner on a pass from rated prospect Martin Johnsen, his third assist of the game. 

Johnsen and Switzerland’s Joel Henry led the tournament with four points each. 

In St. Polten, Austria, Denmark secured top spot by winning its first two games against Hungary and host Austria. The Danes then dropped a 3-2 decision to the Latvian U18 team in their last game with first place already sewn up. It was the first win for the young Latvian squad, who got a big 40-save performance from goaltender Aksels Ozols. 

There was more drama in Saturday’s other game, in which Hungary took second place with a 4-3 win over Austria on an overtime goal by Andras Mihalik. 

Also, the Slovenian national junior team won a tournament on home ice in Jesenice that also included France, Hungary and Italy. At the same time, Estonia triumphed in Kaunas, Lithuania in a tournament that also included Poland, Romania and the host Lithuanians.

Colombia wins Women’s Development Cup

The Colombian players celebrate after winning the 2022 IIHF Women’s Development Cup.

By  Liz Montroy – IIHF.com

Colombia’s national women’s team had an impressive week in Kuwait City, going undefeated to win their first ever IIHF event, the inaugural IIHF Women’s Development Cup.

The round-robin tournament serves as an opportunity for teams and countries not currently competing in the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship program to have meaningful competition against other nations. For countries that don’t have an ice rink, such as Colombia and Ireland, the Development Cup also provides valuable on-ice experience.

“This is important for us because we don’t have an ice hockey rink in Colombia, but these girls played amazing and we would like to have the opportunity to be in these kinds of tournaments and have an ice hockey rink in Colombia,” said Lorena Pedraza, Colombia’s captain. “We showed that we have talent, we have passion, and we love this sport.”

Colombia started the week strong with a 7-2 win over Kuwait and a 7-3 win over Ireland. They continued to demonstrate their goal-scoring prowess with a 16-0 shutout against Andorra and a 14-1 victory over the United Arab Emirates. Colombia’s tightest game was their final one, a 4-0 game versus Luxembourg, the standout player of which had to be Luxembourg goaltender Linda Grieben, who faced 80 shots.

By the end of the tournament, the Colombians had a stunning goal difference of 42, with 48 goals for and just six goals against. Six Colombian players finished within the top-10 scorers, with Alejandra Uribe leading her team and the tournament with 14 goals and 4 assists. Goalie Ana Maria Munevar was a reliable presence in net, starting four of Colombia’s five games.

“The whole tournament and the journey was amazing,” said Colombian coach Sam Uisprapassorn. “This team worked hard to get to this level and I am proud of them. Since we don’t have an ice sheet in Colombia, this event is our only window into IIHF competition. We are grateful to the organization and to the host of this event.”

The silver medal went to host nation Kuwait, followed by Luxembourg – who were also making their IIHF debut – with bronze. Dual Luxembourg-Canadian citizen Bailey Habscheid, a former NCAA Division I player with St. Lawrence University, was second overall in scoring with 11 goals and 5 assists.

The United Arab Emirates and Ireland each had two wins and three losses to take fourth and fifth place respectively. Despite finishing further down the standings, Ireland had a number of tight games, including a 5-4 loss to Luxembourg and a 4-2 win over Kuwait. It was a tough tournament for Andorra, facing over 260 shots (an average of over 50 per game) and finishing at the bottom of the standings with five losses.

Beyond the on-ice competition, friends were reunited, such as Ireland’s Sonya McEneaney and Kuwait’s Laila Alkhbaz, who last met at the 2018 IIHF Women’s High Performance Camp, and girls were inspired, such as those from Bahrain and Oman, who joined one of Colombia’s practices. Players from Europe, South America, and the Middle East were united on the ice and even in busses by a simple love of the sport; what will perhaps be treasured just as much, if not more than, the medals was the strengthening of the women’s ice hockey community across borders.

Perry Pearn to coach Japan’s men’s national team

Source: Japan Ice Hockey Federation

Perry Pearn (71), who has experience as the coach of the Canadian men’s and women’s national teams, has been appointed as the Coach of the Japan men’s national team.
Perry Pearn, the new coach, was the manager of the Canadian men’s national team in 1991-92, after which he served as team coach of the National Hockey League, and in 2018-19 he was the manager of the Canadian women’s national team. In Japan, he will coach the men’s national team and the men’s U20 national team. Pearn will lead Japan to there first international tournament  Euro Ice Hockey Challenge, which will be held In November 1in Budapest, Hungary.

Perry Pearn 
Born June 6, 1951
Coaching history
 1989-91 Canada U20 national team coach
 1991-92 Canada men’s national team manager
 1992-93 Canada U20 national team manager
 1995-96 NHL Winnipeg Jets coach
 1996-04 NHL Ottawa Senators coach
 2004-09 NHL New York Rangers Coach
 2009-12 NHL Montreal Canadiens Coach
 2012-14 NHL Winnipeg Jets Coach
 2014-17 NHL Vancouver Canucks Coach
 2018-19 Canada Women’s National Team Coach
 2020-21 KHL Automobilist Yekaterinburg Coach
 2021-22 Canada Rink Hockey Academy Kelowna Manager

Comment from new coach Perry Pearn

 “I am very excited to have the opportunity to lead the Japan national team. I was able to see the high quality of the staff, and I am very happy and grateful for the experience and long-standing relationship of trust with former manager Rick Carrier that led to this opportunity. Rick and his coaches have built I am looking forward to continuing and accumulating more. 
I sincerely hope that I can be of some help in the development of ice hockey in Japan.

” Mr. Pearn, who has a wealth of experience and achievements as a leader, including the NHL at the level, teaches players how to improve strategic knowledge and technical skills, and in each category such as the Japanese national team and junior generation,  I am confident that he will help us raise the bar.”

Young ice hockey player puts heart issues behind him

Sam Watkins said his love for ice hockey had kept him going through health difficulties.

Source: BBC Sports

A young ice hockey player who overcame injuries and a heart defect is ready to play for Great Britain at the under-20s World Championships.

Sam Watkins, 18, from Telford, was diagnosed with pulmonary atresia with ventricular septal defect; a life-threatening condition if not treated.

He needed multiple heart operations and also surgery to fix two broken legs, causing him to miss time on the ice.

But he said he was now “fully fit” and looking forward to the tournament.

He had his first operation to correct his heart defect when he was just four days old, and that was followed by open heart surgery when he was a one-year-old.

Despite that, Sam said he started playing ice hockey when he was four, with the encouragement of his father, former GB player Tom Watkins who is now his coach at Telford Tigers.

Sam said: “It’s definitely where I’ve got it from, the enjoyment of it and the love of it.”

His travails, however, did not end in his early years. He needed cardiac catheters inserted on several occasions before having open heart surgery again in November 2013.

Sam Watkins plays for Telford Tigers in the NIHL National Division.

In December, he travels to Lithuania with fellow Tiger Bayley Harewood and Rhodes Mitchell-King for a seven-day international tournament, involving five games.

Great Britain hopes to win promotion from Division II Group A.

“We’re all young, fit and excited to be there,” Watkins said.

He said his ice hockey friends were closer than school friends and added: “When we go to these GB camps, or play for the GB teams we have a brilliant time.”

But he said his mother still worried about him every time she watched him play.

“She’s not the biggest of fans, she doesn’t like it when I block shots,” he said.

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