BRATISLAVA – The Annual Congress in Bratislava granted Kyrgyzstan membership in the International Ice Hockey Federation as the 70th member nation. Kyrgyzstan was welcomed unanimously as an associate member.
The Central Asian country of about five million inhabitants became independent in 1991 following the break-up of the Soviet Union.
The Ice Hockey Federation of the Kyrgyz Republic lists 218 registered players from six clubs in as many cities. There are three ice arenas in the capital of Bishkek – one of it with an international size ice sheet (60 x 30 metres) and 900 seats – and additional natural ice rinks throughout the mountainous country.
Gornyak Ak-Tuz became Kyrgyzstan’s new champion in March after defeating 2010 champs Khan Tengri Bishkek 15-2 in the gold medal game. It was the third time a national championship was conducted in Kyrgyzstan.
One youth club, Ilbirs Bishkek, has taken part in the championship of neighbouring Kazakshtan since 2010.
Ice hockey was introduced in Kyrgyzstan in the Soviet era when kids saw idols like Kharlamov, Mikhailov, and Tretyak on television, but it started to become an organized sport in the mid-2000s.
Kyrgyzstan had its international debut in the recent Asian Winter Games in Astana, Kazakhstan, where it won the second-tier event (Premier Division) with a 6-0 record, finishing sixth overall in men’s ice hockey at the event.
“After the success at the Asian Winter Games, the interest in ice hockey has increased in Kyrgyzstan,” said Anvar Omorkanov, the President of the Ice Hockey Federation of the Kyrgyz Republic, who was also one of the players on the national team.
The organization gets the support from the country’s President Roza Otunbayeva, who received a national team jersey with the number 10 recently.
“We believe that we will raise this wonderful, dynamic sport in Kyrgyzstan to a new level. We need to educate a new generation of hockey players and our priorities are to develop youth hockey, the national championship, construct ice rinks and establish a professional club.”
Click here for the country page of Kyrgyzstan on IIHF.com.
Argentina’s status upgraded
The congress also changed the status of the Argentine Ice Hockey and Inline Hockey Association from an affiliate member to an associate member.
The Kyrgyz national team poses for a team photo after winning the Premier Division of the Asian Winter Game’s men’s ice hockey tournaments. Photo: KIHF