Hong Kong's comeback

Beck guides Asian nation's return to Worlds

15.04.2014
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Head coach Barry Beck oversaw a successful return to IIHF competition for Hong Kong. Photo: Valentin Wagner

For the first time since more than 25 years Hong Kong participated in an IIHF world championship tournament, competing in the 2014 IIHF World Championship Division III in Luxembourg.

1987 was the last time that Hong Kong played a world championship game. Barry Beck, former captain of the New York Rangers, coaches the Asian team, most of the players of which weren't born the last time the country played at a World Championship.

When the 1987 Hong Kong team took to the ice, Beck was in the middle of an NHL career that would include stints with New York, Colorado, and Los Angeles, where ha found himself playing side-by-side with Wayne Gretzky.

Since 2006, Beck has been working in Hong Kong, starting at the Hong Kong Academy of Ice Hockey.

“We have only one ice-rink in the country,” Beck noted. “But the rink is smaller, not Olympic-size, only NHL-size. The ice is expensive, it cost’s 1,500 Dollar each hour!”
Even then, the rink is used for the men’s and women’s national teams as well for the youth program. Hong Kong also has a league in operation.

Beck is happy to be the first coach in Hong Kong’s first entrance in the world championship in the new millennium, but cautioned against unrealistic expectations for his team in its return to international competition.

“The players are not professional, they have heart and soul, but they have to understand what it means to play at a world-championship-tournament.”

“Next year we will have more good players in the league. Luxembourg has a higher level. So we have to develop.”

Hockey is what brought Beck into Asia in the first place.

“Friends of mine from Canada were in Hong Kong at a tournament,” Beck recalls. “They told me that in Hong Kong a hockey academy was being developed. I wrote them and gave them some ideas. Once they asked if I could come over.”

Beck flew over, and ended up staying, taking on a challenge unlike any he faced in North America.

“Sports are very important in Hong Kong. But you need first the success. The support comes after, not before. After the cycling-team gains an Olympic-medal, they build a velodrome – you have to win, and then there will be support."

The games in Luxembourg might help. Now, team Hong Kong is on the international scene.

The results? Hong Kong nearly missed out on a bronze medal after posting a 1-1-3 record, and King Chi King Ho performed well enough to earn Directorate Top Goaltender honours.

Not bad for a comeback.
 
DANIEL GERBER

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